Today started off hard, but ended up being one of my favorite sections. I hit trail at 6:50 a and started immediately with a climb, which grew steeper and steeper before finally heading back down hill. Meadown’t (I don’t) understand how I can be this far into my hike and it seems like days/climbs are getting harder and harder; not easier like I thought they would. Quite discouraging. Despite killing me, the terrain was beautiful as I walked through meadowy hillsides. I kept passing signs saying I was in an open range – I was hoping I’d see some cows, but never did 😦
I barely made it to mile 600 with my baby steps. Though still morning, it was getting way hot. I took a short little break at this milestone then pushed forward to Robin Bird Spring where many hikers were resting and filling up. Thankfully, the next water was not too far away and I didn’t have to carry 5-6 liters like I had been. I couple hours later, I made it to Lander’s Camp where there was another spring. We were like cows at a watering hole, swarming it and finding relief in the shade nearby. After lunch, a break, and debating how much water to bring in the next 42 miles waterless stretch. There is talk of a 2-3 water caches; but you never want to count on them, and you also don’t want to carry 2 days worth of water. I opted to press my luck somewhat, but not as much as others. I would carry enough water to get me to the potential second water cache just over 20 miles away.
The next section of trail was by far my favorite of the day and the trail so far. There was beautiful wildflowers that smelled like purple jolly ranchers, scenic views, rolling hills vs big climbs and little desert terrain. From here, there was a big decent down to Kelso Valley Rd where there was to be a water cache!
I got to Kelso around 6:10 and found water..woohoo. This means I could camel up and not conserve quite as much in the next stretch to the next potential cache. The cache was right on a road, and didn’t leave much room for camping. There was 2 okay spots, but heard there might be another site a mile or two up the trail. I had already gone over 20 miles, but decided to press my luck and see what I could find. There was nothing – except a lot of rabbits (5 more to add to the 2 from yesterday). It didn’t help that it was quite windy as well. I finally got to a patch of Joshua trees where I could get a little wind protection and found a crappy spot that could work. I dropped pack and decided to scout another quarter mile up to the road. There wasn’t much except a sandy flat spot right next to the dirt road, but it was better than the last. I walked back to retrieve my pack to return back to the site.
Unfortunately, I failed to notice all of the red ants that also called that spot home. They immediately started crawling all over my stuff and me. I dragged my tent down about 3 feet where it was slightly better and threw all my stuff in my tent as soon as possible. As I ate dinner, a couple of OHVs whizzed by – I sure hope this doesn’t last all night. Thankfully they only went by one more time. I didn’t see anyone since leaving the cache two miles back. As the sun went down behind the hills, one person walked by, but it looked like I would be camping all my myself. The first time in quite a while.
Once I got into my tent for the night, the critters came out. I could here them scurrying by my tent and checking out the unfamiliar tent and gear in their way. I swore they were chilling right on the other side of my tent wall. When I would sit up and look, I couldn’t see anything. As soon as I would lay back down I could hear them again, or at least I could hear something – I may have just been going crazy. I just swatted at my tent, they would leave, then shortly return. I put in my ear plugs and continued this game until I fell asleep.