Day 8- 15.8 miles from campsites at mile 85.3 to before Montezuma Valley Road at mile 101.1

I wake up naturally at 6. It was warm tonight and I always sleep better in my tent, even though I stayed up late last night writing. I talk with Karma and Colleen in my sleeping bag until finally we muster the heart to unzip our sleeping bags and get up. I eat random things out of my food bag and once we’re up we pack up super quickly. At first I was at a loss to how to pack my things efficiently since I don’t have to pack around a bear can anymore. Now it’s natural.

Then off we go. Sometimes Karma is in front and sometimes I am, with Colleen taking caboose, slow but steady. I’m still really jumpy from my rattlesnake encounter last night. Everything is a snake- a curved shadow, a twig on the side of the trail, anything patterned white and black or bulbous or S-shaped. Cliffs by the side of the trail are now scary, and bushes by the side of the trail are evil snake traps. Several times I jump back at what I think is a rattlesnake. I don’t feel confident or safe on the trail now, it sucks, and I’m frustrated.

Karma catches up with me and it feels great to have someone hike in front of me. I trail right behind her, and we talk about our favorite books and book series, and LOTR character trail names (Bombadil is both awesome and would be a great trail name. Why is everyone named after Aragorn and Frodo and Bilbo on the trail? Where are all of the Treebeards and Quickbeams?). Every now and then we stop so Karma can make some of her famous trail messages with rocks. The miles are going by quick and having someone hike in front of me eases my anxiety about rattlesnakes. I had no idea my first encounter would leave me so traumatized. We see plenty of other snakes slithering for cover.

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We reach the Third Gate Water Cache junction, and hike down. There is a giant mound of crushed plastic water jugs in a structure of plastic webbing, and three pallets under some tall bushes. There are only maybe 8 jugs left. I take only a liter and hang around taking to people. We met a girl named Alfalfa because she’s sprouting alfalfa on-trail. Just as I’m about to leave Nirvana pulls up! Apparently everyone was camped less than a mile behind us. I pass Tarantino, Mousetrap, Twerk, and Rachel as I head back out. I catch back up to Karma as she’s building one of her trail notes with pebbles on the trail and then we hike together for the rest of the day. The trail winds along the side of the hills in chaparral and we keep checking our Guthook’s app to see how far we are from the 100 mile point. 4 miles… 2 miles… We’re cruising in between snack and water and shade breaks.

Karma makes an excited sound as we round a bend, and we see a big “100” marked on the side of the trail with rocks. We take pictures, then head off. The hundred mile mark unfortunately wasn’t graced with shade or sitting rocks.

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We descend the last mile to our campsite, the vegetation turning greener and less desert-y as we go. When we get there, the hikers already there point us to the road where there’s some people doing trail magic. Glow In The Dark and 3-Guy offer us cold drinks and fruit and I take a lemon-lime soda. They’ve hiked sections and their daughter is somewhere between here and Julian, they’re hoping to surprise her and her boyfriend.

I go back and claim a spot with my tent. It’s a pain in the butt to set up, the stakes falling out of the loose sandy ground several times and collapsing the tent before I get it up for good. I love it so much when it’s set up, incredibly spacious, but it needs a huge tentsite and it’s just not worth struggling with it every night when I’m tired. I shouldn’t be having to cowboy camp just because I get too frustrated with trying to get it up in the loose soil and wind here in the desert, even though I like cowboy camping. I’m getting into Warner Springs tomorrow, Sunday, and will be able to pick up my packages the day after. One has food and the other has my mom’s Big Agnes Fly Creek tent. I’m excited to see what special things my family has added.

I sit in a circle in the dirt with the other hikers and eat food from my food bag. We go around and do Rose-Bud-Thorn, where we say something great about our day, a low point, and what we’re looking forward to. A couple people are grumbling because they think it’s goofy. It’s definitely goofy but why be negative about it? I mention hiking with Karma today, looking forward to Warner Springs, and my rattlesnake trauma. We make plans to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the theater in Idyllwild. I cook instant mashed potatoes and then a hiker named Whizkid, who knows a lot of cool trivia facts, gives me her already-cooked Mountain House dinner of beans and rice and quinoa. I mix it all together with my potatoes and it’s incredible. Colleen, Rachel, Nirvana and Twerk all roll into camp, with a bunch of other people: Tarantino and Mousetrap and Jesus, who is currently being called Baby Jesus by the group in an attempt to make the trail name stick. I’m not sure if he’s happy with all of that or not.

Colleen and Karma and I go off together to find someplace to pee, announcing it in exaggerated valley-girl accents as our special girl expedition, pee rags swinging at our hips. Then we settle into our tents. No rush tomorrow to get into Warner Springs! People are still hiking into camp and somewhere a big group of hikers are talking and laughing, even though it’s 9:17, past hiker midnight.