day ten: girl gangs & burgers


131.5 – 151.5

my hastily deployed shelter had been pitched at a slight incline but somehow it works. yesterday’s 22 mile day makes it mighty easy to put up with a little downhill slither. i wake up to pee & stare up at the sky full of stars. there are little blurred lines of light where the mountain’s edges are & so i know that it’s time to be awake. a strange phenomenon in this deep water adjustment period has begun to surface: during the days i feel fine, my greatest struggle remains convincing my mind not to linger on the painful. nights are fine, too. i usually write a little & then am too tired to do anything but sleep. but when i first start to wake my heart feels clenched in icy fingers of dread. it takes getting up & moving for it to dissipate. what is this??

i walk the six miles to our first water source of the day with four australian girls (pheobe, tamika, meg, & pinecone) who had camped in the same little clearing as i had. they are funny, engaging, & lighthearted, a true girl gang & i want IN.

“would you like to join us for coffee?” asks pheobe as we traipse across a nearly dry creek. “YES” i nearly shout. i haven’t had trail coffee yet & i’ve only had coffee twice since starting but mostly i’m just desperately grateful to be included. 

i keep pace with pinecone for some miles after our coffee break & we talk intersectional feminism & american attitudes towards nature & strange people we’ve dated. the day grows hot quickly, & there’s something about the relentless sun & the extra exposed ridges that sucks my energy. i swelter up trail another eight miles towards a water cache & a vague hope for a shaded lunch spot. i don’t know where all the dudes who dominated the trail the first few days are but i find myself surrounded by pretty much all women today. it’s awesome! we luxuriate in the shade for hours & convince another passing hiker to take a photo of all of us. 

i had planned on an 18 mile day today & a short day tomorrow into a trail famous cafe but all that anyone can seem to talk about today is BURGERS & cold soda & so, without even fully realizing it, i commit to getting there tonight. “pheobe,” i pant, dragging myself up the last major incline of the day, “i am going to have a burger tonight.” i fall behind, my feet feel tender, & i listen to some music to pump myself up. everyone’s probably already gone ahead to the cafe, i tell myself. to my laughing relief, though, they are there clustered at the roadside, waiting for me. they make an archway of their trekking poles & i jog through, laughing. i call the number scrawled on the road sign & cindy the waitress at paradise valley cafe a mile down the road rolls up in her dusty green ford explorer. “hop in,” she tells us & she brings us to a world of sweet potato fries & rootbeer & big fluffy burgers. she lets us camp outside of the cafe &, clutching my take out box of leftover fries, i set up my shelter & snuggle in, bathed in light from the freeway.


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