we all slowly wake in Debs house. Gear is organized, a little breakfast is had. I gather up my stuff and get my pack ready. It's so clear outside, we can see the ocean from her house deck.
Before we leave Deb asks for a card reading. Being the incredibly generous host that she has been, I am all too happy to do so. We collectively sit together and discuss the cards and I suggest some work around the issue at hand. I'm still nervous doing readings in person, but that's why I brought my cards. I'm glad to do it for folks.
Before long we're all loaded up in the car and heading back where we left off. Deb decides to hike with us for a bit. As we climb and hug the hills, I notice small red flowers on the ground, then I look up.
Ocotillo! I've never seen it in the wild. I pick a few flowers and add them to water to create a sort of sun tea.
The trail hugs the side of the mountain and curves and snake around. Barrel cactus, wild flowers with names I don't know are so abundant everywhere. It's stunning. I pause for water in the nook of a hill and I can hear the high pitch buzz of millions of bugs, like I'm in a hive.
Soon, we all say goodbye to Deb. Her hospitality has been incredible. She calls us her kittens. We all hug her and she sends on on our way. Thank you Deb! You're the greatest.
I stop for a break under an old juniper, heavy with berries to air my feet out. I've had a growing blister on the ball of my foot, right under my toes. I cut away the thin skin and bandage it. It hurts at first when walking, but eventually goes numb. It doesn't look good. And my soft heel is developing a small but painfully annoying blister as well. Why now? Why not when I first began? Blister care is now part of my chores routine, I suppose.
Pedia, Bananas and AJ join me. We meet a Little Dipper, a fast hiker. She breaks with us for a bit.
We continue on, and I break away from the group. I skirt the side of a mountain, looking back many many miles away to the mountain I came from days ago. The light is waning and casting dramatic shadows. The wind is gentle, warm but not hot. I leapfrog with some folks and we walk in the shadows of the hills. It's beautiful, so special.
Bananas catches me. We make a gentle descent, and break under the shade of another large juniper. He lays out his ground sheet for us. I pick at my feet and drain my heel blister. It distresses me. I would feel amazing if it weren't for these dang blisters!
Pedia and AJ show up. We snack and joke. We're a nice little group, and we've bonded over the past four days. Several people pass us. One fellow stops and asks if I'm from Portland, he is too. He shows us how to properly wear a sun hat and then he moves on.
We all depart, to push into the Third Gate cashe. Bananas and I lead again and we scope out a place to catch Pedia and AJ, right on trail near the cashe. I check the hiker log book. I see a Mr. Tidy. Dominic! He took the name I gave him. I see Dirty Avocado, Knock on Wood and Honeybuns. They're all just a little way ahead of us.
Bananas and I sit next to the man who showed us how to wear sun hats right. There's a few open spots right along trail. We cook dinner and lay out our ground sheets. AJ finally shows up, Pedia stoped two miles back.
The temperatures drop and it's cool. All of the desert has been cool since that big storm. I dig around for my thermal tights, but I can't find them.
"Oh no. I can't find my thermals!" I say.
Bananas and AJ offer me theirs in an act of extreme generosity. I decline.
"I'm going to have a hissy fit!" I say semi seriously. I'm a cold sleeper and I like to have my layers.
"Noo, you better not." Says the hat man, also semi seriously. He irks me.
"Oh I won't, I'll just add clothes to my sleeping bag."
"That's the spirit," he says to me.
I shove my pot of kimchi ramen with spam in my mouth, ravenously. It's so delicious! I'm going to sleep very well tonight, I can feel it.
I burrow into my bag, poke at my phone a little. I try to get hold of Deb to see if I can get my thermals I'm sure I left in her car. But she's out of town. Oh well, it'll all work out.
I drift into good deep sleep.
"FUCK," I hear someone say. It's the hat man. Bananas and AJ snor contentedly. I hear him zip and unzip his tent. He thrashes around.
"JESUS CHRIST." I hear again.
I roll over and tune it out.
Zip zip, thrash trash, shuffle shuffle.
Then I hear a tent shaking violently. "Hey man! You're snoring too loud!" The hat man says. He's rattling Bananas tent. Not cool.
All through the night he curses and thrashes. Somehow, I manage to sleep between the disturbances and stay warm, even without my security blanket thermal leggings.