I wake up at 6:20 a.m. after a long night of not very much sleep, camped on a soft sliver of dirt beside patches of snow at mile 190.5. All night, the wind roared through the trees and pounded against the walls of my tent. It continues into the morning and I curse as I break camp, my hands so cold and numb they’re useless. Tuck and I finally hit the trail just shy of 8:00 a.m. and start the long descent out of the forest and back down-down-down into the desert.
The trail criss-crosses and switch-backs 6,500 feet or so down Mt. San Jacinto in 16 miles and my body feels strong, my blisters mostly healed. The day starts out well, until the green of the forest becomes the beige of the desert, the soft dirt becomes hard sand, and with it my spirits begin to deflate and my body begins to deteriorate. I think I am allergic to the desert.
Tuck, Smuggles, Heatwave, and I finally make it to the bottom of the mountain around 4 p.m. We fill our water bottles up at a water fountain in the middle of the desert, filter it with our various methods, and continue on the last four miles to our destination.
My body and feet throw in the towel with only two and a half miles left to walk. The hot desert sand tears my feet apart and each step feels like I’m walking trough a meat grinder. My pack is sodden with sweat as it rub against the back of my shoulders. The other three seem fine, their spirits still high. They sing in unison and turn back often to ask how I’m doing.
“Just go on ahead,” I say. “Seriously.”
They wait for me.
“Please guys,” I say. “Really.”
They wait for me.
I want to throw a temper tantrum alone, to have a pity party for myself when no one is looking. They finally walk on, looking over their shoulders occasionally to make sure I’m still behind them. And when they’re beyond earshot I heave my pack into the sand, sit down beside it, and begin to cry.