19.1 miles (124.9 to 144.0), plus ~0.3 mile to/from water tank at Mike’s Place
I wake up feeling like I’m going to puke. It’s not yet 11pm. I lay in bed all twisted up, wondering what’s going on and how long it’s going to last. Eventually I burp. So it’s just gas? Apparently the hodgepodge of partially rehydrated food I ate for dinner isn’t playing well in my stomach. Painful, but not life threatening. I don’t even have to get out of bed if I don’t want to.
When I wake again, the sky is clear and pale. For the first time since I can recall, there is no wind. I don’t even need my down jacket. I packed up my things as quickly as I can. I have very little water, so for now I eat a protein bar for breakfast. I’ll eat more once we reach the water tank.
Before we hike out, I run up behind camp to answer a call of nature. Squatting on the hillside, I notice a tick working it’s way down my thigh. Words cannot describe the emotions that bolt through me upon seeing this thing. Panic. Fear. Dread. These are shadows of what I feel as I grab the tick before it attempts to burrow in. I photograph it, then I kill it.
I finish my business on the hill, heart still pounding, and check as much of myself and my clothing as I can. Back in camp, I share news of my would-be parasite. We all check for ticks. Finding none (thankfully), we set out for the water tank at Mike’s Place, only a few miles away. At the tank, we collect enough water for the next 22 miles, plus a dry camp. We eat breakfast. Then we walk.
The temperature climbs into the mid-80s – the warmest weather I’ve experienced since last summer. My body isn’t acclimated to such heat. We take a few breaks with our packs off, but mostly we just cruise. I wear my sunglasses. I use my solar panel. I finally use my sun umbrella. I actually feel like I’m in the desert.
We talk of pulling off a 19-mile day. We all seem up for the challenge. Despite the heat, perhaps because of my umbrella’s delicious shade, I feel great. Even after lunch, in full afternoon heat, I can’t slow down. I find my pace and stick with it.
Near mile 133, a chunky lizard skitters across the trail. A horned lizard! The lizard stops on a rock and I lean in for a few photographs. Awesome.
We pass a concrete cistern that still contains water. A handwritten note on top tells us the cistern also contains (contained?) a dead mouse. Not that we’d refill here, anyway. This water looks putrid.
Down we go into Nance Canyon. There are a few campsites here. If we don’t do the 19 miles, this is where we’ll stay. Cottonwood trees cast deep shade, but there’s no water. We unanimously agree to keep moving.
I pitch my tent beside a red boulder as tall as a house. It’s a beautiful campsite in a mediocre location. We’re perched over a valley containing many homes and ranches and their associated sounds. In my tent, I can hear dogs barking (and barking and barking) and vehicles down below, but I can also hear Poorwills calling. (The Poorwill is a nocturnal bird that says “poor-will, poor-will.”)
I’ve had no foot pain today beyond the soreness that comes with hiking 19 miles carrying 15 pounds of water. I didn’t even change my insoles today! My body is tired but I have no pain. Anywhere. This could be the beginning of the big mile days.
*More photos on Instagram.