May 28, 2022
Landers Meadow Spring at mile ~608.9 to Bird Spring Pass at mile 630.8
I wake up when a gust of wind knocks out one of my stakes and my tent collapses on top of me. I grumpily stuff it back into the ground, but the damage is done. I’m awake. I hear Catless and DLT rustling around and decide it’s time to start moving. Then I remember: trail magic! There’s supposed to be trail magic this morning! I sure hope that’s real. I start packing up, then DLT comes over and holds out an open ziploc bag of cream-colored pills. It’s his massive stock of naproxen that came in one of his seven packages in Tehachapi. 500 mg of arch-numbing bliss. Bless. I take one and soon my screaming left foot disappears.
We’re packed up and just about ready to leave, seeing as it’s after 6 and there’s no sign of trail magic, when an SUV comes rolling down the dirt road and parks. It’s the trail angel Old Yeller! He opens his trunk and starts unloading tons of goodies: coffee, orange juice, bananas, cookies. Then he breaks out the biscuits and his homemade from-scratch gravy. It is the best gravy I have ever had, and I tell him as much. It tastes like angels singing. That and the coffee put me in an amazing mood. I sit there basking in the glory of the trail magic and talking with Double Down, who lives in Flagstaff and has climbed at many of the same places I used to. I’m deep in the Arizona nostalgia when I realize that Petra, Catless, and DLT are heading back up the road to the trail. I run to catch up with them.
DLT and I are both feeling so much better than yesterday. He’s flying down the trail and I’m mostly keeping pace. Then we catch up with Spice and Catless, and soon after that I have to dive off the trail for a cathole. The trail has exited the pine trees, but it’s still beautiful here in this rocky, juniper-studded rolling land. When I go back to the trail I’m alone for a bit until DLT catches back up with me, then passes me, and then it’s just me and the morning.
It’s quiet and beautiful walking alone. I’m fed, caffeinated, catholed, and hopped up on British naproxen. I can see the faint outline of big mountains in the distance and something is happening to my heart. Last night I looked ahead to the Sierras on Guthook and smiled seeing familiar place names: Bubbs Creek, Vidette Meadow, Glen Pass. I can’t believe I’m going back so soon. I want to wade in Evolution Meadow and watch the dusk fall on canyon walls. I want to be in Lyell Canyon with such mountains towering above me.
But I also want to be here: cruising a downhill 7 miles to the Kelso Road water cache. It’s so beautiful here in the desert, and I’ll miss this section when I enter the next. So I’m savoring it. I pass Catless, then Petra, then I have some Alt-J in and I’m flying down the hill. I put off taking a pee break for way too long, cut it close but just barely make it, and then I’m at the cache: a massive stockpile of water cooler bottles. Thank you, trail angels! Without this cache it would be 40 miles without water, which is simply not possible.
I sit there filtering water, eating snacks, and talking with the tramily, Spice, and Double Down for a bit, then I continue for a while downhill with DLT. Then the trail turns upwards again into a vast open area covered in Joshua trees. It’s a very gradual uphill, and while I can’t manage to stay with DLT in his musical zoom mode, I feel pretty good. I keep what feels like a very consistent pace until the trail dips down and I have to dive into a bush because I put off stopping again. It’s uphill after that, and holy moly, the wind is all of a sudden absolutely bonkers. It’s like the day before Tehachapi with the windmills. It’s throwing me around.
There are stunning views from this ridge, and the path is smooth. I catch DLT and we try to find a good lunch spot, but it’s so windy and the trees are gone. We see Spice in a ditch next to a dead Joshua tree, and we take her spot just as she’s leaving. Lunch is shorter than usual because of these less-than-ideal conditions.
I feel great right after lunch, walking with DLT while he listens to LOTR. Then something happens when I get to a long hill. It’s loose sand, steeper than usual, and the wind is truly unrelenting now. I let DLT go ahead and start trudging. It takes me what feels like forever, but I start listening to an episode of Ologies, which makes me enjoy things a little more. Did you know that chronic pain is as much psychological and sociological as it is physical? This is what I learn from Alie’s interview with Dr. Rachel Zoffness. It’s an incredibly interesting distraction, and before long, I spot the telltale blonde and all-black that means I’ve almost caught up with DLT.
I coast one last lovely ridge and then sit with him on one of the wooden trail barriers. We only have 0.8 to go, but it’s that part of the day where everything feels interminable and impossible. Stinger apparently has a friend meeting her at the next road crossing to do trail magic, and the intel we got was that it would be at 5. It’s just after 4 now, so we feel like we have plenty of time. We casually stroll up towards Bird Spring Pass, still being punched in the face by wind. First we just see a white truck, then I see Andy. Woo hoo! Caught up again.
My heart sinks when we walk around to the other side of the truck and Stinger tells me they ran out of burgers. I can’t even form a response. The thought of a burger was fueling me for the last few miles. Double Down and Petra see my disappointment and offer me bites of their burgers, and I take Petra up on it. It tastes meaty and wonderful and like it didn’t come from a plastic bag in my pack. I sit down next to Andy and catch up since it’s been a couple of days since I saw him. Then Stinger announces a beautiful realization: they actually DO have more burgers! I could cry. It is bliss. I eat that and have a beer while I faff around with my tramily.
Beetle and Andy keep going up the hill on the other side of the pass, and DLT, Petra, Catless, and I try to figure out what we’re doing. The wind is absurd right here, blowing dust and shaking the trees, but the thought of doing three more uphill miles makes me want to vomit. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the site at the top would be protected from the wind.
Eventually we find a decent-seeming spot below the parking lot amid bushes and Joshua trees. It’s still windy, but not as bad as farther up at the road crossing. DLT and I set up together for cowboy camping since we’ll be leaving early, around 4, so that we can catch the afternoon ride that Beetle set up for us into Ridgecrest—21 miles up the trail. The wind picks at our gear as we try to set it up. It takes six rocks to keep my tyvek down, and my sleeping pad twists in the wind when I try to blow it up. Eventually I get settled enough and attempt to sleep.