Day 26: My day of pain

13.1 miles (328.8 to 341.9), plus 0.5 mile from campground to PCT and 0.4 mile to Chevron at Cajon Pass

I shuffle to the restroom and back on tender feet, wondering how I’m going to hike 14 miles today. We eat, pack up, and leave the campground at 8am. After a short distance, I realize my feet feel fine. It’s like they just needed to loosen up. From Silverwood Recreation Area, the trail climbs to a ridge and drops over the other side. We begin the descent to Cajon Pass.

My feet feel fine, but my shoulders ache. After two hours we stop for our traditional mid-morning break, and I savor the chance to take off my pack. I’m hungry. I eat my designated snack, then eat half of my lunch as well. I’m counting on the Chevron mini-mart at Cajon Pass to give me additional calories this afternoon.

We put on our packs and resume the descent. Immediately, my right foot hurts. I can’t even walk without limping. But sometimes pain works itself out, so I keep going with the hope that this will soon go away. It doesn’t. My foot really hurts. I switch insoles, hoping this might stop the problem from getting worse.

Dad, who was in such pain yesterday (and even this morning in camp), flies down the trail. I can’t keep up, and not because of my new foot pain. Despite the pain, I’m actually moving at our usual pace. Motivated by the promise of food below, Dad is unstoppable. He disappears around corners; I hobble along as well as I can.

Suddenly I round a corner and there is he, facing the buzzing rattle of a snake’s tail. He nearly (accidentally) put his trekking pole down on top of the snake. The snake then darted out from its resting place under a shrub, crossed the trail, and is now hiding in the bushes above the trail. We dash past the rattling and continue on. I really don’t like walking by rattlesnakes.

Dad soon scares up a gopher snake. Next we come upon a garter snake with its head and half of its body down a hole. I see a second rattlesnake lounging on rocks below the trail. Today is a day of snakes. I’m so nervous about running into another rattler that I walk with a trekking pole in one hand for use as a probe while holding my sun umbrella with the other hand.

Here I come, carrying my own shade.

We stop for lunch in a bit of shade and take off our shoes and socks. My foot still hurts. After lunch and a rest it still hurts. My body has obviously had enough. We’ve had a 20.6-mile day followed by a 19.2-mile day followed by a 23.4-mile day, and now we’re hiking again without any rest. I don’t think I’m injured – yet – but I soon will be if I keep walking on such a painful foot. I don’t want to do what others have done and keep hiking when my body says no. I need another zero.

Dad’s sister Martha lives near Cajon Pass. We’ve looked forward to visiting her, and the timing couldn’t be better: a zero tomorrow with family would be ideal. Dad gives her a call. She’ll meet us at the Chevron after she gets off work.

We enter another recent burn. (Every day we pass through another recent burn.) Oddly, the longer I hike, the better my foot feels. Now the pain comes in widely spaced stabs, rather than throbbing in constant misery. This change seems to confirm my suspicion that I’m not actually injured – yet.

Massive, photogenic erosion on the way to Cajon Pass.

Two miles from Cajon Pass, we see our first thru-hiker since passing the hot springs yesterday morning. Those hot springs must be a black hole from which few hikers emerge.

At last we reach the fork to Cajon Pass. The sign points to McDonald’s, but we’re not going there. I’m still on a limited diet, and there’s nothing at McDonald’s that I want to eat. Before starting this trip, I Googled McDonald’s fries with this stop in mind. I learned that their fries have 19 ingredients, including wheat and milk, neither of which I will eat. So we hit the Chevron instead, where I purchase two small bags of Kettle Chips, a bag of almonds, and a probiotic beverage.

As I leave the store, a man stops me. “Where are you guys walking?” he asks, meaning all of the hikers he’s been seeing here.

“To Canada,” I say. “From Mexico.”

He’s amazed. He’s never heard of the PCT. I tell him about the trail, and he tells me about his trip. My new friend is Luke from Australia. He and a few buddies are riding motorcycles along Route 66. Luke, Andrew, and I chat for awhile in the shade beside the store. Since they’re so interested in my journey, I give them the website for my blog. (Hi guys, I hope you found me!)

With Andrew, Luke, and their bikes at the Cajon Pass Chevron.

Aunt Martha picks us up and takes us to my cousin Rachel’s house for a day of rest. We take showers. We do laundry. We go grocery shopping. I buy a pint of coconut milk ice cream, a container of mixed nuts, a bag of potato chips, a few Lara bars, a bag of dark chocolate chips, and a jar of peanut butter to mix the chocolate chips with. I hope to gain a few pounds before we return to the trail.

*More photos on Instagram

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