Once we started walking everything felt familiar. My confidence returned and my stomach pain went away immediately.
The first miles were easy, with a nice not rocky path and not much elevation change. Even a little shade.
At mile 6.6, our first water source, I heard what sounded like gas hissing from a pipe- I turned my head and rattling away was a rattle snake, perched on a rock at neck level, about 2 feet from me. He didn’t seem interested in us and slithered away into the rocks, but my steps got a lot more careful after that.
Then we started ascending and it was hot-exposed-no shade-I thought my insides were going to boil. My pack felt so heavy. It was so hot I couldn’t eat, and of course I bonked out at 10 miles in without sufficient calories. I started crying, thinking about the summer I could spend with my dog in my parents’ air conditioned house, instead of doing this REALLY HARD THING that I stupidly chose to do. I tried to only cry as I walked so Josh wouldn’t notice and repeated over and over “I quit” just to feel the words roll around in my mouth. Bret’s parting words, “remember, everyone is jealous of YOU right now” helped, and so did a snickers bar.
Finally we started running into other hikers who had started earlier in the day. Talk of the trail was if everyone was going to make it to Lake Morena at mile 20, which is usually the first water source in a low-water year. There’s kind of a feeling that if you don’t make it, you’re not cut out for the trail. Miles 15-18 are exposed ascent and particularly hot in the afternoon sun which is when everyone hits that stretch. We could see it looming ahead for miles.
Luckily because this was such a high snow year, the seasonal streams are flowing strong. We bumped into water at the bottom of the canyon, along with a crew of hikers laying in the grass deciding if they would finish the last 5 miles. A few went on to try and hit a burger shop that closed at 8, but we decided to take it easy and called it a night with about 15 others camped in the same area.