Miles: 15 by trail; about 24 actual due to terrain
Camp: CDT mile 29.12

This morning started out perfect. I had a good nights sleep, and any pain from the day before didn’t linger. I made up a healthy breakfast packed at home a few weeks ago, and fired on up the trail. Several hikers had recommended we take the road from the water cache because the trail was rough, but none of us saw the point of doing that, so we followed the trail as planned.

It was a beautiful morning, though growing hot quickly. We had to follow large wooden posts held up by piles of rocks across the landscape. Sometimes they were easy to spot, and other times it was a real trick to find them among the tall standing agave and yucca plants. Like a game of Where’s Waldo?

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The early walking was pretty easy going, and I had my usual fun studying all of the unique flora of the desert. My favorite new plant is the ocatilla, a long spindly, spiny plant with bright red flowers at it’s tips. Dodging it was a chore at times, but it stood so beautifully against the landscape.

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Soon enough, the trail markers became harder to spot and we had to team up, training all sets of eyes on the horizon to find the next trail marker. They occasionally get knocked over by cows, so they aren’t always there.

We managed to find our way out of the mountains and onto the desert floor, realizing that we had only been 9 miles after 6 hours. The walking was all over the place, hardly a straight line, sometimes feeling like giant circles and so much going up and down through arroyos coming off the mountain. It added miles to the day, even if we only went 9 by trail.

By the time we all reached the second water cache 11 miles into the day it was already 2 and we were all beat up by the desert. Radar was there filling up the cache which thankfully meant cool water to drink. It was simply beautiful. I built a fort with my umbrella, tyvek and trekking poles that gave me enough protection to eat lunch since there was no shade for miles.

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Radar also gave us gatorade…and he brought my shirt that I had accidentally left in the hotel in my drowsy and distracted departure (thanks to Pink for making the handoff). It was a good moment, made even better yet by a nice man who came upon us with a cooler of ice cold Mountain Dew. As much as I abhor soda, it was the single most tasty one I have ever consumed on that shadeless desert floor.

After a Gatorade and soda we all felt as if we should push on another 5 miles (hello sugar!). Seemed like a good idea at the time, but a couple of miles on I felt some blisters I treated earlier in the day raising hell in my right shoe. There is not so much as a hot spot on my left foot, but 3 angry blisters have fought their way through the leukotape on my right. Alas, it is inevitable.

I took a break under a tree while everyone else marched on. I have to remember that I’m on my own out here. Everyone is so great, but just because they are pushing their bodies doesn’t mean I have to push mine…and believe me, we are all struggling out here.

Embrace the brutality indeed.

I still wouldn’t trade it for anything. Through the pain I continue to smile and delight in the freedom of a Thru Hike in its fledgling stage.

So I sat in the shade for 30 minutes and gathered my composure before deciding to move on. I ended up running into Rampage who had been sitting not 20 yards from me under another shade tree. She and I got to walking and talking with no sign of the rest of the group ahead.

Getting tired, sore and frustrated with our blisters we decided to stop in a wash and call it a day. We ate dinner as Debbie showed up, and are now lying cowboy style under the sky again. The moon is full over the mountains and the air is so refreshing after a day of stifling heat. We aim to rise early and hit our miles before it gets hot tomorrow…I’m not great with alarms, so hopefully we succeed. It will surely be worth it after today.

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The moon over the mountains, Big Hatchet Peak to the right

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We are sleeping in the mountains you see here tonight. Was a long walk to get here.

Dinner: tortilla soup with chicken and salsa (salsa was great Elaine!)

New addition to the blog will be called, “View from the loo”…every day the last picture on my blog will feature what I see during my daily poo:

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