I can tell the Aleeve has worn off when my alarm goes off at 5:30 – my knees are achy again, but not so achy as to be unusable. It’s a bit of a struggle to pack up since I’m one of the first ones out, again, but that’s the only way I make miles. Today, especially – Yogi’s guide warns about the “long, hot, dry climb” out of Scissors into the San Felipe Hills, and I’m hoping to make the 14 miles to the Third Gate Cache before the sun gets too high in the sky. Time to officially implement plan “Sleep all night and also some during the day”. But first, I gotta get to my next sleeping place.
The very first thing I see on crossing the highway is barrel cactus. We haven’t seen barrel cactus before! Exciting. They look so dangerously huggable. This different kind of murderplant multiplies the higher I climb, until they’re all looming, staring down at me from the hills. I adapt the title of the movie The Hills Have Eyes into The Hills Have Cactus IV: The Barreling. I like my version better.
This morning’s climb is kind of a welcome relief from the bone-jarring down of yesterday. Plus, we’re meandering around a west-facing slope, so we spend a fair bit of time in shadow. I get passed by a couple from the underpass, followed shortly by another woman from the underpass. They’re killing it, and I’m going as fast as I… well, as I wanna, really. I’m not even to mile 100; plenty of time to make big miles later. The main thing for now is to keep from getting injured, even if that means being passed a lot. As much as it stings my pride.
I get passed by a guy with neon yellow shorts while I’m eating second breakfast; by the time I start walking again, he’s quite a bit ahead of me, but seems to be going approximately the same speed as me. I use him as a flag, a tracker, that tells me where I’m headed and about how long it’ll take me to get there. That brightness in the only-vaguely-polychrome desert keeps me motivated, keeps me moving.
Gate one… It gets hot and the air gets oppressive. Gate two… my feet get heavier and heavier1 and I don’t know if I’m going to make it before the heat forces me into the shade, but finally, FINALLY, I run into a couple just a bit from the third gate, and the Third Gate Cache, right around 1:30pm. I almost ask to stay in their shade, but they’re taking up most of it, and that’s rude. I make it about 15 yards down the trail and there’s enough shade to curl up in – it’s not even three feet off trail, but the shadow is west-facing, and only like to grow with the sinking sun. I pull out my tyvek and arrange the pine duff on the slope into hollows for my chest and my head, and proceed to be unconscious for an hour and a half.
I wake a couple of times to the sound of feet, the last time right before I’ve set my alarm to go off at 3:30 – the couple are leaving, and the gent tells me I’ve got the best shade in the whole area, and I should never, ever leave it. I decide to stay awake to contemplate this, and who comes down the trail but Emily, who I shared a room with in Mount Laguna. She’s a bit all over the place from the heat and an aching arch, so I usher her into my shade-place and show her how to tape her foot before getting a move-on down the trail.
I don’t need any water from the cache – I carried enough water to get to the next source, despite the reliability of this particular cache – but I pass lots of people nearby huddling in what shade they can find. I did have a primo spot. But while it’s still kind of hot at 4pm, there are so many more shadows on the trail to find temporary relief in. Plus, I’m only going from 91.2 to 94.4 – 3.2 miles shouldn’t be that bad.
It comes up so quickly it surprises me – I feel like I could continue on the last 5.7 miles to Barrel Springs, but I opt not to, remembering how I felt yesterday and how that’s like to come to bite me in the ass in the coming days. Better to take it easy. Or, at least, easier. I set up with an amazing front porch, and a bunch of folks come to camp there shortly after, including Emily. We eat dinner – me an entire dinner, holy hell – and chat before retiring to our own spaces when the wind kicks up.
I settle in to sleep, but I’ve pitched oddly and the multi-directional wind is threatening to take my tent off the side of the hill, and while I have no idea where my headlamp is besides “around”, I use the moon to unstake and restake my tent a little better for the competing wind directions, if a little too close to a prickly pear cactus for utter comfort. Still, there’s little to be done for it, and I settle in for another evening of howls and sighs.
Start: 77.1 • End: 94.4 • Day: 17.3
Notable Accomplishments: Napped in the middle of the day awww yisss • Made it 14 miles by 1:30p • Carried enough water to get 23 miles
 I usually get about 10 miles in on them of a morning before they start complaining that I should sit for a bit. Gotta love the predictability.