I meet up with TnT in Agua Dulce. They give Aaron a bottle of Grey Goose and we give them some edibles. Texas is experimenting with anything and everything to get her sore shoulder managed. It’s good to see them again. It’s also hard to leave Aaron and Nisa. Nisa obviously senses that I am leaving and is keeping very close, herd-pleading with her big, brown eyes. Ah, she slays me. I could easily forget all of this and go take a nap on a hotel bed with her. If there is one thing my little family is good at, it’s taking naps. We all pile on the bed and fall into a deep sleep, sometimes all three of us snoring in concerto.
But it’s time to walk, not nap. I make my good byes quickly, as to not distress Nisa and Aaron more than they already are. TnT and I head up the road and I resolutely do not look back. We chit-chat as we navigate oncoming cars along the roadside. They tell me how they had to look for a way down the mountain outside of Wrightwood. They met an old man who offered them a ride, so TnT packed up all their gear and headed to the parking lot, only to see the old man peeling out and speeding away. Tnt stood there, stunned. They silently made their way back up the trail and re-made their camp. So rude. They did get a good, funny story out of it, at least.
The road walk feels like it goes on forever this early morning, even though I think it’s only a few miles. Asphalt roads lead to dirt roads that lead to the familiar ribbon that is the PCT. We spread out along the trail, all of us feeling like we’ve lost our trail legs. I know I have. The path has mercy, though, and sticks to winding in and out of the low-lying hills, heading down to a brief valley before climbing back up. I see a guy resting among the chaparral. His name is Not Guilty and he tells me that I have to stop at the Anderson’s. “It’s perfect timing,” he adds mysteriously. I have been debating whether or not I wanted to visit Casa de Luna. My friend Kiki would tell me that the ‘universe is talking to me’, so I decide that I will spend the night there tomorrow. TnT are going there, too.
I climb for a little bit, then take a break at a small dip between the hills. Its cloudy and silent. So strange how fast the accouterments of ‘real life’ are stripped away. Not even 12 hours ago, I was working on my laptop, messaging on my phone, playing a game of Hearthstone and listening to Daft Punk all at the same time. Now I’m here, and I don’t miss any of it. Not yet, at least. Even the pack that feels heavy at first quickly becomes kind of comforting, in a way. Now, if only my body would cooperate a little more. I’m already growing new blisters, and the nerve damage in my leg that came from the ruptured disk in my back is acting up. I will probably be lurching up and down the hills by the end of the day. But still. The air is wonderful. The hills are green and rolling. I can see far north, where angular mountains hang on the horizon.
As I’m finishing my break, two people come from behind. It’s Kathy, who knows me from this blog, and a compact, tan man named, Arrow. Kathy and I greet each other enthusiastically, but then don’t really know what to say to each other. Anyway, they’re in the zone and I can tell they want to be hiking, not talking to me. So I let them go and wait awhile longer to see if TnT will catch up to me. When they do, I let them go ahead of me, because I can tell my leg is going to be slowing me down quite a bit.
The trail climbs. It’s a surprisingly friendly grade at first. Chaparral turns to meadow-like grasses, waving to and fro in the wind. The climb gets steeper, and we are all pretty tired when we get to the top. TnT opt to rest there, so I move along, heading down to a water source that is about .64 miles away. I find Kathy there, filtering her water. I don’t need water, but want to take a small break. I climb up above her where I see a nice, flat spot. Unfortunately, I notice the dozens of bees only after I’ve already situated myself, so I do my best to pretend they’re not there. NOT surrounding my toes. NOT landing on my legs. Definitely NOT dive bombing my face every few minutes. Nope.
Kathy and I don’t talk. I prefer to think of it as a comfortable silence. Two new thru’s show up, very young. They look at me but don’t say anything, and I feel snubbed by them. The girl finally manages to acknowledge me about ten minutes later, and her boyfriend kinda smiles. Whatever. TnT show up, and the girl is just as dismissive of them as she was to me. My eyes narrow. I find this person unpleasant. Please oh please, don’t let this girl be in my hiking bubble from here on out, I think.
Although, she did say something funny. She looked at all of us congregated around the drizzling pipe spring and said, “It’s gonna be all Hunger Games for camp spots tonight.” True. I’ve been off trail 2 weeks and there is already more people than before. Things are only going to get more crowded.
I take off, agreeing to meet TnT in about 3.5 miles. “Good-bye, random people,” I say, as I walk away, and then promptly trip over my own feet. I take a bow and hurry away, red-faced. Thanks, world, for your ceaseless vigilance in keeping me humble.
I make good time, in spite of my leg, and find the campsite. It’s right by the road. Lame. Oh well. TnT show up not far behind me and we set up camp in the sand. My tent keeps falling down and Texas laughs and laughs. I brought my Jetboil this time, so it takes no time to make some Ramen and gulp it down. Yum. Still not sick of Ramen. After dinner, I snuggle under my quilt and listen to the cars whoosh past us. I kinda like the sound. I can hear Texas and Tumbler giggling in their tent. They’re probably testing out those edibles. Not long after that, I fall asleep.