Yup, cold. Neither of us slept well, so we are cranky and nipping at each other. Once we get going, though, we warm up, both physically and with each other. Last year I hiked the 15 miles Sobo from Mt. Laguna to Boulder Oaks because my blisters were already getting bad, and I thought descending instead of climbing would somehow help the situation. As I travel up above the creek in the shade on our way to the Kitchen Falls road area, I realize that I had made a big mistake back then. I bet the long downhill actually accelerated the blisters. I push up the trail, my poles softly clinking in harmony with my steps. This long incline to Mt. Laguna is an important step for understanding the trail, I reflect. Newcomers need a taste of the long traverses, the counter-intuitive switchbacks, the infuriating up, up, up….then a slight down, just to go back up. I missed this “on site training” last year.
At the road there is no shade, but the sun feels good. Later, we will both curse the sun, but for now it is still our friend. Since I am getting blisters again, we take longer breaks to dry out my bandages, socks, and shoes. To bide the time, we switch clothes and do imitations of each other, cracking ourselves up.
Now we are on the east side of the mountains, and the sun bears down on us. The view is expansive; Hwy 8 gets smaller and smaller, little ant people driving their little ant cars. We contour around hill after hill, until it’s time to switchback down to the “bottom”. It’s still 2 miles to Cibbetts Flat, where there are some rocks and shade to rest, without actually going down to the campsites. We are really hot at this point, trying to conserve water so we can dry camp tonight. For some reason, the 2 miles up to Cibbets is torture. The red dirt on the path is shooting waves of heat back at me, making me feel a bit like I am suffocating. It’s only 75 degrees out, and it feels like 95. How do people do this in the summer? How am I gonna be able to get through the desert when 75 degrees makes me fall apart. I actually cry a little, and the fact that Aaron is forever ahead of me leaves me feeling left behind. Not good enough. When we get to the shade, Aaron tells me that the last two miles were terrible for him, too. It’s a mystery why to both of us. The section was no different from any other steep section. Anyway, we enjoy our brief respite and take a nap on the gravel in a little patch of shade.
Then back to climbing. Up and around, up and around. We take a break at an old oak tree, and decide to go a little further to camp at a site near Long creek. We get there early. I want to go further-my muscles want to push further- but I have to take care of my feet and just go slow.
Late at night, we see a headlamp producing an astounding amount of light coming along the path. It moves past us, then back again. We hear a sigh of relief as a giant pack falls to the ground near us. Aaron pokes his head out and says Hi. “Oh hello, sorry if I woke you,” says a young, bubbly voice. “I was gonna go further to water, but I think I’ll stop here instead.” We listen as she sets her stuff up, and soon we all fall asleep to the sound of each others shifting and rustling sleeping bags.