After restless sleep, we wake up to a chilly morning and pack up. We hang out at the porch for 15 more minutes…our last reliable service for who knows how long. I’ve had bad luck with my phone so far. Then we’re off. We are shrouded by trees, which makes everything colder, but I know we are gonna miss that shade later on, so I don’t bundle up and just enjoy being cold.
Today’s hike was my favorite last year. The landscape is just gorgeous. We’re trundling up and down, rolling along the hills, and I keep saying, “Wait for it,” to Aaron until he stops believing there’s some great view up ahead. The trees shrink away and there we are, standing high up, looking down at the Anza-Borrego valley floor. Giant desert mountains shoot up on the other side, creating an impressive basin. It still takes my breath. If one drove up from Hwy. 8 and then stopped at Mt. Laguna, they would never know this is here.
We ooh and aah and continue down and around to the overlook, where we lay our poncho out to eat Slim Jims and Pay Days. My feet have blisters, so I am taking extra-and longer-breaks. It’s warming up, but it could be worse, so we are lucky. We leave the overlook and continue north, contouring up along the side of the mountain, with a drop to the expansive desert on our right. As we climb, stop, stare and repeat, we wonder about Lilu. We didn’t see her this morning. She probably didn’t start before us because we probably would’ve seen her by now. She might’ve started later, but I have a sinking feeling in my gut. Is it possible she decided to call it quits for now? Maybe she is just heading back home to get her gear together, and then come back in a few days to try again. It’s weird to meet people, and then have no way of knowing what happened to them. Maybe I’ll see her in Big Bear or something. It could happen.
As we make our way to the Sunrise TH water source, we start seeing these hardcore runners on the trail. They are super-streamlined, their Camelpaks aerodynamically contouring their back. They have sport sunglasses, no hats, glistening, tan bodies and seemingly un-expendable energy. What the hell are these crazy people doing?
We fill our our water bottles at the tank and head over to the parking lot to treat our water and eat snacks. One of the crazy runners we saw earlier lopes up to us from the trail (I swear he looks like he’s putting no effort into it at all) and asks if we’re thru hiking. “Yup,” I say, not sounding too certain. He’s impressed. He has all kinds of tidbits of the trail in this area. “I don’t understand why more of us from San Diego don’t come up here,” he throws his hands in the air, ” I mean, c’mon, we’re not just beaches.”
I immediately see the bumper sticker in my head. San Diego: We’re Not Just Beaches.
This dude. He cray. So, what he’s doing out here is helping his buddy train for a 30 mile running race that starts in the Anza-Borrego basin and ends somewhere in the Mt. Laguna area. He says he would be running too, but he’s not in shape. I stare sideways at him. The dude is pure, compact muscle. But in his book, he’s a fat slob. He tells us one day he will do the trail, too. And he admires what I’m doing, heartily wishes me well. Crazy, hardcore runner admires me. “Thank you,” I mumble, self-concscious in my actual out of shape body, my fatty tights, my middle aged arms, my hair that I’m sure is already a rat’s nest. But he smiles, and I realize, he means it. He’s rooting for me.
Thanks for the morale boost, crazy runner guy!
We pack up, and on our way out, two guys in an old van pull in and screech to a halt in front of us. A man, tall, white beard, sun hat and impenetrable sunglasses jumps out from behind the wheel and throws open the side door of his van. His buddy, also tall, skinny, but showing his eyes, saunters out of the passenger seat. “Thru’s?” Daryl asks us (So, I completely forgot to ask their names, sorry. Or take a picture, sorry. But they both look like Daryl’s to me so that’s what I’ll call them.) “Where’d you start?” other Daryl inquires. “Want a beer?” Daryl asks. “It’s the cheep kind. nothing fancy here,” other Daryl warns. They hand us each a beer and we all talk trail for awhile.
Daryl and Daryl are from S. Lake Tahoe. As far as I can understand they are hiding beer and goodies along the trail, and also section hiking the SoCal area. They quiz us about the trail, but look unfazed with whatever we say about it. I feel like they are hard to impress. I start feeling buzzed after half a Coors, so silly. “Want another?” other Daryl entices. “No, don’t do that, we’ll never leave,” I say. They get it. “Go on then,” says Daryl. “Thank you!!!!!!!” I say, way too enthusiastically. This is my first real, official trail magic, and it is amazing!
Thank you for the morale boost, Daryl and Daryl!
We practically fly along the trail to our campsite, energized by Coors and these mysterious folk who seek the trail out in order to bestow generosity to strangers. “Why?” I ask later, eating Fritos on a boulder at our campsite. I’m still struck by it.
“You ask why a lot, you know.” says Aaron.
It’s true, aside from telling people what they “should do”, the two most central questions in my world are Why? and Why not?