My third day on the trail started slow. The final push in over Mt Hauser had left me sore, chafed, and thoroughly disheatened. My pack was too heavy, I was moving too slow, and I couldn’t get out of camp til two hours after I’d wanted to. The heat of the previous day had dissipated somewhat, but the sun nevertheless beat down on me the whole way. It was tough.
I set in my mind that I would split the day into two stages. First, I would hike the six miles to Boulder oaks campground, which promised shade and water right next to Interstate 8, and a nice rest spot before I pushed the next 12 miles to Fred Canyon, my stop for the night.
Boulder Oaks proved a little too comfortable, as I spent nearly three hours in the shade contemplating what I had gotten myself into. I started to feel like something had to change, and soon, or I wasn’t going to make it.
A more pressing concern had started to arise, in my mind, that was only fueling the fire of doubt within myself. I had set out on this trip with the primary goal of documenting, through photos and video, the trail and the people who hike it. So far, all of gotten were a few photos and a lot of video of me huffing and puffing in the heat. Nothing was going according to plan.
I pulled myself off the ground and moved on past Boulder Oaks, doubt and depression weighing on me even heavier than the massive pack on my back. It took every ounce of conviction not to walk up to the side of the interstate and hitch a ride into San Diego. My old life was so close, salvation so near. I talked to my mother again, and later my girlfriend, and they pushed me on with words of encouragement, and a lot of verbal kicks in the pants.
The sun had started to hang low on the horizon, the hazy golden light again racing me to camp, and winning. I fell in with a pair of hikers, strangers to each other at the start of the trail, but now seeming fast friends, and walked with them to Kitchen Creek, two miles short of my goal for the day, but a welcoming and peaceful valley carved into the rock by its namesake. There, standing amongst the rocks and sagebrush, were half a dozen marines, part of the Warrior Hikes group of heard about my first two days.
I introduced myself, and they did in turn and I promised to catch up with them before dark, but by the time I’d eaten and set up camp, the stars were out and everyone had gone to sleep.
I went to bed feeling the weight of the emotional and mental wringer I’d put myself through all day. Little did I know the worst of it was yet to come…