Day 29 | mile 621.9 - 651.3

Woke up at 4:15 to people shining headlamps and getting ready to hike. Impressive. The wind had picked up. I was very happy to have my puffy hood because the wind was blowing right at my head all night. I was toasty in my quilt + puffy. Which made it very hard to get up.

Woke up again at 6 to cows mooing next to us. It was so windy and cloudy. The clouds were moving right through the “campsite” (which was really a parking lot). I willed myself to sit up and start oatmeal. Ate, made a plan to somehow hike 30 miles to Walker Pass, put my shoes on, and got to work.

Radar was still in his bag, but I knew he’d catch up. I woke him up when I was about to leave. I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to hike 30 miles to Walker Pass, but I need to.” He threw up a shaka and said “ah, you’ll loosen up!” His nonchalance (or is it optimism?) made me laugh because every step I took was pure agony.

The first mile was so painful. I had taken Advil at breakfast and it must’ve kicked in at the second mile. The pain just dissipated and I was hiking almost normally. It still hurt to stretch out my shin muscles, but walking was pain-free. Woohoo!

I started thinking about maybe making it all the way to Lone Pine. Definitely Kennedy Meadows was doable, I thought. I lost myself in the daydream and almost didn’t notice the first 10 to the water cache at Bird Spring Pass. There were a bunch of people chilling there.

I met these two awesome girls - Gremlin and Dirty. They were so fun to chat with, and they’re from the bay. They were just acquaintances when they started hiking, and now they knew almost everything about each other. I gave them a couple more questions to ask about each other when they’re hiking (3 things you wish people identified with you and 3 things you wish people didn’t, what’s something you’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try, which actress would play you in a movie - you know, the classic Selby questions) and a riddle. I’d love to meet up with them when I’m back home.

I wanted to keep moving, so I left after 20-ish minutes. The next section were long, sandy switchbacks up a mountain. You could see the real mountains of the Sierra from the top. My shin was starting to hurt, so I took a break to stretch and eat a bagel at the top. I even had reception so I could text with Alex.

The shin was feeling worse from there out. Thankfully I downloaded the latest This American Life episode while I had service, so I had that to distract me. The shin just got progressively worse and the miles were getting longer and longer. I decided I’m definitely getting off at Walker pass around 3 pm while I still had 10 miles to go. To add to the misery, it was super windy and cold.

Nothing like a busted shin, wind chilling you to the bone, and a branch ripping off and hitting you in the face to make you think “you know, being home sounds really nice right about now”.

Finally rolled in to Walker pass at 7:30. Still some daylight to hitch but I had to get moving. The kind people at the campground told me it would be better to stay the night here and go to Lake Isabella in the morning. But they pointed me in the direction of these trail angels in the RV parked next to the campground in case they were willing to drive me.

I was dead-set on going to Lake Isabella tonight. So, I knocked and this nice couple would not even talk to me until I was inside, sitting down, and had a blanket over my legs to keep warm. Gusts of wind were shaking the RV and it was the coziest thing to be sitting in there.

 Mary Ann and Phil of Camarillo, CA listened to my predicament. They said they couldn’t take me to Lake Isabella tonight because… they shared 1.5 bottles of wine that evening. I said I should set up camp next to the RV and they’d take me in the morning. There’s nothing I could do in Lake Isabella tonight anyway. And would I like some tea? And hot water for my dinner? I’ll never forget their kindness. (It makes me teary writing about it now.)

The black tea with milk was heavenly. Mary Ann added really good pepperoni to my ramen. We chatted about everything (the books they were reading, Camarillo strawberries, JPL, shin splints, etc) until all three of us were yawning. They turned their outside lights on as I got tucked in outside. I went to sleep with my clothes on. Wind was relentless, and I was toasty.