I wake up to a muted light. My sleeping bag is sticky with damp and my tent walls are sagging in. I’m mildly confused and am about to try to fall asleep again when I hear people unzipping tents and give up. Is it day yet? When I sit up I brush the sides of my tent with my head and I can hear- and feel- the cold weight on the other side of the fabric. “Did it snow?” I ask, and someone answers with a yes.
I hit as much of the snow off from the inside as I can, and put my rain gear on over my sleep clothes. I stuff my feet inside my cold shoes and clamber out. A puffy layer of snow covers the campground. Catch Em has made a mini snow man, and Karma and Nirvana stand stiffly in the snow, their arms crossed against the cold. Colleen and Rawhide text us and we go to meet them at The Red Kettle for breakfast. Smoky the Bear looks cold, his shoulders dusted with snow, as he stands vigil with his shovel outside of the fire station. I get eggs and potatoes and fruit and toast. When we step outside again, it’s snowing. We go with Colleen and Rawhide to their cabin and hang around. Rick and some other people I know are hiking out today, but my tent is wet, it’s cold, and I don’t want to hike into a snowstorm up to one of the most mountainous sections of trail in Socal. Karma, Nirvana and I decide to split a cabin. We pay at the front desk, pat the resident lab’s head, and then start heading back to the campground to get our stuff.
Thick, wet flakes fall onto our faces and melt on the asphalt. Nirvana is singing “Let It Snow.” It’s Sunday, and as we walk by a church, someone opens the doors. For a couple of seconds I can hear people singing a familiar hymn, I catch a glimpse of rows of wooden pews, and a wave of warm air hits me smelling like candles and wood polish. I feel a sudden longing to be inside, even though I haven’t been inside of a church for a long, long time. Then it passes.
We get to the campground and I get inside my tent. I shove as much of my stuff inside my backpack as I can, wrap my pizza and resupply box in a plastic bag. Then I get out on frozen feet and look at my soggy tent. The snow is falling quickly onto it and melting into freeing slush. It sags. I pull the stakes out and shove them, muddy, into their bag. I remove the fly and bundle it up. By the time I have the tent poles put away, the inner tent is soggy with snow. My polycryo groundsheet is covered with sticky, damp, freezing dirt. I tie it all to the top of my pack, put it on, shoulder my pizza and start the sludge across Idyllwild to our cabin.
As I leave the campground, I think, I don’t think I can handle Washington in the freezing rain if this is what it’s like. My feet are numb and raw with cold, rubbing with each step against the frozen pebbles inside my shoes, under twisted and hastily-donned socks. My hands are numb. I feel miserable and sorry for myself. The only thing to do, though, is to walk, my arms aching from holding my box. At least I am walking to somewhere warm and dry.
We get to the front building, where there is a common room with a fire and overstuffed leather couches. We have to wait another hour until our cabin is ready. There is an area filled with hikers’ backpacks, and we all sit and talk and take turns squeezing, hip-to-hip, onto the couches. Eventually our room is ready, and we go inside and explode our packs. There are two beds, a queen and a twin, and a kitchen and dining table in the room over that looks out onto a dripping patio. Our cabin is bear-themed, and they peer out of picture frames and cling around lamp bases. We hang our tents to dry in the bathroom and I organize and clean my things from the gritty dirt that is sticking to everything from the campground. Then we lie around. I sort my resupply, which is a combination of things from my mailed box and things I’d bought from the store. We go to the store to buy things for dinner and invite a bunch of people over. My friends who hiked out send me pretty pictures of white mountainside and snow-covered trees, socked in by mist, but I’m inside and warm and I’m sleeping in a bed tonight.
Karma and Nirvana cook and sing and joke around, I try to help but they’re possessive of the kitchen and there isn’t much room anyway- we don’t have many of the things we need since we can’t buy big amounts of ingredients, but we make mashed potatoes with olive oil and salt, a salad, roasted veggies, and breaded chicken. Everyone comes over for dinner, and they bring more wine and bread and roasted beets. We eat and talk until it’s late and then they leave.
Karma and I share the big bed. I’m so tired that for the second night in a row I fall asleep without writing.