Whitewater Preserve - Mission Camp
My knee has been feeling abused and neglected and I fully realize this today. I hike very slowly, attempting to be conscious of how it feels and where my feet land. I cross streams over 20 times today, yet am underhydrated because I don't trust the source (it's a fast flowing larger creek, but speckled with lots of horse droppings and algae). I get caught washing up with my pants down by some hikers off in the distance but luckily they seem to not notice (I hope) and never catch up to me in spite of my snail's pace. It is a long and lonely desert day, and I resort to dipping my shirt in each stream that I cross to cool off. I feel very lonely and eager to catch up with everyone, which I dislike. The sole person I interact with is a southbound weekender, and we exchange only a sentence or two. I try not to anticipate catching my friends on their now tradition of siesta break. I have a feeling I am so slow today I will never catch them, even with their habit of resting for hours. I have trouble keeping track of the stream crossings and reading the map, and with my pace so slow I have no idea where I am. The one clearly labelled sign (designating a wilderness boundary), where I think I know where I am, I later discover is not what it appears to be mileage-wise on the map. I am not overly pleased with Half-Mile's maps today.
I do catch the cousins and Focus at the end of the day, on the verge of getting ready to leave. They kindly let me make dinner before we all head off together. The cousins are much faster than Maya (Focus) and I. We have to weave through patches of poodle dog bush, which is a foolish name for something that causes a poison oak type reaction, with nasty lingering blisters. The only sign warning us is a hand made one by a fellow hiker on a small piece of bark. It is a plant that should be in a Dr. Seuss illustration, just like much of the desert vegetation. Our caution slows us down but thankfully after a while it dissipates, and hopefully the look-alike plant crowding the trail the rest of the way is just that - a look-alike. Otherwise we are all screwed.
The highlight of this hike is a cliff and an enormous pine tree. We push up into higher elevation and a Princess Bride type forest. We pause at mile 18 by a stream and tall trees and I so want to stop here. Nobody else seems inclined so I ignore my misgivings and push on for two more miles. At dusk we end up at Mission Camp, a tentsite by a dirtroad that is at least 8,000 feet in elevation. I am quiet, upset with myself for ignoring my body and needing this company too much, relying too heavily on it, being too slow, making people wait on me. I go do yoga by myself and come back to a group hug, which cheers me up considerably.I freeze all night and discover in the morning that our water actually did freeze.