(Sorry about the delay. I walked into a whole bunch of no service)
So, how different is hiking alone? Only a million times different!
I was pretty sad and lonely as I limped out of Warner Springs into the desert alone. I kept stopping to look back, as if I expected someone. But no one was there.
I got about 20 minutes out of town when I realized I had forgotten to top off my toilet paper supply. Oh well, I wasn’t out. Just have to conserve or go native (i.e., leaves?)
I was about an hour out when I realized I didn’t have my reading glasses. This really flummoxed me. Go back and spend the night there after all? (Feet said “Please. Yes!”, but I ignored them). Go back for them and hike out again? Leave my pack here while I go back? Or just go on without them? In the end I decided thru-hikers don’t go back. If David’s phone had been working, I could have called him and have him send them up the trail to me with some fast-looking hikers, but it didn’t.
I hiked about 5 miles to a nice campsite by Agua Caliente Creek and was about to feel sorry for myself when some hikers walked by and we had a nice little chat. And then some more, eight in total. I realized I will only be lonely out here if I choose to be.
This buoyed my spirits considerably, and for the first time I became truly excited about what lay ahead!
In the morning, like magic, my feet felt pretty good. And so did the rest of me. Walking in the cool morning through the woods and birdsong was lovely. I feel so much more alive and in the moment hiking alone. And the trail was much emptier. One hiker said he heard 40% of hikers quit by Warner Springs, which probably has a lot to do with it.
The first part of the day was a 2000 foot climb out of the creek, but I was feeling good so I ate that mountain for breakfast! It was like I had Trail Legs, for a while, and it was wonderful feeling my body work. By the top I was tired, and an hour after that I was sore, and an hour after that I was hurting badly and limping along slowly like most of this trip. Just keep moving.
But Joy! What is this? In the early afternoon I came across this oasis in the desert. I had to stop there for water anyway, but just down the hill was a place called “Mike’s House”, with signs encouraging hikers to come down and relax. I could hear laughter and John Denver music. With thoughts of beer in mind I had to check it out, and I stumbled into this really cool party! I drank a bunch of beers and hung out with my fellow hikers for few hours. It was nice to get to know people a little better. Everyone was really cool. Friends, if strangers.
I felt very at home there and could have stayed all summer, but I decided to get a little farther up the trail. I limped/staggered another mile or two to a windy campsite on a ridge with a huge view (around MP 130) and crashed. I heard later that people thought I was staggering drunk leaving Mike’s Place, but I submit there was quite a bit of “Hiker Hobble”. Getting going after sitting a while is like walking on broken glass for the first few minutes.