I don't rest well, the mosquitos were very much interested in my blood during the night. When I rise, I realize in my exhaustion I didn't prep myself well for the next day, so I fumble for a bit. Twisted heads out in front me and I move out and into the trail. Up, up!
I climb for a while and enter a glorious high pine forest. My heart sings and I am so happy. Forest makes me deeply, deeply happy. Massive boulders dot the land like giants and clusters of rock families. I see new flowers and I don't know who they are. The trail winds and winds it's way through the soft duff and I skip and twirl and bounce along, so euphoric.
The trail dips and drops down to a pristine little creek and a part of me wishes I had camped here instead. I stop for a second to take it all in.
My heart skips and then I see it in the forest silence, another female hummingbird.
"You little shit!" I say, with relief.
She hovers and stares and takes off. I think of Chuparrosa, the hummingbird deity of many indigenous folk along this Pacific coast. The name in Spanish directly translate it to, rose-sucker. A spirit of faithful love, sex and marriage. It confuses me, especially considering my heartbreak and that it is always a female bird, not a male. I carry the curiosity through the woods with me, and the way that they always seem to spook the crap out of me in the dead silence of the forest.
I turn up the trail and the growing light spills through the pines. I have to poop. So I dart off into the woods and dig my hole and take care of it. I can hear voices as I shimmy my shorts up and shove dirt over the hole with my foot. I move back towards the trail and cross a dirt road where I find a trail register. Stranger Danger and his crew are just ahead of me, Twisted too. I write my name down and the time, just to let my trail family behind me know how far out I am from them. I do miss them, but I like the solo time more.
I crawl up through the trail and I can see where the voices are coming from. Three other hikers, camped in the woods. I turn out onto the road and make my way down towards the piped spring. The next little stretch ahead of us is very dry, so I decided to drink up and carry out a few liters. I will be dropping down quite far into the desert floor over the afternoon and away from this blissful cool high pine forest.
I find Caveman and Hotlips at the water and chat with them for a bit while I arrange my things and collect a bit of water and drink deeply from the cold pipe. A few other hikers show up, and one of them sits close to me and flirts. I feel shy, uninterested and turn away from him.
Suddenly a massive Humvee shows up out of nowhere with three very rich looking college bros, toting handwash, toothpaste and other toiletries. My anxiety spikes as I see them approach the water source, lather up their hands...
"Ahh hey! I can pour water over your hands out of the trough if you like. People drink out of this." I say.
One of them looks at me, shocked. Another pulls the hose away from the trough and then the water stops running. My mouth hangs open and I turn back to look at the other hikers with a look I know they will understand. We all look and blink and look at the trough again.
I bite my tongue. The bros fiddle with the pipe and then, suddenly it's working again. Thank fucking god, I think.
They do their things, while I watch like a silent hawk. Waiting for them to fuck up. Hotlips and Caveman figure out a way to offload their trash on them and I feel satisfied for their mishandling of the pipe.
I load up all my things, satiated with cool water and begin walking again. The trail shifts very fast. High pine forest and now, desert again and it's hot. I drop down and down. The heat brings me some kind of anxiey and I can't quite make out what's going on with my next water source. Water cashe? A maybe faucet?
I sigh and keep walking. Just keep walking. It doesn't matter. I shovel candy into my face. I find a small patch of shade for a break, tucked up high under a big pine. I climb up and sit. There are ants everywhere and spiders, but I don't care. I try to relax, but it doesn't come to me and eventually I become restless enough to hike on.
The trail drops and drops into the growing hateful heat. My umbrella blocks only a little of suns assault. Then, I see it: bodies on the road. Blue jugs. Blue jugs of boiling hot water and the reflective sheen of other umbrellas. I am in hell and slightly OK with it.
Stranger Danger and Dragonfly are there and we fill up a little on the hot water. There's no shade at all and I sit under what my umbrella creates, so grateful for it. Soon, I see no reason to sit there any longer. I feel insane. I'm going to hike into this, I don't care.
And so I do and I don't last long. I see Twisted, under the canopy of a Joshua tree, with no more room. I keep moving until I find my own shade and eventually I do. I curl up under the tree made of spikes. So strange. I melt a bit and slip in and out of heat dreams.
Will the sun ever sink? I wonder.
Slowly, the shadows grow long. I decide, that I am going for the next water source, down a gulch, where I'll need to do a little bouldering. The source seems reliable, but the last update on my water report was over a week ago. Things could change.
I stumble off into the heat. Every now and again I have to stop to cool off and then, then I see it. The turn off into the gulch. Follow the Altras, as my friend JohnZ would say. So I do, down a narrow little canyon. The shade within is glorious and it cools me. I sort of use my umbrella as a trekking pole. Then I see it, the boulders. Well, this is different.
I shimmy and slide down on the sticky granite rock, slide down ankle deep sand and twist my way through cracks I just know there's a rattlesnake waiting to strike out at me. I come to my next boulder. You're fucking kidding me. It doesn't look easy to me, but I need water so I do it anyway. I take a wrong step and loose a water bottle and scrape my butt a little as I fall down and the pads of my hands.
I'm OK! And then, I smell something.
When I look up I see it, desert lavender. Her leaves leave an aromatic resin on my fingers. So fragrant. I caresses her and then, I must move. Twisting and turning, no idea if this will even work.
What the actual fuck are you even doing right now? You're literally in the middle of nowhere, with no water in the middle of the fucking desert. I'm having one of those moments where I'm questioning everything, for the very first time since day one. I am really questioning myself.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?
Just get to the water. Let's get to the water first. Soon, I find it. Stranger Danger, Spice and Lucky Charms are there as I stand on the other side of a fence. I made it!
I run the water from the faucet and it's cool and perfect. We all sit and talk together and I cook myself dinner before I decide to turn up road and back to the trail. The others hike on and I leave alone, down the road in the dusky light. Happy.
I come to the road and trail junction, where I see all of them eating and chatting on the windy hill. It howls, but I don't care. I have water and a flat place to sleep. I lay out my pad in the break of a random picnic table and burrow into my bag.
Tomorrow will be hot again I think. I take a sip of water before I slip into sleep, content, happy and looking up at the gleaming stars from my bed in the warm sand.