The trail forces you to be flexible and also might be the reason the usps is still in business. While we were in Mojave I got word a fire had been started very close to the trail and had closed the fifty mile section of trail that leads up to Kennedy Meadows. Blah, that stretch was supposed to be amazing and no one really knew what to do or when anything would re open.
Fires in SoCal happen fast and spread even faster. My amazing mom quickly changed one of my boxes just in case (thanks mom!) and I headed for the trail anyways, hoping the trail would be open again when I arrived four days later. I hitched out of Mojave alone, and was reunited with the tramily within the first few miles! So amazing to see people who you thought were worlds ahead of you and you haven't seen in weeks. The group was missing a few and as I hiked with them things were different. It's hard to describe. I guess the group was just more spread out than I remember. We were still strictly bound to the hiking before the evil sun gets too high schedule, but the days seemed hotter and the water carries were longer. I got up early the first morning, and hiked alone to siesta. Something about hiking with the sunrise is pretty amazing.
The water source was slow, and instead of spending the day with the tramily, I napped in a shack (named the snake shack) with the speed chillers all day. Nothing super exciting, mostly eating and napping throughout the heat of the day. My friend Whitney (his full trail name is Whitney Shoeston because he hiked Mt Whitney with only socks last time he did the trail) and I shared his hammock and have been hiking together a bunch. It's nice when you have someone that wants to hit the same mileage as you, especially when you are hiking mostly in the dark. We night hiked one night through a burn area and I walked straight through some poisonous plants. No rash yet. Anyways night hiking when the trail is scattered with down trees and scary plants is no fun. We did 13 miles that night and camped at a pass. We crashed at around 1130 and I was worn down and exhausted, but happy to at least have company to help push through it with me. The next day we only hiked 12 miles total. The rest of the speed chillers caught up at siesta and the next water was the last source for 42 miles. Also my stomach was doing some weird things and I had no appetite all day.
The next morning we set out at 430am. The heat is crazy. After 12 miles or so we stopped for siesta in the shade of some Joshua trees but it was still in the high 90s in the shade and 115 according to someone's watch. WAY TOO HOT. The whole crew of us just laid there in the shade, slowly inching as the sun rotates in the sky to stay in the shade. Even having an inch exposed is too much. I honestly don't know how to describe it but the desert really does want to kill you. It's not meant for hiking. It's barren and spikey and blah. The water report said it was 42 miles between the water we had camped at and the next reliable source. More blah. Fortunately, there are amazing humans out there who cache water, and I was lucky enough to have chips sending me updates from a few days ahead. Post siesta in the stupid heat, a breeze picked up and we headed out around 5 - night hiking again. The wind was crazy as the sun set. After climbing uphill in my sandals in the sand for an hour or so I finally got some downhill. The wind was so strong it felt like it was trying to push you off the trail, yet I was having so much fun. I might be starting to loose it. Anyways, up and down I went until another cache - I've never been so amped to see pop tarts! When the whole group showed up three of us decided that we wanted to get up the one final climb to make the next day shorter - better to do it when it was cooler. Techno music and caffine bites are crazy. I pretty much ran up the mountain in the dark and finished my first marathon day (26 and some change miles), cozy in bed by 11pm. The next morning I woke up in the woods! TREES! Maybe the desert really was getting close to ending. Whitney and I cruised to walker pass (and hit up Coppertone - an amazing trail angel who always has cookies and fruit available just when you need it. It was my fourth time passing him), and quickly hitched to Onyx where I forwarded my bear canister - the fire was under control - so Kennedy Meadows was next up! Whitney and I spent the day doing nothing but eating and were trail bound in the evening. 50 miles to Kennedy Meadows. Also, we lost the rest of the speed chillers because they spent the night in town, but figured they'd catch up soon.