I don’t sleep well. Even though I’m not afraid of cowboy camping, I think I’m still more alert, so it makes it more difficult to sleep. There is no moon and I wake up several times, blurry eyes trying to focus on the stars. It’s a warm night, the cold air sinking down the canyon towards the spring we filtered water from during the day. The wind ruffles over my sleeping bag and crinkles my dirty polycryo groundsheet. I slept so well every night on the JMT, but I haven’t on the PCT, and it kinda sucks.
We all wake up at 4 ish and start packing up camp by the light of our headlamps. Bugs fling themselves into my face towards the light. Rachel and Nirvana head out first, then Twerk and I follow, leaving Colleen and Karma to finish packing away their things at our camp. It’s dark and the wind blows us around. I’m glad I’m not alone. The dark and wind brings my mind to weird places. I think of all the horror movies I’ve been exposed to. I turn to Twerk and ask him if it would be super creepy if one of us was a werewolf. He just says yes. Later he suggests the trail name “Random,” and I seriously consider it, and even shout it down the mountains to taste the way it feels, but it’s too self-depreciating and negative and I turn it down. They’ve been throwing trail names at me left and right, eventually one will stick.
It becomes light enough that we switch our headlamps off and I race across the back side of a ridge to catch the pink curtain of flame that is the sunrise before it disappears. I sit down and watch and Twerk and Karma and Colleen join me.
It starts to get hot and we spread out. I’ve heard that the trail down to Scissor’s crossing is frustrating, so I’m only bemused as the trail stays up on the ridge for miles, the road we are hitching on in a few hours cutting across the dry valley below.
Karma is ahead and starts leaving us messages with rocks in the middle of the trail. Food, says one, bed, showers,then a heart, and U followed by a rock. They keep my mind off of the long hot trail. I finally catch up to her as she’s building a sign that says “10 by 10” for all of us.
The sun heats my skin and makes my arms damp with sweat and dusty. Finally the trail veers off of the mountains straight for the road, blooming cacti dotting the landscape with delicate pink petals, and juniper, cheat grass nodding in the wind, heavy and red.
Down here on the valley floor it’s hot. I look to the junipers for shade, imagine myself clinging to the dirt at their roots, but it’s too close to Julian and food for a break. I walk with a woman named Heidi for a while.
I wait for my friends at the road and then we walk the last 3/4s of a mile along the road to find a good spot to hitch. We set our packs down and stick our thumbs out. Karma makes a sign on her Tyvek groundsheet that says “Help a Hiker” with a lopsided smiley face. We use Twerk’s speaker to play Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop This Feeling” and we dance in between cars. Most of them are going the wrong way or turning. Heidi hops in with an already-loaded car of thru-hikers. Finally a car pulls up to drop some thru-hikers off, and turns around to go back to Julian, but not before picking us up. The driver is a super cool woman named Connie, who’s retired and has hiked portions of the AT and has day hiked Whitney tons of times. That hike is brutal, so I’m super impressed.
Julian is green with trees, the Main Street lined with trinket shops and restaurants. It’s mostly a tourist town but it’s super cute and there’s food. Connie drops us off in front of the lodge and we split a room 4 ways. We go in and explode our packs, sitting on the floor so we don’t stain the beautiful white comforters. I take my shower last and put on my rain/wind gear and sleeping shirt. I put all of my dirty clothes that I need to wash in my bug net, and then head off to Soups and Such across the street with everyone. I get a huge salad with a side of sweet potato fries. And fresh lemonade. It’s a ton of food and really delicious. The vinegar in the salad dressing burns my lips.
The we go to Carmen’s, a trail angel in Julian, who lets hikers sleep on the patio of her business and use her washing machine. We put all of our clothes in together with a bunch of other thru-hikers and then go to check out the market. I do my resupply and head back to Carmen’s, then go with Nirvana to let him have a shower in our room and drop my food off. I leave him there to join everyone for free Apple-cherry pie and lemonade at Mom’s. I’ll see how my stomach reacts to the gluten and see if I can wean myself onto it again. They want to give me the trail name of Surprise, because my hair sticks up like in anime and I’m apparently full of surprises. I like it a lot, but not sure if it fits me enough.
Then we all hang around, check our laundry, enjoy the beds. I find out that someone I talked with a lot before the trail about gear and planning, Rick, and who started the day after I did, is staying in the room next to ours and I get to meet him and say hi. Then I go with everyone (Twerk, Karma, Colleen, Rachel, Nirvana, Rachel, Jesus) to Romano’s, the Italian place. We have to sit at two different tables, which is lonely even though Twerk and Jesus are both sitting with me, and the only thing I can eat is the Zuchinni frittata, and honestly when I think about food I’m still so full from lunch that I want to barf a little bit. So I head back to the lodge and sit on the bed and talk with my mom on the phone until they all get back. Twerk and Colleen fall asleep and Karma comes back inside. I’m so tired and get halfway through my blog post before putting my phone down and falling asleep.