Today I invented new knee protection – the Knee skirt. A patent is forthcoming. It is a buff affixed above the knee with Leukotape. The buff hangs over the knee, protecting it from dirt and debris while I hike while not sticking to the wound. I see millions in my future.
I’m all confused on mileage hiked because I take poor notes sometimes and am too lazy to go back and recalculate, but I’m pretty sure we set a personal record today at 17.4 miles. This resulted from telling Cricket that we would make Kearny the following day if we pushed a little further today. Town is a powerful draw for many hikers.
Today’s terrain was easy to moderate with classic desert features – cactus, scrub oak, and cactus. We did detour one time to examine a chalky white cow skeleton that caught our attention, but that was a short visit since little remained to be examined. Life is tough in the high desert.
The one constant today was the wind. It was incessant, and the flat hiking made it hard to hide from the non-stop, chilly gusts. Even lunch was taken sitting down in a shallow wash/ditch to try and get a little break and warmth.
I stayed about a half-hour after Cricket continued hiking and was startled by a young hiker loping down the trail. She did not see me as she leaped over the narrow wash and jogged on, wholly focused on the path before her. I later learned she was hiking big miles and moving on to the PCT after this hike. The young deer would be in great shape for the next trail.
Needing water, I caught up with Cricket, and we went in search of a water catchment tank on our map. I was particularly excited because someone had left a comment that a Gila monster lived under the tank. It was about a half-mile off the trail, and we planned to get water and camp nearby.
We found the tank but no Gila and hiked back towards the main trail before setting up for the night. A little while later, another young hiker moving on to the PCT joined us for the night – Sidney. She was friendly and set up near us, where we all chatted while we made dinner.
The AZT appears to be a training trail for other hikes, with people starting early to move on to Spring starts on the longer trails. The one surprise for all of them has been the weather. They have not expected it to be so cold. It is currently in the 20s at night, so I could not imagine starting in February or early March. I’m not a big cold fan, and getting out of my quilt becomes painful once it starts approaching the teens.
We talked for maybe 2 minutes after dinner before climbing into our shelters, and we told Sidney we would see her the next day when she passed us, moving what was undoubtedly much faster. We never saw her again, though, which always happens on these trails. You never see the people you expect to see and will repeatedly see the hikers you never expect to see again.