109.5 – 131.5
when i wake the sky is dark & clear. i can see every star in the sky & i get lost for a while on my way back from peeing, staring up into the constellations. everyone’s tents were set up like a little village, clustered closely around the base of the oak tree & i try to move softly as i break camp & slip away by 5:45. a part of me protests to leave my new friends behind but they are staying most of the day in warner springs & i am ready to move. besides, they’re fast & i know they will pass me at some point anyway.
the fields of grass are wet with dew & i shiver a little bit as i pick my way through. for awhile sage dots the landscape & every now & then i get a strong whiff of it. then it’s into a strange & enchanted little valley where there is a creek & where the web weavers have been out in the night & i only see the strands of light as they break across my cheeks, my thighs. in the next couple of miles the trail plays with the creek, darting across at least five or six times. where the trail begins on the opposite bank is usually sandy & footsteps are easily absorbed. i become disoriented a couple of times but after peering around for a while i find my way.
the trail begins to push upwards, shards of mica shimmer in the sunlight. today my mind is occupied by route. up ahead about 30 miles is a stretch of trail that has been closed because of a wildfire. now there is an alternate route in place but it is convoluted & involves walking on the shoulder of busy roads. i know that people skip this section pretty regularly but… i don’t know. i text josef to ask him about it. “road walking (especially solo) isn’t very smart. you can always come back,” he replies. “okay,” i say, but i still feel so conflicted. i know i’m not the only one who is struggling with this- the three other hikers i see this morning are all eager to discuss.
in the afternoon, the trail winds through a mountainside of towering red boulders & butterfly bush. this is my favorite stretch of the trail so far. it feels otherworldly & i am so engaged in studying the contours & colors that a few miles go by quickly & then it is back into the familiar manzanita & cholla lined ridges.
i meant for today to be relatively chill but at 5 o clock i feel good. i’ve been leapfrogging with a high school english teacher called hamlet the last couple of days but his knee has been feeling a little bit tender. “it’s 4.5 miles to the next campsite,” i say, looking at my gps app. “okay, let’s go” he says. it’s all downhill & my feet scream in protest but it’s worth it when i round the last bend & there are nine little tents in the lopsided clearing. i found the people!
i sit on my groundsheet in my pajamas & down jacket & eat two packets of tuna with freeze dried peas mixed in. the red light from my headlamp makes everything look so strange & i realize that i’m exhausted. i sleep.