The next morning, I start climbing the San Felipe Hills at 5:30am. I walk through what looks like a curated landscape – perfect desert arrangements of hedgehog cactus, cholla, and agave.
Fortunately, it’s overcast and there is a nice breeze. I’m able to get 12 miles in by 10am. I take a break, eat some lunch and am drawn, powerless, into a midday nap. When I wake, it’s sunny and the wind is gusting. I continue walking, contouring the hills. My water is running low and I’m looking for the “3rd gate” where there is possibly a water cache that some thoughtful angels have hiked or trucked in. A sign tells me to go ¼ mile past the trail for the cache. When I get there, I find a group of hikers surrounding the cache with a makeshift tarp city.
The shade and water work their magic.
After getting sucked into the vortex of the water cache party for a couple of hours, I realize that I need to get hiking. I can either hike 10 miles to Barrel Springs or find a nook to tuck into. The gusts are so strong (I found out later they were 60 mph) and I’m not sure my tent can withstand their force. I see hikers from the cache party walk by and decide to do the same.
The reward for hiking my first 24-mile day? A zero day (no hiking at all) at the Mountain Valley Retreat! My friends Kay and Adam have generously gifted me a night there. The thought of sitting in a hot tub, getting a massage, and eating real food propels me. I’m at Barrel Springs by 7pm and call Chery from Mountain Valley who offers to come get me. My feet are burning, my ankle is twinging and my left shoulder is pinched. I feel disoriented by the combination of tracing the hillside and being buffeted by the wind for hours. I’m on the verge of tears.