It's been a while since my third back surgery and more than six years since I pulled off a long-range hike. Mostly because I haven't had the time but I have to admit that the idea of being disabled bugs me and I don't know how hard I can push myself any more. So about three weeks ago I grabbed my camera and my day pack and drove out to Fort Ord and parked up just past the old hospital. I was only planning a two hour field movement in which I was going to hunt down artifacts left over from the Army and photograph them. I'd bought new boots and I wanted to break those in as well, so I head into "The Back Yard", of Fort Ord with no real plan or time frame.
After the first mile I was feeling great and I decide to make a push deep into the old base in order to locate a remote canyon. This canyon had once been the location of a full-size mock-up of a Vietnamese village. The Army used it to train soldiers headed to Vietnam back in the late 1960s and while it is long since gone I've found that the Army always leaves something behind and because it was the Army and not the BLM who tore the place down it's possible to find goodies to photograph. So I'm feeling good, my boots are comfortable and the weather is passable , thus I forge up to the top of the first ridge and follow a game trail down to the road that descends to the bottom of Eucalyptus canyon. Once I reach the road at the bottom I'm just over three miles away from my truck, I take a second to take stock and decide that I feel good and so I boogie down the road to where it intersects with a trail and head off along that. The trail winds along the south-east side of the canyon ridge and heads to a gap where a road cuts across into the last deep canyon of the old base. Once I reach the gap and begin to climb I decide not to take the road and instead I take a trail that climbs up along a small box canyon to "Lookout Road". As I climb this trail I'm looking at this small canyon and I quickly realize that this is the target canyon! Hot dog! I continue up the trail because it gives me a great view of the entire canyon and I take mental notes on how I'm going to search it in the future. I finally get to the top of the canyon and it does look out onto the great canyon below. I stop and take my pack off and eat some breakfast bars I'd stowed inside. I then refill my canteens and take in the view. Then I look at my watch.
It's 4:30pm, I'm six miles from my truck and I have an hour of daylight left. Oh shit. I am standing in the middle of Mountain Lion central all by my lonesome. Oh shit! Well, okay, I'm not totally screwed because I have my day pack, which means that I have a warm sweater and two flashlights. So I put on the sweater and clip one flashlight to my shoulder strap and put the other in my cargo pocket and I gear up and start the long move back. It took me forty minutes to climb back down to the road at the bottom of the second canyon and reach the road that would take me out. The problem now is that the forty minute/three mile hike had thrashed my legs and feet. My lower body was now a symphony of pain as each muscle group sang out and my right leg was shaking uncontrollably. I could feel blisters on both feet. All this would make the next mile no fun because because I would be climbing a 20% grade the whole way.
Somewhere before I reached the top the sun went down.
At the top I tried to kick it into gear but my legs were just done. I had two miles to go and it was 5:30pm. I just lunged down the road thankful for the darkness because I now looked like Frankenstein's monster as I thudded my way back to my truck. I swept the sides of the road with my second flashlight in order to catch the reflection of eyeballs that might be looking at me. Early on I did manage to catch a large cat in my beam of light but I'm pretty sure that it was a Bobcat and not a Cougar, either way I wasn't going to hang around and get a closer look. It's amazing how your world changes in the dark, especially when you are under stress; everything becomes impossible and every noise becomes a threat. I tried to sing but everything quickly boiled down to "Shit,Shit,Shit,Shit". The few times that I stopped for water I found that I paid for it in new kinds of pain as my muscles locked up. Usually I can daydream to take my mind off of the pain but not this time, I was living each and every moment as they came. I was never so happy as when I saw my truck.
I closed on it and opened the door. I slid off my gear, dumped my canteen out over my head and then sat down behind the wheel. Ahhhhhh! Oh baby, you know what I like. I had found my wall, somewhere out around the seven mile mark and I passed it and discovered a world of pain. When I got home I found that my socks had disintegrated at the toes and I had big blisters on both feet. I ended up removing the nail on my little toe, which actually came off pretty easily. The next day was no fun as I dealt if stiff muscles and foot pain but a few days later I felt great...really great....like a new man kinda great. I picked up 4mph on my exercise bike and I felt better than I had in a long time. The body is a strange thing because the whole way back to my truck I'm cursing myself for being so stupid to even think about hiking that far and now all I can think about is getting back out there and maybe even going farther.
I think I'm brain damaged.