It’s so hard to move in the morning, cocooned down into my sleeping bag. I’m mostly shamed into it, when everyone shifts and stirs. Even though I cowboy camped, Homegrown and Sprinkles, with their tent, are packed and out before me. But I’m on my feet by 5:30, and rolling out into the dawn.
Yoda, before we left, pointed out that if we do a 25 mile day, we’ll make it to mile 600 tonight. So I guess I’m trying to pull a 25.
The trail follows a dirt road for a while; I pass a bunch of folks still sleeping, and I wonder how. It’s just so pretty out, and there are miles to be made.
The road-trail is strange, passing through a wind farm, the almost-ominous hum following me thoroughout my morning. Finally, though, it’s of the road and down to Golden Oaks Spring.
There’s a tiny trickle coming out of a pipe here; the trough it feeds is full of minnows and tadpoles, reminding me of the tadpoles coming out of the water at home. There’s a line to collect, so we pass the time by talking about the gender ratio on trail. There are certainly a lot more women on trail than I was expecting – out of the 14 people here, 8 are women, and while that’s anecdotal, it’s also pretty cool. We also talk about the register – a number of our friends are ahead of us, so fast, and when I comment on their quickness I’m interrupted by a guy I’ve never met who thinks it of utmost importance to comment that “There is no fast or slow. Only the trail.” And yeah, okay, I understand the sentiment, but also, they’re way faster than us.
We’re wrapping up at the spring, agreeing to meet at 592.9 to reassess the day’s travel based on how everyone is feeling, when I comment that I’m slow and we’ll have to see. Pineapple helpfully reminds me that there is no fast or slow, but can’t remember the wrapup, so I helpfully toss in “ONLY ZUUL” as the ending. Everyone loses it, and decides that’s an appropriate answer to nearly any question. How far to the next water? ONLY ZUUL. How far you going tonight? ONLY ZUUL. It’s silly, but we enjoy ourselves.
The others outpace me quickly, but I have the umbrella I decided to pack out from our break site last night, and it keeps me shaded and in good company through the burn area and the poodle dog bush I’m forced to avoid. I thought it’d be more awkward to carry, but it’s not bad – and certainly awesome to have as respite from the sun, even if it’s both a normal umbrella and not the sun-reflecting kind and also black.
The burn area is so, so hard to walk through – so much gone that was here so recently, at least to hear the old-timers tell it. It’s a relief to come out of the burned area, come into the agreed-upon afternoon break spot where there are trees, real trees, and shade.
I think everyone will be gone, but a lot of folks are still there – Wolf, Pineapple, Homegrown and Sprinkles. We joke some more about Only Zuul, talk about naming me Zuul, and it sends us into fits of giggling. That settles it in Wolf’s eyes, and I become Zuul, just like that.
We’re all aiming for Robin Bird Spring just after mile 602, but the elevation gets a little straight up.
It takes me a bit to come to terms with the elevation change climb the uppity ups, and by the time I make it to the dirt road near the 600 mile mark, I’m chanting to myself – this is already a record-breaking day for me; every step I take is breaking the last step’s record. That line of thought keeps me going for quite a while, through mile 600:
And on up the hill towards 602.
I come around a corner and Homegrown, Sprinkles, and Pineapple are setting up on a switchback. Thank. Bejeezus. I nestle in with them, chat and eat and lament that I didn’t quite make it 26 miles. When Homegrown suggests I walk up a tenth of a mile and back to make it 26, I respectfully decline. Today’s already been a helluva day. I use my tennis ball with gusto on the entire lower half of my body before sleep bludgeons me over the head with its nightstick and I know no more.
Start: 575.0 • End: 600.8 • Day: 25.8
Notable Accomplishments: Record-breaking day for me • Got my trail name • Srsly almost ran a marathon