I wake before everyone else, sitting up in the wee morning hours while light begins to spill over the mountain side. Today I walk into Tehachapi for rest and food. I need good, deep quiet rest. I begin the dreadful process of pulling my sleeping bag off my body and stuffing it away. The hiss of my deflating sleeping pad acts like an alarm and the others stir around me. I fold it up neatly and arrange all my items inside my pack in an orderly ritual fashion. I tuck my half smoked cigarette I left in the dirt into my little trash baggie.
I have only a liter of water left and I didn't collect enough from the night before. I stand gingerly. Each morning it's the same. I feel like a new born foal trying to find its legs. Sway, sway, stagger, stagger, stomp, lean into it, stand upright and walk with a hobble until it's all worked out.
I swim my bag in my right hand as I sit into the dirt and jump down into the creek ditch. I walk back into the crack of a canyon until the water looks safe enough to collect, from a small flow with green things growing from it. I cry a little. I realize that I need to be alone for a while, but I find it somewhat hard to break away. I stumble back towards the camp site, eyes clouded with tears.
Everyone is awake and Bananas plays music from his phone. It sounds so familiar, but I can't put my finger on it, until I do and I freeze. Listening over the sound of all their voices and laughter, I pick it out and tune them out. It's exactly what I think it is and I hear the words:
Someone cracks a lewd joke about the song and everyone laughs. I stare into the sagebrush I slept next to and finish my half smoked ciggarette I put into my trash bag. I'm crying again and full of rage, shaking. They didn't know, but this song is something I have been saving for a long time. I can't blame them. This is a song you hold silence for. I can't take it anymore.
I heave my pack and I leave without saying a word.
"Bye Pitch," someone says.
I raise my trekking poles in acknowledgement and turn up the hill to begin climbing. I cry a lot. I don't feel like I've cried this much for this long in so long. Not since my last breakup, which was a long time ago and was very different. Back when I was set to self-distruct and the tears were generated from more a place of self abuse I didn't even know I was capable of.
This is different. This is exactly where I want to be. A part of me deeply desired the freedom I acquired through not being with him anymore, I'm pleased even. But sad. I hold myself and move through the fullness of the emotions I'm feeling. It's OK to feel like this. It's OK.
I stab my trekking poles into the sand hard and clench my teeth. I stop suddenly at a registry book.
"We have to climb THAT?" Says the last signature, with an arrow pointing slightly to my right. I look up and sure enough, I see a steep descent and a huge looking climb with switchbacks. I sigh and sign in.
"Nothing is sacred anymore. - PITCH"
You're so fucking melodramatic, I tell myself.
I drop down and down. Hugging the mountainside. Tons of erosion makes the hiking a bit hard and dangerous. But it all becomes commonplace to walk a tiny line between the wall of sand to my right and the death slide to my left. I make it to the bottom, where I stop and shed a layer of clothing, chug my coffee water and eat a little bit of a sugary snack. Up and up! I power through it and let the endorphins of climbing take hold of me. The tobacco lets me know it's in my lungs still and I cough.
The back of my hamstrings and glutes feel strong, springy and ready. I'm getting stronger and I fly up quicker and more efficiently than I thought I would. I crest the big ol' hill and roll around up at the top for a while. I can hear dirt bikes off in the background, their sound alarms me and makes me jumpy.
Off in the distance I see a small cabin on a hill and then, trail magic! A small cove of brush, a table, some shelving and chairs. A man mingles about, moving things here and there. I almost don't stop, but I see the flash of grapes in his hands, freshly washed and in plastic baggies.
"Hello," I say.
"Hello. Please, sit," he says to me.
And so I take off my pack, which I know is kind of a mistake since I wanna make it to town as fast as possible. I dig through a basket of fruit and find a fresh mango and some grapes that I saw him carrying.
I inhale the grapes. Food with water content! I use my tiny Swiss Army knife to cut up the mango. Sweet, sweet mango! My hands are sticky and I sit contently and happy, the fruit sugars filling up my veins.
"I hope you don't mind the Beatles," The trail angel tells me. "I always listen to Breakfast with the Beatles."
"Not at all," I say.
Learn that he's a carpenter and has been trail angeling for many years now. I stand at the small table he built and flip through the log book, checking to see if there's anyone I know who passed through recently.
A huge box of cinnamon buns sits next to me and I take one.
I sit back down and slowly folks start to roll in. Bananas shows up, along with AJ, Little Engine, Second Wind and others. I start to pack up as they settle in. Bananas asks why I'm leaving and I tell him about the song and how it made me feel.
"I just need to be alone for a little while is all. I'm not mad or anything," I tell him. "My own shit I gotta work through."
He seems hurt by it. I stand and leave.
I walk for a long time over rolling hills and wind turbines. In the distance I can see the road I am going to hitch out of.
I feel very content alone and I realize, that this is how I need to hike. Alone, alone. Or at least with some distance between myself and my trail family.
The wind picks up as I drop down and down towards the road. It blasts me hard, as I hear the wings of the turbine blade cut the air.
A dried out creekbed with big cottonwoods and oaks line the trail. I pass a few campsites and eventually drop down into the road.
I cross the road and stick my thumb out. It takes a while, but eventually a man in a ice car loops around and picks me up.
He tells me about his horses, Pasa Finos and I light up and begin to nerd out about horses with him. He seems surprised that I know about the breed. He gives me a history of the area and soon, he wishes me luck as he drops me off in front of a German bakery in downtown Tehachapi.
The air has grown cooler since I came off trail and I step into the bakery, wind blown, red faced and dirty. I scan the room for other hikers. I see Twisted the German guy sitting alone in a corner on his phone. We make eye contact and nod at each other.
I order a bun filled with cabbage and beef, an almond croissant and brautwrust. I sit near Twisted.
"Is this how they serve brautwrust in Germany?" I ask him.
"Sort of," he tells me. "May I sit with you?"
I look up places to stay and fret over it while I inhale my food. We discuss where there are places to stay in town.
"Want to split a room?" He asks me.
I give him a dark smirking look. I can't tell if he's being suggestive and flirty or not. I haven't really hiked with him much, but he's a hiker and generally we're to be trusted.
"Let me figure it out. But I'm probably game."
We leave together and split a hotel at a Best Western with the plan that the rest of my trail family will show up and lower the cost.
We buy some beer along the way and collapse into our beds. I drink two beers and become drowsy.
Soon, the rest of the trail family shows up and some of them decide to sleep at a hiker camp near a small airport. Little Engine, Second Wind and Banana Pants joins Twisted and I in the little hotel room. I crank up the air conditioning for white noise and eventually it's hiker midnight. We dig into our beds and the glow of our phones illuminates the room, until we're all too tired to look anymore.