I’ve read a lot of thru hiker blogs where people say things like, “I just can’t sleep on a bed anymore” or “When we get to town, I opt to sleep on the floor in my bag”. Yeah. That’s not me. I’m in a giant king-size bed for the next two nights and I sleep on it like I’m tied up to a knife-thrower’s spinning bulls-eye; each hand and foot reaching for every corner of the bed. Picture a frog that’s been flattened by a car tire…that’s how I sleep. And I can’t sleep like that in my tent, so I toss and turn all night when I’m on trail. I love the clean white sheets, the all white comforter, the four white fluffed up pillows, a remote control placed neatly upon the spotless nightstand. It’s all very soothing.
The hostel proprietor has agreed to meet me at a bank to pick up my bounce box, since he is having a private party there. Why that means I can’t go there to pick up a box is beyond me. Is he keeping them from me, or me from them? Oh well, it’s fine with me, I’m glad he cares enough to know I can’t wait for his party to be over to get my box. I walk through the Big Bear Lake “Village”, a touristy little downtown area. It’s cute. There’s a surprising amount of cuisines offered, including Himalayan, which I have never tried, and I know if Aaron were here, we would be eating there, for sure.
After spending a good chunk of time moseying around, I realize I need to take care of the Savvy situation. I realize that he is not just hiking with me, but with TnT, and I don’t want to mess that up. But I also need to get across that my space is being invaded. When he messages me again about my trekking poles, I politely ask him to please give them to the front desk, and I will pick them up later. I say that I don’t think I’ll be available to hang out. He says okay, and my gut tells me he’s gotten the hint. I feel guilty, because he is a nice guy. All I can do is hope that when we see each other next, things will be okay, and we can continue to be friendly without cramping each other’s style.
I spend the rest of the day writing and working, texting with Aaron, and avoiding most of my trail chores. In the evening, Aaron encourages me to go out, find something to do. I feel some social anxiety at the thought of being in a crowded downtown area by myself. I tell him that there is a Big Bear Brewery and they have giant Pretzels as appetizers. That’s the place, he agrees, go there. It takes me a long time to collect my courage, so by the time I get to the brewery, it’s dinner time and there is a line of people waiting to be seated. I look around. 7pm on a Saturday. Whoops. Everywhere is busy. I want to text TnT to see if they are out and if I can crash their table-at least for a beer-but again, I’m racked with anxiety. Isn’t this rude of me, to invite myself? Maybe they are having a romantic dinner. Perhaps they only want to hang out with me on the trail. Maybe they are avoiding ME the way I avoided SAVVY! Who knows, right? I think about it. What the hell. I should just text them. Tumbler answers right away, says they’re at the Social Kitchen, and to come on over.
I find them at the outside bar and they greet me like old friends. They are already headlong into their drinks, and have made friends with another couple. Watching TnT is like watching travel pros. They’ve gone everywhere together; they know how to be social, how to have a good time, and how to work the customer service system to their benefit. By the time this new couple leaves, they are hugging TnT and promising to keep in touch. Tumbler heads to the bathroom and Texas tells me that they’ve been reading my blog, and not only does she relate to my social anxiety issues, she read my post about my mother and feels like she had the same crappy relationship with her father. We have a small bonding moment, then Tumblers back and we have drinks and indulge in some trail gossip.
Tumbler wants to move on and the next thing I know, we are in a small hipster bar, somewhere I would never go if I were alone. We are older than most here- Tumbler being the oldest, but as I’ve mentioned, this dude gives no fucks and has the young, pretty waitresses falling over themselves trying to please him. I admire him, both of them, and their sense that they belong anywhere the hell they decide they belong. Texas is really opening up to me tonight and tells me lots of stuff about their family dynamics, and a bit of the TnT origin story. We agree it’s too loud here (a band is covering like the worst 90’s songs imaginable) and move on to the next place, which is also too loud, but they have a back patio, so we sit out there.
Texas is drunk now; the more she drinks, the bigger her smile gets, and if she does in fact have social anxiety, any sign of it is gone. She walks up to strangers, a Marlboro Light ever in her hand, and charms the hell out of them. She hugs our waitress like she’s a long-lost friend, and insinuates herself into a group of local twentysomethings. She is so cute and disarming, no one can resist her. Tumbler watches her, sipping on an alcoholic coffee, and tells me how much he loves his girl Texas. “I would never hike the PCT solo,” he tells me. “Doing the PCT is really more about being with her than anything else.” This is so sweet, and gets me thinking about how much I wish Aaron was with me. How being without him is wrong, and I need him with me, just like Tumbler needs Texas, and Texas needs Tumbler. When they vote to visit another bar, I leave them and head for my hotel, almost getting lost along the way.
The next day, I have to make up for everything I didn’t do the day before. I busy myself with chores and writing. But I feel lonely. I miss Aaron, my dog, my cats. Even though TnT have been great to me, I’m still alone out here. It can get to me, especially in trail towns.
In the evening, I have my first real food splurge this entire trip thus far: An entire 6 slice pizza with pepperoni and black olive. It’s delicious and I eat it ravenously while watching T.V.; getting crumbs all over the white comforter and smearing tomato sauce on one of the fluffy white pillows. Tomorrow, once again, I walk.