Mile 631 to 654
At 11:30 last night a centipede of headlamps winds its way down the trail and into our camp. It looks like commuter traffic returning from a hard days work. On the trail, for those eight night hikers, that’s exactly what it is. The headlamps are now all pointed at the depleted cache. What little there was got rationed between the hikers that were here. The water report warned not to count on it, and it was right. The headlamps disperse to various random locations, drop on the ground and eventual go out.
It raises an interesting ethical dilemma. Given that a cache is always limited, how much do you take? Is taking the first liter different than taking the last? Why? Anything you take is depriving those behind you. Is a water cache a socialistic system, to those according to need? The ones with the greatest need are most likely the ones who didn’t carry as much as they should. There are hundreds more coming that will similarly claim to need it.
I was once told that before winter you should put away your hummingbird feeder because it encourages them not to migrate and they become totally dependent. If you insist on keeping it, you have a responsibility to never stop or they might die. Land managers face a similar challenge with water caches. A cache not constantly maintained is more dangerous than no cache at all.
I wake surrounded by various colored night hiker sleeping bags – a blue one over there, a red one by that bush, some green ones by the trail. I sneak away before 6:00 am and begin a steep climb. It’s 20 miles to water. Yesterday the trail was sand that killed my feet. Today the trail is packed and smooth. The weather is cool and I crank out the miles.
At Walker Pass campground I hike to the spring and filter water. On the way back I meet trail angels setting out magic: donuts, peanut butter, bread, bananas, and avocados. I enjoy it all, but especially the donuts. Rather than wait for the night hikers to wake us at 11:30 again, four of us hump it up a steep climb and camp on a windy ridge.