Back to the Trail, Old Station to Canada, then SoBo the Sierra

Stuff has been worked out at home, and I’m ready to head back out there, back to my “frenemie”: The Trail. Due to transportation and timing issues, I will be starting at Old Station (somewhere in the middle of Section N) and making my way to Canada. Once I get to Canada, I will swing back down to Old Station and finish my hike by going south to Tehachapi. This works out well, since I am supposed to be meeting my father in law at Muir Ranch late August to participate in his completion of the JMT. There is a lot of snow in Northern California; several people have skipped North not understanding that our snow here accumulates at lower elevations. There is a chance that Section P will not be passable by the time I get there (although I’m feeling pretty confident it’s gonna be okay enough for the kind of risk I’m willing to take), and if that is the case, I’m gonna go to Tuolumne and hike the Sierra south bound. If that happens, my chances of completing the trail diminishes. I’m hoping it’s the former and not the latter.

I’m leaving Monday, and will tell my trail tales as soon as I find Wifi! Thanks for all of your support. It means so, so much to me.

-Amy Bee

Day 35: Too Long in Tehachapi and the Decision to Jump North

I spent a few days in Tehachapi. I couldn’t figure out what to do. My itinerary called for leaving a day ahead of TnT. But by this time, I felt too weak emotionally to go by myself. Then, due to all the stress we felt independently, Aaron and I started arguing about whether or not I should come home. It’s hard for us to be apart. I finally agreed to come home for a few weeks. I needed to figure out what was going on with myself, anyway.

It was hard to leave TnT, especially because I felt like Texas and I were becoming closer, connecting. Tumbler and I butted heads, but I like the guy. It felt like I had somehow known him forever. They are both the first “in real life” friends I’ve made since the recovery of my mental breakdown. Of the things I got from this first part of the trail, their friendship has been the most important, not to mention the most enjoyable. They are still out there while I bide my time in Sacramento, doing it their way; giving no fucks. I miss y’all!

I hope you guys are still hanging on with me; I know it’s not the typical PCT experience, and everyone wants to read about that successful thru hike. Just like TnT, I have to do my own messy, haphazard version. I don’t really have a choice. If I don’t allow the parts where I fall down, run away, get scared, get weak, and give in to what is easy, I’m never going to get better at pushing through, pulling myself up, tolerating the painful/uncomfortable/embarrassing moments, choosing self-reliance and choosing the harder ‘now’ thing for the more rewarding ‘future’ thing. I have to define success differently. Or rather, I have to define failure differently. I have to tell myself that the only true failure there is, is the failure of not trying.That is the nature of managing mental illness.

And, so. I’m not ready to call it quits. I want to continue trying. I want to get better at trying. Make sense? When I finally leave the trail, whenever that is, it will be with pride that I gave it my all. I guess I’m saying that I have yet to give it my all.

The plan is to jump north, maybe around Old Station in Northern California. There’s still a lot of snow everywhere, so I don’t have an exact date yet. I’m looking at Northern California as the next chapter of my tale, with new trail adventures to tell and old fears to continue to slay. There’s still time for me to get the full PCT. Let’s find out. Thanks for staying with me! ¬†ūüôā -Amy Bee, not a true thru

 

 

Day 35: Today I Caved. Oh, and Also: The Best Hitch Ever

I was right about the big winds and rain during the night. I can’t believe how well my tent holds up to wind. If I take the time to get a taut pitch, it doesn’t even remotely feel like it’s going to fall over, and this wind last night was easily comparable ¬†to good ol’ San Felipe. Setting up the tent in the wind, though, well…that’s a huge pain in the ass.

Today we are still on jeep roads, and will later visit the Aqueduct again, but as I get started, I notice it’s not as pretty and expansive as it was yesterday. It’s also hilly, and a more serious storm is rolling its way down the Tehachapi hills, right where we are supposed to hike. I even see snow covering the highest peak.

My nerve damaged leg is acting up again, this time shooting warning signals up into my back. Any time I go up or down a hill -even a small one- sharp stabs ripple from my foot to my thigh. I remember the magic of the Ipod yesterday, how it completely transformed my experience. I put my headphones in and scroll through the playlists. I’m thinking audio-book this morning, test that out, see if it carries the same motivation music did.

I play an audio-book where famous comedians respond to fake questions with fake advice. It works okay. The Louis C.K. one annoys me. Plus, I can hear my feet trudging, my breath puffing. It’s hard to focus on the content. Meh. Maybe it’s just not a very good book.

The wind is so horrible today, too. I’m heading straight into it. So cold. It hurts my ears and my head, so I put on gloves and wind jacket, hood up. Wow. This wind jacket is great! Another Zpacks product that doesn’t let down.

I stop at a water source, not for water, but because TnT and I loosely agreed to meet here. I do not like the look of the clouds. It’s gonna be a biggie, and either we will be walking through it, or we’ll have to hunker down in our tents for who knows how long. I don’t know. I just don’t feel like doing it.

And isn’t that part of the problem with how we’ve been doing things? Each time I take the path of least resistance, it becomes easier to choose it, again and again. Acknowledging this to myself doesn’t help me toughen up, (like I bet it would for normal people) but instead deflates me. What am I doing here, anyway. I barely have the trail legs I grew from Campo. I don’t even feel like a thru hiker at this point.

I feel no urge to go forward. When TnT find me, it’s me that suggests we hitch to Tehachapi. I’m the one that encourages the gang to throw in the towel. Of course, TnT agree wholeheartedly ( “I’m sure as shit not going in that,” Texas tells me Tumbler muttered when he saw the snow-covered peak.), but still. I recognize this weakness coming over me. It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve struggled with my entire life. And right now, I’m giving in to it. Willfully. Petulantly. I suck, I tell myself with horrid conviction.

I don’t share these negative feelings with TnT, I don’t want them to feel bad. It’s totally my issue. Also, like I’ve mentioned, we all have a weird pride about our flipping, skipping, jumping, hitching. We call ourselves Team Fuckers (said endearingly) and even now we are joking around, telling each other, “I don’t get it. Why does everybody say hiking the PCT is so hard?”

Earlier, I saw a road in the distance with a lone car on it. Looking at my map, I think we can follow the Aqueduct to that road, and then, well, I don’t know. We head that way, and find an asphalt road about twenty minutes later. It’s empty. Tumbler looks at the notes he carries with him, tidbits and facts gleaned from hikers ahead of us. He points to another road above us, heading east. “We walk that road for 6 miles and it will take us to a ‘hitching road’,” says he.

Oh man. That’s gonna be long and lame. Maybe we can find an Angel¬†to pick us up, even though we don’t exactly know where we are. Texas is talking to a trail angel when a wind farm worker shows up in his utility truck. Oh, by the way, we are in the middle of a giant wind farm. He rolls down a window, and Tumbler tries to convey our situation and confirm where we are, but the dude gets confused. “Do we go that way to get to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road?” I interject, pointing east. “Yes,” he says, smiling at me, “about six miles.” I return the friendliest smile I can muster, use my friendliest voice to ask, “Is there any chance you can give a ride there? Or at least some distance down this road? We’re trying to get to Tehachapi to avoid the storm and I think we can find a ride from there.” I can’t help but add a small plea to my voice. “It would be extremely helpful.”

“I’m not supposed to give rides when I’m on duty,” he hesitates, “And two of ya will have to go in the back of the truck- it’ll be a rough ride, and-” But I’m already jumping up and down, thanking him. I throw my pack in the truck bed before he can change his mind. Then I sidle up to his window and say conspiratorially, “I can pay you in pot edibles….” He looks surprised. “I think we can work something out,” he agrees.

Hooray! Texas and I jump in the back, while Tumbler heads up front with Buster. Buster is not his real name; he basically broke the law for us, so I have to protect his identity. Texas told me I should call him Buster, so Buster it is. Buster has a working man’s good looks: flannel shirt, beard, scruffy haircut. As he drives us along the rocky, bumpy utility road, he occasionally stops to wave snakes out of the way. ” They’ll get killed if they stay there!” He informs Texas and me. What a great guy, stopping for snakes and hikers alike!

Texas and I are enjoying the scenery when we get to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road. We both start to get up, but the truck lurches again into action, and suddenly we are on another dirt road, heading north instead of east. Texas and I look at each other, eyes wide, excited and nervous at the same time. Where the hell are we going?

We end up getting a tour of the wind farm as Buster winds his way through, sometimes driving right along the base of the gigantic wind mills. I stare up into the blue sky and watch the white blades whoosh whoosh and cut the air right above me. It’s amazing. I can’t believe I’m here! A stranger’s truck, touring a wind farm on decimated dirt roads in the middle of the desert! So it’s not the PCT. So it’s not hiking. It IS an adventure. It’s not what I expected, but it’s still a gift. A crazy gift I will never forget.

My heart is full again, a goofy, wide smile on my face as we bump and bounce¬†in the back of the truck, not knowing where we’re going. Hoping Buster is just taking us closer to Tehachapi, and not some desert killing field known only to wind farm workers.

Buster knows all the roads around here. How cool. He turns and swerves and, okay…backtracks a few times until Texas and I can see our road on the right. We slow to a stop. I stand up, ready to jump out of this truck and give Buster a giant hug for getting us farther up the road. “Okay, girls, time for you to lay down!” Tumbler shouts from his window. “And hide those packs, too, so no one can see them or you! Buster’s gonna try to take us as far as he can without getting caught!”

“You’re AWESOME!” I shout and point at him. “So awesome!” Texas and I lay flat in the truck bed, trying to hold on to our packs and whatever else for dear life, as suddenly we are going very fast and giggling uncontrollably. The weather turns foul and gets foggy and cold, but we don’t care. I feel like a kid again, I can’t get over how neat this whole experience is. How helpful people can be, just for the hell of it. How, no matter why or how much my trek has deviated from what I thought it should be, it’s still been full of surprises and adventure and interesting, gracious people. People like Buster, who risk a work write-up, just to help a couple of strange, smelly hikers out.

Somehow, someway, Buster manages to get us all the way to TnT’s hotel. I jump out and give him a ¬†big hug. “You’re the best!” I say, laughing. Buster has a big grin on his face, feeling cool, our knight in shining armor. “Ah hell,” he says, “I’ve done some section hiking, myself. And I see that storm coming, so I figure, why not?” Why not, indeed, Buster. You’re wonderful. Thank you for showing us those monster wind mills up close. Thank you for your streak of defiance that got us where we needed to go. I’m so glad I met you!

I don’t have reservations here at this hotel, and we are a day early. Aaron and I planned for him and Nisa to meet me here with resupply boxes that I need to prepare for the next leg of this journey. Luckily, the hotel has availability, and even lets us check in early. I head straight for my room to take a shower. I don’t know how I manage to get so dirty so fast.

While I clean up, I think about that the PCT has been for me so far. I am glad for what I have gotten from it, I don’t want to diminish what it has been; how it has unfolded. I mean, I should’ve known it wouldn’t be for me what it is for others. But, in spite of a surprisingly good hitch that caused me to see the beauty of plans gone awry, I still feel a disillusionment. A dissatisfaction. I’m sad. And worn out. And I don’t really know exactly why, or what I am supposed to do about it.

 

Day 34: And Just Like That, the Heart is Full

I have a dark, dreadful dream while I sleep: I’m at the back of an extremely long bus that is speeding crazily down the highway. There are two mute, homeless children with me. They gesture to tell me we have to climb over all the seats of this long bus to get to the front. It’s mandatory. A gauntlet of sorts. They take off, and I hurry to catch up to them. I’m climbing; pulling myself forward, hand over hand, making okay time, until I notice that I am actually crawling on top piles and piles of decomposing bodies. There’s barely any room between them and the roof of the bus, barely any room to move. I focus on the feet of the kids ahead of me, trying my best to ignore the soft flesh, the stink, the flies. As I approach the front, the boy looks back at me, points. We’re to climb out via the passenger window. But there is a body there, with a head full of puss and maggots and sticky stuff. There is no way around that head; to get through the window, I will have to push my face through the putrid rot. I pause to watch both kids quickly exit. They don’t care that maggots are now hanging on them. This is simply what one must do. I take a deep breath, try to will myself through the glass opening, but it’s too disgusting, and I start to puke. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. Then I wake up.

It’s a beautiful morning and I head downstairs to enjoy another round of bacon and eggs. Texas finds me and asks, “Did you see the ghost?” She says the proprietor told her that there is a ghost at the Inn. I don’t think there are ghostly beings in this world, but still, with my overactive imagination, I’m glad no one told me this last night. “Well, what about the vomiting guy? Gross, huh?” I ask her. Texas says she didn’t hear him. Impossible! He was so loud, and their room was right across from the men’s bathroom. But she swears, nope, didn’t hear a thing. Huh. Maybe there ARE ghosts at the Rock Inn: A prostitute and a john, forced to replay an endless night of bad sex and retching one’s brains out.

We assemble our stuff out front, and along comes Rick, the guy who will drive us to Hiker Town. We stop at the P.O. for TnT, and almost immediately, Rick offers to smoke me out. I have been offered SO MUCH POT on this trail! I feel bad saying no thank you. Rick is a great guy, a baby boomer who refuses to Vape pot. “I’m old school,” he declares. “I smoke it the right way- from a pipe.” When I tell him he’s a Loadie (my favorite pet name for heavy pot users), he laughs, but it’s a proud laugh. Damn right I’m a Loadie, that laugh implies.

Rick is the first SoCal driver that drives like a sane person on the winding roads. When we get to Hiker Town, he presents us with a bag of bud he grew himself. We decline. (Later, we will all slap our heads, d’oh! We should say YES to every gift offered to us! How rude!) I hug Rick like I’ve known him for years. “The people just get friendlier and friendlier,” says Texas. She’s right. Thank you for the ride, Rick. I hope someone got really, really high off your aromatic Marijuana!

Texas and I don’t really want to go inside hiker town because of rumors we have both heard, but Tumbler is adamant and talks us into it. Inside the rec room is the most thru hikers I’ve seen at one time. One bespectacled guy immediately accuses me of being too clean. “Come get a whiff,” I retort. Sandy is here with her dog, Wylie. I think we will be hiking out with her. I also meet Denise, a tough, inspiring older woman who has done all kinds of Ultra Marathons. She says that she has been given five trail names, but can only remember three: CamelBak, Mountain Goat, and Homeward Bound. She feels tepid about all of them. “Some of the kids have started to call me Mom,” she says, rolling her eyes at me. “Oh, that has to stop this instant. Don’t let them do that to you,” I say, annoyed at whomever has been calling her that. Who the hell reduces this amazing, kick ass woman down to “Mom”? Not that there’s anything at all wrong with being a Mom, but still. She deserves a unique, one of a kind trail name, one that compliments her dauntless spirit. So sayeth me.

I also see Kathy again, and we are more talkative with each other this time. Kathy strikes me as independent and introspective. It would be nice to get to know her more, but I think we are just are on separate timelines. Hi Kathy, keep in touch! All in all, Tumbler was right to strong-arm us to come visit inside Hiker Town. Everyone was friendly, and there was no creepy vibes while we were there.

Finally, it’s time to hike. We return to the trail with Sandy and Wylie at our side. A small, compact couple follow along with us. A six person, 1 dog group! The biggest I’ve ever hiked with. We spread out quickly along a faint path that cuts through a golden field, then along a road that leads us to a giant concrete canal filled with gorgeous blue water: the Aqueduct.

The trail turns right on a utility road, next to the Aqueduct. I can see far in every direction. There is a flutter in my heart. I love the view. I stop to let everyone pass me, so I can take it all in. I pull out my Ipod. I decided yesterday that since today will be a completely flat walk, I would try hiking to music. I select the mix I made expressly for this hike; a mix, that, of course, ended up sounding pretty sad and bittersweet, rather than gung-ho or jubilant.

Music flows into my ears, and the coupling of nice, cool weather, beautiful, expansive views and emotive melodies hits me perfectly. I am transcended; impossibly happy. Here I am, in this world, experiencing this freedom, this beauty. I’m here! I’m alive! Look at those clouds. Just gorgeous. Look at those crazy hikers ahead of me. They are determined. They want to see something; feel something; know something. We all do.

I’m bursting with a rare joy, and I start to sing aloud and dance along the Aqueduct. I am able to be okay now, in these moments, for a little while. I’m connected¬†to the earth, to these mountains, this desert. I am a small being meant to simply move within it, within each moment I can wring from this life.

The music demands I move faster, steadier, resolutely. I soon pass everyone, immersed in music and foot pain and the beauty of a burgeoning storm to my right. The wind that wants to push me off the metal pipe that now cages precious California water. The hundred sheep that I think are boulders until they all turn and stare at me in unison. The peace sign I flash at the farm workers. The music. The movement. The moments. All of it. Mine.

Camp is among the Joshua trees. The sky is alive with the impending storm and the light paints the clouds wild, unworldly colors. It’s going to rain tonight. It’s going to get crazy windy. But I’m okay; here, now. I even fall asleep with a small smile. Sometimes these days happen. Even to me!

 

*(I have some great pictures from today but they are stuck on my broken phone. I will post them as soon as I can free them.)

 

 

 

 

Day 33: A Stay at the Rock Inn

I sleep in to about 7:30. Why not? Today TnT want to go to Lake Hughes and stay the night there. They also have a resupply/bounce box they need to pick up. When I came back to meet up with them at Agua Dulce, I wasn’t expecting more of these elongated stays, zeroes and rides. So far, I’ve stayed longer than preferred everywhere that we have stopped, taken more rides than I ever thought I would, virtually throwing my own plans out the window. It’s costly, and I’m feeling less and less like I’m actually hiking the trail. To be fair, it has been lots of fun hanging with Texas and Tumbler, and it’s not like they’re forcing me to stay with them. But the more I’m in the group dynamic, the more I feel like I can’t continue on alone. In fact, I originally thought I would re-start in Tehachapi, but followed TnT’s plans instead. I get plagued with thoughts like: Just exactly whose hike am I hiking? And,¬†I haven’t talked much about this, but I’ve been concerned that 1. I don’t have what it takes, or even the proper urge to thru hike the PCT and 2. That the reality is that I need a partner, like my husband Aaron, to do something of this magnitude. It’s not a good feeling, recognizing that I may be lacking the mental toughness needed to hike the PCT.

These thoughts circle in my mind this morning as we cram into Sasquatch’s clown car and head to the Rock Inn at Lake Hughes. ‘Squatch shows me how his pot vaporizer device works when he drops us off, and offers to smoke me up. I decline. Bye Sasquatch! Thank you for driving us to and fro!

We head inside. When we paid for our rooms last night (The restaurant we ate at is also the bar and the Inn), the proprietor said we could check in at 8am! Of course that’s too good to be true- the waitress today says we will have to wait until at least noon. We all order breakfast. I order bacon and eggs, and it is the best I’ve had on trail. And FIVE pieces of bacon, can ya believe it? We are enjoying ourselves, talking shit, having a good time. What was I so concerned about earlier? Who cares if it’s not what I envisioned. Right?

Tumbler is already fishing for a ride tomorrow around the road walk. A local overhears us and offers to send her husband to give us a ride. She also takes TnT to the P.O. to get their box. When they get back, we head upstairs to the “Parlor”, where we can wait for our rooms and TnT can go through their box. The Parlor is creepy. I think it is supposed to look like a sitting room from the early 1900’s, but it is old and run down, the petite sofas wilt with years of dirt and dust. Everything is white. I look down the hall. There are only about 6 rooms up here. And they all have bright RED carpet. It’s all right out of a Stephen King story. I see two doors with a stenciled boy on one and a stenciled girl on the other. “Oh no,” I say to Texas. “Communal bathrooms.” Great. There is no way I’m going to be able to take the kind of shit I need to take here. “It’s gonna be a whore’s bath tonight,” Texas jokes.

Tumbler doesn’t care about the decor, the grime, or the communal bathrooms. He wants a shower and a shave, and nothing’s gonna stop him. Then he decides to take a nap on the settee while Texas sorts their box. I run down to the only store in town to buy my food for the next stretch. Our rooms are ready when I get back. I explode my pack over any empty surface and spend a few hours napping, writing, texting.

It’s cold in here! I eye the window. Outside is a cement deck. How does one get out there? I press against a window pane, and it opens like a door. NEAT! I climb out and look around. The deck spans the width of the building, then turns a corner, where I find two picnic tables and giant ashtrays. Stairs lead down to another entrance to the bar. So, basically, I found a secret smoking area.

I meet TnT downstairs for dinner. We order too much food. I try deep fried green beans for the first time. Yummy. We have a great time hanging out and talking. Tonight I am the one drinking while TnT load up on water. Texas tells me she thinks I might not be drinking enough water, and that’s why I’m getting sick. But we discuss it more, and I drank the same amount she did yesterday. Granted, I’m much bigger than her and everyone has different water needs, but I just don’t feel sold that my issue is dehydration.

I leave TnT to finish that pile of food and head back up the stairs. I open the door, and there are about 30 locals packed into the parlour. “Oh, Hi.” I say, startled. Silence. Sad, somber eyes stare at me. “I, uh….” I stammer, “I’m sleeping in there? I mean, my room is that way. Can I come through?” I wait for like ten years for someone to give me permission to tresspass their group. Finally, a gruff male voice mutters, “Go ahead”. I say many thank you’s and sorry’s as I push my way through the town’s Narcotics Anonymous group. That meets above a bar, it must be noted.

In bed, I can’t stop staring at the window. The way it doesn’t lock. And can be accessed from downstairs outside. It’s the perfect setting for a scary story, and I write it over and over again in my head. Around midnight, I hear voices and feet stumbling along the hallway. Oh shit, here it comes, I think, hiding under my quilt. (Yes, sometimes I sleep with my quilt when in town.) I hear a body press against the door of the room next to me. “Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah,” says a male voice, sodden with lust and drink. There’s some fondling and groping and wet kissing, all clumsy, by the sound of it. Then, I guess they realize they can go IN their room for this stuff, and the sounds recede.

Too quiet, really. These walls are paper thin. I should be hearing the whole sordid mess. I mean, my mere heartbeat makes this bed squeak, so……suddenly, a door opens and a body throws itself down to the bathrooms. It’s the man. He is throwing up. Over and over. He doesn’t stop. Long after his stomach is emptied, he still hacks and coughs and spits and heaves. It’s gross and disturbing. It’s not normal how long this man vomits. For maybe an hour. Long enough for me to stop obsessing about the potential face I might see through the window. Long enough for me to lose interest in this man, his sex partner, and his preposterous vomiting capabilities. That’s right; somehow I manage to fall asleep.

Day 32: The Trail is Friendly, the People are Friendly, but I’m Sick Again

There was lightning last night, around 10pm. Seeing the white flashes made my heart pound, probably because of the lightning storm last year. There was no thunder or rain, though, so aside from the creature that kept waking me up as it circled us throughout the night, I managed to get some sleep. I’m up and ready to go by 7am. TnT are still enjoying camp, having coffee, doing chores. We agree to meet at the road the leads to Casa de Luna.

The trail is like a twisty sidewinder today; snaking around the hills in a never-ending “S”. I spend the morning in the shade and with the wind, it’s quite cold. I run into Phil at about 9 a.m. He’s making his way from Tehachapi Pass to Campo. We talk trail a bit, and agree that our days are made up of thinking, and work. I tell him about how some days, near the beginning, the heat from the dirt would reflect back up to my face and suffocate me like a Boa Constrictor wrapped around my head. “That’s just the trail giving you a big ol’ kiss,” he laughs.

I continue on. I climb the sidewinder, feeling weak. I have a headache. A runner and his dog pass me. I find some consistent sun around noon and decide to take a nap. Naps outside are fabulous, I don’t know why. I would think that threat of bugs would contradict this (and bugs are still why I don’t cowboy camp), but it doesn’t. I spread out my groundsheet, take off my shoes, lay down and put my floppy hat over my face. I’m hoping that the headache and fatigue can be solved with more sleep. I’m out almost instantly and nap for an hour.

Then it’s back on the sidewinder, which happens to be marvelously maintained for the next 6-8 miles. The grade is so gentle, so friendly, even as it travels ever upward. I feel a little better, even though I’m moving slow. It takes a few hours to get down to the road. I sit on the side of the road, and try to look busy on my phone when cars pass by, so they don’t think I need a ride. In actuality, I’m not getting any service, boo.

I hear tires on gravel and look up from my blank phone screen. A good-sized guy is getting out of the car. He asks if I’m hiking and if I want a ride to the Anderson’s (Casa de Luna). “I drive up and down the road all day looking for hikers to pick up,” he says. “Well, that sounds a little creepy when you put it that way,” I say. He has a good laugh at that and I like him instantly. Ninja Tank is his trail name, and he is helping out the Anderson’s for the day. I’m waiting on TnT, so Ninja Tank says he’ll come back around in about 15 minutes.

Then Tnt come out from the brush, N-Tank pulls up, and we are on our way to Casa de Luna. We park in front of a modest house that has stuff everywhere, all over the place. I don’t know where to look first. There are four couches making a square in the driveway, and a few men in Hawaiian shirts are sitting there, drinking PBR. As I open the trunk, they start slow clapping. I take a bow.

Casa de Luna is casual and comfortable; Hawaiian shirts are encouraged to “de-stress”. I’m handed a beer and Terry Anderson, the head bad ass of the house, comes out and gives each of us a hug. She is holing an envelope in her hand. “Now,” she said, “I want to get all of your opinions on this.” She hands the envelope to me. Inside is a letter:

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I’m stunned. Someone sent this to her? Someone went through such effort to hurt a woman who has spent so much time, money and effort to support this thru hiking community. The gall. We all sit on the couches for a while and ponder who would do such a thing. “It’s the entitlement that’s sweeping its way across this community,” Terry opines. Personally, I don’t think this is a case of entitlement. I think this is a case of Asshole.

Some new people walk up, and I see the girl from yesterday whom I found unpleasant. I can see now that she is even younger than I thought, maybe even under 20. I decide to blame her rudeness on youth, and let go of my negative feelings. TnT wrangle a guy named Sasquatch into a ride to the nearest restaurant. He has a rental car that is so small, it’s like getting squished into a clown car. Ninja Tank meets us at the restaurant, and we all order food.

Sasquatch is very tall and thin. He seems to always be moving some part of his body, and I get the sense that he is full of non-stop thoughts. He’s extremely friendly. Ninja Tank is more quiet, but I think he astutely takes everything around him in.

The food comes, but I can’t eat. I feel like I’m burning up. I’m nauseous, and my headache comes back ten fold. I think I’m going to vomit. It’s almost exactly what I felt like after my 20 mile hiking day. I try to ride it out, but finally have to ask Ninja Tank to give me a ride back to Casa de Luna.

In N-Tank’s car, I tell him some of the struggles with boredom I’ve had on the trail. He says he had the same thing, and ended up listening to a lot of music and audio-books to get him through. He hiked some of the trail in 2013; the full trail in 2014. We trail gossip the rest of the way back. Thank you, Ninja Tank. I hope we meet again!

Back at camp, I feel like I’m going to miss night-time Casa de Luna shenanigans, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I travel back into the grove of Madrones in the back yard, where dozens of camp spots are hidden. It’s pretty neat that they have all this. I fall into my tent, willing myself not to throw up all over everything. The wind starts to howl, and it’s quite chilly tonight. I force my eyes closed; sleep, Amy, sleep. I do eventually sleep, but the sickness doesn’t recede until about 3am, the same time that the wind suddenly stops, replaced by a deep silence, and a bright white moon emerges to watch over Casa de Luna.

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