Hiker Town – upper shake camp ground
24.7 miles. 6165ft up. 4418ft down.
It was lovely and warm and I slept brilliantly. The one time I woke in the night my sleeping bag was on the floor, I ended up just cuddling it rather than having it covering me. We stuck to our 6am wake up time. No point changing it just because we aren’t in our tents. By the time we had faffed about we ended up setting of at about 6:45 in the dark.
We crossed the highway and got back on the trail. The sky looked a bit threatening, there’s a 40% chance of rain today apparently. But we were happy with the clouds, another dry waterless stretch ahead meaning a dry camp and heavy water. After 5 minutes it started to rain, so we stopped to layer up in our waterproofs and after only 15 minutes of walking in our waterproofs the rain stopped and it was too hot. So the layers came off again. I had a feeling that it was going to be like this all day. We saw a couple of coyotes running across the fields.
We were back walking on trail instead of concrete and it was gently rolling up and down which was all a welcome change from yesterday. The rain had compacted the sandy trail and it was easy to walk on, it was a great temperature. The worst of the weather seemed to be over the aqueduct, where we were yesterday. Maybe we have been lucky and have missed it. It drizzled a bit and the clouds were moving quickly, a bit of rain, a bit of blue sky, a bit of sun, a beautiful rainbow.
That’s where the good stuff ended, at 8:30am. The clouds then rolled in and it began to rain a lot, heavier with each gust of wind. I put my coat back on but didn’t bother with my trousers, I figured it would clear up later. But it continued to get heavier and by the time I thought I should really put on layers my shorts were soaked and so were my knickers as the water dropped off the hem of my jacket. I felt like I had soiled myself. It wasn’t cold so I figured I would just carry on.
7.5 miles in there was another blue barrel full of water, again maintained by Hiker Town which is super nice of them. I had one litre with me that I had carried out this morning and drunk nothing from, so I filled up one more litre from the barrel. It was still pouring with rain and it was cold when you stopped walking, so although I had agreed to meet Catwater here it was too cold to hang around so I carried on. When the weather is like this you go into survival mode and it’s every woman for themselves. Self preservation.
The day then just got worse from then on. The rain was relentless for hours. I felt like the front of my top was a bit wet, I assumed it was water coming in down the neck so I tightened and tied the elastic strings on my hood to try and stop the water coming in. But eventually I realised that my waterproof wasn’t being waterproof and my top was wet in patches as the rain seeped through my jacket. I tried to keep my head in the same position so the jacket didn’t touch my neck. I wanted to put on my vest, a hat and my gloves but that would involve stopping and taking them out my bag, which would mean getting cold and rain getting into my bag. Also I didn’t want anything else to get wet or I wouldn’t have anything warm and dry to put on at the end of the day. The trail was becoming difficult to walk on, it was becoming muddy and slippery and I struggled to make it up some of the uphills without slipping backwards.
As long as I kept moving I was ok. I was on the edge sometimes of being cold but I just kept thinking of all the warm dry clothes in my pack and how wonderful it will feel when I put them on. The rain was really beginning to get me down. I was becoming desperate for a wee and my stomach was rumbling so I had to stop about 10 miles into the day.
My hands were so cold and numb and swollen they were pretty useless. It was a huge challenge to pull the wet Lycra shorts back up over my clammy skin using my useless hands after my seemingly endless wee. My shorts and knickers were twisted and uncomfortable but it was the best I could do. I had great difficulty opening my Twix but once I managed it I devoured it in about 5 seconds. My jacket was now absolutely dripping wet and my top underneath was about 60% wet. I was starting to shiver and my bottom jaw was out of control so I needed to keep moving.
My phone was being semi protected in my jacket pocket and I was listening to podcasts on loud speaker. Surely no one else was stupid enough to be out here. But I did see a hunter, I was almost on top of him before I saw him, my field of vision significantly narrowed by my hood and my visor peak being squished by the hood. I can’t imagine he was too thrilled by the noise I was making but there was nothing I could do about it. I said hi, put my head down and carried on.
The rain just got worse and worse. And then the wind started. I was losing my sense of humour. Whenever I had to check the GPS for the direction of the trail it was an ordeal. I had to try and retrieve my phone from my pocket using my numb swollen useless hands. My fingerprints aren’t recognised as my hands have been wet for so long that my fingerprints have probably disappeared, so I would jab at the numbers until I finally got it right. By this time the phone would be covered in rain and it was only semi responsive. I was getting to the point where I had had enough. I wanted to get warm and dry and this was stupid walking in this horrible weather. I made a plan to pitch my tent at the next tent spot, but I also didn’t want to pitch it while it was pouring and I was dripping wet. There were 4 miles until the next tent spot so I made that my goal. 3.5 miles short of our first goal and 7.5 miles short of our preferred second goal.
When I reached the top of the main climb for the day the weather was at its worse, I had been in cloud for hours and visibility was between 10-30ft. I was pretty miserable. The trail was now just a giant puddle and my feet couldn’t get any wetter so I was just wading through the water. As I started to go down the other side the wind eased and the rain stopped for a bit, although I was still completely in the cloud so I was still getting wet. But the break in the rain did make things a little easier and when I reached the tent site I decided I could carry on the 3.5 miles to Sawmill campground. I had camped here last year with Catwater and I remembered it being a little off trail, and I also remembered there being pit toilets there where I could shelter from the weather, and get warm and dry. I put on my waterproof mitts to try and protect and warm up my hands a bit but they too have lost their waterproofness. They certainly didn’t keep my hands dry but they were a few degrees warmer.
On the way there I passed the 500 mile marker. I forced myself to stop and take a picture, I hadn’t taken a picture since the rainbow.
When I got to the Sawmill junction it was 2:30 and there were only 5 miles to go to Upper Shake campground which had been our goal when we set out this morning. As much as I wanted to get to one of those pit toilets and get dry I decided 2:30 was too early to stop and I carried on. I had been making good time but the last couple of miles I had slowed to a crawl, I shovelled down another snack to try and boost my dwindling energy levels and set about trying to do the next 5 miles as quickly as I could. I got a bit of speed up but the trail was quite washed out and unstable in places so I had to be careful.
I read on guthook that there was a pit toilet at this campground too so I made plans to hang out in there for a while. I needed a wee but I was going to hold on for the pit toilet. I got there at 4:20 and headed straight for the pit toilet where all my hopes and dreams instantly died. The toilets were gross, filled with leaves and pine cones and toilet paper. It wasn’t even worth attempting to go inside. I did an enormous wee which surprised me considering I had only drunk about 100ml of water today. I was still hauling my 2 litres.
Now what? The camp ground was disgusting, trash from the trash cans is strewn everywhere, had it not been for all the trash I would have though the camp ground had been abandoned. There seemed to be very few places to camp. I had an idea that we could hitch to lake Hughes and get a room for the night. If Catwater made it here by 5:30 we had a chance. I had no service on my phone so all I could do was wait. I stood leaning against the wall of the pit toilet and after a few minutes of standing I came over all faint, again?! I’m not sure whether this should be giving me cause for concern now. I put my head down and wait for it to pass. I can’t stand still so I walk a few laps around the campground and wait to see if Catwater will make it.
At 5:15 there is no sign of her and it is starting to rain again. I wasn’t dry but I wasn’t dripping wet anymore and I didn’t want to get that wet again. I was also starting to shiver. So I decided to pitch my tent.
I used the fast pitch and then put the inner up afterwards, I did it just in time as the rain got heavier. It wasn’t the best pitch and it was quite saggy and flappy in places, but it would have to do! I changed into my sleep clothes and felt instantly better, being dry is so nice. I started shivering uncontrollably but that’s just the body’s way of warming up. I wrapped myself in my layers and my sleeping bag and warmed up. I didn’t feel that hungry so I ate a packet of tuna and some Cheetos. I couldn’t be bothered to ‘cook’. As it got dark I knew Catwater would be here and I hoped she was ok and had found somewhere warm and dry.
I got really thirsty so drank half a litre of water which I knew would be a mistake. The rain was heavy and I couldn’t go outside to wee and get my only dry clothes wet so desperate times call for desperate measures. I had a wee in my jetboil and then chucked it outside. Yeah it’s gross but what else are you supposed to do?!
I hope and hope that the rain will have stopped in the morning.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.