4/26/17 , 17.2 miles, PCT Mile 251.0
The 25 mile day against the wind took my climbing legs from me and they have yet to recover. Every step uphill my hamstrings and butt burn and it sometimes feels like I am on the verge of injury. On flat ground, downhill or a slight incline I do fine, but even the slightest distance on a steep grade and I have to will myself every single step. I have completely exhausted the muscles that propel me upwards and they desperately need rest. Luckily, this is what the trail has in store for us:
From the Nature Preserve, for the next 40 miles the trail would follow a canyon creek and then ridges in an unrelenting uphill: 7500 feet up to a maximum elevation of nearly 9000 ft. There would be no reprieve. Yesterday I had slowly slogged my way 15 miles on sheer force of will. I did not feel like talking or taking pictures, nor do I even remember most of the day. I was just trying to make it to nightfall one painful step at a time. I had not eaten enough and may have been malnourished. That night, as the night before, my upper back and legs would occasionally cramp or spasm painfully. Today, less than four miles from camp, we stopped for a rest in a gully near a creek. Sarah filled up water and soaked her feet in the stream. I dropped my pack and slouched against a rock with my legs straight out in front of me in the dirt. I barely managed to take off my shoes and reach into my bag to eat what little food I had left that did not require soaking.
Perhaps it was the Tylenol and ibuprofen I took or the lack of food, but I suddenly felt nauseous. I lay there trying not to vomit up the food I desperately needed and stared at my hands which were trembling slightly. The only time I can recall feeling this depleted was during marathon trainings. I could understand how experiencing this could cause people to stop going. My past experience helped me here though. One of the lessons you learn with endurance sports is that a phase like this is temporary and can be pushed through. For quite a long distance actually. Runners call it “hitting the wall” and bicyclists call it “bonking”. I have even heard that your brain has its own regulator that holds a reserve of energy but makes you stop with pain and exhaustion before it will finally allow the last burst before collapse. Before this happens people often have visual hallucinations of being chased and then auditory hallucinations of voices telling them to stop or sometimes telling them to go on running. I was not and have never pushed myself that hard. Not even close. I was just bonking. I could and would keep going, it would just be slow. I was a little worried how Sarah would handle this. She has many good qualities, but few would say she possesses an abundance of patience. Particularly while running or biking or hiking. You might think that you have gone on a bike ride or nice jog or Sunday Hike with Sarah. You might think it was quite pleasant, actually. You chatted and took some pictures of the sites. It was a moderate pace and at the end you stopped in for some ice cream or something. It was an enjoyable experience. That’s nice for you. I’ve been on outings with that Sarah too. But I submit to you that you have never participated in these activities with the Sarah that sets out to break a marathon P.R. or attempts to walk 2650 miles through all the mountain ranges of the west coast. That Sarah is like a machine made for distance. It reminds me of a something that Kyle Rese said to Sarah Conner (and I paraphrase here): “Listen and understand. It’s out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It does not feel pity or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” You went on a stroll with Sarah your good friend from school. My hiking companion is the terminator. When you succumb to human exhaustion it strolls on, infatiguable, with metronome like precision, forever. This model, probably due to some error at Skynet, is programmed to walk rather than kill and was mistakenly given the ability to be annoyed. Jokes aside, I would understand that having to spend another night out here without food because my hiking partner was too slow would be aggravating. As I was explaining my condition, an older couple showed up out of nowhere. The Man, with the cool trail name of M.C. Hobo was, of course, in worse shape than I was and instantly stole all the sympathy that might have been coming my way. He had been bonking for days and we gave him some electrolytes, which was all we could afford to spare. (We saw them later in Big Bear City and he was fine). We pushed on, and I was very, very slow for the next 8 miles or so of uphill. Sarah stopped for me occasionally and shared her peanut butter with me. She never complained. This, I grant you, is not very terminator like behavior. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was carrying the tent. After we reached the apex of our climb my quadriceps, having rested during the uphill, kicked into gear and I miraculously felt better. We were able to make some good miles from then on. We would not have to stay out an extra day. I felt good enough to drone on to Sarah about some subject I knew she had zero interest in. “Now, the pine cones have seeds that are exposed just under the spikes. That’s why they are called gymnosperms.” I babbled. “Uh huh” the T-1000 replied. “Gym is Greek for naked, gymnasiums were places of nakedness because the Greeks played sports in the nude. It means literally, naked seed!” I continued, really liking the sound of my own voice. “Oh, that’s nice” she said flatly. Times were good again.
The above are some pictures of a bizarre exotic animals for for hire in movies enclosure out in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know how to fit it into the narrative. Their website says the animals live on “hundreds of acres”. This claim is, at best, deceptive. It was sad. It also reminded me that a Grizzly Bear might be the only animal that is cute and cuddly yet terrifying at the same time.