Believe it or not, today marked the second day in a row with a successful early wakeup and camp break! We're getting good at this - but I STILL think it's funny to set alarms hours earlier than I ever did when I actually had a job and real responsibilities. It was easy to get out of bed knowing we had a short day ahead of us, if you can call 17 miles short, I suppose!
The poodle bush was worse than yesterday, and the early morning climb made me cranky. I continue to look forward to making instant coffee a regular part of life! The boys hiked ahead and I pulled up the rear. We pumped out the first 9 miles in what seemed like the blink of an eye, and the hiking was really beautiful which made it quite pleasant. We were collecting more water at mile 436 by 10:15am! After a short break, we struck out for the final 8 to the KOA, which wound up being unexpectedly difficult, especially after incorrectly assuming it would all be downhill. It was completely exposed hiking, super feo, and too hot; no surprise I wasn't very happy hiking. Sour Cream scooted ahead - oh, to be 20 again! - while I trudged on in the heat with Dr. Slosh. I needed someone for snake patrol and moral support! After 4 long miles we hit the valley floor where I expected we'd stay, so imagine my surprise when I saw we still had over 1500 miles of climbing in that exposed desert ahead of us. Took some time off under one of the few trees to cool off and enjoy the little shade to be had. Brett handles the heat better than me, and helped with ways to stay cool - including alternating soaking bandanas on my head and around my neck.
Finally, we made it to the KOA around 2 - such a weird, interesting place. I remember camping at KOAs a few times when I was younger, but this one was a bizarre place to be - they are essentially RV camp grounds. I think most people at this one live there at least part time. I couldn't help but wonder why, if you literally have a mobile home, you'd select this particular KOA to decide to park at. As we walked in we passed by what may or may not have been the area's actual dump. There were all kinds of interesting finds we climbed over, including my personal favorite which appeared to be a discarded set from a school play. This KOA is also located directly between a highway and train tracks. Anyway, I digress. The KOA was perfect for us - $5 bucks to camp near the basketball courts on the grass with showers, laundry, a pool, and convenience store. We checked in and bought a popsicle and soda - I felt like I was 10 and it was a hot summer day at camp. I inhaled both and followed it with a handful of Fritos - started feeling guilty until I looked around and took in the scene around me - I was literally the only hiker who hadn't consumed at least one personal pint of ice cream. Apparently hiker hunger is setting in.
Headed back to the hiker area, showered, journaled, ordered pizza, and welcomed Rocky, TRex, Carrot, and ChikChak into camp. Had a great night with them and Tingo. I had some time to think about the journey, and still can't believe we've come almost 450 miles. Before we started, that seemed like an eternity to hike. But now, it doesn't seem that far. Not that it doesn't feel like an accomplishment - it definitely does! But it feels like there is still so much more to see and do. I feel like we've barely hit the tip of the iceberg.
Tomorrow, we'll shoot for an early wakeup 3 days in a row, and hopefully beat the heat on the last 10 miles to Hiker Heaven. We all plan on staying the night there and then take off the following day. I think we're still on track to make it to Mammoth by June 20, and that's one of the things that gets me through the hard times. As feared, loneliness is the hardest obstacle to overcome out here. Well, that and the heat. And ascents that go for miles and miles. etc. etc. etc!