20.6 miles (266.1 to 286.7)
After one more meal at Teddy Bear, we get a ride back to the trail from Grayson, the hostel owner, and are hiking by 7am. From the first steps, I can’t stop tripping. It’s worse than a loss of brain-foot coordination; it’s like my brain no longer recognizes tripping hazards. Every few hundred feet, I trip over a rock.
My pack weighs a lot. I can’t get the strap adjustments to feel good. I feel like I’m lurching up the trail. I stop to check our mileage. Wow, we’ve already covered five miles. I feared we’d only done two. Maybe this day won’t be so hard, after all.
The elevation profile is kind: a little climb to start, then relatively flat, with a stream to break up our water carry, then downhill to another stream and our choice of campsites. Even with heavy packs, we can do this.
Black oaks stand along the trail. They look dead, but they’re actually just waking up and leafing out. Their timing seems late, until I remember we’re hiking at 7,000 feet.
The hill on our left diminishes and the trees thin, giving us a nice view of Big Bear Lake. We’re standing almost directly across from the place we spent the last two nights.
A little later, pain burns my lower back. I let it go on for a few minutes, because sometimes pains flare and then vanish, never to return. This doesn’t. It burns like crazy. It’s not muscular; there’s something wrong with my skin. I pull over for a look. Hmm. Dozens of tiny red blister-like things cluster just below my belt-line, sort of like heat rash, or maybe chafe. What’s causing this? I’ve done nothing differently. I rub in some anti-chafe cream and we use this opportunity to lounge in the shade of a pine. Seated on a deep bed of pine needles, in deep shade with a gentle breeze, we could nap here all afternoon. This is heavenly. Until we stand up…and find that the seats of our pants are gooped up with sap. Well, it had to happen sooner or later.
We hike on, and after a little while the situation on my back needs attention again. This time Dad helps me plaster a piece of Second Skin across the burning red bumps. Hopefully a physical barrier will stop whatever this is from getting worse. Tonight in my tent I need to remove the sewn-in tag from my pants. One end of the tag more or less aligns with the rash. Maybe that’s the cause of this mess.
Very quickly we leave the forest and enter another burned area. The trail takes us down, down toward Holcomb Creek. At the creek we find Hurricane (aka Katrina, aka trailjams who is dancing her way to Canada) and two other hikers. We stock up on water and make dinner. Three more hikers arrive. I’d like to hike at least another half mile, and I wonder if the others have the same goal. If we’re all aiming for the same campsite, competition camping could soon become a thing.
Luckily we all have different plans. Dad and I set up camp at a nice spot adjacent to a dry seasonal creek. Later, four hikers we’ve never seen before move in across the way.
We hiked just over 20 miles today, and I could have gone farther. Granted, the hiking was easy, but I don’t feel like I’ve walked 20 miles carrying a heavy pack. Dad feels good, too. While we could have easily continued on, we’d both rather stop while we’re feeling good than push until we hurt. Twenty miles per day is far enough at this point in the hike.