Snakebite vs The Giant Hill

Day 34

I’m up and out from my sandy bed at 430am. I don’t take any breaks but I’m going really slowly today! The light is gorgeous across the scrubby valley and as I round a corner I hear voices. I don’t see anyone so I stop and listen for a second and finally locate the owners under a tree up ahead. It’s Goldenrod and Crazy Lamb!
They passed me during the night and have are just finishing packing up so I wait for them and we all hike on together.

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There is a possible water cache up ahead at Bird Spring Pass, but in the last trail register there was a note from a trail angel saying it will no longer be stocked as the access road was washed out in the flash floods a few days before (the day we left Tehachapi). The girls find a nice shady spot before the road to rest, but I’m keen to see if there is anything at the cache. I turn the corner and see chairs!! How I love chairs. When I get closer I see that there is still a bit of water in the cache, and a container with some tortillas, peanut butter, and some external batteries to charge your phone while you hang out. AMAZING! Trail angels are so thoughtful.

I waste a bunch of time under the spikey Joshua Tree, not looking forward to the 500m elevation gain of the next couple of miles. It’s a nice steep climb, but the hardest part is that it’s completely exposed… and HOT. I do everything I can think of – eat a bit of food, go to the loo, charge my phone, have a wee nap. The girls and Yorkie have all passed me and I can procrastinate no more. WAIT yes I can. I remember back at the last trough water source 5 Fingers gave me some magic powder. After hearing me say that I have no caffeine with me, he offered me some of a workout powder that he swears by to get up hills. He warned me not to take it all if I’m not used to it. So I mix half into my little talenti container and gulp it down. I think I’ve had about 2 coffees the whole time I’ve been out here, so it takes about .25 seconds before the caffeine hits my bloodstream like gummy berry juice. I pick up my bag and GO. I bounce up the hill like an energiser bunny. I stop halfway up to drink the rest of the drink mix and barely even notice the climb. BOUNCY BOUNCY BOUNCY! WHEEEEEEE!

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I get to the top expecting there to be crowds with streamers and balloons and horns, all cheering in my amazing climb! Did you see that climb??? Most amazing climb in the history of this particular hill. You win all the prizes!!!
But no. *sigh* I pat myself on the back and march onwards, determined to make the most of the magic powder in my veins. There’s a small possible water source at the top and off the trail a ways. I still have enough from the amazing caches, so I continue on.
I take a little nap off the trail under some anorexic trees, and spend a lot of the time moving my sleeping mat with the shade so I don’t cook. I force myself to get up around 3pm but it’s too bloody hot. So I hike for 30 minutes then find another insufficient tree to lie under.
Finally at 5pm I’m out again. Sloooooowly. All the magic powder is gone 🙁

Slow slow slow up and down some strange little bumps/ hills along a dirt road. The road is nice and I’m looking around when I suddenly see a giant rattler up ahead – eating a rabbit!!! EEEPS. The road is wide but I can’t decide if I’m safe to pass by because he is occupied with food and won’t care about me, or if that will make him extra pissed off that I’m going to pinch his food… so I decide to bush bash instead. I give him a wide wide berth and halfway around the scratchy scratchy bushes I realise that there’s every chance I’ll step on a snake out here where I can’t see them…. and memories of when I was bitten by a snake come flooding back! eeeeeeeps. There’s nothing for it but to hurry up and pay extra attention.

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I make it make to the road, which turns into a soft sand trail. I’m bumbling along watching the footprints in front of me trying to figure out if they belong to Goldenrod and Crazylamb. Then I see a fat snake track in the dirt as well, taking up about 1/3 of the trail…in a split second my mind goes from “hmmm that’s a big arse snake track” to “SHITE it’s on TOP of the footprints” to “SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE!” Second rattle snake for the day! The big bugger slides off the trail in front of me to the side and hides about 10cm from the edge in a tiny brush area. He’s all coiled up and rattling at me, clearly unimpressed that I have interrupted his evening stroll (slide?).
I’m pumped full of adrenaline, heart is going crazy and feel a bit nauseated. The snake is still there. So close to the trail. How on earth am I to get through??? I’m determined not to have another deep creek vs snake episode, and the only way through is going to be to RUN past the snake. So I back off a little, listening carefully for the rattle to stop. It finally does and I stand there psyching myself up for the run. I’ll have to pass by firmly within striking distance so it takes me some time to get the courage! But light is fading. Finally, it takes all my courage and a giant deep breath and I make a run for it. VICTORY! I keep running for a Looooooong time after I pass it.

Pumped full of adrenaline I’m determined to make it to Walker Pass tonight. According to guthook, Walker Pass is a popular spot for trail magic; I can think of no better way to finish a loong hot stretch than with a cold cold drink. mmmmmm.

My headlamp is on and the light is fully gone by now but I still have about 7 miles to go. Thank goodness it’s downhill. I’m all spooked by snakes, so I comfort myself by singing a medley of EVERY SINGLE DISNEY SONG I KNOW. ON REPEAT. FOR 7 MILES.
This has to be the longest descent ever, through some strange sandy trail and trees. I can see lights in the far distance that are teasing me and I hope it’s the walker pass campground. Then I see something lying on the trail but my mind is in the frame of GO GO GO so I just run right past the little skinny red striped snake that is lying lengthways agains the hill. 3 snakes in one evening????? Too many thank you. I would like less. Less snakes is my preference.

Finally, with aching aching legs and no voice left I find the campground. I bumble around and find a table with some water which I greedily gulp. I’m exhausted and trying to figure out where to camp but I can see hiker slugs (hikers cowboying in sleeping bags) around and don’t want to be that asshole that wakes everyone up in the middle of the night with my headlamp, so I don’t really search too far. I find a little spot that’s a bit away from everyone, set up my stuff cowboy style (I’m too freaking tired to care about snakes etc on the ground… strangely), and watch the epic stars circle above as I fall into a dizzy dehydrated sleep.

Snakebite vs Day 33

594.23 – 618.52

24.29 miles

Today I’m up crazy early to reach the next water source before I get cooked. Thankfully I was not eaten by a mountain lion – a thought that ran through my mind as I was in my hidden spot.. no-one would have found me for months or years… eeps! Some crazy night hikers passed me during the night – I heard their voices echoing up to my little spot. It’s either early rising or late hiking in the desert. I hike with my headlamp on and of course I see a bazillion better spots about a mile down the road. Bugger.

The sun streams beautifully through the pine trees and the air is lovely and fresh. I pass a little dirt side road and see 5 Fingers and 2 identifiable slugs fast asleep. Then I hit the 600 mile marker! YEOW! And then the second 600 mile marker…and the third. BAH. Everyone seems to have the need to leave their own incorrect mile markers out here.

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After the obligatory selfies I make it to the first water source and climb up over a fence and up a hill a little to get to a spot that is clear and easy to fill from.
There are a couple of other hikers camped here (one named Big Boy Scout… I can’t remember the others), all rising early and keen to get to the next water too. It’s a never ending race – must do the miles to get to the next water, to get to the next water, to get to the next water… to, you know, not die.

After a little brekkie of my awesome granola in my little ziplock baggie (nice cold soy milk from the powder I mixed into every granola bag, with the water from the stream) while sitting under a tree I head out about 830am and hike on to mile 608. The water isn’t far so wouldn’t normally warrant a stop, but it’s the last reliable water for 50 miles, so I have to make sure I fill up there.

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The hike in is really nice, walking through a park of pine trees. The water is .8 mile down a dirt road in a nice trough with a good flow. Yorkie and Atilla are there hanging out in the shade. There are some nice trees to nap under – so I set up a little camp, drink a tonne of water, air my feet out, wash some socks in the little stream that comes out the other side of the trough, and fall asleep. I wait out heat of day under pine trees and wake up an hour or so later to the sound of “Snakebiiiiiite” whispered from the other side of the trees. Goldenrod, Crazy Lamb, 5 Fingers and Boyscout are all there!
The rest of the gang only made it as far as the first water; they got there late so they are waiting out the heat there.

I drink more and more water, borrow Atilla’s solar charger to add a bit more juice to my phone, then finally leave at 5pm. It’s still bloody hot but I have to get the miles in.

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Turns out there is a water cache at Kelso road! So much beautiful water. I make dinner there as the light disappears and the wind picks up.
I see Yorkie and Atilla’s headlamps bobbing up to me, and they pass me by while I’m eating.

With my headlamp on I hike another 4 miles to 10pm. I find a flat spot off the trail in sand and pass out under best stars I’ve seen yet. Life is good.