Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 81 (8/6) Marathon Man!

So I'm on a bit of a schedule to finish in time for the start of school, so there isn't too much room for short days like the ones early this week. Plus, there is afn all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at Callahan's, so I had double incentive to make up for lost time. I was on my way at 7:45, south 29 miles of trail and one mile of road between me and dinner. The morning was a blur as I churned out 18 miles by 3pm when I stopped for water. The big highlight of the morning was running into Forever & Ever who I had met back at Kennedy Meadows. Their ice axes and crampons were list in the mail, so they took it as a sign to avoid the snow in the Sierras and jumped up to Old Station. How cool to see familiar faces again on the trail! I wished them the best and we all walked away with smiles.

So at 3pm I took a 30 minute break for the health of my feet and for my sanity. You can only go for so long in one stretch... The water source was a black pipe running into a stagnant pond, thankfully above the surface. Apparently it is spring-fed, and it was actually great water. I assessed my situation at this point and realized I had to get in by 8:30 if I wanted dinner. That meant holding a 2.4 mph pace for the next 5 hours - no small task. Nonetheless I was committed and driven by the thoughts of good food.

Fantasies of pasta and meat sauce danced through my head as I pressed ahead, and by 5:30 I had picked up 20 minutes, ETA now 8:10. Every hour I took a five minute break, devoured a snack and elevated my legs. By 6:30 my feet were complaining loudly, and around 7:00 my legs threatened to give up.  However I kept walking and they never followed through on the threat. At 7:15 I got a good view of the highway not more than a quarter mile away. My body breathed a collective sigh of relief, almost there. Then my heart sank as the trail turned to the southwest and started climbing. Callahan's was to the northwest and down, so two of three were the wrong direction. I cursed at the trail designers, and willed myself to keep going. This is what I get for not studying the maps more closely... I continued my progress southwest and just felt crestfallen as the minutes passed. I hummed the song 'Sanctuary' to take my mind off the pain below my waist. Its only 8 lines so I repeated it many, many times... Finally when I had nearly given up hope of making it on time, I saw the flash sunlight off a car parked along the road. My pace quickened and I jumped up onto the asphalt and hurried to get to dinner. It was 0.5 miles to the place the PCT leaves the road, then another one to the lodge. I was numb as I walked the shoulder, totally shutting out my screaming feet. Before I knew it I came around a corner and I only had to walk an underpass to get there. That may have been the longest 200 feet of the day as all the hurt came rushing back.

I limped to the front desk and asked fie the hiker special; $40 for AYCE spaghetti dinner, shower, laundry, camping in the backyard, and AYCE pancake breakfast. The host wanted to show me around first, but I insisted that could wait until after eating especially since the restaurant would close in just an hour. She didn't quite understand how urgently I needed food but consented to letting me eat right away. Dinner for me is usually between 6 and 7, so by 8 I was HUNGRY, despite whatever energy bars, candies, etc I may have eaten during that final 12 mile push. She said there were a few tables of hikers, so I would have my pick. Once I saw them though, the choice was simple. At a take with one open seat were Sourdough, Turtle and Magellan! Sourdough I had met at the snow course, and I briefly met the other two in Kennedy Meadows. Sourdough was delighted to see me and announced that this proved the trail is like a rubber band. I got further evidence of that when Pat & Sandy  (also from snow school) walked up, now called Nice & Steady. They wouldn't day who was which as it apparently changes based on each of their moods. How neat to see them again, especially this far up trail.

Service was atrociously slow, allegedly due to a party of 15. But after waiting 30 minutes without ever seeing a waitress, I finally begged the busboy to drop in my order. It seemed that they were just understaffed by one or two people... When the food finally came it was good, and two and a half plates banished any thoughts of hunger, and I enjoyed another hour of conversation with the other three hikers. Finally we tired and each went to a spot on the back lawn where we pitched our tents on perhaps the softest bedding of the entire trip. My feet were throbbing but I felt great about having just finished my first 30 mile day since returning from injury. Rock and roll!

Miles Today: 29 (+1)
Trip Mileage: 1132
PCT Mile Marker: 1726

Photo: Ashland, OR

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