Wednesday, May 30, 2012

30 May - Day 40 - the dry and hot Sierra foothills (and Golden Oaks Spring at the end of the day)

From a sandy drainage by Hwy 58 (Mile 565.8) up and over a volcanic hump to a clearing beyond Golden Oaks Spring (Mile 587.5)

Total Trail Miles hiked today: 21.7

Pan here.

From our posh accomodations in a drainage ditch between Highway 58 (see the truck barreling down the grade?) and a RR track on the left ... we're packing up. Seano's seated in the background. Dionysus is mixing his cold coffee in a coke bottle. Ignore the tequila bottle at Dionysus's knees.

Dionysus's pack -- with regrettable Pres. Lincoln/Vampire Killer novel and a tiara for Rapunzel's (Louisa's) birthday.

Heading away from the highway to the trail.

Hi ho! Off and away we hiked up and up again. Hiking this part of the extreme southeastern edge of the Sierras involves winding up and up through mountains, then back down into the next valley, then back up into the next set of hills a bit higher, then back down into the next valley. It's pretty much the same landscape in lots of ways -- from Joshua trees, yucca, and sage scrub up into the regions of live oaks, scrub oaks, pinyon pines, sometimes Coulter pines at the higher elevations, then back down to sage scrub and sandy trails.

Dionysus and Seano among Joshua Trees.
The sandy trails are tiring. And the heat is getting worse. Today we met Rubylocks (a Kiwi) and Calf (a German), and we bump into them off and on throughout the day. We also are hiking in and among 3Bears and Dirty Brown.

Dionysus, Seano, and Pan.
We got to Golden Oaks Spring, and were we thirsty! The heat is sucking the water out of us more quickly now and we're trying to learn to compensate. I sweat more than do Dionysus and Seano, and yet I don't drink as much -- not good. Gotta try harder to rehydrate.

From arid mountains we climbed higher into dry, hot mountains of live oak. [photo courtesy of Qball]
Boy, did we arrive thirsty at this trough with a trickling pipe on it. YUM! And as hot as it was, there were many thru-hikers here. Alphabet Soup, Big Wuss, Rubylocks, Calf, Qball, Wolf Pack, Beardoh!, Jeremiah Johnson, and Christian, among others. Here we are getting ready to set out again. It's around 5:30 pm and we hiked on about another three miles and set up a cowboy camp (dry camp) in a flat dusty spot among scrub oak, live oak, and manzanita. [photo courtesy of Qball]

From right to left: Pan, Seano's legs, Dionysus, Christian, Rubylocks, That Guy (drinking in the foreground) and Calf at mid-left drinking from a mug, Alphabet Soup in the gray, and Maple in blue. [Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson].

From left: Christian, Dionysus, Seano's legs -- and on the right, Pan. [Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Johnson].

These days we are less high spirited, as the slog up the mountains with packs in the heat takes concentration and is grueling. We hike for long sections without conversing much -- as we focus on keeping up a good pace. We drift into our imaginations, and ruminate. When we take breaks, the shade of trees seem universally infested with ants of every size and description. Argh.

[Dionysus is the god all nature wants to have a bite of; it seems nearly every day he gets stung or bitten again; he's so funny about it, as he is about most of our discomforts, that he keeps up our flagging spirits. Way to go, Dionysus! And Seano is of a very similar temperament to Dionysus -- they both have that wry sense of the absurd as welts, and contusions, and blood appear on their bodies from various critter attacks and mishaps. Wowie, I'm a lucky bitch to have such men with me.]

We set up camp in the scrub oaks (and away from the piƱon pines-- that are all dripping sap this time of year). We have a bit more tequila to take the edge off the foot pain.

*Foot pain is universal among thru-hikers by the end of the day; we often think we'll never be able to walk again our feet are so very beaten up at the end of the day -- but miraculously, overnight, our feet seem to reconstitute themselves, albeit in a different shape. Once we get our shoes on in the morning, we hobble about like toddlers learning to walk again; but soon we're striding along (hup, hup, hup) quickly climbing up and over the next set of mountains. Dionysus is getting blisters now more often. Sean's feet are holding up very well, and his shin splints have eased back considerably. I've gotten them now -- for only three days -- and with Seano's sage advice on wrapping and cold water soaks, we headed mine off at the pass so they ease away). But talking to thru-hikers is frequently a talk of aches and pains -- we marvel at how much our feet and legs and joints are complaining -- and at how thoroughly (we imagine) such pain would have derailed us in our usual non-Trail lives -- but on the trail, we have no choice but to put on our packs and continue. And lo! the "body lies" that say "you can't go any further" dissolve and more mountains pass under our gradually shredding shoes.

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