Distance: 20.5 miles
What a good morning we had! I suspect that the chap who told us how ugly the trail was until it reaches the Sierra was basing his opinion on what he can see from his kitchen window (Mojave desert flatness), rather than on having walked the trail. Bits of today were incredibly pretty.
We didn't see anything of the first couple of miles of the day, as it was still dark, but we can report that they were exceptionally windy miles as we made our way up, up, up. Part way up, as we really battled to stay upright and on the path, I became glad that we had stopped short last night. It seemed that would have been impossible to pitch in that wind. Then we got to the area we had originally earmarked and found that there were plenty of big bushes behind which people have obviously camped before.
Shivers and Bam won the award for best pitch, completely sheltered in a nook in some woodland, an hour and three quarters into our day. We did try to rouse them (they had said to when we saw them last night), but all we got was a very sleepy 'morning' in return.
An attractive trail through woodland filled the next hour, whereupon we joined a jeep track. The last week has been almost exclusively on trail which is twelve to eighteen inches wide, so it was a bit of a departure to follow the jeep track (which is just like the trail, only bigger, less even of surface and has steeper gradients).
Back on a narrow trail we got to the highlight of the day. Rather than a barren desert landscape, we were in an area of shapely red rocks, with outcrops and slopes that looked like planted rockeries. We've not seen any cacti to speak of until today, but here we found little ground-hugging ones aplenty, and all in splendid pink flower.
With water sources still so far apart we couldn't afford to miss the only one we would pass today, so when, at what seemed like the right location, we found a seep crossing the path, we went in search of the spring.
We eventually found it another quarter of a mile further on, and had to laugh as it was the most blazingly obvious water source to date. A big concrete tank adjacent to the path collected the spring water, and you really couldn't miss it.
Unsurprisingly, water sources tend to be gathering points, as people loiter there a while, so we chatted to a handful of people as we rested. Our cooked bean and vegetable curry seemed an oddity compared to what everyone else was eating, but it was certainly tasty.
Loaded up with water to see us through the afternoon, overnight and into tomorrow (it being 19 miles to the next water), we hit the trail again right in the heat of the day. Either we're dealing better with the heat, or the cooling breeze made all the difference, but either way we were swayed by the knowledge that most of the afternoon was downhill.
The bags had been awfully heavy all day, and with having re-filled the water at lunchtime, we only made it an hour along the trail before our hips needed a break (actually, what they really need is some padding!). It was at that breakpoint that the Great Platypus Disaster occurred. As Mick heaved his pack back to his shoulder, out slipped the Platty which was strapped to the top, hit a sharp pine cone and incurred a gash. Eek!
Quick action salvaged most of the water (fortunately we weren't full to capacity at that point), but it was a sad loss of a big chunk of our water carrying capacity. I'll be seeing what I can do with some tape and some superglue later.
Going through some less-attractive scrubby stuff, the last couple of miles of the afternoon dragged on a bit, but time did of course pass and when we found a half-decent pitch at the 590 mile point (atop a pass) we decided to take it. It'll not go down as the nicest pitch of the trip, but it'll do the job, and at least we're quite sheltered from the wind that's whistling overhead.
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