Lately, 5 miles has become no big deal. However, the 5 miles from 204 to 209 will go down as the most f’ed up 5 miles yet – loose sand, 102 degrees, absolutely no shade whatsoever, and winds that prevent me from using my umbrella.
My feet are hot and angry. I feel like my skin is being ripped off. How can things change so drastically in such a short period of time? One minute, I’m eating soup and the next, I’m willing myself to do whatever it takes to get out of this hell.
There is an overpass at mile 107. All I ask for is a reprieve from the sun. What do I find there? More magical magic! How do these people know? There is a cooler with ice-cold water. I drink a bottle down. It seeps into my veins. I feel it inside my arms, in my core, cooling my being. Just 2 more miles. I can do it. Less than an hour to go. Walk more.
I enter a kind of desert suburb, sparse houses dot the land as I climb out of the worst of the sandscape. I begin to see small signs on the side the trail: hiking…leaves you…hot…and sweaty…are you ready? Arrows direct me to renown trail angels, Ziggy and the Bear. Like the road signs I used to see on family vacations, spread out along the highway, providing me with just enough distraction to keep me occupied, these trail signs provide just enough to keep me moving.
I step out of the sand onto the asphalt, make a right turn, walk past a fence and into a back yard. I am immediately handed a bottle of Gatorade. I feel out of it, but am guided by a fellow hiker who had zero’ed or near-o’ed here for a few days prior. I sit down and am asked to fill out an information card (my trail name has become 3D). My picture is taken and I’m given a number: 549 (I am the 549th hiker to receive their kindness this year).
There is a solar shower with soap, shampoo, and a clean fluffy towel, outlets to charge my phone, and shade, lots and lots of shade.