Day 4 – 8.53 miles I’m camped without anyone nearby for the first time. In all honesty, it’s because I can’t go any further. My feet are killing me and the goal is five miles away. I see a nice spot, but urge myself to walk on. About 20 steps later, my mind goes “turn back, listen to your body, listen to your sixth sense”. The one thing past thru-hikers have said over and over is: “listen to your body”. Getting injured is my worst fear, and although I know I’ll have to hike through plenty of pains, it seems wise to work up to bigger miles slowly. I walk back to the area. I scout out which way to pitch my tent but find a spot where the ground sinks into some animal’s tunnel. I decide to pitch my tent on the other side of the clearing and face my door away from the animal hole. Flowers surround the area for miles and there’s a peekaboo sunset.
Fear of the unknown sets in, fear of impending doom. The last two days have been a bit emotional as I’ve faced some memories and fears, in a good way. Today as I was walking I could almost feel my thoughts unrolling behind me. Here at camp, unreasonable anxious thoughts arrive. “What if the airplane overhead crashes right here?” This is a common one, whenever I hear an airplane overhead I think of it. “What if that animal hole I collapsed is home to a snake? Well, I’ll be in my tent” “What if I camp on a wasps nest?” “What if something terribly bad which I can’t even think of at the moment is about to happen?” Thankfully, there are no trees around, because I often fear a tree will fall on me. I make dinner and it tastes better than it should, which possibly means my body is recognizing all this exertion as long-term. Dozens of birds sing as I eat, and a few butterflies and bees fly by. I finish my dinner, and then the sky turns pink, and grows darker. Then all is silent.
Day 5 – 13.74 miles The miles seem to stretch on endlessly across the hillsides. I can see the trail for miles ahead as a scar on the slopes. Julian is another thirteen miles from where we all camp as a group. Water is a ways from the trail now which adds at least two miles to our day. One water source is a huge trough that says “horses only”, is green with algae, and has crane flies floating in it. The other is a small creek with lots of orange algae growing in it. My ears are very sunburnt and they hurt quite a bit. My feet seem marginally better as my gait has improved. We’re all getting up at 4 tomorrow with dreams of pie and showers to fuel our steps.
Day 6 – 13.64 miles I wake at 4 am and pack up quickly to head out. My headlamp doesn’t seem to hold a charge. I bought it an an REI garage sale. The miles go by somewhat quickly, beginning with the Milky Way which morphs into a beautiful sunrise over the desert lowlands and mountains across it. Cacti are blooming everywhere. I ask Nirvana for some duct tape to put over my somewhat alarming heel blister. Thank god for that ductape. At some point, I turn my phone camera on selfie mode. I haven’t seen my reflection in days and no one has had the good sense to tell me about my dirt mustache. Horrifying. There hasn’t been enough water to bathe properly. About 4 of us reach Scissors Crossing at around 9:30. Ryan, limping along with a swollen ankle, amazes me. I give him some of my Ibuprofen in spite of his protests and feel supremely charitable. At the underpass there is a cache of water for those that will hike on instead of heading to the town of Julian. Almost instantly, a guy known as Brew-Hiker (he brewed his own beer last year while hiking the PCT) rounds the corner and announces his services as a trail-angel-taxi. We pile into his car, which he is now living out of (one wouldn’t be able to tell) and are offered cold soda of a Californian variety. Once in Julian, the pleasantries keep coming. Carmen’s is thru-hiker heaven. It’s a restaurant that welcomes thru hikers with a few rules (ex. leave your shoes & socks on when business is in session). Foot baths out back, laundry, burritos, and laughter. Carmen has a big personality and calls for a show of hands before announcing that she is closing the restaurant for the day to cater to us. A few moments later she walks by with a mimosa and a cigarette, calling out orders. A group of friends have a hotel room and let me sneak in to shower. Bliss. I’m now camped out in the dining area of Carmen’s along with 7 other hikers for the night.