I woke up around 0630 sore but ready to hike. I made some coffee and started gathering my gear. Camo and Just Clay woke a little while later. There was a pit toilet about a quarter mile or less back down the trail so I made a few trips before leaving. I have had the pleasure of visiting many pit toilets, and this was by far the Taj Mahal of them. By that, I mean it was clean.
After my morning constitutional I told the guys I would be hitting the trail and getting a head start. I knew there was a couple miles of steep elevation, and since my knee was killing me I figured I would get going as to not slow down the group. I set off at a decent pace, trying to get some distance yet not aggravate my new knee pain too much. The beginning of segment 4 was only about 4.5 miles away.
Once I got to the end of 3, beginning of 4 I spotted what looked like a group of hikers taking advantage of the shade in a parking area. I walked over and asked if I could grab a seat and they obliged. A man introduced himself as “Ezra”. He was at the parking area with a group of probably 10 or 12 young people, ranging from maybe ten to sixteen years old. He explained that they were a Jewish summer hiking camp, and he was the camp counselor. Simply put, they were a blast to hang out with. So full of energy and excitement! Ezra told me they were having a great time, and he had an 85% retention rate. Apparently at some point during their trip, one of the kids fell and lacerated his leg or something and had to be transported to the hospital.
I saw Ezra had a small plastic pink/purple ukulele with him, which I asked about. He said that he was given the ukelele by another hiker when he was on the Appalachian trail this last spring. Then he and the hikers offered to sing some songs for me. Some great voices, dancing and giggling ensued for the next half hour or so. Ezra asked if we needed any food or anything and of course I told him that we were always up for a little food. He gave me a package of broken and smashed pitas, raisins, powdered milk and some oatmeal.
Shortly thereafter, Camo and Just Clay came down the trail. I introduced them to the group, and we all sat for a while and chatted while watching the kids run around like lunatics. After a while, their bus came to get them. They all loaded up and headed home. You could hear the kids yelling and laughing as they drove off down the dusty road.
We sat and rested for a bit, I wanted to get going but my knee was starting to hurt me again. What is wrong with it? Is this something that would prevent me from doing a super long hike in the future? Well I can’t just stay here and think about it all day, I thought. May as well get moving.
We started up the trail. My knee started killing me right away. “Man, I really hope this new knee thing doesnt shut me down” I thought. Once moving, the pain subsided to where it was tolerable. As long as there wasnt too much for incline or decline (especially decline), I should be fine.
Ends up that the segment we were going into was pretty much ALL incline. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 feet in elevation in about 4 miles i later discovered. The worst part was that the trail was all loose rock the whole time. Between my knee, limited to non-existant water sources and slipping on the rocks every couple feet, i was not a happy hiker. I stopped to catch my breath and baby my knee every few switchback corners. Just Clay was having problems with his knee as well, so he was sticking with me at about the same pace. Clay’s left knee was bothering him, and I was having problems with my right knee.
Towards the top of the segment we ran into a guy that was also hiking in the same direction as us. He told us he was a retired Air Force pilot, and used to fly fighter jets. He explained that he was trying to get back into backpacking and had ambitions of some day thru-hiking the entire Colorado trail, and this was a practice run. He had an enormous pack on, and we asked how much he weighed. “About 60 pounds”, he said. “Wow, 60 pounds! How are you feeling?” I asked. “Not real great”, he replied. I noticed he had, attached to the huge external frame pack, a folding chair. A folding chair! I’ll admit, it would be great to open one of those bad boys to rest every once in a while. I just don’t know if the additional couple pounds that thing weighed would be worth it. Heck, i cut my toothbrush down to just a few inches long to save less than an ounce!
We met up with Camo shortly up the trail and took a water and snack break. I ate a couple of the hot, bland trail bars i brought with me. Camo said “Hey let me get one of those Jewish tortillas!”. We ripped one up and shared it while talking about how glad we were to not have a 60 pound pack like the guy we passed earlier.