About an hour after I go to bed at 9 aka hiker midnight I hear a voice scream:
“A lady hiker camped alone, I’m gonna KILL you!!!” Whaaaaa? I look around, see no one, notice the clouds moving swiftly overhead. OH. I’m asleep. I wake up, and realize the wind is gusting. What’s happening out there, it seems crazy. I purposely parked in a place where on the Guthook app someone posted just two days prior it was “not even too windy although it was uphill”. Then the tarp starts to go, a stake gets pulled out. Shit. Time for a tarp burrito. I pull the other stakes out and wrap it around me and spend a damned restless night while the wind is just going crazy. I have lots of crazy dreams. In Chinese medicine wind stirs up the brain, basically. Yeah, that happened.
I wake around 6 to a sunrise and pack up, I’m on trail by 6:30. It’s cold! I start out with all my layers. I crank out some miles despite stopping a few times to adjust layers and get water. By late morning I only have my dress on, I start getting some sunburn, but it’s too windy for an umbrella. Some amazing views by the Pioneer Mail picnic site. There’s some rocks with gravestones everywhere. Did people jump off the ridge here? One epitaph reads, “I told you I was sick.” What does that even mean. Did he jump off the cliffs because he was terminally ill? Or ill in the head? Or just were ashes scattered?
I am loving the chaparral here; Scout and Frodo pointed out that this isn’t really desert yet; it makes the guilty pleasure I’ve developed the last couple years – reading Westerns – come to life. Sometimes I want to be a Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour heroine; I guess it’s not my path this time around.
At some point I catch up with another hiker I met the day before. I immediately forget his name because I am trying to come up with a trail name for him. No one has trail names out here! So different than the AT where most people (myself not included, admittedly) had names at the start from hanging at one of the hiker hostels. At some point he wants to speed up and passes me, immediately sending me into my “why is everyone else faster than me” shtick. Despite the fact we passed a couple other hikers.
I get to the Sunrise trailhead junction where we both were enthusiastic about lunch/naptime, he’s nowhere to be found. It’s also gotten incredibly windy again. By this point I’ve done a good 14 miles, it’s noon, and I need a break. I cross the road but don’t see the water source, but I do see a hiker sprawled out by the restrooms. It’s Erin; she’s lost her hiking mates, already has taken some zeroes due to blisters, and is pretty discouraged. I give her a pep talk saying there’s no rush and if anything, it’s good to take time this year- the Sierra will be better the longer you wait. She points out the water source in the distance and I move to a more sheltered napsite and eat chocolate and curry garbanzo beans.
Eventually I collect some water from the trough and get back on trail. It’s super sunny but I can’t use my umbrella due to all the wind. I have my fleece hat to protect my ears because I’m worried even my cap will blow off. The wind is making me hike really fast though which is a shame, as the Anza Borrego is really neat. Eventually I get to an (empty) water tank and start a couple miles overall descent. I catch up to Antoine who is speaking French with another girl. She says hi with a North American accent- is she Canadian? I huff and puff up a big hill while they follow just behind, not using their poles. Why is uphill a million times harder than downhill for me. They pass, zooming into the distance as the trail becomes cliffside. I acknowledge what I’ve been refusing to admit all day; I’m bonking. Was hoping for more than 23 today but it’s not to be. I take 2 breaks in the last 3 miles. Eventually I get to the Rodriquez tank where there’s tons of other campers, it’s surprisingly overwhelming for me. Antoine and la Canadienne have pushed on. But there’s a spot to shelter from the wind here so I stay. It’s an early night for me.