Thursday, June 2, 2016

Day 33 : Exhaustion Wins

38 miles today
2128 miles to go

I wake up from a dead sleep and check my phone, four thirty. Biorhythms? I seem to wake up at the same time every day. I eat by headlamp. I have my headlamp set to red. So the colors of things are distorted. I eat quickly. Granola, my favorite! I try to make a cold coffee with the Starbucks Via Cafe Mocha. It doesn't quite work. I guess it needs to hot water to get stuff to dissolve. I drink it anyway, chewing the chunks for a burst of coffee goodness. While eating I sort my trail goodies and pack the cargo pockets with my trail snacks. Having my snacks there means I don't have to stop to eat. Between my easily accessible trail snacks and my drink tube I don't have to stop to either eat or drink, so I don't stop.No stove means I'm packed much faster than normal. At five am I am walking down the trail back to the PCT. I hit the trail and walk non-stop twenty miles to Hiker Town. My right knee is at ninety eight percent. The only thing I have trouble with is going down steep trail, then I have to slow way down. Other than that I can move fairly quickly. It feels good to move down the trail at my normal pace. I am hoping that my leg continues to heal so I can move quickly downhill also. 

I arrive at Hiker Town with zero water left. I swigged the last drop while crossing the street. First priority? Water. They have conveniently piped water right up to the gate. I fill up my water bottle and down three quarters of a liter in one chug. Then I drink another half liter. Second priority. Food. I get a shuttle ride to the store. The shuttle is a rickety old Chevy Astro van. The sliding back door is tied shut with laundry cord to keep hikers from falling out on the highway. Four miles down the road. I buy supplemental snacks for the next leg. Then I order a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soda. I brought the container for my stove and I put the soda and ice in it. It's a great big cup. I quickly tire of the soda and switch to water. I refill it at least four times. The store has a PCT hiker lounge, air conditioned! They are really friendly to hikers. Papa from Lake Hughes should visit to see how to maximize his revenues. We all order tons of food and snacks. Some buy beer. Most of everything gets consumed in the lounge. 

Hiker Town is in a desolate wind swept spot. If you've ever seen some of the Breaking Bad episodes opening shots, dusty, things shaking and creaking in the wind. The sound the wind makes when it passes through a drafty building. All that's missing is the Breaking Bad theme music. It's conveniently located right next to the PCT. Unfortunately, they don't have a store or a grill so most of the Thru-hiker dollars are spent at the store. I get a shuttle ride back to Hiker Town and sit in the shade. I sit with other thru-hikers and speculate on the fire that has closed the PCT at Walker Pass. What are we going to do? Well, we are all going to do our own thing based on our own criteria of what's important to us. I decide to decide nothing, nor even worry about it.

I have no interest in staying here tonight. It feels funny to just pack up and walk away. I felt the same way at Casa de Luna. No long goodbyes, no see you soon. You will see some soon, and everyone is in a different state of coming or going, it's just a matter of timing. It was different when I was hiking with Braveheart. We were buds. We hiked about the same speed and dos about the same number of miles. Everyone in the pack I am currently in all have different speeds. Some like to stay longer at the trail angel's house. I like spending time with Brownie and Dizzy but they travel at their own speed, more zeros than I want to take. All in all I think I will try to catch up to Braveheart now that my leg is feeling better.

I hang out till late afternoon then head off across the desert. It's got to be close to one hundred degrees. It's not going to get any hotter. I soaked my shirt, buff, and pack towel in water and wrap the towel around my neck. I feel cool as the breeze blows through my wet clothes. Everything is dry in about fifteen minutes. Well, it was cool while it lasted. I follow the PCT out to the aqueduct. A open man-made river sending water to LA. I follow it for a few miles then turn left, north. The aqueduct is no longer a river. It's a metal pipe. It's huge. Just the top is sticking out of the ground. I walk on top of it. The rivets holding the plates of this old pipe together are spaced such that I need to take two steps per plate. The rivers are instilling discipline in my steps. If they're too small. I have to take an awkward step to avoid the rivets. Time passes as it does and I walk and walk and walk. The pipe goes on straight for miles and miles. There is so much space out here that my scaling ability is messed up. It seems like I should be at the end, but the pipe seems to grow longer the longer I walk on it. I walk I a straight line on the pipe for hours. The sun slowly moves closer to the horizon but it's still blazing away in the west. The wind is blowing from the west too, blowing the brim of my hat up so the sun heats the left side of my face. It's late in the day and I have sunscreen on so I'm not worried about being sunburned. 

The trail finally turns, so does the aqueduct, except now it's my like a concrete road with big concrete boxes every mile or so. I follow it east off into the desert. Away from the houses and out past ranches and hunting property. I am passed by a van that is obviously a rental van. Like a Cruise America motor home, but for vans. It drives down the aqueduct. I see it stop way up ahead, about where the PCT turns off of the aqueduct. I wonder what it's up to. I think trail angels. Perhaps they're setting out trail snacks. Maybe they're  doing trail magic at night. That'd be cool. Maybe massages, feet and calves. That's what I'm hoping for. Eventually the van turns around and passes me going back the way it came, the driver giving me a big thumbs up as they pass by. No massage, I'm really disappointed, even though the potential for one was only in my own head.

I arrive at the turn just after sunset. I look for trail magic, nothing. Sad, what a desolate dreary place. I swap out my hat and sunglasses for my headlamp. I'm amazed at how long batteries have lasted. The dirt road heads further east and then north. It's a dusty road with much vehicle traffic. I see what looks like fresh footprints in the dust. Nobody to be seen though, and I can see miles down this road. It gradually gets darker, and darker. Do I turn on my headlamp? Bright white uses the most battery, red the least. I'm following a road I don't need much light. The only thing I am concerned about is possibly stepping to close to a rattlesnake slithering across the road. I vacillate between red and white. The wind picks up force. 

I am drawing nearer to the windmills. They are monsters, eerie shapes spinning slowly in the wind. The blades make a roaring whooshing sound. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. The wind shakes and rattles the bushes and Joshua trees. I see gargoyles sitting on the side of the road as I approach. Stumps of trees with wildly shaped branches the wave at me as I pass. It's dark now. The road turns again and is now heading west. The wind hits me full in the face. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, go the blades spinning above my head. Red lights strobe on, off, on , off. I try to understand the pattern. Some Giants have red light some don't. Some blink in unison. Others do their solo blinking. Rogue windmills. Perhaps they're really aliens disguised as windmills. Maybe these are those creeping giant machines from War of the Worlds. 

A white light flashes of to my right. What was that? It's smaller than a windmill light. There it is again. It's moving. The hair on the back of my neck stands straight up, in spite of the sweat and lack of personal hygiene. The road begins to turn to the right. There is a person with a light. I draw close and stop. “Hello?” I say to the light. “Hi,” says a female voice for the direction of the light. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Woooo, woooo. Everything is disorienting. I have now hiked further than I ever have before in a single day. She has her shoe off as is cleaning her foot. “This road is making my feet dusty,” the voice says. “You are going to want to get used to that,” I helpfully suggest. She was the reason for the van. This is her first night on the trail. She has seven liters of water in her giant pack. I have one and a half. It's about eight miles to the next water. “You might want to dump some of your water, it's heavy,” I also suggest. She's hiked maybe four miles, she's ready to camp. “Where are the campsites,” she asks. I point my light at a semi flat spot between cacti. “That could be a site, though you might want to try to find one out of the wind.” We walk on together, much slower than I'm used to. I keep having to stop. I wonder if she's as disoriented as I feel. Eventually we find a flat place behind some cover. I leave her to the darkness and the gargoyles. Seven liters of water?

I hike on, it's getting harder to see. I am hitting a wall physically. Running on fumes. I can tell by the heaviness of my head. The wind whips past my head. I need rest. There is a faucet up ahead according to the water report its dry. But it's by a bridge. As I approach I see a sign “Trail Camp.” I shine my light over the embankment. It's dark down there. I can't tell if there are any tents. Neighbor would be nice. I'm exhausted and jumpy. I hike down the hill to the camp. Empty, but significantly less wind. I make the call. I'm camping here. It's a gravel bar above a water channel, flash flood maybe? No water now it's just dusty. I find a spot big enough for my tent with a bush to block even more of the wind. I don't use my ground cloth. I don't have the energy, it'd blow away and make things difficult. This gravel is like sand. Warning flags and alarm bells trigger in my head, remember Deep Creek? You should be using boulders, not stakes. The stakes sink deeply and easily into the sandy gravel. I'm to tired to care. I walk over to get my pack. Tripping over to cover guy line. It's loose flailing in the wind. The stake? Where's the stake? I dig in the sand where it should have been, nothing. It could be anywhere. I peer through the dim light I don't see it. I need sleep. I wrap the guy line around a rock.feeling the sharp pain of loss mixed with the exhaustion and jumpiness induced by the surreal environment. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. 

I toss all the stuff in my pack into the tent, toss the pack into the tent, and climb in behind. The wind is greater than I anticipated. Causing the stakes to shift and slide. Inside the tent, out of the wind it's warm. Too warm. I break a sweat. I can't sleep like this. My legs are coated in filth, the dust of thirty-eight miles caked on them. I use a precious half cup of my water to wet my pack towel. I strip off everything but my undershorts. Working from my head down, I wipe, perhaps smear is a better word, the dirt off. I can't see anything! I suddenly realize that my headlamps batteries are done. I have spares but I am too sleep deprived to be able to think.

I lay on the sticky tent floor, my feet propped on my empty pack. Bags of gear piled around me. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, go the windmill blades. Flap, flap flap goes the tent. I somehow locate my earplugs. The whooshing is gone, the buffeting tent is gone. I remember nothing more as a sleep of sheer exhaustion comes over me, I remember nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment