Kay and I both decided against the next stretch of road along the Warrior Momz Walk route; I know that road. It climbs gradually up the Santa Rosa Mountains and then drops 6000 feet to the Coachella Valley with several tight switchbacks on the way down. A magnificent view but a white-knuckle drive, and there was no way we were going to walk it. Last spring Pete and I were on that road and saw a guy walking, we agreed he was crazy, and then we saw the broken down, abandoned car. Poor guy, we said, but there was no room to stop and help.
I suppose it was born of kindness, but When Kay called and suggested we walk around an easy, level, park trail to make up the miles, I pushed back hard. I wasn’t interested in an easy day of walking. I wanted to walk the Warrior Momz route, and get a feel for what she was experiencing every day. This was my only day walking and I wanted to advance the mission, put some hard miles behind us, I wanted to sweat and swear and regret my decision to walk all day. So Kay relented and we drove an hour back out to Anza, spotted Pete’s van at the Cahuilla Casino, laced up the shoes, ate a banana and headed out.
Not much to look at out there. It’s desolate and not very pretty this time of year; we were in what we call high desert/high chaparral. But the road was newly paved with a lovely shoulder, and Kay kept calling it paradise compared to the other roads so far. We did step off whenever there was a curve and a truck – the cars came in bunches and sometimes we just stood and waved, knowing they all thought we were crazy. I worried a bit that the heat would get us, 115 degrees is normal out there, but it never got terribly hot and we had a solid cool breeze the whole time. All in all a perfect day for a desert walk.
Kay was in front, of course, blazing the trail and it took me about a mile to get into the rhythm. I had to adjust one sock and take a few photos – Kay kept looking back willing me to walk faster, and I did. We stopped a couple times but never took a legitimate break because we had many miles to log after a late start. There were long, long periods of right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, without even a car in sight. A couple times I heard a car coming up behind us and I wondered if they would give us a ride. And then I remembered I was walking. Oh yeah, walking. And whenever we encountered a person, like the guy in Anza who hollered over “Are you girls walking on the highway?” Kay yelled back “Yes we are, we’re walking across America!”. And when he replied, “Awesome”, Kay took that as an invitation and walked back to tell him all about Warrior Momz and I bet he will check out our website just as soon as he finishes that beer.
Kelly decided to get her car serviced and we knew she wouldn’t get back to us until about 6:30, so we had plenty of time to catch up…. and then came the hill. It was a gradual climb, not at all steep, but never-ending. Every time we came around a curve we hoped to see the top, but we saw more hill instead. Eventually (and I’m talking hours later) we started seeing the Ponderosa Pines and Lodgepole Pines and at about 5000 feet we even saw some Jeffery Pines with huge, dripping pinecones. I heard Scrub Jays or maybe Stellar Jays, but never saw more than a patch of blue. Anyone who walks with me, or dives with me, knows that I am easily distracted by wildlife and Kay was very patient when I started lagging… her back was hurting a bit from carrying extra water up that long grade, so maybe it was good to slow down some. We saw vultures circling in the distance and saw a homemade house and shed built right into the rocks. And we heard a red-tailed hawk, my favorite. We have one nesting in our grove at home. So I know that call and was delighted to see the bird a couple times as we climbed that damn hill. Made it easier for me. Kay was telling me to keep my head up and correct my gait – all her great training sure paid off for me!
Kay wanted to turn back because she knew that hill was kicking my ass, but we stopped instead and looked at Google maps – my phone was dead but we figured it out on her phone – and learned we were only half a mile from Paradise Valley! So we walked up one more stretch of hill and that was the top! Yay! Easy cruise down to the Paradise Valley Café for our long-anticipated break, which closed at 3:00. It was 4:00. So we drank some water and chatted with a couple kids waiting for rides and relaxed for about 20 minutes.
And then, believe it or not, we headed out walking again, only this time the road was flat and level, and there were horses and big ranches set back from the road and it was really peaceful and nice. The shadows were lengthening so we had to stay alert for safety’s sake; the occasional cars were driving fast and couldn’t see us well. But after that hill I felt I could have walked to the moon and back on this flat and beautiful road.
We were finishing up a few final miles when Kelly found us, and we were glad to be found… a good day of walking behind us. A few blisters, little sunburn and a couple screaming gluteus maximus muscles aside, it was a perfect day. I walked the Warrior Momz WALK! I walked for Pete. I walked for Josh and Joey, for Christopher and Amanda, and Tyler. I walked for Kelly and Tami and Craig, I walked for Chris and for Andres, and Richard. I walked for Spencer, and Dustin and Korey and Emily, and Caleb and Xander. And I walked for their moms. For their heroic, exhausted, heartbroken, relentless, courageous never-give-up moms. Warrior Momz everywhere, I salute you and I love you. Please keep Kay in your hearts and prayers, this is hard work and she’s doing it for all of us. God bless you Kay Ledson. Walk On!