383.9 – 411.8 (but w roadwalking only ~21 miles)
pepa must have been telling people to ask me about the upcoming road walk detour because when i slither out of our shelter to go pee, pebbles & nick wave me over to their tent. “what even do we do?” they ask, & i laugh cause i don’t know either but i pull out the diagram i’ve been referencing & kneel outside of their tent.
pepa & i walk downhill towards the highway through a shaded pine forest. i’m still not totally sure how today will play out… there’s a five mile section of the trail that’s been closed to protect the habitat of an endangered frog & it seems like everyone’s approaching it differently. the trail crisscrosses the highway four or five times today & it feels like the options are endless. but after the last couple of easy days my body’s feeling fresh & the cool air makes me optimistic & easygoing. when we find wet dog smoking a cig at the highway with a suggestion to roadwalk through till after the closure i shrug & say “yeah, why not?”
the two lane highway is deserted, we fan out over the pavement & count three cars in our first few miles. “this,” says wet dog, “is what the apocalypse will feel like,” & i know what he means. we pop back on trail just after mile 398 so that we can see the 400 mile marker & agree that we’ll probably camp at sulphur springs at mile 406.5.
for the last two hundred miles i’ve been told to watch out for poodle dog bush. supposedly it shows up in burn areas & causes a reaction worse than poison oak. “do you smell that?” asks pepa. i do, something’s a little skunky, a little weedy in the air. “poodle dog bush,” he says, & we spot it again & again through the afternoon. if past accounts can be believed this is still hardly anything but it does add a new element to the day’s walking.
“should we push on after the water?” we ask each other & it’s galvanizing & the answer of course is yes. we agree that we’ll camp somewhere in the mile after the water source at 411. by midafternoon i’m feeling the miles & pepa & i are a little bit snappier with each other than we normally are. we hike ten minutes apart for a while but i miss him quickly & slow down so he can catch up. when i see him around the corner my heart melts. i love him! hiking is boring sometimes but i get to be with him!
i stir peanut butter & a little tapatio into my ramen & huddle in close to the campfire that butcher’s been tending. boots & fibs & lucky winner have already eaten but they snack out of their food bags. the wind is strong & i am so SO sleepy & full. i clean my pot with a little water & my fingertips & we stumble to our shelter. the wind pushes the walls inwards, makes it even smaller than it already was, but we sleep.