When we wake, we begin cleaning up some. The place is a damn mess and our packs, food, gear and supplies are covering every surface.
"How did we get it so dirty so fast?" Someone asks to no one in particular.
Before we get too far with cleaning, we decide to go to breakfast. It's back to the Grizzly Manor, where I do a repeat of breakfast burrito and a waffle with strawberries and cream. We leave feeling absolutely stuffed. Back at the hotel room, we gather the last of our gear and supplies and pack it all away. My bag feels so very heavy as I check out with the lady at the front desk.
We sheepishly put our thumbs out on then main road to the grocery store. Bananas and I get a ride with a man who's out for golfing and he drops us off in front of a Vons. Hikers loiter around, packing and repacking food. Annie, DG, Honeybuns and Knock all do their resupply out of the Dollar Store. I make a lid and wind screen for my pot while we wait around for the others, so we can hitch around the same time.
"We each need a girl," AJ says. It's true, being a girl you generally get hitches faster.
DG, Annie and AJ go ahead of Bananas and I.
We stick our thumbs out for about 15 minutes and an elderly lady picks us up in the middle of traffic. We toss our packs in the back of her Subaru and she speeds off.
"I gotta get a doughnut, then I'll take you where you need to go," she says. "I'm 72. Ohh to be young again."
Once she's back in the car, we learn that shes been a math teacher for 30 years. Several of her coleuges and students developed cancer and tumors because a nearby factory was releasing toxic heavy metals into the air. Her best student died at a young age. She herself had to have brain tumors removed. She hired a few lawyers and took the poisoners to court in a sort of Erin Brockovich style.
"Let me show you my house!" She zooms sharply into her neighborhood and shows us her little house. "I had a cat that lived to 30, the longest relationship I have ever had. A golden retriever till she was 26 and now I have another Heidi, she's 15. You got to have a Heidi if you live in the mountains!"
Soon, we're at the trail head. "I'll be praying everyday for y'all. I don't even go to church, I just pray to God."
We thank her profusely and we're back on the dusty turnout that leads to the trail. We only planned on doing 10 miles today, so we're in no rush to get anywhere very soon. There's a small campsite roughly 10 miles out with a stream running nearby.
We get five miles in and take a break at a horse trough. We poke at our food and chat and tease one another. It's a lazy day, the weigh of town is still pulling at us. It's me, Annie, AJ, Bananas and DG. We watch a large and handsome fence lizard do pushups and show off for us.
One by one, we get back to the trail. I fall back to pee and make some adjustments and I hike alone for a bit. Soon, I catch Bananas and we talk about language, food culture and appropriation. He lived in punk houses when he was younger and he's one of the only few people I've been totally comfortable with being freely myself while on trail. The development of a trail family has been strange to me, and I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. I like these people as much as I like being alone. We all look out for each other in a unexpected, but natural way. Some weird elastic emotional goo holds us all together.
We roll up and down the very dusty trail. AJ and I talk about Cajun gumbo. We're gunna make gumbo at some point we agree. Soon, we're closing in on our camp site. A small flock of Clarks Nutcrackers flit from tree top to tree top with the strange calls. We roll into our duffy campsite, where about 10 young boyscouts are passed out on their sleeping pads. We move further into the woods, just off trail so we don't rouse them with our lewd thruhiker talk.
We all plop down together in a very tight circle. Pulling out pots and empty peanut butter jars for dinner. We chat about the miles ahead and make loose goals and figure out water spots. We plan to do a big day tomorrow and I look forward to the challenge.
Soon, we're all in our bags, under the stars and tree. Night begins to fall and I fall soundly asleep.