Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 10: April 22nd

Alex and I had decided that because yesterday was a slow day and we had been all alone nearly the whole day, that we would get up exceedingly early (4:30am) and start hiking at first light so that we could catch up to the people that had passed us the day before.
The day started off fairly well, we had gone nearly nine miles before eleven am. Unfortunately, it was also a day that we had to descend down mountains nearly the whole day. My knee had been bothering me off and on but hadn’t been too bad since Mt. Laguna the week before. As soon as we started descending it started to get sore, but I was reluctant to put on my brace because my leg had gotten even more grotesquely swollen when I had worn it before. Suddenly amid my and Alex’s rousing “alphabet game” (you pick a topic, let’s say fruit, then each person trades off the next letter, A-apple B-banana and so on…) I felt a shock of pain travel up my leg from my knee. I was momentarily frozen in place until I was able to move it again, and then I was fine. Until it happened again two or three times and I decided I should stop walking and put on my brace. Immense pain followed and I decided no brace, just hobbling slowly until it got better. Unfortunately, we were again nearly out of water so I told Alex to go ahead and I would catch up to him. Here you’ll see it pictured just how far behind I was.

My knee eventually felt better as we began inclining again, we got water and kept on walking. Because we had gotten up so early we had agreed that we would stop mid-day when it’s the hottest and set up our tent for an afternoon nap. Our guidebook had explained a nice forested area, which was the only flat spot in miles, that would provide cool shade and a relaxing spot for a nap. As Alex and I hiked higher and higher toward the top we looked around and neither of us could see any trees to speak of, but a flat spot was coming up so we figured that we would just be able to see the trees better from up there. Well guess what? THE FOREST BURNED DOWN SINCE THE GUIDE BOOK CAME OUT! Yeah, that was a nice surprise after hiking in the scorching heat for SEVEN hours! We were able to precariously balance Alex’s sleeping mat on a rock and a flattened pokey bush so that we could huddle under an overlying scrub for the little shade we could find.
After hiking for a few more hours we saw a white post, a landmark that our guidebook told us was actually much farther than we had thought we had gone. We were really doing a lot better than we had thought, we had already gone sixteen miles that day and we were going to push to do another four for our first twenty mile day!
We practically sprinted toward our campsite so proud of ourselves, sure that our early rising was the new way to go, the early bird really does get the worm! After another hour or so of hiking we came to another white post…the guidebook had assured us that there was only one white post so we were sure this one was just a new one and we kept going.
When we saw the fourth white post we thought we might have a problem, sure enough upon checking the guidebook again we discovered that we weren’t as good as we had thought, our hard work hadn’t paid off and we indeed didn’t get the worm. We had hiked from 5:30 that morning until 7 pm that night, hadn’t even taken a long afternoon nap/break, and had only gone sixteen miles. I, out of pain, exhaustion, desperation, hunger, frustration, all of them, of course began sobbing and telling Alex once again that I was done.
I didn’t want to do the trail anymore, in fact I hated it, never wanted to do it again, was NOT having a good time and didn’t know why this had been my stupid idea in the first place. I texted my best friend Annie telling her I was done, tried calling my mom but of course our solar charger wasn’t working and the phone was getting no reception. Alex and I were once again alone camped on a ridge. We talked about it through tears and prayed together, hoping that in the morning we would feel clearer about what we should do.