As soon as I woke up I knew that I was going to pay the price for yesterday’s exertions. My legs felt like concrete blocks, my back felt like I had an elephant sat on it whenever I moved it, and I felt as though I needed another 24hrs sleep!!
More worryingly, as we were in the middle of nowhere, was the fact that my left knee was beginning to hurt pretty badly. I had felt it coming on the day before, and this morning it was very sore and swollen. Fortunately, I had brought my venerable Cho-Pat knee brace with me as I always had problems with my left leg since the stroke, and it did its job in helping me get through the week without any major problems. I love my Cho-Pat knee brace, it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of gear, and it is always going to be the first thing on my pack list on all my future hikes.
Breakfast was a struggle, and I noticed that I wasn’t alone in dragging my sorry feet around that morning. We talked optimistically about our mileage goals for the day, and I was hopeful that once we got going I would loosen up and feel okay. But inwardly I knew that this was not going to happen, and that today was going to be one major struggle.
Eventually we set off, immediately crossing a creek, which had become our customary daily ritual. This one wasn’t so bad and we crossed it without incident. Then we began to climb out of the Jack’s Creek drainage. And climb. And climb!!
To my wrecked body it seemed like we had been climbing for about 5 miles, and I was exhausted, but in fact we had only climbed 0.3 of a mile!! We took a long rest at the top and then crossed a forest road called Locke Road. The community of Locke was a few miles down the road and I had visions of hiking down there and getting a ride back to our vehicle. I ignored my inner alter ego and continued onwards.
Then we began the really steep downward journey into Hurricane Valley. If anything, this was more painful than the ascent we had done earlier that morning. My body, and in particular my knee, was screaming at me in protest at every step, and I was very angry at myself for not being in better shape. Then I thought of all the issues I had been forced to deal with just to get to this point, and I instantly forgave myself.
Like the ascent, the descent seemed to go on for miles. In fact, we had only descended about 0.6 of a mile, but it seemed much worse than that. Once we reached the bottom we took another long rest, and I took the opportunity to remove the offending object I was carrying from my back. This was the one thing I could do something about on future trips, and I was consumed by thoughts of how I could lighten my pack and make the hikes both more achievable and more enjoyable.
I guess my pitiful appearance swayed them, because Scales and Pyro both listened intently to me as I pleaded for mercy. I reasoned that we were there to enjoy the outdoors, and that mileage wasn’t the major issue. I was physically destroyed, and there was no way I could do the 14 miles we had planned on covering today.
So they agreed to cut short the trip by 37.6 miles!! We were now going to walk into White Rock Mountain by Friday at a leisurely stroll and just enjoy the experience. We would hopefully get a shuttle from there to our vehicles and call it good. I’m sure both of them could have continued on as planned – even Jeremy with his Mammoth pack – but they were being nice to me!!
So, with renewed vigor I set off again on the short distance to Hurricane Creek at mile marker 11. We found an excellent site near the river, and set up camp early. We were probably on the wrong side of the river as we would have to cross it first thing the next morning, but this was a perfect camp site so we stopped right there.
We had only covered a pitiful 1.6 miles, and I felt guilty about that. I felt like I had hiked 30 miles with the state of my body, and I was very glad we had stopped for the day.
As it had been the previous day, the weather was awesome. If anything it was even warmer, so we took the opportunity to dry out our soaking gear and clean ourselves up.
Our gear was sopping wet every morning from the heavy condensation, so we tied some cord between the trees and hung our stuff out to dry. Our tents soon dried in sun, and we went to the river to wash our clothes and ourselves.
I spent the rest of the day resting and recuperating, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We (read that as Pyro) started a camp fire and we spent the afternoon sat around it drinking coffee, talking, and enjoying the amazing scenery.
One thing that emerged was how awesome a gear loaning friend Scales had become. Jeremy was new to backpacking and hadn’t accumulated much gear, so Cesar had loaned him a selection of his for the hike. This is how it turned out:
He gave him a gas canister to work with Jeremy’s Jetboil stove. The first time he tried to use it, it all but exploded when he turned it on!! This, in part, is how the trail name Pyro came about.
He loaned him a pair of trekking poles. During a river crossing the handle came off in his hand and the pole was left sticking out in the middle of the river!! After retrieving it and putting the handle back on, it then promptly bent in half when we were climbing up from Jack’s Creek!! Hilarious…
The sleeping bag he gave him was a beautiful summer bag – that was rated to about 60F. It was getting down to the low 30’s at nighttime, and Jeremy was waking up every night with frostbite on his toes!!! Such beautiful gestures from a wonderful guy!! We enjoyed a good humored laugh about that…