Thursday, June 30, 2016

VVR to Mammoth Lakes: Getting Off Trail (Sorta)

     In my tent, I am finally by myself. I walk through the woods, down the trail, but there are always potentially others. Nice people who say good morning, wish you a good hike. I am in my tent, finally alone with many other people surrounding me. I showered today. Looked at my body in the mirror and wasn't sure what I was looking at. The days from Kennedy Meadows caused my ribs and hips to poke out from underneath my skin. The days in Bishop hid them again, but since Bishop, my body has grown muscle and trimmed the fat from my sides. I pull my waistbelt tight and it no longer pushes anything extra out from underneath it.
My body is sunburnt, more so than in the desert. Schweppes said it's because we're closer to the sun. Underneath my nose and chin, the skin is peeling from the light reflecting off the snow after hours of walking through it. My shoulders blister. I walk towards the passes in anticipation. The approaches drain your energy, pulling your body towards the ground. On the steep, rocky switchbacks, I tell myself I only have to make it to the next shady spot and then I can stop and breathe. When I make it to that spot, I tell myself there must be a better spot to stop and rest and so I walk on. By the time I finally recognize the spot I would like to sit, the rocky incline usually flattens and I continue on my way.
     It's the mile before the pass that my excitement comes to me. I am able to look up, see other hikers slogging up the switchbacks, kicking footholds into the snow. I can see the top, where most often, there is a mound of snow that you must climb up almost vertically. My body is in constant pain, a dull ache that feels natural. I no longer grunt when I hoist my backpack onto my back. I know now that it belongs there, the straps hugging my shoulders, my filled camelback resting in the dip on my lower back. It took five days to make it to VVR, a campground they call a resort that gives you a ferry ride across the lake and a free beer when you walk in the store. When I made it to the spot where the ferry would eventually pick me up, there were four others scattered around the rock outcropping, a couple hunched under their sun umbrellas, a couple others shifting along with the shadows. We all waited four hours, all the while watching as hiker after hiker appeared from the woods. Everyone began to shift as 3pm came around and then a girl said, "There!" She pointed to a speck on the water, all of us squinting, laughing how that could not possibly be the ferry we had been waiting for. Sure enough, a rocking, fourteen foot outboard fishing boat comes skudding up, an older lithe man hopping around the two hikers inside it to keep it from slamming into the rocky shore. Somehow, he managed to fit six of us in there with our bags strapped to the bow. All through the ride, all I could think of was how if we were to tip, thanks to my swimming skills, I would be able to make it to shore and at one point in the ride, I looked to the side of me and noticed a sticker with the recommended weight. I looked around, counted the bags, and came up with a number a few hundred pounds over the weight limit. As long as we hit no waves on the seven mile ride, we would totally be fine. 
     I stayed there for a night, sitting around a fire with others-- PCTers, JMTers and a photographer. I got back to the trail midday and climbed Silver Pass, knowing this would be the one of the last of the passes in Sierras. When I reached the top, I didn't stop, I could see someone up ahead and I would try to catch them, but with the snow there were many different paths and this person somehow just disappeared. A JMT hiker warned me after the pass, when you dropped down into Tully Hole, the mosquitos would be horrendous so try and make it up the switchbacks. I smiled and nodded, yes, sure I would make it up the switchbacks. I lasted another five miles and set up my tent next to a narrow, fast running creek. I moved as fast as I could. I would snap a pole into place and then swipe along all of the exposed parts of my skin. Finally when my tent was standing, I unzipped the door and threw all of my belongings in as fast as I could. After ducking in, zipping the door back up, I swatted at all of the small flying blood bags, my palms showing remnants of wings and innards. All through the evening I watched them buzz around me, bouncing off the mesh walls, wanting in. I made a quick sweep of the walls to make sure there were no new tiny tears in the fabric and went to sleep. 
In the morning, I came to the switchbacks I was supposed to make it up the night before. I walked a quarter of a mile and would stop, take a breath, grab my water bottle and gulp down what I could. I would look up, sure that I would be able to see the trunks of the trees in their home at the top of the hill, but it would just be the tips of the branches, reaching out above the trail that I would see. When I reached the top, I zipped along, lightfooted and eager that I only had another 600ft to climb before Red's Meadow. After a mile, my body became tired and I couldn't make it happy again. I sat beside the trail and dug out a Twix bar, chewed at that for a few minutes and watched as six separate people passed me. I nodded to myself, thinking surely it was because we were only 15 miles from a town that I was seeing so many hikers, how yes, I had to be expecting this in the Sierras. But as I got closer to Red's, I couldn't shake that feeling of the trail no longer snaking through the wilderness, but instead it sat just on the outskirts of town, tricking all of us into believing we are experiencing everything nature can throw at us, but really it's like the Truman Show and it's not real after all. We are all just playing at backpacking in the woods. 
     The last six miles, I walked and walked, not stopping for any water breaks, passing hikers going south. When I got into Red's, a city bus pulled in front of the cafe and I got in the line behind all of the people in clean clothes with plastic water bottles, all of them sweating and yelling in the direction of their young wandering children. I flopped my bag on the shelf and sat down, people staring at me, wondering where in the woods this dirty, frowning girl had com from. The bus zipped into Mammoth, and I was let off near the city center, where I walked slowly to the brewery. I shed my bag outside and went to the counter and ordered their burger on a brioche bun with gouda and kale and tomatoes. I asked whether it came with sides and the girl informed me most people didn't even usually finish the burger so they don't give a side with it. When I ordered a salad as well, she looked at me with a smirk and when they came out, the burger took up most of the plate, and I sat there, the burger in one hand and a fork in the other, alternating bites. I sat there, my body aching and when Schweppes texted me, asking if I was staying in town for the night, I left and walked up towards the hostel. Afterwards, we went grocery shopping, buying real food and beer and when we got back to the hostel, I made him my favorite childhood meal of broccoli rolls and he made a massive tray of lasagna and we ate our double dinners and sat on the couches and we watched Orange Is the New Black with all the other hikers. We really were unaware of what was happening on the screen, but were so very content sitting next to sunburnt strangers in a generic resort town miles from that trail that was eating us all up. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Kennedy Meadows to Bishop: It's a Beautiful Place to Feel Like Shit

    I woke up the night we left Kennedy Meadows, off in the woods getting sick, far enough away so that I wouldn't wake anyone. The next morning, we had two miles until the next water and as I walked, I would sweat and would double over, put my head on the ends of my trekking poles. Schweppes came up behind me, handed me his Gatorade, made me drink half. "You look bad," he said after I handed him back his bottle. I turned away, trying not to be sick again. At the water, we sat for an hour, my stomach turning as he ate his two packets of ramen. We decided to go another three miles to a campsite next to the Kern River, let whatever was in my system work its way out. We made it to the river around 1pm and I put my pack down in the dirt and leaned up against it. I woke up an hour later, curled in between the waistbelt of my bag. I dragged my sleeping bag down to the side of the water and slept while other hikers came and went, in and out of the river.
     I woke the next morning and chewed at a granola bar, my stomach seizing up. I thought about the 2200ft climb over the next eight miles and nodded to myself. I could do it no problem. At three miles, I found myself sitting on the side of the trail, my chest heaving and my clothes and hair drenched in sweat. The Aussies passed me, chatting away, the incline not phasing them in the least. After another mile, I came upon Schweppes sitting beside the trail. "Yeah, I've been here for like twenty minutes." I unclipped my bag, letting it fall to the ground and I sat on the log beside me. I shook my head and I heard Schweppes say, "You look bad," for the second time in twenty-four hours. After that, I would make it only half a mile and bend over, resting my head on my trekking poles, trying to catch my breath. I stood on the trail, telling myself I would make it to the top. I would walk a few more paces, stop and try to quit heaving. When we would take a break, I would ask Schweppes to just go ahead, I didn't want to slow him down. "I have a feeling if I walk ahead of you, I won't see you again. You're not going to be able to catch up." I shrugged. "It'll be okay. I'll catch you." As he walked away, I stood there, knowing I could catch him on the downhill, but unable to make myself move. After a quarter mile, I saw him up ahead, his red hair still visible underneath the camo hat. He made it a game. He told me I wouldn't be able to catch him, not on the uphill anyway, but I did. I had to. My eyes scanned the trail a few feet ahead of me, and every few minutes I would look up, making sure I could still see his head bobbing in the distance. When we hit the summit and the trail leveled, it wrapped around to the left and he looked up and saw me. "How did you catch me? I was for sure thinking I wasn't gonna see you again." "You told me I wouldn't be able to, so I did."
     On the way down, I chewed dryly on another granola bar, glad that we were finally done with the climbing. We decided I would have to get off trail in Lone Pine, sixteen miles from base of the hill so that I could get to a doctor before I could summit Forester. That night, we camped just before another climb and I told myself I would feel better in the morning. I wouldn't even need a doctor after all. For dinner, I nibbled at a ramen and told myself I would feel better for sure. Everything would be fine.
     Hours later, I sat with my arms wrapped across my stomach, feeling it bubble and tighten. I would wander out into the night, listening to the coyotes' yipping move closer to our camp and I would scan the boulders with my headlamp for shining eyes. At 3am, I fell asleep and woke back up at 5. I whimpered and rolled over, "I'm definitely going to have to go into Lone Pine." Schweppes nodded. "I knew you would."   
     We packed up and started the climb. After a couple miles, I followed a switchback up and saw Schweppes standing at an open spot in the trees, looking towards Forester. We sat down under a tree, watching the Aussies pass one by one, all of them quiet. After another hour and a half, we reached the summit, Fighter jets roaring overhead, barrel rolling over the lookout to the valley below.
     At three o'clock, we came to the trail junction. I looked over at Schweppes, "Well, hopefully I'll see you again. If not, good luck." I followed the trail down, unkempt compared to what I was used to walking on and made it to Horseshoe Meadow, an open field  with a small creek running through it at the base of the 11,000ft mountains I had just been up in. It was so green and full of oxygen there. After being so high for that long, I felt my body loosen. I saw day hikers in the distance, their little packs light on their backs. They seemed to be moving so slow and when I caught them, they asked about the trail, but I knew they wouldn't offer me a ride the 22 miles to town, so I waked on.
     When I reached the road, I looked around, not seeing a single person. After a few minutes, a small car came around the corner and I stuck my thumb out, smiling ridiculously, trying to look friendly. The car slowed and the man told me he only had two seats, his young son in a booster seat in the back. I told him it was only me, and he unlocked the door, letting me squeeze my monster bag in the back.
     On the way down, he explained how him and his son hiked 20 miles of the trail in a couple days. I looked back at the small boy in back. "You hiked 20 miles?" He nodded meekly, looking back to the Kindle he was holding. "What are you reading?" "Lord of the Rings," he mumbled. "Wow. Have you read the Hobbit yet?" He nodded. I asked him what grade he was in and he answered that he was in third. "And on your hike, did you carry all your stuff? Your sleeping bag and food and everything?" The dad looked back at him in the rear view smiling, "Yeah, carried all of his own stuff, food and everything." On the trail, it's always so impressive when you see the kids, their own ultralight bags, miniatures of their parent's.
     When I got into Lone Pine, I made a beeline for the McDonald's in town after having a touch of my appetite return. I sat and ate slowly, calling my mom, glad I was in a public place so that I wouldn't be able to break down when I heard her voice.
     The days before, exhausted and nauseated, all I could think of was what would happen when I was finally able to get ahold of her. I could imagine my voice when she answered. I knew she would think something terrible had happened. I thought about texting her beforehand, Nothing serious is the matter. I'm gonna call you and it might sound like something horrible has happened since I'll most likely be sobbing, but everything is just fine. When I did call her, I was calm. I told her of the past three days, not being able to eat for forty-five miles and how it took eight hours to walk thirteen miles, how Schweppes wouldn't leave me because he thought I would end up passed out on the side of the trail. And that night, I checked myself into a cheap motel and stayed in the dark, cool room until midday, glad I no longer had to crawl out of my tent in the darkness when my stomach revolted and only had to unwrap myself from the sheets and make it the few feet to the bathroom.
     When I finally left, I shuffled to the nearby clinic, where they gave me medicine for Giardia and told me it was going to get a lot worse for the next three days. Of course it would.
     Early the next day, I caught a bus to Bishop and found The Hostel California. I sat in the living room area, watching Men In Black. It reminded me sorely of my best friend's home, where you could show up in the middle of the day when no one was home, but still feel welcome.
     I've been staying at the hostel in Bishop. One days, two, three. I can't seem to leave and a few are having the same problem.
     It snowed last night, up on the peaks where we're going. Penny and another blonde kid with dreads walk in from a festival that was out in the middle of the desert. They were left there. The other guys who went were eating pancakes around the table this morning, wondering where the two had gotten to, Philly commenting that he had the blonde kid's wallet. There's a few cars in the parking lot, but no one leaves. I think it might be impossible. Girls wear dresses and hiking boots. They walk down the street unselfconciously. They know all the others will understand and those who don't are the ones who ask how long it will take, what you eat up there, comment how they'd never be able to. We all smile and nod, thinking what utter bullshit that is. We think about all the different kinds of people on the trail. There's no shortage of diversity. I'm waiting for my group of people. People in, no people out. Soon, I have to go tell them I still want my bed, my fifth zero. What am I doing here? I want to wake alongside Schweppes, his quilt just barely touching the side of my bag, wake up early to make it up the pass before the afternoon so you don't posthole until evening. He asks me to scratch his head since I have nails. I tell him afterward he has to rub my feet and he makes me put on my foot massage socks. Clean socks I keep in my clothes bag just so someone can rub those sore nubbins at the end of my legs. I think if I stayed here much longer, the muscles in my legs would atrophy, they would break down and rot and I would no longer be able to walk at all.
     Someone compared hikers to stray dogs the other day. When we get into towns, we all congregate where there's food, we smell and if we see a fellow hiker we know across the street, we'll call to each other, having a stunted conversation, looking as though we're barking at each other. In towns, we have no chill.
     But now, I look up at the snow covered mountains and Schweppes comments how I need to get a hat and gloves. Especially now, especially if I'm not going to be hiking with him anymore.
     We're leaving today though. Climbing up Kearsarge, up Glen. We're making our way farther into the Sierras where it will be cold again, our feet wet from snow and river crossings, where we have to make sure we're not swept away through the rapids, the current strong from the melt.   
     The live-ins here, they tell me I have to mark the Californian flag before I leave. People who stay this long sign the flag, they say, tally the days you've been here. A southbound JMTer tells us after this, after Forester, we'll be singing and just going along like it's nothing. It's all downhill from here, she says. I'm not quite sure I believe her though.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Camping Under a Tree to Playing at Being Sardines: I Don't Want A Trail Name Because I Like How the Aussies Say My Real Name Too Much

     Last night it seemed as if the sun would never set. I looked around, listening to the murmurs and laughter of the two men camped nearby. Bored, I walked around the tree to where they were sitting and sat down across from them. "Well, hello there," J said. After a half hour, Butters went and got his Captain Morgan and passed it around and as we sat there sharing stories, J told us how he had Giardia and when he told someone about it, they gave him the rest of their antibiotics and a weeks worth of the Mountain Men dehydrated meals plus desserts. I gasped. "Apple cobbler!" He nodded, "Yeah, you wanna try it?" I shrugged, "Well I don't want to eat all your dessert." When he assured me he had been wanting to share it with someone because of its size, I ran and got my water and spoon while he set up his stove. As we passed it around, we laughed at the moans of pleasure escaping our mouths. When the apple cobbler was gone, we all went back to our sleeping bags and crawled in, full and warm.
     The next morning I awoke to J stuffing his sleeping bag into his backpack and crossing the clearing back to the trail. I ate a couple handfuls of my Shredded Wheats, braided my hair and started stuffing all of my dry sacks back into my bag.
     I got back on the trail and immediately started climbing back up to 6,500ft. When I neared the top, the trees opened up to a long mountainous field with rows of wind turbines. The trail scooted around them and snaked along the side of the surrounding mountains.
     Six miles in, I reached the first spring which was an algae filled trough with a drizzle of water coming from a small pipe above it. The line of men was eight deep and I stood behind them, listening to their banter and raucous bouts of laughter. I filtered two litres of water into my Camelback and then packed away two more in my platypus bag, knowing that the next water source was 19.8 miles away.
     Two miles out of the spring, the back of my pants began to grow cold. I felt underneath my bag and noticed the water dripping from it. I stopped, pulled my Camelback out and saw the amount of water it had leaked. Three litres. Three litres I had left for 18 miles in the heat of the day through a burn zone. Awesome, I thought. Awesome.
     I walked, stood and hunched, walked some more. I made it seven miles, twelve, seventeen. I stopped when my shirt stuck to my skin with salt and sweat. I laid out my sleeping bag to dry in the sun and I took a nap under a pine tree, up above the trail so hikers passing by wouldn't see me. I waited until it got cooler, walked 3.5 more miles, uphill. I rationed my litre of water. At the top of the hill, I drank a half litre and ate a Snickers bar. After five more miles I drank my other half litre. I talked to myself as it grew darker. I'd never gone 25 miles in a day, but I talked myself into it. I hit the 600 mile mark, I pulled out my camera slowly. I told myself, You have to take a picture. You've walked 600 miles. You need documentation for yourself. Only 2,000 left.
     The sun set, and I walked onto the side trail where the spring was. I came around the corner and there, surrounding a small pipe in the ground were tents and sleeping bags and people. A ton of hikers. I filtered some water, drank all I could and asked another hiker, Tracker, whether there was room at the top of the hill where all the guys were. He told me he was sure they could fit me in somewhere. I pulled my bag back on and walked up the hill and sat on one side of the circle of men sitting in the dirt eating dinner. I pulled out my stove and cooked my pasta, listened to them discuss songs they would hear on the radio as they hiked. Patrick said, "There's one that plays over and over that says something about it being a sad song. It just says it's a sad song." Fruit Cup looked over, "That's Mike Posner. I Took A Pill In Ibiza." Patrick looked at him, "Oh, no. I don't think that's it. I haven't heard anything about Ibiza." Fruit Cup smiled. "I'll bet you a litre of filtered water it is." As I ate, they debated until Fruit Cup found someone that had the song on their phone. Patrick nodded. "Yep. That's it. But I don't think it should count because I never heard that Ibiza line." When everyone was done eating, we all went to our respective places, blowing up our sleeping pads, brushing teeth and sliding into our sleeping bags. When I sat up, looked around, all I could think was that we were all sardines in a can, packed in nice and neat, side by side and in the morning, still in my sleeping bag, I heard Fruit Cup ask Patrick. "Is this my litre then?"

Tehachapi to Camping Under a Tree: Walking to Chase Away Boredom

     Melissa left and I am sitting here with my tent footprint spread out in the cloying sand, my jetboil burning away. I made Broccoli and Cheddar pasta tonight. I poured the whole packet in thinking that now that I'm alone, my appetite will have to keep me company instead of Melissa. My sleeping bag is positioned under a tree, away from the wind that has swirled past me all day.
     My legs ache in a way they haven't yet. The first week it was a pain I couldn't control--one that was intense and expected. Now, it's dull and welcomed. The past four days we spent in Tehachapi. Two before Melissa left and two with Schweppes, Mayor, Scabs and Mason. Last night we all stayed in an empty home, one that belonged to a family about to move in. The lady saw me walking out of the pizza place with my backpack. "You guys have a place to stay?" "Not really," I said. "I was just headed to the airport campground." The airport campground was about a mile from the places we most went in town and was filled with earwigs and was situated right beside the railroad tracks. "Go discuss it with your friends and let me know." Half an hour later, the five of us were all packed into her and her husbands car, getting ferried to this empty home on the outskirts of town. We all spread out our sleeping bags, positioned against the walls and looked at each other, amused. Schweppes and I laid side by side, my earphones shared between the both of us, taking turns finding songs we once loved, but had forgotten about.
     During the night, my stomach seized and dropped, and I scrunched myself up in a ball and tried to forget where I was, pretended that Melissa was laying to the right of me and all I would have to do is turn over and she would be there, but when I did, it was red hair I saw, not blonde.
     In the morning I sat up and realized I needed to get back on the trail alone, knowing that the other four would be shortly behind me, but if I lingered in the town much longer, the antsy feeling that had crowded around me on the third day would finally grasp me hard enough where I would lose my cool; that nice little bubble that Melissa and I created on the trail would pop and evaporate and I'd be left with just me on the trail alone with people I don't really know.
     At 8 o'clock, I called for a ride, getting to the trail at 10. I walked away from the SUV with the nice old man in it and chuckled nervously. Instantly, I began talking to myself, a habit that had been ignored for the month and a half I had an actual other human being to talk to whenever I felt like it. The first eight miles passed quickly, taking only two and a half hours, but once I crossed the highway and started making my way towards the incline, my stomach began grumbling and my foot ached something fierce. I stopped under a cluster of Joshua trees, nibbling on Goldfish and beef jerky. When my stomach was satisfied, I hoisted my bag back on and made my way to where I assumed the trail was. For half a mile I followed a dried creekbed uphill, continuously in search of footprints, but as I got farther along, the footprints thinned and creekbed looked as though it had only been a washout from the steep part of the mountain. When I checked my phone to see if I was still on trail, it told me I was not. I scrambled up the side of the washout and walked 100ft to my right. Off on a small knoll about 500ft away, I saw that thin ribbon of dirt snaking up the hill. I grinned and started bushwacking my way over to it. I passed by a pile of boulders and there, making their way up the washout were two other hikers. "The trail's back that way." I said, while pointing in front of me with my trekking pole. "Oh, huh. We were just wondering where you had gone to. It's really not marked well, is it?" I shook my head, my stride bouncing, excited that I had been the one to find the way back. When we got back to the trail, they let me in front and I pushed ahead up the hill, climbing away from the highway and wind field. After a few miles, I scurried underneath a wide tree that had bark that peeled as cedar does and took a nap, waiting for the sun to fall alittle in the sky.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wrightwood to Hiker Heaven: Four Miles of Switchback Hell

     I lay in the tent, curled sideways, listening to the voices around me. I hear Jetpack laugh, off near the fire, feel my stomach gurgle, then gurgle again, making sure I'm listening. We've found Goofy Canadian again, but this time he's acquired his name-- Rattlesnake. The tent beside ours houses a tall Israeli, Animal Style who apparently doesn't snore, but we inform him that we do. We've found ourself in a new pack of people. The people who've been ahead the entire way. Those people. The ones who offer us beef jerky and laughs after the sun sets. We haven't found ourselves near this type of person yet. We leapfrog with a pair of older men, and Melissa warms to them. "I want them to be our best friends."
     The hike from Wrightwood bent our bodies forward towards the end of each day. Up over Baden Powell, into Jimmy Springs Campground where there had been recent bear activity, we looked through the opening of our rainfly and tried counting all of the spaceship tents along the flats of the campground. "Twenty seven?" Melissa shrugged. We ran out of food on the last day and a half. Two tortillas, spicy peanuts and broccoli cheddar soup. All of the things we don't eat...but we must!
     On morning four, after we stopped at the ranger station for water and sodas, we hiked the eight miles to the KOA in Acton, the sun baking us. With my phone charged, I switched the music on, making spastic arm movements along with the beat. Melissa would look behind at me and I would stop middance and grin maniacally. When we made it to the KOA, we set our bags down at a picnic table closest to the pool and bathrooms, ate all the ice cream and chips, drank our sodas and Gatorade. After twenty minutes,  Mayor and Schweppes set their bags down on the picnic table beside ours. Later, we sat across from each other, pulling PBRs out of the box sitting on the ground and Schweppes would look at us, "So, like... what are your guyses hobbies when you aren't hiking?" He would ask us this question throughout the night and the next day, keeping his face free of any emotion and we would answer, our responses becoming more and more bizarre.
      I cut Mayor's beard, asks if it's weird for a stranger to be doing this. "No," he says. "I've had strangers do a lot weirder things." The next day, he trims the ends of my hair. "There," he says. "All the split ends are gone. Would you recommend me to all of your friends?" He has a dog with him- a small fox looking dog. One that he carries over his shoulders when she gets tired. Katana. I look across the lawn, see Schweppes poking at the large pizza we have on the grill. Later, we eat it- both of us consuming half of it in slightly under three minutes. The top of it still doughy, the bottom burnt to the point where both of us grin, chew chew chew and grin again. Mayor looks at my hat, "What's in New Orleans?" I look at him, look away. "My daughter." "Oh! You have a daughter? That's cool." I shook my head, "No. I don't really. I was kidding." I don't smile and we find ourselves nodding in appreciation of each other.
     The four of us hike out together and when we reach Hiker Heaven, we look around, overwhelmed by all of the hikers milling about, and all the information spewed out during the tour of the place. I put my socks and random pieces of clothing in the laundry bag and wander over to the trailer with couches and TV. Pogue plays the guitar and when he gets up, he hands me a beer, running his fingers through his hair. Barbie points out the likeness of Pogue has with the grown up Simba and he strikes a pose, whipping his hair around. Now, fifteen hikers sit on the couches, focused on the TV playing Kung Fury. We all know the longer we sit here, the greater chance we have of not being able to leave, but all the hikers move in a cyclical pattern and we can't seem to leave each other. We take showers, walk to our bags, back up the hill to the charging station, throw the football back and forth to each other and we smile and sigh, comment how we need to leave, but someone nearby always reminds us that it just snowed in the Sierras and most likely we'll all be stuck in Kennedy Meadows, underneath the snow and miles and raw need to keep moving north.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Cajon Pass: Hello...trail? Are you there?

     My feet step down- one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. I feel the bones in my feet grinding together, the third blister on my heel pushing against the shoe wall, my big toe wrapped in med-tape flattening under the weight of my body. To stave off the boredom, I change my stride from long to short, move from the balls of my feet to heel, scrunch up my toes and then stretch them out making sure I haven't caused them to shrivel up and fall off.
     I look up and am able to find the demarcation of the trail along the next hillside. I am able to tell if my ankles will be tilted at an odd angle and if I need to tighten my waist strap so that my shoulders won't throb as much on the downhill. When I step in holes, my ankle twists until I give in and fall under the weight of my pack. Rather than a broken ankle, I instead trade the skin peeled from my palms and knees, calves and elbows. I leave it there as a sacrifice. Let me make it off this mountain, I plead. Melissa always looks back at the commotion, gasps, sees me lying on the ground laughing, unable to get up. "I have to pee soo bad! I was looking for a bush when I fell."
     When we see the dark mass of clouds over the mountains, we sit in the sand and watch them tumble above until we get tired of sitting and decide that getting wet isn't such a bad thing- if only it weren't so windy.
     We hike eighteen miles and then sixteen the next morning, just to get to the McDonald's and a convenience store before the heat of the afternoon. During the nights, I dream about creatures unzipping my tent and places I'll be in the future, always unshowered and carrying my backpack.
     For the last two days I've been munching on what I refer to as my "leftover snacks" which means dried fruit, nutella on tortillas and beef jerky we acquired from a hiker box that doesn't taste like anything, but gives you something to chew on.
     When I take a shower, the water runs brown down the drain. I scrub at my body, at the calluses harboring all of the hidden dirt that makes me look tanner than I am.   
I open the door, jump onto the bed towards Melissa. She spreads her eyes wide, her face stretched in a grin. "This is the happiest I've ever been!" We both laugh as the TV freezes on Sandra Bullock bouncing onto a hotel bed and we sip at our Coors Lite. When we lay in the bed long enough, it's like we haven't walked and walked and walked, yet we still think about going back out there, away from the roaring overpasses and trash covered shoulders- back to sunburn and dirt caked fingers, to complaining about the never ending aches and coming up with snarky comments that maybe one day we'll be able to use on unsuspecting passer-bys. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere to Idyllwild: Why Sleeping In a Tent Feels Much Warmer Than Sleeping In a Bed

Melissa says as we walk to the bar, "Is it strange that I feel this weird kind of guilt that I won't be walking at all tomorrow?" No, I want to answer her. No, not at all. I'm laying in this bed in the small town of Idyllwild after a couple whiskeys neat and an argument with some locals of why IPAs are meant to be served near room temperature, trying to talk myself out of us ditching the zero day and walking over Fuller Ridge before the storm front comes through.
A few days ago, we woke to the rainfly slapping against our backpacks, the air outside bracing. I dug through the dwindling supply of food in my bag and found the Ziploc bag with the meager amount of Nutella left. One of our main troubles, pitiful as it may sound, has been trying to find a way to get the peanut butter and Nutella out of the bags without them slathered all over our face and hands. I grabbed the bag, turning it inside out, both of us scraping the dripping gooeyness as fast as we could, my hand showing more and more as the Nutella made its way from the bag, to granola bar to mouth. When the bag was clear once again, we stuffed it into our trash, groaning as we curled our legs up and over the outside of our sleeping bags. As the morning moved into afternoon, the wind became harsher and harsher, pushing us sideways so that all we could do was shuffle forward, our miles per hour plummeting. We passed houses and RVs not far from the trail, greenhouses dotted the landscape. Near the first cache of water, we passed a sign that read "Beware: The 'local farmers' are pot growers. They are not friendly to hikers." We nodded, continued on in the hot sun. When we rounded a bend, getting ready to climb again, we passed a few section hikers, one of them raising his trekking pole at us, "Little windy huh?" "Yeah, just a bit breezy." His smile looked more like a grimace and he said, "Well, wait till up top, there's picnic tables and soda pop." I nodded, thought his attempt at humor sorely lacking and walked on. Forty minutes later, I found myself looking for flat spots hidden from the wind. Everywhere I looked, the sand was picked up from the ground and scattered, the branches twisted wildly and the sun lazered in on all the spots not tormented by the gusts. "Hey, can we start looking for a sheltered spot?" I called up. "Been looking for the last half hour," Liss yelled back to me. Our heads swiveled from side to side, growing tired of the game neither of us seemed to be able to win. We walked up over a knoll and saw a half of a surfboard sticking out of the sand covered in writing. Further on, sat a picnic table and coolers, gallons upon gallons of water and a little free library. I laughed, "Oh my goodness! I feel so bad about not believing that guy, but I also don't care because we have SODA!" We scurried down to a spot next to a large boulder that saved us from the wind and laid out the tarp, fixing our bags under our heads, opening all of our snack bags of food and ate until we fell asleep.
When we woke up, we agreed we both would be absolutely miserable if we went all the way down to Paradise Valley Cafe where we had planned to get that night. For some reason, hiking nine miles in that wind seemed utterly impossible with how we were feeling. As we walked along, I would look back at Melissa and see her shuffling along, her head down, face burnt from the blowing sand and know I must not look in much better condition. An hour and forty minutes of shuffling along, I looked back at Melissa, "We should be there. It says we've gone four miles." She shook her head, "No, we still have a mile to go. That mileage we said earlier was wrong." Right then, I became furious. Mad at the trail, at the incessant wind, at the rocks that roll around under your feet as you step down on them. I would come around a corner and look across the small canyon and see more switchbacks climbing yet another ridge. My fury turned into seething rage as I climbed and climbed, my jacket still on through the heat of the day, sheltering me from the wind, but with the anger, I became the furnace that I had escaped from all day, I was the one that I now had to shelter myself from. When we reached the top of the ridge, I couldn't help, but think how much more exposed we were, but at that point, I wasn't sure I cared. As long as I could stick the bottom half of my body into my sleeping bag, I would have the top half busy heating up dinner and shoving as many goldfish into me as possible.
In the morning, I woke to dripping noises. Every few minutes I would hear it. A couple on my sleeping bag, a couple on Melissa's. When we unzipped the tent, there on the ground surrounding us was a thin layer of melting snow and we laughed, knowing we would be down at the cafe in a couple hours time having a large breakfast and hopefully, if our luck was right, finding a ride into Idyllwild. On our way down the mountain, we joked about best and worst case scenarios. Best case was we got breakfast, stayed at the cafe until lunch while we found a ride, and worst case was there was no breakfast and we couldn't get a ride. We walked on, "What if when we walked towards the cafe, someone pulled up alongside us and offered us a ride before we had breakfast? Would you take it?" Melissa nodded. "That's the bestest best case. Cause they probably have awesome breakfast in Idyllwild." As we walked down the hill, the road got closer and the cars on it grew larger, but the cafe was still a mile from the trailhead. We crossed the field and watched as a few cars sped by. Across the street we saw an SUV that was backed onto a side street pull up alongside the road. The driver rolled his window down. "You guys need a ride?" We looked at each other, "Where are you headed?" "Anywhere you need. The cafe. Idyllwild. Wherever." We looked at each other again. "So, the bestest best case then?" We hopped in the car, introducing ourselves as the man pointed out the sodas in the back, along with donuts and snickers bars. He explained to us how he had hiked the trail last year and this year had an extra week after Coachella, so he decided to drive hikers back and forth from the trailheads as they needed. We both sat there stunned at the generosity of the people we had encountered so far. We stopped by the cafe so he could see if there were any other hikers on their way to Idyllwild. After a few minutes inside, he came out and told us there would be two more joining us and right behind him strode the British couple that somehow seem to find us at the oddest times. We squealed, excited to catch up with them again and slipped into the backseat grinning.
The seventeen miles of road between Paradise Valley and Idyllwild twisted its way up into 6,000ft drizzling mountains. The man dropped us off near the center of town, pointing this way and that to help us orient ourselves in the town, all to no avail. It seemed funny to us, how we could be in the mountains, following a single footpath for days and not even get a smidgen lost, but being in town for five minutes, we found ourselves wandering streets in circles, confused by the only three intersections the town had. Finally, we wandered into a small diner, The Red Kettle and both ordered what's called their Junkyard Omelet with everything in it. Out came our omelets, the size of a pan itself and in no time at all our plates were empty, the waitress smiled at us, unimpressed by how much we just ate because it seems they've all seen it so many times before.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Agua Caliente To Somewhere In the Middle Of Nowhere: Scaring the Man In the Kitchen

      This morning we woke to the sound of energized young boys climbing from their tents and meandering slightly behind ours to relieve themselves. We cooked our oatmeal, failed at getting peanut butter out of the ziploc bag we foolishly put it in, and then packed up so we could start our climb away from the creek before the sun did its job of draining all of our energy away from us. Low on water, we planned on walking the twelve miles to Mike Herrara's water tank so that we could fill up before the twenty four mile dry stretch. 
     At 12:30, we saw the rudimentary sign that pointed towards water and shade and turned off the trail happily. We limped down the trail, coming upon a few hikers on the side of the dirt road already eating. As we filtered our water, we packed as many things into a tortilla as we could find in our food bag and watched as the couple next to us stirred their rice and beans decorously. After we finished, a man appeared from down the hill, pointing to the tents inside the fenced yard, "There's beer and soda down there." We both looked at each other, packed up our bags and trotted down the steps, wondering where exactly we were going. When we got to the bottom, we looked around, seeing an open lot with old trucks, lumber and tents containing coolers and empty boxes of cans in a confused strew of materials. We set our bags down, Melissa grabbing us both a Tecate. We sat beneath one of the tents, becoming increasingly uneasy about the absence of other hikers, but listening to the mixture of Prince and David Bowie blaring from somewhere nearby. 
      After fifteen minutes, an older man popped his head up from the hood of the truck he was working under and pointed down to the house. "There's a pack of them down there!" Melissa and I nodded and sat still. "It's like a scene in a horror movie," Melissa said and chuckled nervously. " wanna see what's down there then?" She shrugged. "Not really, but I feel like we should since we're here." We made our way slowly down to the house, around the side where we heard the music from, noting the fire pit with mismatched lawn chairs surrounding it, worn RVs on the edge of the woods and finally the lack of hikers and their respective packs. We looked to our right at the sound of rustling in the shed beside us and walked towards the opening a bit apprehensive. A man turned from the workbench he was at and jumped. "Holy shit!" Melissa and I both stepped back, "You scared me. I don't know why...because there's people always here. are you guys doing? I'm Josh, the caretaker." We introduced ourselves and looked around. Josh nodded, "So what d'you think?" He motioned around him, smiling. Melissa grinned back, "This place is...bizarre." Josh laughed, "Yes, yes it is." I stood there, pictured standing in the yard of my childhood home in Florida, chatting with my uncle in front of his peculiarly cluttered garage, conscious of all the disorder around me, yet his comfort in the place contagious in a way that makes you feel quite at home as well. "Well, if you guys are staying here, we usually reserve the RV for girls and couples if you wanted it." We smiled, Melissa explaining our plans of walking the eight miles further to a campsite down the trail. 
      We left Mike's place after more hikers arrived, our backpacks heavy from the six litres of water added to them, the wind keeping the heat away. As we climbed away from Mike's, I looked back down the hill and saw that his house was the only structure for miles and miles. I thought about Melissa's comment about it being an ideal place to commit a murder and thanked whoever was in control that the only thing the two people at the lone oasis wanted to do was give us a beer, some pizza and a place to stay that wasn't able to be wadded up and stuffed inside a backpack.           After we walked some five miles, Melissa stopped and turned towards me. "We need a break?" I shook my head, "Don't think so.." At the end of the eight miles, we tossed our backpacks down in a small alcove off the trail, sighing in contentment, thankful our packs were no longer digging into the tender skin on our shoulders.

Warner Springs to Agua Caliente: We Have Trail Names For Eachother, But They're Not Very Nice

      We sat outside the community center in Warner Springs, watching hikers filter in and out of the building, some greeting us as they walked by. As we sat there with our coffee and Coke, a big guy by the name of Bison sat down across from us. "You guys see the snake yet?" We looked at each other, nodded, unimpressed. Melissa shook her head and stood up. "Where is he? He needs to let that poor snake go." 
      Earlier in the day, we passed a hiker we refer to as Goofy Canadian with a snake he had found near his tent, claiming he was going to keep it as a pet. Goofy Canadian is also referred to as Dagger, Knick Knack, and most likely in the future either Snake Charmer, or Crocodile Dundee. We met Goofy Canadian in Mt Laguna at the local outfitters as he dumped all of the useless knick knacks he had out of his bag. "You guys want this?" As he asked us, he held up a patch for an air mattress. "Why in the world would we want that?" Melissa asked, laughing, taking a sip from the can of Coors in her hand. Goofy Canadian shrugged, unperturbed and ever since then he seems to show up in places you wouldn't expect to see him. In Julian, everyone spoke of the guy that killed the rattlesnake and fed it to everyone that stayed the night at the hostel and today, he was the guy with the snake in his bag that he would pull out and show everyone.
      As Bison and his friend TP Two Rolls sat with us, Melissa got up and went inside. Bison looked at me, "You two aren't big into socializing with the other hikers are you?" I chuckled, "Well when there's a ton in one place, we kind of suffer from social anxiety. Especially after not seeing another soul all day." He nodded, "It will thin out a bit after this, I think. There have been a ton of hikers that really glob together though. I can definitely see where you guys are coming from. You would have hated the AT. There are people everywhere on that trail."
I was glad that someone else understood that the community aspect of the trail didn't have to be mobs of people to be fun.
     When we left Warner Springs, our packs light due to the half load of water we were carrying, we followed a group of boys across the field, wondering if we would have to share the campsite next to the water. We walked quickly, aware of the water we would be able to splash into after the five miles. As we neared the three mile mark, we heard another group of guys behind us and we picked up our pace so that at some places along the trail we were doing a modified jog so that they wouldn't be able to catch up and take our spot. As we neared the water, we spotted tents...and more tents. We walked on. A half mile later, we crossed the stream again and came upon the second larger campsite. We walked farther along and there next to the stream sat a whole boyscouts troop, their tents spread out across the campsite, young boys running around like small whirlwinds. Melissa's grin widened. I grunted, "My punishment for hating men now is that one day any babies I have will be boys." She laughed. "Are you kidding me? That's what I hope for. Just a flock of little boys." We found a spot under a large oak, set our packs down and walked to an undisturbed part of the stream. When we got in, washed our clothes out, our feet and faces off, we both sighed, satisfied. "It smells like the Black Hole. Fishy and muddy. But even so, I feel so clean."
      When we got back to camp, we set up the tent and had an incredibly tasty dinner of Chili and Beef Ramen Noodles and afterwards listened to the boys' screeching laughter and the adults talk about the Little Dipper and Shrodinger's Cat.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Julian and Days After: Hiking in Chacos Requires Two Wet Wipes Per Foot

We were on trail again, our packs heavier than ever before. "You sure we dont have way more stuff in here now?" Both of us toting one new item that we had gotten in town, things weve been going mad without. Melissa and her deodorant and me with a hairbrush. We came into town hurting and hungry, caught a ride with an older German couple on vacation. "You want to ride? With us?" The woman asked when we ran up alongside the RV. When we got into our room, the proprietor wouldn't leave, explaining all of the amenities, explaining where he would be when checkout came around the following day. We dropped our bags and each shed our shoes and socks, tossing ourselves onto the bed. "Oh my goodness, I think this is the most comfortable bed I've ever been on! And the sheets! They're so soft!" We each took a shower, scrubbing what we could of the desert off of us, the water running down the drain completely brown for the first two minutes.
After washing our clothes in the sink and hanging them out to dry, we walked through town in search of a beer. Just off Main St sat a  small brewery with a dozen of their own beers, an outside patio and a couple other hikers. We sat there for an hour, drinking, soaking in having reception when three hikers sat down at the table next to us, asking us about our shoes, one of them bragging about his inability to get blisters. After a bit of mocking conversation, we played washers. When we won, I screeched, jumping up and down and finally grinning smugly (my version of good sportsmanship). We went back to our room satisfied and excited for the bed we were about to get into.
The next morning, we sat in our room until the clock flipped to 11:00 and when we picked up our packs, they weighed an incredible amount, and even more so when we added water and more food to them. But later that evening, our shoulders and hips throbbing, we made our way up three miles to a campsite situated in a small dried creekbed in between a bend in the trail so that when hikers walked past, it sounded as if they were walking right up to our tent. Late into the night we heard footsteps, far off voices and then the glaring headlamps shone into the tent, the fabric splintering it into many different sources. We woke once to the sound of voices and bright light, believing it must be daylight, but it was only 10:00pm and the moon acted as one monotonously intense spotlight.
We woke early, walking until midday to the next water source, where hikers laid langourously under the sparse shade. Melissa and I filled what we needed to of our nalgenes and found ourselves our own piece of shade under a small spiky tree until the sun lowered itself to position that wasn't miserable to hike under. We walked until we found a small cave they call Billy Goat cave, where we cooked our dinner, rested for ten minutes and walked another hour in search of a worthy campsite. As we reached the top of the ridge, there above the trail was a small flat opening. We set up our tent in the increasingly vicious wind and crawled in, thankful for the missing bugs and cool air coming in. During the night, we listened as the tent flapped in the wind, feeling sporadic droplets of water falling on our cheeks, and I wondered how strong the wind would have to be to pick us up and carry us right off the side of the mountain.
This morning, we sat up wondering if the wind was going to cut into us as we hiked as much as it did the tent.
The twelve miles to Warner Springs went by quickly, most of the mileage winding through fields and along a small stream. Tonight we will hike a while more, camping next to Agua Caliente where we can soak our feet and wash our face in the passing stream.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Week One: Why didn't we bring the goat?

Sitting here in a library in Southern California, I can't help, but wonder why we left the desert. Really, I'm not quite sure what to say about it, only that six of my toes are cushioned between layers of medical tape, I've become accustomed to hearing sand crunching under my feet and locating water is a source a pure anxiety.
The first day we were on trail, we started off early, shuffling down the hill in search of a worthy bush for our first bathroom break, unable to stand at the southern terminus for more than five minutes. We got our picture done first and giggled as we walked as fast as possible to the trailhead, looking behind us for any other groups making their way down the hill. Four days later, we met a couple from England commenting on how we were the first ones out that day and how excited we must have been to get going that quickly, how they aspired to be that gung-ho. I told them the real reasoning behind our quick getaway and they laughed, "Well that completely ruins the view we have of you now!"
I can tell you the first day we hiked twenty miles to the Lake Morena campground, the second and third and fourth we went fourteen to sixteen miles and that it hurt...badly, but I can also tell you that when we would stop for breaks, we can't ever stay there long. We eat our snacks, lay back on our bags few a few minutes, but end up looking at each other, "You ready?" "Yes." Even when our shoulders boast a few deep welts, our feet oozing a couple new blisters. We push off the rocks we had been sitting on and follow the line of the trail with our fingers, tracing it up the mountains, switchback after switchback. And we groan, but we always enjoy the flat, hope for the uphill when we're limping down into the valleys and scope out potential dirt sites for our small tent. "Well, we could always just lay it down here if we needed." The spot wide enough for a couple of bodies on the side of the trail, on the other, a drop-off to the bowl of a valley.
We refer to people with the names we've given them: Teleport Tim, the Svelte Sisters, Penny, Santa, Irish Lucas, Gunther.
I laugh at the end of the days, the end of five miles, the end of a break. "Why are we doing this again?" But then we walk up to the next ridge, look out over the bowl of a desert, "Oh, yes. I remember now." Staying in Julian, CA, we met so many thru-hikers--drank with them, played washers (which is just another form of cornhole, but with ridiculously sized metal washers), sat on the concrete behind a restaurant soaking feet and sharing the leftover resupply snacks we bought at the local store. To get us through, Melissa will sing to us, songs meant for young children on field trips, but that actually help more than any rest ever could. Once we've learned the names of the other hikers that we continuously leap-frog, we don't want to lose them, so we find ourselves basing our camping decisions on where we think certain hikers can make it to each night, placing ourselves a couple miles further so that we won't have to wake as early to keep them in our sights, or we'll stop only when we get tired, knowing they keep our same pace.
Every day, I think of what I would tell others- how narrow the trail is, winding through the mountains, how sometimes I think the people who made the trail did it as a cruel joke, how sometimes I'll stumble over a fist sized rock, look up and realize I've been hiking along a ridge that lets you see a hundred miles.
Maybe my next post will be a touch more eloquent. Maybe it won't. Maybe I will never know quite what to say about it, just as I feel not many people have been able to, since I read a ton and still really had no idea what I was walking into. I feel as though everyone looks forward to the Sierras, as I have been, but no one tells you how the desert is--how it will seep everything out of you, make you wonder if you'll surrender yourself to it, or how you can quite literally be appalled by how stunning a place can be and still not receive the credit it deserves. But here I am, sitting in a library twelve miles from the trail, feeling myself drawn to it once again.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How many synonyms can you think of for meat log?



On Thursday we went and bought the rest of our supplies: meals, toiletries and clothing. We portioned meals out, re-portioned, calculated what we would actually need before the first resupply in Mt Laguna. Our excitement building as we held up snacks we could put together to make full meals. "I can't wait to slather peanut butter in our tortillas and sprinkle some granola!" "And banana chips!" "We could cut up some of this summer sausage and add it to our ramen..." Both of us weary of the refrigerate after opening labeling, but after much discussion of the limited selection of meat logs on the trail, were unable to resist. We packed our bags, hoisted them onto our backs. Mine being top heavy and almost causing me to fall headfirst onto the marble flooring. I set it down, repacked, thinking instead about the different times of day I would use certain items, how easy it would be to get to them and whether my pack was going to fling me one way or the other with my flawless weight distributing skills. I watched as Melissa put her clothing inside the bag, her arm acting as a pile driver, pushing the clothes deeper in, trying to fit all of her gear in the smaller, more comfortable one of her two bags. While mine sat on my back like a hulking second person, her bag peeked over her shoulder meekly, why, yes I'll just be tagging along, it seemed to be saying.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

About a month off!

      We've got about a month now before we leave for New Orleans and then a few days from then we start the trail. I've been mentioning my trip to a few of the patrons of one of the bars I work at. One of the men, a regular who, when I started, called me over to him, squinted his eyes, (as I've found out, he tends to do when he's getting ready to tease you) and asked me where I came from and then advising me I better ought to get to work and stop standing around and talking to people at the bar. Yesterday, I went into work and he called me over, asked me if I had my backpack that day and told me he had gotten me a knife. As I stood there, him explaining all of the specifics of it, how he sharpened it earlier for me, how he's going to see to it that I also have one for self defense since this one is for survival, I realized something that I should have months ago. When I rode the Great Divide trail, I looked forward to all the friendly people going overboard to help you out on the trail when you need it, knowing that it would be the same way on the PCT, however I definitely didn't have to look far this time. Everyone I've told has been extremely supportive, the regulars offering any help and encouragement I could need, even though I've only known them for a few months now. I don't know why it still astounds me when people do something extremely thoughtful.
      So far, the only other supplies I need is food and toiletries which I am slowly gathering, hopefully finishing off the packing once Melissa gets here. It's funny because as people ask me about the trip, become a little more accustomed to hearing about it, they tend to ask what exactly you pack and I'll tell them all the regular things, but also how I really only have one set of clothing. "So, how do you get clean and stuff then?" "Oh, well the thing is. I don't." I usually just explain that I've bought the clothing that doesn't absorb grime and smell as quickly. But really, fat chance of me smelling good on the trail at any point. On the Great Divide, I would have the opportunity to shower and get my body clean, but then my clothing would still be incredibly gross, but then I would have a point where I could wash my clothes, but I would forgo the shower due to exhaustion and then have lovely soft clothes and dirt smeared all over my arms and legs. I really don't know why that was so hard to coordinate for me, but alas, it was.
      Anyways, I just wanted to write a quick post, give a shout out to the people who got excited with me, gifted the things they felt would help me out and also the ones who got mad at me when I told them I would be leaving them in such a short amount of time. Those of you who have gotten to know me personally understand that most of the time people don't thrill me (interesting me more in a observational way than personal), but I really have started loving meeting all of the people I have.
I'm also going to miss you, daily beers. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

My Darling, My Pet

And it is done. I got so excited that I packed my bag with all the gear I had so far and right now, halfway packed, I'm terrified of carrying that hulking thing over 2000 miles. What the hell am I thinking? Since I've gotten the bag, I tend to try it on every day, carrying it around the house as I do my daily chores. If I walk outside with it to let the dogs out, that's usually when the neighbors decide to come out of their homes, do a double take of the large red monster on my back. I smile, wave and scurry back inside, chuckle at the rumors our household must provoke. 
I have my clothes and gear. What I seem to be missing is the most important items. Food and money. Right now, I have two jobs trying to bring in as much as possible, but it seems the more jobs I have, the less money I'm making. So, I suppose after these next couple of months, I'll continue to work as much as possible and hoard. I've started looking at writing competitions, fiction and poetry that give out cash prizes. Not only would that be amazing to start publishing my work, It would also help out my trip savings account.