My sixth day on the trail began with the most beautiful sunrise I’d seen to that point, a brilliant orange band of light stretching out across the Anza borrego desert to the east. I woke early and sat on the edge of the Granite Peak cliff face where I had camped and spent half an hour taking pictures before the cold sent me crawling back to my tent.
I finally roused myself after the warmth of the sun started to penetrate my bones, and broke camp enthusiastically. The high of the previous day at Mt Laguna had yet to wear off, and for the first time I was eager to get some walking in.
Shortly after I started walking I passed my fist literal milestone, a clumping of rocks spelling out “mile 50.” The sense of achievement and excitement I felt made me giddy, and I pushed on, reaching the Pioneer Mail picnic area, about two miles away, in under an hour, my best time to that point. I utilized the bathroom, a welcome find, and even came across a new inflatable pillow which fit snugly in the bottom of my pack. I added two liters of water from the cache left by some benificent trail angel, and signed the log book, steering clear of the algae and dead insect ridden waterhole that had been described as a source of water in the guide.
I hiked on a way, past a monument erected in stone to accident victims on the Sunrise Highway along which I walked, and decided, upon reaching a point where highway and trail merged briefly, that it would save me considerable time to walk the road to my next stop rather than the trail, as I was concerned at that point that I was too far off schedule (about a half day off where is wanted to be).
I walked the Sunrise Highway to Sunrise trailhead at mile 59, the last point where the Pct got close to the road, and stopped for the last water for the next 10 miles.
There I finally caught up with another hiker, Stacey from Seattle, who I’d been trying to catch up with since starting the trail. A coworker of a friend from my college days, it was nice to finally meet her, and made me feel like I’d made ok progress, given that she’d left some two days prior to me.
I lay in the tall grass watching the other hikers fill up their water bottles and platypuses, and though it was interesting how we all congregated around these tiny oases, little communal watering holes. In many ways it reminded me of animals gathering around pools in the African savannah.
I gathered my pack and pushed on. I had a big downhill leg to mile 64 ahead of me, but I had plenty of water and was making good time. I walked through hills littered with agate and saw my first coyote of the trail. I descended quickly, meeting a hiker from Washington calling himself Spectrum along the way, and kept moving after exchanging pleasantries.
As I pushed downhill, I saw the large uphill climb on the other side of the ravine, and despite my sore feet and knees, committed myself to pushing all the way up that night. I worked up all my remaining energy for the last push and moved forward undaunted, stopping only once the trail had leveled out around mile 66.
I made camp in a dry stream bed and cooked dinner, and went to bed happy with the first 16 mile day I’d had since day two, and the first I hadn’t felt defeated by that 16 miles. It was a good day.