I wake when the light breaks. My sleeping bag is covered in wetness. I pull it up to my chin and get my face damp. I feel sad and disappointed in myself for drinking.
This is the cycle of alcohol for me if I get drunk. When the others wake, AJ tells me it's a "shameover" and the term makes sense. Even though nothing happened and everything was fine, something sticks to me when I drink like that.
We all very slowly pack up. AJ and I hurl insults at each other and pick on one another. Annie hikes out, then I follow and then it's AJ.
The climb out is misrable. I'm sweating, hot and regretting it all. Thankfully it's only 10 miles to town. A headache crawls up the backside of my head and I begin to shake with hunger. I can't power through it, I need to stop and eat. I sit down in the next shade I find and eat a packet of tuna and cheese crackers. AJ comes up behind me, and we talk about our drinking habits. While alcohol is a natural depressant, it has an extra effect on me.
Once satiated, I get my pack together again and it's back to hiking. As I drop down to a road, I see four ravens flying in pairs on the edge of a cliff wall. They're riding the currents and dancing in the air two by two. I can hear their wings cutting the air and they make popping echoing sounds. They synchronize with each other. It's some kind of elaborate dance that they're doing. It mesmerizes me for a long time and I watch them, my mouth open towards the sky.
I turn away and continue walking. Up and down the trail goes. As I climb up, I see something move fast out the corner of my eye and I hear a keen rattle.
"HOLY SHIT FUCK..." I jump and curve my way around the coiling rattlesnake.
It shakes its little tail at me and poises ready to strike. I keep a safe distance to observe and take a little video. I have just a little service to send Rider an excited text and video about seeing it. It's the first one I've been able to fully look at for almost 450 miles!
I see AJ off in the distance and warn him of it, then I continue on. It's hot, but beautiful out. As I crest a hill, I hear a deep low sound... and I look out into the distance and see another kind of snake. A big long highway, with hundreds of tiny car dots going hundreds of different places. The sight of it sends a shiver down my spine, as it penetrates my own little world of mountains, grasses, trees, bushes, dirt and trail.
I drop down and down, wading through thick brush that scrapes at my legs leaving a tiny million little marks. Eventually, I am about 100 feet below the highway under a hill, theres a cool tunnel with water trickling through it. I drop my pack and sit my butt on the cool concrete. A bird bathes in the small pool before the opening of the tunnel and I hear birds, bees and the tiny hum of the highway above my head. Soon, AJ arrives.
We eat and lay about. We only have about four miles left until we hit the town of Auga Dulce and the infamous Hiker Heaven. AJ and I get into a lively discussion about religion and Christianity. Soon, we're too restless to sit any longer and as we pack up three more hikers show up one of which I know from instagram, named Styles.
We chat for a moment before we head into the beautiful Vasquez Rocks. Glorious otherworldly rock formations surround us as we snake through on the trail. The heat consumes us both, its sweltering. My water turns hot and Annie sends us a text of a huge milkshake in a mason jar she's enjoying in town. We climb a little. The sun burns my head and I become dizzy with heat, hunger and heat. I have to stop in a little shade to lower my heart rate and cool down a little right before we reach the road.
The six of us, including Styles and his folks, road walk into town. It feels like it takes forever, but soon I am sitting on the porch of a restaurant, eating a burger with bacon, cheese, onion rings, avocado and BBQ sauce with a giant strawberry milkshake. Everything feels so good. The ice water cools my insides and a little cat hovers around on the porch, letting us pet it a little.
Reunited with Annie and Fran, the five of us walk across the street to scope out the grocery store. Most of the hiker foods have been cleared off the shelves and there isn't much to buy. We pick up some beers and wait for a shuttle to hiker heaven.
A pretty girl in a sun hat and dress drives up in a big diesel truck full of hikers coming into town for food, or hiking out. Hikers going in flock to the truck like zombies. We load up and head up a hill towards our home for the night.
All of us walk through a gate and are greeted by a pack of dogs ranging from a tiny chihuahua to a Great Dane mix. The pretty girl from the truck introduces herself as Puppy and gives us a little tour and ground rules for Hiker Heaven. Chickens roam the yard and three beautiful horses swish their tails lazily in a corral at the bottom of the property. Hikers mill about and drink beer. There are shower tents, an internet tent and a place to grab towel and spare clothes while volunteers do your laundry. It's a literal heaven.
I find my resupply box and a little amazon box that has a wireless foldable keyboard for me to type up my bog posts. It's so fancy and nice. I pitch my tent in the dirt, then I take a shower in the outdoor stall while my laundry washes. I sit with my little trail family while we drink beers and joke and laugh with each other until it's time to tuck into my tent and bag for the night.