I thought a bee landed on my face this morning, catapulting both Prana and I into the land of the awake. It may have only been a mosquito, but here we were.
Today we would find out if our cache was in place. I’d gone back and forth, certain it would be untouched, certain it would be dug up by an animal, wild or pet. After seeing all the huge rocks pried up in the Black Range, though, I didn’t know what to think. At least if it was gone we could still give in and hitch into Winston- the universe would have spoken.
The trail was simple today, beautiful gently rolling tread winding through hills and traced ridges. Some of my favorite hiking, through big pines. The gentle crunch of gravel, the swish of pine needles, the soft rattle of pine cones kicked up the trail.
About 2 miles in my troubled knee ballooned in a new place, under the decade-old ACL reconstruction scars- no misstep, no twist. It had done this before, but never painfully, always just a weird bubble. Today, though, it was very painful. I leaned over my trekking poles and cried. I was so, so tired of pain on this trip.
About 6 miles in, we were to drop .3 of a mile to a little spring to get more water. It turned out to be much more than .3, and steep, each loose step down jarring my leg, and promising the same to come back up. My brain grew furious- I could have hiked another 6 miles to the cache on the liter of water I still had. What a waste of time! We were never getting anywhere with these continuous sidetracks and inefficient decisions!
At the spring itself though, the anger evaporated. It was a beautiful metal basin with a pipe streaming pure, clear water. I knew my subversive emotions roiled when I wanted to be somewhere other than where I was – in this case, at the cache, so the next six miles of pain and uncertainty and self-doubt would already be behind me. But that served me not at all, and we would make it when we did, and this spot was a delight.
We rinsed out all of our hiking clothes one article at a time in a gallon ziploc, washed our legs and feet and faces. We drank and drank the sweet water, and checked our Thermarests for holes – Prana found a second in his, in a peculiar pattern, and after I came up empty, he found a tiny scuff on the side of mine. Very strange – I sure hoped mold wasn’t rotting them from the inside again already – we will see.
2 hours lingering at the spring, and then we tackled our last six miles. I felt so refreshed l was able to enjoy the movement again, and as we dropped down the pine covered hillside to the trailhead, nothing looked ransacked or amiss. We reached the dry ravine that was our marker, backtracked, and found the cache spot with ease. Untouched.
We pulled our water from the mess of charred logs it was hiding under, and pulled out our trowel to dig up the food. We had one moment where we thought we couldn’t find it, but were just off by a couple inches. Plastic finally glinted as we scooped out rocks and dirt.
We dumped the contents of the bag on our ground tarp to sort. Digging up caches always reminded me of a podcast about Bliss I’d listened to; one segment was about a guy who skied to the South Pole and back under his own power. He’d buried his caches for his return trip on the way out, and recorded himself digging one up on his way back He had forgotten and discovered that he’d included a two pound chocolate bar in that particular one. I hoped that I’d snuck a few extra treats into this one that I’d forgotten about.
A tiny pull-behind camper was parked at the trailhead, and soon the occupant wandered over to see what we were up to. His name was Al. “You guys had a stash up there?” We explained, and he mentioned a friend of his who had done a hike through the Great Basin, and cached all of his resupplies through California and Nevada. “What’s his name?” I asked, because I had only heard of a few people doing that route, which I had coincidentally been researching lately. Sure enough, his friend was the hiker whose chronicles I’d been reading. “Small world!” “You know,” said Al, “let me know if you guys need anything. I can take your trash or whatever too.” “That would be amazing!” I said. Even though we’d devised several strategies for how to crush or tie all of the gallon water jugs on our packs, the accumulating garbage was definitely the draw back to this whole cache approach. “I’ll be at the camper. Just let me know.”
We finished sorting (alas no extra susrprises from past me), scarfed our dinner of Tasty Bites and instant quinoa while we packed, and carried our trash to the trailhead. We chatted with Al a bit about his time as a smokejumper and now as a yacht captain, thanked him again, traded info, and headed on.
We walked until we couldn’t anymore, a solid six mile stretch, which coincided nicely with a pine needle covered flat and sunset.