Walking thousands of miles for ‘Just a drop’ – Day 50

Alex Mason

Camp site – camp site  32.9 miles 3590ft up. 3442ft down.

We all start packing up at 6am. It’s cloudy and a bit cold this morning. I help Grim stick some KT tape on his back to try and help his pack rash. This is something that puts me off getting a pack that sits next to my back rather than having the air vent like the Osprey packs have. But the rash is mostly caused by being sweaty and I don’t get that sweaty…hmmm.

As we were packing up Spice Rack comes down the trail, I finally get to meet her! She comes over and give me a great hug. It’s cold so she hikes on but I pack up quickly and try to catch her up so we can have a chat. I catch her as she is taking a picture of the sun rise. It’s still very smokey, I could smell it last night. We hike together for a bit and have a chat, she has been living in a van for a while, I really want to live in a van.

We hike uphill and I’m in front. I hike faster than I normally do because I didn’t want her to think I was too slow. She tells me I hike fast. I really don’t. This is all just for show. Plus I can barely breathe. I am relieved when we catch up to Grim who has stopped to delayer, and the effort I put in to getting up that hill made me hot so I delayer too.

Grim and I hike on leaving Spice Rack to have some phone time and I think to wait for Crusher. Grim speeds off and I get cold again. It’s really cloudy and cool this morning, but really nice weather for hiking. I resist putting my layers back on and just try and speed up a bit to keep warm.

We come to the stream with the funny alien plants. They are coming to the end of their lives by the looks of it so they aren’t quite as cool as they were last year. Stringbean Grim and Delta hike on ahead of me ‘everyone got their poles?’ Grim shouts as we leave. It gets to about 10am and I haven’t even had a wee yet this morning. I feel a movement happening and I duck off the trail to drop off the kids.

What should have been a simple poo stop was anything but simple. Nothing would come out even though it was well and truly in the departure area. Nothing was moving. I hadn’t been for two days but that time frame shouldn’t make me constipated? I couldn’t get the poo to move. It was stuck. I couldn’t hold the squat for too long because it hurt my hips and I couldn’t hike on because when I stood up it was too uncomfortable. It’s impossible to walk with a poo in the departure area.

Weirdly before this happened we were talking to Grim – who is a critical care nurse – about digital rectal impaction. The part of his job which involves sticking his fingers up someone’s bum to remove their poo. I suddenly had a terrible thought. Oh no. I’m going to have to ask Grim to get this poo out.

Well, that’s didn’t seem like the ideal situation, so I went back to squatting. Terrified of giving myself piles by pushing too hard. 20 minutes, no word of a lie, 20 minutes and a lot of discomfort later it was out. I felt relief and exhaustion and I had tears in my eyes.

I was sure the girls must have passed me by now and I was trying to do a 32 mile day today to get to a camp spot with amazing views. 30 minutes was a considerable chunk out of my day. I carry on, making the most of the gently rolling ridge walk. About half an hour later I get an urgent feeling in my bum. I can’t need to go again?! But something doesn’t feel right and I run into the bushes and only just get my pants down in time before a bout of diarrhoea. This doesn’t seem fair at all! The clean up operations is a long one and afterwards I feel quite terrible.

I realise I am walking along with a very pained expression on my face. I’m not in any pain but I still feel like everything hurts. I see a few people out on day hikes. One guy is hiking towards me with three dogs. ‘Have you seen a set of keys?’ Nope. ‘Oh I’m so screwed.’ Oh dear, not a good day for that man. I keep my eyes peeled for them but being quiet unobservant I am unlikely to be the one to find them! 13 miles into the day I stop for water, lovely clear cold water just flowing out the side of the hill. I stop for 10 minutes, eat some snacks and carry on. I am just about clinging to my 10 in 4 pace.

In 2 more miles I see Grim stopped for lunch. He says Stringbean just left and the girls are still behind me. Maybe I’m not doing too badly after all. He asks me if I’m ok. Yeah, I’ve just had a few issues this morning, not wanting to go into too much detail for the fear of turning bright red. He asks if I saw they guy with the dogs. Grim found his keys, worked out which car they belonged to and placed them on the wheel with a note on the windshield telling him he owes a hiker a beer! It’s still cloudy and cool. I continue on and Grim soon blazes past me. Every time this happens with him and Stringbean I think that’ll be the last I see of them.

Then I reach the top of the climb and they are both there on their phones. There’s service here then?! I check a few messages. I try to call my parents. No answer. I chat to Catwater and arrange to meet her in Shasta (excited about this). I check on the fire. It’s grown to 19 thousand acres and they have officially shut 33 miles of trail. But the smoke is everywhere. And then I get waylaid by Facebook and Instagram. Grim says ‘how many miles are we doing today!?’. That brings me back to the present and I turn the phone off and keep hiking. I need to keep moving if I’m going to make it.

I make it to the White ridge spring – water flowing handily out of a pipe in the side of the mountain – and fill up in preparation for a dry camp. 10 more miles to camp. I’m not sure I’ll make it. I hike on. The views are nice even with the smoke. The trail is rocky and gentle with short little bursts of uphill which do slow me down, but they are only small interludes. Mt Shasta is getting more and more obscured by the smoke until you can hardly see it. I cross a road and there is a sign on the other side. The distances are in kilometres. When did that happen?!

I run into Delta taking a break. He thinks I’m moving fast today. People think I’m moving fast today but I feel sluggish. Only 4 more miles until camp. I’m not sure I’ll make is. Delta says he is going 6 more.

2.7 more miles to camp. I’m not sure I’ll make it. 2.3 miles to camp. I’m not sure I’ll make it.

0.9 miles to camp. And it’s all downhill and the trail is non rocky forest. I think I might make it. The moss on the trees is so vibrant and beautiful it’s impossible to capture in a photo. I get a little jog on, not because I feel good in anyway, just because I am desperate to stop walking am the quicker I can get there the quicker I can stop.

On the trail guide it is reviewed as ‘an epic spot’ with ‘amazing views’ and that’s why I wanted to make it there. But of course there are no views because of all the smoke!! But, you can just make out Castle Crags and despite the smoke the camp spot is still pretty epic. Shasta is barely visible now. When I get there Delta is there, I thought he may have decided to stop here after all but he has decided to eat dinner and then go for a 40 mile day. I wish him luck and get busy setting up my tent. Stringbean arrives and camps with me. Grim decided to stop a mile back. Fool. But that means I hiked further than him today and I take a moment to feel a little smug about that.

I can’t be bothered to ‘cook’ again so I eat string cheese, Fritos and a brownie bar thing. I am going to roll into town tomorrow with loads of extra food!

After nearly 33 miles I can feel it in my legs, but they are not zingy like they were at the beginning of Oregon, and they certainly aren’t painful enough to stop me sleeping. Maybe I’m getting stronger. The thing that’s really hurting is the blister on the top of my foot. I think it’s now a blister on top of a blister. I’m going to look for some new shoes in Shasta.

I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water.

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