04.25135.5 – 156.5
i wake up to a velvety sky full of stars & something pressing against my face. that’s not right, i think, & fumble with the netting that has fallen down around me. oh. the wind must have torn out some stakes & flipped the tarp over the top of where i’m laying. i stay immobile for a while longer, the night is so still aside from occasional gusts of wind. three choices i guess. i can either try to go back to sleep, i can fix it, or i can get up & start hiking. i get up to pee & realize that i’m bleeding. i sigh & decide to fix my tarp & go back to sleep for a while.
today the trail crosses mission creek twice more & then it’s a sixteen mile dry stretch through a fire scarred burn area. the first five miles are punishingly steep & climb back up to 8500 feet but after that the trail feels friendly & i make good time. a hummingbird hovers at eye level for a long moment, but otherwise i have very little company all morning. today i’d like to get as close to big bear lake as possible, probably 21 miles, so i challenge myself to see how many miles i can hike before i take my lunch break. an innovative but unsuccessful new water carry strategy means that my pack is uneven for much of the morning & i’m grateful at 12 to take it off with 13 miles behind me.
today is cool & cloudy. i could hike forever like this, i think, & i keep feeling good until i round a bend & cross a dirt road & come to a sudden stop in front of a double chain link fence enclosing a series of thick metal cages. this must be the private zoo noted on my gps app & it is heinous. the bengal tiger & the snow leopard stare at me dully with hollow eyes & a brown bear paces his cage. he stands up on his hind legs but can’t straighten his back all of the way because of the low ceiling & he drops back onto all fours. “how is this legal?” fumes patchwork, i just shake my head. “i’m sorry,” i murmur to the animals & then i have to keep hiking because i’m going to cry.
i catch up to sticks & we hike together for a couple of miles. “i thought there was some kinda summit around here,” he muses, but the terrain is gentle & we round a corner & there’s a dumpster labeled magic & a mysterious white sofa. we sink in with orange sodas & before long hamlet & swedish fish & patchwork & byline have all caught up & we have to take turns on the couch.
camp is less than four miles away & i fly. i could keep going, i think, but camping with friends sounds lovely & i surrender. it’s cold already in the little clearing & i clamber into my shelter early. all night i shiver but the thought of sharing a tent with josef for the next month keeps me warm & i sleep.