This was a horrifically difficult day. I don't think I have ever cried so much in one section before--tears of frustration and exhaustion and anxiety. We encountered so many downed trees that I more or less lost count, but it must have been over 100--because I stopped keeping track about halfway through the day when I was already past 50. But what was even worse were the lava fields, or rather the lava fields along with the trees. We would be walking along a narrow thread of trail in a moonscape of black lava rocks and there would be only one tree anywhere near us . . . but it would have fallen down right across the trail, blocking our way. Getting the horse around or over or past those terrible sharp lava boulders was an almost impossible task. And every time we did get past one, and got a little bit closer to the highway, it just made the prospect of turning around and going back that much worse, because we'd have to do it all over again. I kept hoping each downed tree would be the last, but it wasn't; however, it seemed impossible that there could be more ahead than I already knew there were behind us, so the better option always seemed to be to try yet again to get past the new obstacle. As I said, it turned out to be a good thing that the Hyatt Lake horse campground was closed, because I had planned on leaving all my stuff behind so I could ride light and then come back tonight to camp, but if I had done that I probably wouldn't have brought my saw with me, and boy did I need that saw today! Often the only way past a tree was to somehow make it small enough that we could get over it, as there was no path around it through the lava, and I sawed and sawed and sawed until my arms felt like they would fall off.
Then, when we finally got to the highway, it was already dark, and I couldn't at first find the trailhead, which was further down the road than I had realized. I wasn't even sure which direction along the highway to walk, and if Shyla has a weakness it is her dislike of trucks passing us at high speed, so the longer I was on the highway looking for the trailhead, the more upset both of us were getting. I finally managed to call my mom and she got on Google Earth and was able to see where the trailhead was in relation to the trail (which for some reason was not showing up on my maps) and just about the time she was telling us where to find it we got to it on our own. Then there was still the issue of where we were spending the night, since the horse camp was closed and the trailhead is just a huge asphalt parking lot. I remembered another horse camp in the area called Lily Glen, about halfway back towards Hyatt Lake, and after some difficulty finding it in the dark (I drove right past it and ended up at Howard Prairie Lake instead) I finally got there and set up camp just as the skies opened and the rain started pouring down on us. To add to my miserable day, when I unloaded Shyla from the trailer at the campground she seemed off and one of her front legs was a bit swollen and stiff (the same one that had the splinter and which is also the one that she tore a check ligament in 3 years ago). I went to bed in the rain worried that all the jumping of downed trees that we did today might have aggravated something in her leg and hoping that she didn't somehow re-injure her ligament, kicking myself for not turning around at the first sight of a fallen tree and saving us both a lot of pain and agony.