I knew that 4/30 would be a 5000' elevation gain over 14 miles. There's no way to prepare. I just started walking and grumbling to myself. Four miles in, I spotted a food bag, mostly full, abandoned on the trail. For 15 minutes, I searched for its owner, called out, "who lost their food bag," and saw nobody. Damned conundrum. Do I leave it, assuming its owner would backtrack from hiis lunch location (where he'd realize it was missing), or take it, hoping its owner was uptrail? Finally, I added the 7 or 8 lb to the top of my pack and continued on, worried that I'd made the wrong decision. Still, I knew the only hiker right behind me was Oma, and I really didn't want to make a 70 year old woman have to deal with it.
So, as the elevation increased, the extra pounds made me angry, frustrated and tired. My damned ankles hurt-now both of them. I was thinking some very negative thoughts when I turned up a switchback and saw a beautiful speckled rattlesnake staring down at me from the slope above. Spirits were lifted for awhile. A couple of hours later, as my anger rolled back in, a garter snake flicked past just ahead of me. These events carried me, slowly, into camp. Nobody had lost a food bag. Very odd.
Now deep in the ponderosas and pinion pines, I was extremely cold and struggling to breathe even when sitting. I curled up, shivering, in my bivy and panted for a few hours until I passed out for an hour or so. My pulse was erratic and my respiration was labored all night. Headache, too. Somehow, I fell asleep again and woke up fairly free of altitude sickness.
Finally, 16 miles of gentle slopes, little darts of sunlight shooting through the sparse canopy of spruce and pine. The first really enjoyable day in some time. I told all the others to please leave my slow, aching ankles behind, allowing me to saunter, taking plant photos and trying to catch lizards. I have never understood rushing to camp, missing so much in the race. Since this part of the trail is water-limited, most hikers camp at the last available water before a dry patch, meaning that most of us plan to camp in the same place. No need to hurry when there is just a pile of people at the end of the line.
Halfway through the day, an area on the map indicated "animal cages." Mover had told me about this area, where animals used for films are housed. Though I was prepared, seeing a thin Bengal tiger pacing in a steel cage overwhelmed me. Ironic slap in the face. I spent so much time and money to escape the society that put these wild things in cages. Profound injustice, etc. I realize that it's a you-had-to-be-there thing, but I really broke down for a few minutes. The sign reading "armed response" made sense immediately. Hard to believe any hiker could pass without having a momentary urge to free the huge brown bear or tiger.
I had left Coyote distressed and worried about Grasshopper at Ziggy's. She'd gone ahead of him over San Jacinto several days before and hadn't heard from him. Her hurry had been inspired by the need to meet her visiting friend in Big Bear. When I'd left, I wasn't sure if I'd see her again, but I keep assuming that and am proved wrong every time.
Passing the water cache 12 miles into the day, I heard voices coming up the hill from the freeway. Coyote! Grasshopper! With Poet and Rebecca as well. We all had brief meltdowns for one reason or another, then played pinecone/umbrella baseball off and on while walking to camp. Rubik's, Far Out and Wandering Bighorn greeted us. I tried to explain my reaction to the animal cages; everyone seemed to think that the animals were lucky to be in movies. Ah, well.