I have full intentions to leave today. Kyra is antsy and heads out, and will wait for Hop Along at Casa de Luna in 24 miles. There are only 4 names on the list for the shuttle to REI; Hop Along, Godongo, Rick and myself. I sit on the porch and talk with Rick about the Sierra snow pack and gear and people flipping up to Oregon or Washington, standing up every now and then to check the REI list. We need a minimum of 6 people by 10, so at 9:30 we walk around and ask people if they need to go. No Bueno. Sugar Mama or one of the other volunteers calls the shuttle company, and it’s decided that we’ll wait until noon to see if other hikers arrive who will want to go to REI.
The shuttle to town just left, so Rick and I decide to walk down together to get breakfast. I talked to Rick about preparation and other things quite a bit before starting the hike, so it’s cool I’ve been at about the same pace as him. We talk more about the Sierra; with only 250 more miles and 2-3 weeks to Kennedy Meadows, it suddenly seems much more real. The guy Rick is hiking with for now wants to flip around it and walk south from Canada, but we both think that’s a bad idea, since there’s almost just as much snow up there, and you’d be hiking alone and breaking your own trail vs. hiking with a ton of other people in the Sierra with other people’s footprints to follow, no matter how misguided they may be. It still all feels very abstract.
I order Huevos Rancheros (eggs and beans with warm corn tortillas; I had no idea this was a thing so I wanted to try it) and scrape my plate clean. I left my phone and charger somewhere, I don’t know exactly where back at Hiker Heaven, so I’m a bit anxious as we walk the mile back up the hill. It’s not bad at all without packs on. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could hike without a pack! Rick has a heavier pack and is always light-heartedly ragging on people with lighter packs because he believes we are smug fast-walking villains or something like that, which we really are, to be honest. He’s just jealous!
We get back right before the shuttle to REI is coming, and I have just enough time to find my phone and run down to my tent to empty my food bag to use as a grocery bag. I hop into the van with a bunch of other hikers. The fabric seats are soft and comfy, and I want to fall asleep as the van softly rocks back and forth. We get on the highway, and I fight back the vague anxiety that I get now when I see how many cars and people there are. The driver drops us off in front of the REI, in the LA sprawl somewhere. I grab a new pair of shoes and socks, and check out. Then I walk over to the Smart N Final next door and push a cart around to get my resupply. I get blueberry bagels and two things of cream cheese, and some mango kombucha and a peach, and other things. I can’t find my peach after I pay for my groceries, and so I sit in the van drinking my kombucha while I listen to a hiker named Pogo talk with the driver. There’s a busy intersection nearby, and a tangle of power lines, and so many cars that fill the entire parking lot, but I manage to kind of just zone it out and focus on my immediate surroundings.
When I get back to Hiker Heaven, I sort and repackage my resupply on the straw bales around the fire pit, and when I pack it away my food bag is filled to the top. I throw away my dusty old shoes, kissing them goodbye and thanking them before I drop them into the trash can. Twerk walks in, and then I see Karma and Nirvana walking up the road and I run over to say hello and hug them and chauffeur them through the gates. The volunteer who gives them the tour asks them if they want a couple’s trailer, and they just shake their heads and tell her they aren’t a couple. I stand nearby and laugh.
I’m realizing that my vague resolve of this morning to get out of here is becoming less determined, with my tent still up and my belongings scattered inside. I sit in the electronics dome with Twerk and Rawhide to charge my phone. Nope, I decide, I’m definitely not leaving; it’s too hard to achieve escape velocity later in the day when I still need to pack up all of my stuff.
I head out for dinner with Hop Along, a Swede with a lazy eye named Fred, and a couple, Rawdog and Buttstuff. We go to the Mexican place, which is busy. As everyone talks I demolish the 4 baskets of chips and salsa almost by myself. So, I’m feeling not-particularly hungry when my wet bean burrito comes, but I finish it anyway. The warm beans and cheese ooze out when I break into the tortilla with my fork.
We go up to the cash register to pay- I pay last, and my card declines. I remember looking at my balance earlier; I had a hundred-something dollars in checking before the REI run, and I must have depleted it and been using up all of my automatic withdrawals for the month. I feel embarrassed and pay with cash, mostly because I know that people are normally embarrassed by their cards declining and not because I actually feel I should be embarrassed. I have plenty of money! I resent the fact that I feel like I should be embarrassed! Oh well?
We walk back in the dark, stepping aside as cars rush past with their bright white head beams leaping into the air. The last shuttle back was an hour ago. I use my phone’s flashlight to illuminate the bumpy asphalt and patches of dried grass. Hop Along sings songs from musicals out loud. Wild Card is on the side of the road and invites us to share a joint- I shake my head no and keep walking with Fred, and lament to him about how it seems like everyone on the PCT smokes and drinks and how I have no interest and so feel like the odd one out constantly in town? Like everyone is drinking and smoking and so it’s like they’re all in on some joke while I’m sitting there pretending to laugh and I just can’t relate.
I sit, quiet, with Twerk, Rawhide, their friend Campo, and Nirvana and Karma in the electronics tent- everyone is cracking lewd jokes that aren’t funny to me and I feel slightly lonely, so I slip away to my tent and fall asleep.