Lost Valley Spring - Nance Canyon
The day gets off to a sluggish start for me as I walk down to the spring, have to immediately sprint away to go to the bathroom a respectable distance from the water source, and then return only to spill my drops of Aqua Mira on the ground. I wait another five minutes with more drops, and then proceed to spill the newly treated water. Frustrating, but I feel fine. My pace, however, does not. I am slowly creeping along, feeling the air get hotter, knowing everyone else is hours ahead of me and I'll be hiking through the heat to make it to camp before dark. I use music to propel myself onward. I walk a quarter mile off trail to get water on private property (with the owner's permission) and realize that this may be the last patch of shade I see for a very long time. I hesitate but decide to push on and eat lunch later. I end up cursing myself as my fears prove correct. THERE IS NO SHADE. For what seems like mile after tortuous mile.
Finally I stumble across Bobcat crouched in a tiny nook of shaded trail. She shares her space and a story and I feel thankful to have made a connection with such a vibrant, interesting person. We walk together the rest of the day, talking, walking slowly, nursing blisters. In the heat of the day the blisters buried deep under layers of callous throb and my feet feel hot. Fueled by an entire bag of brazil nuts, my ego, and a desire to be done with walking I push through the final miles with the cousins. Speeding ahead at the top of a switchback we pause, called back by Maya (now known as Focus). Apparently we rushed right past the tentsite which was tucked away across a small creek on a patch of sandy beach shaded by scrub and a few small trees. Bribed by the promise of yoga, we backtrack for a few minutes and end a 20 mile day reunited with everyone who shared a campsite with us the night before. It's one of the cousin's birthday. We all soak our feet in the cold water of the creek and the Bobcat plays him a birthday harmonica serenade. We do yoga under the bright moonlight and drift off to sleep.
Thoughts before I drift away in fatigue: I resolve to stop exploding my pack like an amateur, contents splayed everywhere. You'd think after one long distance hike I'd have everything down to a science, but I most certainly do not. The cousins on the other hand, very clearly do. They have had all kinds of adventures ranging from New Zealand to Asia to cycling cross-country. We are all in awe of how in-sync they are with each other and how well they work together. They are an efficient but mellow team. I, on the other hand, am a scatter-brained ineffectual joke of a long distance hiker. I would really like for some of their preparedness to rub off on me. All this floats through my mind as I am one of the last to go to bed, but not the very last - that would be Walking Stick and the Mariner, two lights in the farthest corner of our spot bustling between tent and packs.