My leg seizes up several times throughout the night, and I can’t find a position to sleep in that doesn’t hurt. I have intense dreams. I dream that our dog Nisa is actually a bear. The claws on her front left paw are bloody and falling off. “Oh my god-what do we do?” Aaron and I say, running around frantically. “Do we call a large animal vet?” I repeat this question several times. Then there are two old men sitting in rocking chairs and chewing tobacco. “You know,” one says, pulling Aaron aside, “If it looks dead, it’s dead…” “No! We can fix this!” yells Aaron. We run around more, completely at a loss of what to do, and then I wake up. Such a transparent stress dream about my leg; it’s laughable. When I fall back asleep, I have a very elaborate and powerful sex dream. This one isn’t so transparent, unless it’s as simple as my body shooting some ‘feel good’ chemicals my way. In the morning, Aaron comments, “You were moaning really loud in your sleep.” “Oh, erm, that’s strange,” I say, blushing.
My back and leg are messed up, but I can’t decide if it’s something I work through. I want to walk farther and faster, but I am also scared to cause irrevocable damage. So, I decide to compromise and only walk to Boulder Oaks Campground, about 6 miles away. Aaron agrees to pack up and meet me there.
This decision frees up my morning, so I spend it eating a delicious breakfast sandwich and downing a bunch of coffee. We drive around, and speculate what it would be like to live in Morena Village. We are also surprised by the amount of people at the campground, mostly RV’ers. What are they doing here? Are they on longer road trips and just stopping through, or did they specifically come here to camp? I feel perplexed looking at all the happy smiles of families surrounded by tons of camp gear. Honestly, I just don’t like camping much at all. I like to HIKE. Camping is just an unfortunate necessity, if I want to hike for days, weeks, months at a time.
It doesn’t take long to feel the pull. I want to be moving, on the trail, heading forward. I leave Aaron and Nisa, and amble along, as the path meanders through a grassy field. The ground is soft, flat dirt. I come to a wide open gate, and the trail beckons.
Houses disperse, and as I move away from civilization, the trail widens and becomes sandy. I’m traversing mini sand dunes on a water-less beach. ATV tracks crisscross the PCT as dunes become boulder speckled hills. On my left, I pass a pair of nicely laid out Levi’s on a rock. More signs of the illegal immigrants who pass through here. We are on the same trail, but our path, our experience is so different. I picture how the PCT would feel as a person who has broken the law, left everything behind, risked it all for something they think might be better. They must feel frantic and hunted, eyes and ears alert for the border patrol, yet maybe there is also anticipation and excitement. They probably have no idea that they are on a “National Scenic Trail”. I wonder where the trail is taking them, what is their plan, did they bring enough water. Maybe it’s not so totally different- I mean, where am I going? What is my plan, and did I bring enough water? The same sun is burning down on us, the same discomforts, the same yearnings and need to push forward. And, yet. Still. Guilt weighs on me for a bit. No matter how arduous this has been for me, it is a luxury for me to be here, hiking the PCT. A privilege to trudge across the desert. No, the trail is something different for them. And since they have made it this far, I wish silently wish them luck.
The trail climbs, and I reach the top and just ride the crest for a while. I love this kind of hiking, rolling along the ridges, shrub-drenched hills as far as the eye can see. I am beginning to get blisters, and my leg is protesting, but I feel great. I love the air, the sky, the Horny Toads way too confident in their camouflage. I’m so happy to be here, in this moment. I’m so glad this moment is mine to have.
I round a corner, and I can see Lake Morena behind me, and Hwy 8, where I’m camping, far ahead of me. It’s a beautiful sight. Sadly, the trail heads down, off the crest. It’s windy and kinda chilly for once. Tight switchbacks down the rocky mountain lead to an underpass and then dumps me next to the road, where it’s not so pretty. I’m encased between the pavement, and a barbed wire fence. I follow along, and eventually things open up into a beautiful, sprawling field that is so, so green and lush. It’s pleasant, like walking along some picturesque farmland. Then things dry up into hard packed dirt and thirsty brush. Of course. It always seems to go back to that, here.
No one is at Boulder Oaks Campground, except Aaron and Nisa, who have picked a shady spot to spend our evening. I pour out my pack all over the picnic table. I find some tortilla and try to eat. it tastes like paste, and I choke a little.
I hurt waaaay too much for a 6 mile hike. I don’t want to tell Aaron, because I am afraid he will try to get me to quit. I decide that if I still hurt tomorrow, I will take a zero day in a hotel with a bed, and see if that helps. Meanwhile, I remember something amazing. “Hey, isn’t there a rest stop like 2 miles from here?” I exclaim, already hobbling to the car door. Real toilets! A sink! Yes, please!
After a leisurely dump, we head back to our spot. Two border patrol are inspecting our belongings when we pull up. They want to know if we’ve seen a blonde woman, in her thirties, whom has a ‘tarp’ like mine. She has been bothering campers, they say. She usually shows up late at night, but when they saw my tent, they stopped to check it out. She’s harmless, they assure us. We haven’t seen anyone, we inform them.
At night, I lay awake, holding my pee in. I’m afraid to leave the tent, because I’m sure there is going to be a dead blonde woman, sitting at our picnic table, wanting to have a conversation. Eventually, bladder wins, and there is no one out there. Not that I can see, at least. I shudder. I’m glad the cars from the highway are so loud tonight. That way, I won’t be able to hear each crack of twig or shuffle of dirt. Or ghostly moan.