I woke up at dawn with snot on my face and my eyes crusted shut. My throat was dry and swollen. What I had hoped was a slight cold had turned into a full-blown something. I spent about an hour thinking about waiting until night to hike out before Detour and Scott came by and said they were hiking out.
“You guys go ahead,” I said, “I’m going to wait a while. I’ll see you up-trail.”
Soon the campsite was empty. I layed on my stomach in my tent, as it slowly became unbearably warm. I opened the entrance to the tent just as a group of people passed by on the trail. They didn’t see me in my tent, but I noticed they were wearing jeans and t-shirts and weren’t carrying packs. I sat in front of my tent, arms wrapped around my legs, staring blankly into the empty tent sites across from me. A few minutes later, a couple of the people came back, this time stopping as they noticed me sitting there.
“You okay?” asked an older man in a straw hat.
“Yeah,” I replied, followed by a brief and unexpected coughing fit, “I’m just having a low day.” I said hoarsely. I felt like crying for some reason. They nodded in understanding. “I’m thinking about hiking out when it gets cooler.”
“You know, it’s not so hot right now.” The man said. I realized he was right. There was a nice breeze. It wasn’t the weather keeping me in – it was my own low mood. I suddenly felt better.
“Are you here to take care of the water cache?” I asked. They nodded. “Thanks so much for doing that.”
Within half an hour I had packed up and started hiking out. It was noon, but not too hot thanks to the breeze. I put on my audiobook and headed up the hill. I had ten miles uphill until the next water source, so I decided to take it slow, and take breaks whenever there were good shady spots.
Sometime in the afternoon I reached a sign on the trail that said “Congratulations on 100 miles!” I looked down to see “100” spelled out with rocks on the trail. My eyes burned as I started to tear up. Why was I so weepy today?
Shortly later I reached a shady grove with some familiar faces.
“Anwen!” Justa said as I came around the corner. She was with Allie (now “Rally”) and Karaoke.
We talked about hitting the hundred mile mark, and the state of our feet. I talked about my sinus situation and the weird crusty green goo that was oozing out of my right eye. Together we walked the remaining mile to our next water source, a large trough of murky water fed by a slow running spigot. Lots of familiar people were gathered around filtering water and eating lunch. Sparrow, who I’d met while at Scout and Frodo’s offered me a Benadryl which I took immediately. I felt like a walking plague.
“Did you hear about the water drama?” Someone said. “There were six dead rats in the feeder tank, and when they unclogged it all this orange goo came spilling out into the trough.”
I filled my gravity filter from the spigot and hung the dirty reservoir from my head while chatting with the other hikers about my funky Hoka shoes. Rally called them Spice Girl shoes, which I agreed with, especially with my 80s style space themed gaiters.
After filling our water bottles with “rat juice” we hiked on. Justa and I talked about our favorite fantasy and science fiction novels, and how awesome it would be if we had stillsuits like in Dune where it recycles your urine into drinkable water. I thought about how great it would be to not have to worry about water sources.
We set up camp that evening in beautiful Warner Springs Meadows under a huge tree along with some other hikers: Francis and Lisa, and Squatchie and her nephew Honeybear. We cooked in our stoves and watched a little bat flit around our campsite until the sun set and then we crawled into our tents to sleep.