Day 15-17- Hot, Hot, Hot
The hot temperatures I had been warned about were upon us. I thought it was nice I didn’t need to wear socks to bed the previous night…I’d take the socks any day over this heat. I dragged my feet a little when getting packed up but was on trail before 7:30. I quickly started to realize I should have been on trail over an hour ago. It was noticeably warm for early morning. I’ve never really needed extra hiking layers for warmth in the morning on this trail but this was the first time I started the day sweating.
I had to get moving if I wanted to get any miles done before the temperatures rose even more. I hustled and made it to a water collection tank. I had been so lucky with creeks and streams in the southern portion of the trail that I didn’t really need to use these tanks. I was starting to realize those days were over. I joined a group of other hikers climbing the ladder to the top of the tank to scoop out some water. There was green scum on top and somehow some sort of fish or pollywog type creatures swimming around. Surprisingly the water was clear when scooping! I still filtered but did not taste anything funky, a victory!
The heat was rising and I struggled to get the miles in. I did see some fun wildlife, a large jack rabbit and some sort of medium snake. Luckily the snake just let me hike right by it and I didn’t want to stop to check him out.
Around 2 I opted to try a long break near another water tank and then start hiking again. I found a shady spot and guzzled water. After an hour I was starting to get antsy but tried to wait a little longer. Eventually I gave up on the siesta and headed out again. I only made it another hour before quitting. I found a camp spot for the night and hit in the shade my tent created. It was almost 5 and it was just as hot as it was at 2. I was going to have to get up very early tomorrow.
By 6:30 the sun was starting to set and the heat was more tolerable. I tried to go to sleep early and heard some night hikers passing by my campsite. Everyone seemed to have a different strategy to beat the heat. Unfortunately I tossed and turned a bit from the heat but eventually I feel asleep.
4:45am came faster than I would have liked but I knew this was the strategy for me. Siestas and night hiking doesn’t suit me so mornings are going to be it for me. I tried to get packed up as quickly as possible. To my annoyance the sun had already risen and I was wasting valuable time still packing up. A hiking group passed me as I stuffed my tent away. I finally was ready and I shot off like a bullet quickly overtaking the group. I needed to make these miles count because I knew the afternoon would be useless.
I quickly arrived at a water cache in a parking lot. It was much appreciated as I was almost out of water. I tried to take only what I needed as I knew others behind me would be counting on these gallons.
I moved on sweating and already baking in the sun. I would have to reapply sunscreen more frequently today. To my delight some baby jack rabbits crossed my path, their big ears just starting to form. It was nice to see signs of spring in the wild flowers that were erupting on the sides of the hills and next to me on the trail. It was beautiful and I knew I was lucky to be seeing this. If only this heat would break, Eric assured me he had checked the weather and in a couple days it would be back down to 80 degrees.
I moved quickly along the winding single track trail and then as I turned a corner…RATTLESNAKE! He was only a couple feet from me and I jumped back. I think he/she was just as shocked to see me because up went the head and that tell tale rattle was shaking vigorously. I quickly backed away back around the corner and waited hoping it would just slither away but nope…the minute I started moving again I could hear the rattle starting up. Since this is not something I am familiar or comfortable with I opted to backtrack to a wash I had crossed and take it to a small dirt road that was running parallel to the trail. I probably went a good bit out of my way but I wasn’t trying to deal with a scared snake on trail or the excessive amounts of discarded pieces of cacti and prickers just off the trail (I had been pulling stray pickers off my shoes all morning).
I got back on the trail and thankfully no more snakes got in my path, although every stick looked like a snake to me now. The heat was starting to reach its peak and I knew my mileage per hour would be slowed significantly. I filled up my water at a stock pond and decided instead of weighing myself down even more with extra water, I would push to the next water source and camp there. That put me at a 23 mile day in this heat, not the most fun day but I knew the plentiful water would be worth it.
I put my head down and ground it out, frequently stopping to sit in the small shadows of bushes. This was certainly looking more like a desert, not the rolling ridges I had seen in the beginning of this hike. I even started to see some patches of the infamous red dirt. I trudged and sipped water, pulled stray prickers out of my shoes and ate a crazy amount of jolly ranchers to keep my mouth from drying out. Another large jack rabbit appeared and watched my lumbering pace, I liked to think he was cheering me on…
Finally I made it to the water source, some sort of spring or something that was piped out, which meant…THE WATER WAS COLD! Well coldish but I was elated! The water in my water bottles was a lot like drinking from a hose that had been laying in the grass during a hot summer day. Nothing like consuming boiling hot water while carrying a heavy pack under the desert sun.
I setup my tent and drank liter after liter of water. I hid in the shade my tent created (going in the actual tent was horribly stuffy and hot) and watched the hummingbirds fly amongst the wildflowers. 23 miles accomplished which would set me up for town tomorrow. I was opting to stop in Kearny because it had a reputation of being a really friendly hiker town. Also I am reaching a stretch where there aren’t many towns near the trail until you reach Pine at mile 420ish. This town visit was a lot quicker than I had wanted but it would set me up for the longer stretch to Pine. Also I was thrilled to have an afternoon out of this heat. I feel asleep quickly and not even the stifling air inside the tent could disrupt my slumber.
I was up and out early. I was ready for a respite from the heat. I bounced along draining all my water knowing there was more waiting for me. The wildflowers continued to amaze me and I couldn’t stop myself from taking loads of photos.
Just a couple miles outside of town I called Gary, the trail angel of Kearny, was happy to pick me up and drive me to town. I headed to the meeting spot on the road and was joined by 2 other hikers who were staying at the same hostel I was. Gary was as kind and charismatic as promised, he even provided us with some cold cokes. He dropped us at our destination and refused any money. I’m vowing to pay his kindness forward.
I opted to get my resupply done first before the afternoon heat kicked in. I walked through downtown Kearny and grabbed some things for the trail and of course a pint of ice cream which I happily ate while lounging back at the hostel. Gryph, the dog was my new buddy and didn’t leave my side all afternoon.
I talked with Jeff and Q, the hostel owners, they have hosted over 140 people, the most hikers they have ever and the season hasn’t even ended. A few other hikers turned up during the afternoon, one was from Seabrook, small world. It was nice to relax on the shady patio. I found a little sewing kit in the hiker box and was finally able to sew up the massive rip in my shorts that were about a week away from becoming a skirt. Jeff kept calling me Betsy Ross and Boston Tea party but waste not want not especially on a hiker budget.
I finally made it over to the infamous Old Town pizza. The Mexican restaurant in town closed down a while ago…someday I’ll get those tacos! The pizza hit the spot and as I was leaving, I ran into Twinkle Toes and another hiker I met in Summerhaven. The heat really pushed everyone into town quickly. Q gave me a ride back and I quickly fell asleep with a full satisfied stomach.
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