May 15, 2022
Cooper Canyon Campground at mile 395.2 to tentsite at mile 420.8
I actually sleep well. I think it’s the sound of the creek. I recall that I also slept really well at Mission Creek when the sound of the water and the frogs lulled me to dreamland. Too bad most campsites don’t have water out here in the desert!
I pack up fairly quickly and manage to have time to eat my Complete Cookie, brush my teeth, and drink some water before everyone is ready. Catless and DLT come over, and when we realize that Petra has disappeared, we figure she’s gone ahead and we start hiking.
I’m immediately hot because the trail climbs a hill. I have to take my jacket and rain pants off and readjust. I really need to start being bold and starting cold. I hike with DLT for the first five miles of gentle pre-dawn light. After the first short climb the trail coasts for a while, then goes down, then up a massive hill that neither of us is emotionally prepared for. We cross a road at the top and catch our breath, then start down the other side. We talk about family and friends and names and DLT’s actually very interesting experience with jury service back in England. By now it’s properly light and we are rounding in on mile 400. I look around at the campsite below, but there’s no sign of Andy or Beetle. Ah, well. Guess we’re crossing this hundred mile marker without them.
We meet up with Petra at the 400 mile marker, which is made of pinecones. Catless soon joins us, and we enjoy a long photo shoot and a snack. Despite there being another forest service privy shortly ahead, I have to dig a cathole. How has Catless managed to avoid it for this long?!
We take another break at Camp Glenwood, but I’m getting antsy so I go ahead to the spring. The water situation is a bit grim today, but I’m still just taking a couple of liters. I’m over carrying too much water. The other three catch up and sit down for another snack break. Another one? I’m not used to this many breaks. I want to keep going. I turn the speed on and cruise another mile or two to a road crossing. At the next picnic area I dump some trash and grab a bit of toilet paper from the bathroom. DLT goes ahead in Lord of the Rings land again, then I let Petra pass when I put headphones in. The trail is now a sandy, shrubby walk along a meandering hill in the full sun. At first, I’m feeling alright, listening to Stuff You Should Know and learning about the history of action figures and Aleister Crowley, eating my energy chews and sucking down water, but then something happens. I’m hot and there aren’t a lot of views and I’m not really present in my body. I want to stop and eat so much food, but there’s no shade. It’s so dusty. I feel so sluggish. I suffer through another three miles and then get to where I thought DLT, Petra and I agreed to stop for lunch and see no one. Guess I’m starting this hill climb then. I take a bite of a protein bar and chug some water and accept my fate. I put some music in and head across a road to another sandy, exposed hill and start going up it.
It’s not long before I round a corner and see DLT and Petra sitting at a tentsite with no shade, eating lunch. It’s maybe the worst place to stop ever, but I guess there aren’t a lot of options at the moment. I join them and flop dramatically onto the dirt. There’s just no point in trying to avoid it now. It’s caked in my clothes and my skin and my hair. I have just become a ball of dirt. Catless joins us soon. All of us must look so sad sitting here shoving our silly terrible hiking food into our hot, dusty faces. I cook ramen and throw in some tuna and slurp it down, followed by peanut butter. I can’t stand the sun. I put up my sun umbrella and balance it between two bushes, creating a canopy. It is… marginally better. Petra and Catless keep going, and DLT and I stay a little longer, trying to summon the will to keep hiking.
Eventually we get moving. We hike together for the next three miles, but we don’t talk much. It’s taking all of our energy to walk. The trail is objectively mellow and cruisey, but there aren’t the dramatic ridgeline views of the higher elevations and the sun is brutal. At the saddle we have a bit of cell service for the first time in a few days, and I text my friend Ellie in LA about our plan to hang out tomorrow night and the next day. Then DLT and I keep going to the water source, a little trickling spring. On the way we see some trail maintainers working on some overgrown branches. It looks like such a hard job, and it hits me how much work it must take to keep this trail hikeable. Thank you, trail crews!
At the water I sit and drink a full liter and fill up three. I feel much better, but I’m still out of it for the next five miles. We gain a bit of elevation and there are more views. We follow a ridge line around a valley and I get cell service. I get a text from Andy saying that he and Beetle are camping at mile 424, nine miles ahead. I know I can’t make it that far tonight, but I can get closer. Plus, I’m meeting Ellie tomorrow night and I want to get ahead of most of the tramily so I don’t have to catch up. Petra, Catless, and DLT stop at a campsite that puts them at 19.9 miles for the day. I cook dinner and hang out with them there for a while, then keep going six more miles.
By now it’s the evening and the temperature has cooled down significantly. I fly down the hill in the slanted light. At the ranger station I fill up on water and make use of another one of those handy Forest Service toilets, then cross the road and head up the other side. I’m in the shadow of the hill now, I’m nourished, and I’m rocketing upwards. Up, up, up. The sun starts to sink lower as I approach my campsite.
At the top of the climb, the trail turns from sand back to dirt and I’m in the trees again. The sun sets just before I pick out my tent site below a tree at mile 420.8. I have just enough time to set up, eat a Clif bar, and take my contacts out before it gets dark. It’s my first night camping without one of my tramily members and my longest day yet on the trail. I feel powerful. I can do so many miles. I’m going to catch Andy and Beetle tomorrow! I’m doing the thing.