Mile 1653 to 1673
In order to beat the heat, my son and I gotta beat the sun. I wake around 2:30 am, use the restroom one last time, then wake Kevin. We pack up our cowboy camp under headlamp and sneak out to the street in front of the cafe. The cafe, famous for its 5 pounds of pancakes in under 2 hours challenge, is of course not open, but we huddle under the outdoor light in order to tell which nut butter we are spreading on our bagels.
As we road walk about a mile to the trail split we receive loud and enthusiastic send offs from every dog in Seiad Valley. Our headlamps reflect numerous pairs of eyes scurrying in and out of bushes and under cars, convincing us the cats of Seiad are in on this too. Some of these eyes may be raccoons, possums and skunks, but we prefer to think of them all as cats. Once on the trail the reflecting eyes become much larger and set further apart. The thought of big cats is not as comforting as house cats, so we blissfully assume these are all deer and very large owls.
The climb from Seiad is long and steep, but in the total darkness of a moonless predawn morning, everything seems cool and peaceful. We pass several tents from hikers who continued to hike late last night in their own beat the heat strategy. Based on how far they didn’t get, it seems our pre-dawn play beat their post-dusk strategy.
We filter and guzzle water at a spring in the dark. It is too early but we have we take it when we can, not when we want. By the time the rising sun is hitting our side of the mountain we have conquered the majority of the elevation. Kevin is quite pleased with our progress, and so am I. The difficult part out of the way, we take more breaks and slow our pace. Kevin’s arches are not at all feeling golden, so he tanks up on Ibuprofen. At a road crossing with shade and a spring, thru-hikers begin to bunch up. There are 12 of us here now. It feels like the early days, by water caches in the desert.
Kevin and I push up one more climb then coast into a dry camp 20 miles from where we started. It’s early, but it should be given when we started. There are a couple of sketchy water sources in a few miles and one actually reliable source 8 miles out. After dinner we retire to hide from mosquitoes and to pray our current water gets us through breakfast and the 8 miles to the next reliable source.