Day 27: Was It All Just A Fever Dream?

5/14

The trail was relatively gentle today, elevation change relatively minimal. We hiked mostly through small and spread out forest, though we did have a long stretch in the afternoon through an open field, where shapes that could only be called volcanic layered the view.

I was lost in my wonderful book, Fire Season, and it finished too soon; I think I’ll start it right over again tomorrow. Maybe I need to apply for a lookout position for a summer? Do those jobs even still exist? 2008 was an eternity ago as far as technology is concerned.

I tried to type while I walked, since the land was pleasant but monotonous and the trail not terribly rocky, and as I swung my left foot forward, I heard an unmistakable rattle. Where was it coming from? It only took a split second to scan the ground around me and realize it was an inch from my right foot, and directly under my left. “YeeeeeEEEEEECGAH!” I shrieked and leapt, trekking poles and phone flying. The snake, maybe two feet long, was coiled high, head down, shakin’ it with all he had. Prana, behind me with headphones, hadn’t heard a thing. My heart galloped. Thank god rattlers are the gentleman of the vipers – if it’d been a copperhead or cottonmouth, I’d’ve been snakebit for sure.

At lunch we dropped a quarter mile down to Cassidera Spring, only to realize we had more than enough water, and hadn’t needed to come down. It was a beautiful spot though, and clean, and we cooked our dinner for lunch, reclining on soft pine needles, while Prana narrated the frantic circus scamperings of a tufted-ear squirrel.

The sky clouded, making for perfect temperatures. Rain curtains swept the edges of the valley, circling ever nearer. They closed ranks overhead as we reached our next water source, a dismal, cloudy stone and mortar tank named the Rincon Well with a proud new sign. No sun meant no fresh water from the pump pipe, so we filtered slowly from the tank, and dumped in lemonade mix to mask the unfortunate taste.

The clouds painted mesmerizing swirls overhead, and we climbed onto a forested bench at our target mileage. It took a bit of searching to find a flat patch for the tent, but the one we found was embraced in the protective arms of an old juniper tree, a Haven sized gazebo beckoning to tuck in.

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