Monday, May 30, 2016

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.