Night and Day

Days 32 and 33: Wee Vill Market to Willow Springs Road

Trail miles: 517-558

June 3-4

We spent the day at Wee Vill Market, researching snow conditions and trying to figure out the best options for continuing our hikes. Sitting outside a cafe/convenience store is a dangerous game for a hiker. Hunger is omnipresent and boredom often disguises itself as hunger, doubling the desire for burgers, milkshakes, and anything else available.

In the cool of evening, 10 of us crammed into the market’s beat up minivan and got a ride from a Wee Vill employee back to the trailhead.

“Here comes the clown car!” Hiccups’ voice was muffled and came from a pile of packs in the back seat.

We piled out and started the walk along aqueduct, breaking off into small groups in the gathering darkness. The trail in this section is along a dirt road that follows the aqueduct, which is mostly covered by concrete slabs. Road walking is notoriously boring and hard on the body. As much as hikers complain about ups, downs, and uneven trail tread, the variability these challenges provide allow different muscle groups to take turns handling greater or lesser loads. By contrast, a flat road demands the same muscular response with each step, leading to fatigue and serious pain after several miles. There is one advantage to walking a road like the one next to the aqueduct, however, and that is the opportunity to walk abreast of your companions.

I walked with Hiccups, Foot Juice, and Carjack for a couple hours, gossiping about romances in our trail family.

Then, when everyone else took a break, I decided to keep walking with Fire Socks, who was eager to get to camp before midnight (9pm is often referred to as “hiker midnight,” so real midnight feels like 3am when your body is in the habit of sleeping at 8pm.). We powered through the last 6 miles to the first water source since the market, 17 miles back: aqueduct water piped to a small faucet complete with aggressive warnings about the necessity of treating the water before drinking it.

After tanking up, we spread our groundcloths under some shrubs, trying to escape the constant wind (pro tip: if you want to avoid the wind, don’t camp in a wind farm), and fell asleep to the whoosh of the massive turbines.

I woke several times before my 5am alarm and opened my eyes to see the dark foliage above my head dancing in the wind, silhouetted against a sky bursting with stars.

In the gray light of morning, I stuffed my quilt and groundcloth into my pack and set off through the wind farm toward the hills beyond the turbines. The day was hot, and once I finally escaped the relentless blowing of the lowlands, I was thankful to have my sun umbrella to deflect some of the heat.

In the early afternoon, I stopped for a long break in the shade of some low pine branches. The ball of my left foot had developed a large blister during the road walk, and every step of the 17 miles I’d walked that morning had felt as though I was treading on a sharp rock the size of a marble. I pulled my socks off, put my feet up on my pack and dozed in the afternoon heat for a few hours.

When I got up to continue walking, my foot was still quite sore, and I felt lethargic. I wasn’t in a rush, but I was disappointed by my slow pace as I made my way past another wind farm and toward camp.

Strange thoughts circulated in my mind, ranging from memories of awkward and unhappy personal interactions to feelings of worthlessness and failure. I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and shame and could not understand why. Walking on, I had to work to hold back tears, then wondered why I was holding them back and scolded myself for trying to stifle my emotions. This only worsened my sense of hopelessness.

After suffering these cyclical thoughts for nearly an hour, I began to find my ordinary mind again. I did some math and determined that I had walked 40 miles in the last 24 hours. I also realized that I had nearly run out of snacks and had not had enough to eat during the day considering my mileage and my lack of sleep. The only thing to do was to get to camp and cook dinner. When I arrived at the picnic table near the road where I intended to camp, I was lightheaded and had to will myself to cook and eat a pot of rice.

The starch made all the difference, and I set up my cowboy camp in the coarse sand, feeling happy that I was just 8 miles from Highway 58, where I planned to hitch into Tehachapi in the morning.

Good thing this isn’t a wilderness area, or our group size would be a serious problem

T-Pain enjoying dinner

Foot Juice

From left: Carjack, Foot Juice, and Hiccup

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