The wind is loud all night and buffets against my sleeping bag, entering through the scrunched-up hood and filling the entire bag with air like a parachute. I have to pee, but I can’t get up because then everything I own will blow away into the dark. I just endure the night, finally drifting off into a full sleep sometime before the sun rises.
Twinkle is already packing up as I open my eyes and pull myself out of my sleeping bag. As I’m stuffing my sleeping bag into my backpack, the extra empty water bottles I picked up in Tehachapi go flying off. I can’t move otherwise my groundsheet will probably fly away, too, but Twinkle runs after them and brings them back to me.
I stuff my things haphazardly into my bag, stopping to eat some breakfast, oreos and a fruit roll up, some of the causes of my health-nut anxiety while resupplying the other day. This resupply has gotten progressively less healthy. My backpack rolls up and the bulge on top is much higher than the top of the frame with all of the food. My sleeping pad perches, lop-sided, on top.
I head off after Twinkle. I’m fighting the wind; even as I’m going straight along the trail, I have to walk diagonally. Several times I’m forced off the trail by an unexpected gust. It rams into me like an ocean wave, and I inch my way up the hill. What is much more concerning is the state of my right foot; I have to walk with it sticking to the side until I warm it up, one of the metatarsals painful and tight. It stops bothering me as much once I’ve been walking for a while, and then I can walk with it straight again. It could be a stress-fracture. I probably shouldn’t be walking on it, but Kennedy Meadows is so close and turning around right now is something that doesn’t even cross my mind… Anyway, it will probably get better. At Kennedy Meadows, I’ll go to Lone Pine and see my family and be able to rest it. Part of me thinks it would be relieved if I was forced to quit before the Sierra, so I didn’t have to skip around it.
I’m still grappling and struggling with the idea of a flip-flop as I’m walking. In a way, I’m mourning the compromise, mourning giving up on what I’ve always imagined, of hiking to Canada in an unbroken line, of going through the Sierra as a PCTer. The idea of getting to the monument on the Canada border and not being finished makes me feel sad. But, I’m slowly warming up to the idea of it. Skipping around to somewhere around Tahoe, hiking to the Canada border, then hiking south and ending my hike on Whitney, watching the line of lights bobbing below me in the dark as people try to get to the summit for sunrise. The lights of Lone Pine below in the darkness, the glow growing on the horizon a dusky, muted orange, until suddenly the sun winks above the horizon like a ball of molten metal.
Of course, my foot needs to not die on me if I’m going to do that. Whelp.
Big Sky, a hiker named Outlaw, Twinkle, and I all leapfrog up the hill. I ask Outlaw how he got his name, since I’ve met another Outlaw before the trail, and he just says, “I can’t tell you. It’s a really stupid story, so I just tell people that so it’s mysterious.”
I get up front, in a dry forest now, out of the wind. The trail goes on a forest service road for a couple of miles, MK10. The sun is bright and it’s not too horribly hot, but the shade is inviting. I sit underneath a big bush and discover that the smoked salmon cream cheese can be put to use much better as a dip for Jalapeño Cheetos. After an hour of taking their own breaks, my leapfrog buddies pass me again and I head after them, my shade patch having nearly been depleted.
After less than half a mile, I join Twinkle in another patch of shade. The ground here is littered with Cicada husks. I throw down my sleeping pad and take a nap. I wake up blearily to Twinkle leaving, crawl further up my pad where the shade has moved, and fall asleep again.
I wake up to move my backpack out of the sun, and slowly pack away my things. Big Sky walks by, having just woken up from his own nap a hundred yards down the trail. I pass him, and get my foot in order. Grr.
The walking is easier after taking a break, and I power through a few miles until I catch up to Twinkle and Outlaw as they’re talking. Twinkle and I start talking about peeing, which is a popular conversation topic among female hikers, and Outlaw comically loses interest in the conversation and leaves. Twinkle and I laugh and call after him. “We’ll stop talking about peeing!” we promise, but he just disappears around the bend.
I walk on the next 2-3 miles to the spring. It’s in a big trough, green with algae. Tadpoles swim around, peeping out from under the algae. A PVC pipe carries water from the actual spring and it spills into the trough. The trough is overflowing and spilling water across the trail, making it muddy. I sit with Outlaw and Twinkle Toes, as well as Peaches and Tomas, and Finger Guns and Katherine. Outlaw is apparently perfectly fine with us as long as we’re not talking about female urination, and we joke around. Someone’s left a cache of water bottles at the trough, which we find amusing; a water cache at a water source. We filter water and eat food. I make teriyaki noodles with vegetables, and boil some water for Outlaw, since he’s going stoveless, which makes him happy. I eat the rest of my smoked salmon cream cheese.
Then off we go! Twinkle only wants to go a mile or two further, so she drops off while I hike on, talking with Outlaw. He’s 20 and has taken 2 gap years, traveling around Asia on his own, and is starting college this fall. He says Nepal, Vietnam, and Japan were his favorites. He says I’m the only person younger than him he’s met so far, and I tell him that now he’s an old man.
The sun is below the horizon. I don’t want to go too far with my poor foot, so I fall behind and find a secluded flat spot below a ridge of windmills. I’m carrying a fuzzy black Patagonia jacket we found on the side of the trail and hang it up on a tree for the night to keep it clean. I set up camp on a soft bed of cheatgrass. The moon is full and makes my Tyvek glow.
I just hope my foot gets better and that I don’t make it worse.