Elevation- 3,114 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 30.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,409.5 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 106 degrees
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 0
Today was rough. I hit the trail before 6:30, maintaining a blistering pace. By noon I had over 17 miles, and I’d passed 8 different hikers…still the elusive tread print remained ahead of me.
I stopped for a half hour break at noon, and still felt fantastic. I had aspirations of shooting for 43 miles today. The heat was intense, but so far I was handling it well. The entire day was nothing but exposed ridge; 90% of the trail today was in broad sunlight.
At 2 pm I had over 21 miles completed, but then my whole day fell apart. The heat was absolutely brutal, and a good portion of the trail was jagged, hot, lava rock. I felt like I was hiking in an oven.
The water I did have became as hot as the air around me, more than 105 degrees. It was very unpleasant to drink. Not quenching in the least, and actually heating up my insides; I didn’t even want to drink my water, but when my day went south, I still had about 6 miles to go until that next source.
My walking staff got so hot that it hurt to change up my grip on it. It was like hanging your arm out the side of your car window for the first time, after leaving it parked in the sun all day. It scalds you instantly, but after a few seconds it cools off and you can relax.
Eventually it got to the point that I almost felt ill. I’d walk around a mile to a mile and a half, then dive into whatever shade I could find, lay for about 15 mins, then repeat. This was how my last 6 miles to the shallow creek went.
When I finally reached the creek, I scooped water and probably drank a gallon. I laid there in the thick weeds and vegetation, bugs buzzing all around me for close to 45 mins, in and out of a light sleep. I didn’t want to hike any further, let alone keep pushing for 43 miles. A road into the town of Burney lay a little more than 4 miles away. To me, it might as well have been 20.
At close to 5 pm, I dragged myself up and began a miserable slog to the road. I kept feeling worse and worse, but I promised myself I wouldn’t stop. As long as I kept moving, I’d get there. I couldn’t hold my head up without pain, my hips were cramping, between my shoulder blades were cramping, and the muscles around my spine felt like they were having spasms. It was incredibly disheartening.
It didn’t drop under 100 degrees until almost 7 pm; I didn’t reach the road until slightly after.
As soon as I hit the road, I noticed a small intersection a couple tenths of a mile towards Burney. Intersections, no matter how small or remote, will always be better to hitch at than a straight road. People have to stop at them and give you a long hard look.
I hobbled down and got a ride almost instantly from a guy turning out of the intersection onto the main highway. The plan worked. I would have missed him if I stayed down by the trail head.
The young man’s name was Justin, and he worked for Burney State Park; born and raised in the town of Burney. He was getting ready to go fishing for catfish, something I would have gladly tagged along for if I wasn’t about to drop dead.
We got into town and he asked where I wanted to go. “Somewhere I can get a sugary beverage” I replied. He dropped me off at McDonald’s, and tried to give me money. I thanked him profusely, but politely declined. “I should be giving YOU money!” I told him.
I went into the McDonalds and ordered a sweet tea along with a bunch of food. As luck would have it, this was the first McDonalds I’d seen in my entire life that did all the drinks and refills themselves, behind the counter; no public access fountain. It took almost ten mins for them to get my drink out to me with my food.
I hadn’t realized just how close I’d been to passing out on the trail. Survival mode, or adrenaline must have been keeping me coherent and on my feet out there, because as soon as I was in McDonalds, I began to sweat profusely and get that nauseas, sick, sleepy feeling. The kind you get when you give blood for the first time, get a bad injury, or during an intense workout; my blood sugar was at zero, and my organs felt like jerky.
I passed out on a table, came to, staggered up to the counter, put my head down on it and let an employee know (as politely as I could) that I needed my sweet tea now, or I was going to hit the floor. It took me downing two large sweet teas before I began to feel normal again.
I’d gone over 30 miles in 100+ degree heat, while only eating a couple pop tarts for breakfast. At lunch, I had been too hot and thirsty to eat anything, and after that, I’d just felt too sick to force anything down. It was my own fault that I was in this predicament. I overestimated myself because of how good I felt early on, subsequently letting the day get away from me.
I’m nursing myself back to health with more sweet tea, but my feet, legs, hips and shoulders keep cramping on me. If I lay still, I’m fine, but as soon as I move, the cramps kick in.
I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.