Date: May 3, 2017
Miles: 26.9 miles (43.3km), from Water faucet junction to Rodriguez Road
Health: Legs are hurting, the poor taping job I did in the morning caused a blister on my right heel, and the long descends are starting to get on my knees. Very tired.
The start for today was clear: we take enough water from the junction, to make the 10 mile hike to the next water source. From there it would be 20 miles to the next water source, the biggest water carriage so far.
I was first on the trail again, around 4:50 am. Black Swan (his trail name) was few minutes behind me. He cowboy camped last night so he's much quicker in setting up his camp than me. I'm still too chicken to cowboy camp, especially as I've seen what kind of crawlies the desert has out at night.
He quickly caught up to me as I was taking photos, and we hiked along talking about what ever you talk on the trail. He was having some issues with his knees and after a while stayed back as I hiked on.
First 10 by 10
In desert hiking there's a strategy called 10 by 10, which means you hike 10 miles before 10 am. I had tried it on previous days but always missed it by about 30-40 minutes. But today the trail felt amazingly good, and my feet were feeling great, and to my surprise, I was suddenly done with my 10 miles. Blü and Neal were there at the water source and I celebrated the feat with few awkward yells.
Now I had all day to siesta at the small creek that was the water source. Only problem was, there was no shade. Zero.
We had heard rumors from two day hikers that there might be trail magic 2 miles up on the Sunrise Trailhead. Neal and others who had already arrived decided that they'd try their luck and see if the rumors were true. I had already exploded my pack, and a 2 mile uphill hike in the middle day sun was not inviting, so I decided to stay. Blü set up his tarp and I tried to cover under my umbrella as best as I could.
Marge and Jim, the older hiker couple I had leapfrogged the previous day arrived, as did Black Swan and Rebecca. As the sun moved, we finally had a little shady spot, sitting right on the trail below some brushes. This turned into a another great siesta.
I also received my first trail magic. Trail angel named Deb walked down from the trailhead and brought us all homemade trail mix. She had specially made these, and walked along the trail to provide much needed salt and calories for hungry thru-hikers. Thank you Deb!
By this point everyone had agreed that the best approach to tackle the shadeless and waterless 20 mile section was to night hike it tonight. That meant it would be a 30 mile day for me.
As the sun started to set, we filtered about 4 liters of water each from the creek and headed out. As we got higher my phone got reception and I received messages from Neal that they had received trail magic at the trailhead; sodas, food, and ice cream, and then had another trail magic from an trail angel who took them to her house for the day to eat and chill by the pool. Dang.
But this meant that they were still not at the trailhead and would be at least an hour behind us. Marge and Jim were ahead of us, Rebecca and Black Swan behind us.
The trail snaked around on top of the mountains, with gorgeous views all around us. Soon it got dark and out came the headlamps. It was easy to hike as the air was getting colder.
After a while the trail started to descend in a steep angle. We had been quite high, but due to the darkness couldn't see how far we had to go. At one point we saw lights down at the valley floor, we figured it must be Marge and Jim.
The long, steep descend started to take its toll on our feet. On the way we saw our first scorpions, tarantula, and a lot of centipedes. It's so cool how the desert comes alive during the night. Every now and then we would stop, switch off our headlamps, and just marvel at the dark scenery and the stars above us. The moon, although just a half moon, gave us almost enough light to hike without lights. I can't wait to night hike under the full moon in few weeks.
We reached the valley floor and almost immediately started to climb back up. At that point we first saw one, and then a second headlight behind us, up on the ridge we just came down from. Rebecca and Black Swan.
We sent them messages with our headlamps even though they were miles away. At one point we could message both Marge and Jim in front of us, and Rebecca and Black Swan behind us, all three seeing each other on a different mountains.
Little later we saw a long line of lights, this was Neal and others who had been at the trail angels place.
The mountain lion
After walking on top of the mountain range for a while, the trail started another steep descend and we caught up to Marge and Jim on one of the switchbacks. They were having a break and mentioned having heard some rustling in the bushes earlier, sounding like something big. By this point both me and Blü were so tired that it didn't seem to register with us at all.
We hiked on and soon arrived at the Rodrigues Road water tank. The tank is empty according to the water report. We stopped for a late lunch, it was about midnight. We waited for Marge and Jim and congratulated them as they've had a long, over 25 mile day. They started to set up their tent to get to sleep, we layed on our backs, looking at the stars, eating tortillas and feeling too tired to keep going.
Soon we saw headlights approach and Black Swan and Rebecca arrived. They were little shocked and told how not far back, they had seen a mountain lion on a rock on top of them, stalking them, and as they had pointed their headlights at it, it had jumped over the trail in front of them. Yikes. It was about the same spot where Jim and Marge had heard the noice, so it was probably stalking all of us. Good thing we walked in pairs!
That pretty much settled the deal. Blü was already half a sleep, and I didn't want to push on alone knowing there was a mountain lion stalking hikers close by. I knew that I could make the rest of the miles in the morning with the little water I still had left.
I got to bed by 1 am, right as Neal passed us. I warned him about the mountain lion and he pressed on as he still had energy. Maybe I should have gone on with him to make the morning hike easier? But I was too tired and already in my sleeping bag. Eyes are too heavy, must sleep.