Shin splints suck. A shin split sucks. My right leg is dragging me down and I’m temporarily out of commission until my shin is on the mend. That dull ache that I’ve had for a few days turned into a full-on painful throb once we made “The Descent” from Fuller Ridge to the dessert floor yesterday…but I’m getting ahead of myself…
We are alive, well, rested, and each in one piece – yay PCT 2014! Jared (Snake Charmer) and I (Lady Luck) left Idyllwild a few days ago with TONS of food on our backs (resupply is heavy), along with Josh and Virginia (a couple from Virginia we’d met the night before over s’mores at the Idyllwild Inn). We got a ride to the trailhead from the folks at the Inn. In order to get back on the PCT after the fire detour, we had to climb the Devils Slide trail (about a 1200 foot gain in 2.5 miles) which rejoins the trail at mile 179.5. We started early to avoid the thunderstorms on the horizon – estimated to hit around 1 or 2 – and our goal was to be well off the ridge by then. No thanks lightening. We followed the trail and skipped the San Jacinto peak detour, overlapping with Josh and Virginia all day. We met a group of 5-8 kick ass 70+ day hikers who lent us words of encouragement. The elevation (shy of 10,000 feet) and heavy packs made for rough travel as I huffed and puffed up to the ridge. A few hikers, 10 Percent and his teva-and-Hawaiian-shirt-wearing companion, passed us while we cooked lunch (our worst meal yet – quinoa). 10 Percent is rushing to finish his 1 1/2 month stint on the PCT before his wife goes into labor. Impressive. We made it to the top around 6 and caught a few glimpses of the stunning dessert floor below before we covered the first few miles of down, not believing that we’re going all the way down there. We met Josh and Virginia at camp around 7:30, at mile 193ish after 4000+ feet of climbing followed by 4000+ feet of descent. Snacks and hot chocolate before a restful sleep.
Slowish going the next morning, we were out of camp by 7 and again overlapped with J&V again all day. The first few miles were great – beautiful views! The next few were not bad. We made it to mile 200!! But the last few miles of switchbacks taunting us above the desert floor were torturous. We were weary of going down, the storm clouds were looming, our joints ached, my right shin was screaming at me, and I resorted to counting the last 2,095 steps (1.6 miles give or take) to the water fountain at the bottom. I elevated my leg as Jared got us water. We hastily repacked our packs using our pack liners as the storm clouds hovered above us and we felt a few sprinkles. J&A met us at the bottom. Then we all booked it for Ziggy and the Bear’s – the home of some great trail angels – 5 more miles across the sandy desert floor through strong headwinds and under the I-10 overpass (slightly sketch under the bridge but we still had plenty of light). Walking through sand is hard. We arrived at Ziggy and the Bear’s around 2:30 to a house full of hikers and we were so happy!! Ziggy and the Bear have been trail angels for almost 20 years now – first at their home in Anza, the past few years at their new home in Whitewater – and man do they have it down to an art. Ziggy gave us the rundown once we arrived: Epsom salt footbaths first, then help ourselves to showers, hand wash laundry, candy/snacks, soda/Gatorade, ice cream, and pie. The sweetest people! Jared and I strategized operation shin splint. We all talked and told stories over ice cream and crashed around 9:30 (hiker midnight is 9).
In the morning we woke to find String Cheese had come into camp around midnight after getting stuck in the storm pummeled by hail and very close to lightening, but made it out safely. No word from Anna or Warren yet, we’re not sure if or when they went over the mountain. Jared and I came up with a shin splint plan. So I need to rest. That’s the only sure way to care for them. We’re going to rent a car and I’ll drive to Big Bear. Jared will slack pack and I’ll spot him on side roads, carrying the brunt of the gear in the car. He’ll only carry what he needs for the day then we’ll rendezvous in the evenings. I won’t let him rest with me. If I can’t do it right now, he has to do it for me so I can live vicariously until Big Bear. Got a rental, looked up PCT road access (this afternoon: 8 miles, tomorrow: 22 mi, and day after: 16-26 we’ll play by ear… 55 miles by trail to town!). We ate whoppers for lunch, got Josh, Virginia, and String Cheese on board, and I bode farewell to our Trail Angels, driving ahead to get into the Whitewater Preserve before the gates closed at 5. The hikers hit the trail around 4:20.
Resting is going to be a struggle – wanting to be on the trail, missing a part of it, being injured, and sitting still are leaving me feeling disappointed and frustrated. I’ve been researching all care options – KT tape, RICE, new insoles to stabilize my feet, altering my gait, reducing pack weight, wearing compression socks, ibuprofen, applying aloe+aspirin to my shin, exercises, stretches, and TIME. The time is the hardest, of course. Hoping that between the few days it takes to get to Big Bear and another few days resting at the hostel there, I will be in good trail shape. Books, journaling, blogging, reading the news, caring for myself, prepping for more trail, and exploring towns should keep me busy.
The crew hiked into camp around 7:30 that night! They saw some great views, hiked through the wind farm, took pics of a lone cow, and loved the slack packing. They also got word from a few hikers who got to Ziggy and the Bear’s as they were leaving – Anna is safe and sound a few hours behind them! No word from Warren, but we’re sure the old Alabaman hitched North – he’s skipping the dessert and meeting us around Kennedy Meadows.