Day 14-17: That Time I Lived in Idyllwild

Four and a half days in Idyllwild. Sigh. First, I added a day because I needed to write and work and get resupplied, etc. Then, Tumbler said they were staying one more day to go to Palm Springs for his high-tech hearing aid, and Texas still needed to go to a Chiropractor. We had it all set up to leave on day 3, but a snowstorm came to the mountains, starting on day 2. There was all kinds of contradictory information about what was going on at Fuller Ridge. I wanted to go check it out myself, but Tumbler talked me out of it. He strongly believed that we should 1. Stick together 2. Wait another day 3. Take the Black Mtn. alternate. So one more day: day 4.

I agreed to it, but felt reservations. It didn’t help that I had just bought a stove, an extra pair of socks, a warmer base layer, and had asked Aaron to rush me my Microspikes because I thought I was going into the snow. Money was leaving my wallet faster than I expected. And, even though Idyllwild is cute and the people are eclectic, I was going stir crazy, feeling stuck and bored. The best part of my time there was sitting at the Higher Grounds coffee shop, and writing while listening to the locals gossip.

When I checked into the cabin that Chris had found for me, it was instantly clear why the prior guests had checked out. An entire family was screaming at each other in the other room. A boy who sounded about 11 had stationed himself at his side of the adjacent door (the double door that opened between our two spaces) and was anger-chanting: “That’s the bitch. That’s the bitch.” Obviously getting complained about to the front desk had had the opposite of its intent, and now they were like a swarm of hornets, ready to attack “The Bitch”, whom they now thought was me. I very, very quietly moved to my side of the door to make sure it was locked. I heard them all move outside to their porch, not able to make out what they were saying, but the sharp staccatos and indignant tones told me that I had to say something to them or they were going to embark on some kind of misguided revenge campaign on me.

I opened my door. Stepped out. “Oh, oh, SHHHHHHHHHH……everybody be QUIET now.” A girl  wearing heavy mascara sneered at me. I couldn’t tell if she was the mother or the daughter. The father leered at me, his methed out face making him look way older than he probably was. The two boys look like they were armed with rocks.

“Eh. I just got here.” I say, big smile. “I’m new. Give me a chance.” And I held my hands out to symbolically show I was unarmed. The girl wipes her nose. Grinds her jaw. “Okay,” she decides. “You’re our friend now.” Ok, cool, I nod. The father keeps leering. I think the impending feud between us has dissipated, so I move on to do my chores. That night, although they never again included me in their drama, they did tear each other new ones until the break of dawn. These were people who hated each other, and hated living. Really. I vacillated between helpless empathy, and really just wishing something would put them out of their misery. No, I did NOT complain to the front desk! No way. I stayed quiet as a mouse and enjoyed my bed, my bath, my sudden, consistent wireless service that connected me to the world outside of thru hiking.

I eventually got moved to a different room. Idyllwild Inn was the best. they managed to find a place for me to stay each time I told them I wasn’t leaving at the least second. Although, Chris did start teasing me by offering me a job; told me if I wasn’t hiking, I might as well work. I feigned interest until he said I could do all the hiker trash laundry. Uh, no. Not even for you, Chris, my Idyllwild bestie.

Each morning whilst in Idyllwild, Tumbler and I would meet at 7am for coffee and go over battle plans. We were trying to predict the weather and the trail conditions. We would pour over our maps, often correcting each other’s assertions in a friendly game of, “Who has the best weather app? Who has the latest information? Who can read the damn map better?” In the end, it was usually a draw.

Tumbler sometimes opened up during these logistical meetings. His family comes from the Oil and Gas industry, and he eventually ended up there, too, after some hell raising and a highly successful career in the Navy, starting out as a “Hot Shit Naval Aviator” and retiring as a “Hot Shit Navel Commander”. He tells me that his father never asked anything of him, so when Tumbler was 38 and his dad asked him to come work for the family business, with an eventual buyout in Tumbler’s favor, Tumbler said okay and retired. He tells me that after he agreed to this and moved back to Big Lake, where he had grown up, he fell into a low-grade depression. I couldn’t get him to extrapolate what caused these feelings, but obviously, the decision had been a monumental one for him. A decision that he makes sure I understand he does not regret.

Tumbler is a proud man, he thinks of himself as self-made, and he is most comfortable in the commanders’s seat. He’s been in charge of hundreds of men, both in military and business, so it’s second nature to him. He also has an undercurrent of gentleness about him, and sometimes I wonder if there is another side of Tumbler that has not so far been able to be properly expressed. Either way, he loves where he is in life, he’s enjoying the hell out of the trail, and boy does he know how to get the people around him to do what he wants, while thinking it’s their own idea to do so.

On day four, we see that another thru hiker has made it to Idyllwild, and since we were all feeling like caged animals at this point, we jumped at the chance to have lunch with him. We met Todd at the Gastrognome. Todd is a nice man in his 50’s with friendly eyes, he seems enthralled with the trail so far. He has prepared all of his resupply boxes ahead of time, and his 81-year-old mother is his resupply buddy. He tells us about all of his prepared foods, all of it really well thought out and extensive, and when I say that I don’t think he needs that kind of calorie load yet, he says, “Talk to me again when you get to the Sierra and you’re starving.” Well. Ok then. I feel like saying, “Hey, buddy, check out my ass- I ain’t gonna be starving anytime soon,” but resist, because, really, I gotta stop saying shit like that to strangers. Anyway, it’s a nice visit and Todd decides he’s gonna get a ride out with us to the Black Mtn. alternate tomorrow.

I’m so excited by that evening that we are finally moving again tomorrow. I have to thank my friend Kiki for texting me during the last 4 1/2 days, being goofy with me and keeping my spirits up. She even let me send her daily pictures of my gross blisters, each time completely commiserating with me and my woes. Thank you, Kiki! You’re awesome!