I wake up at 8, after staying up well past hiker midnight. I finally pull myself out of my bed, get dressed in my hiking shorts and puffy, and slip out of the door. I walk across the parking lot in the warm morning sun, my puffy already sticking to my chest with sweat. Tents are hanging to dry on the railings on the second floor of the motel. I go into the breakfast room and raid the continental breakfast bar- eggs, English muffin with butter, a big waffle, yogurt, a muffin.
Then I head back, feeling anxious because I should be doing things. Twinkle texts me and says she got a room for free with some points she had and I’m welcome to join in. I pack up my things; then Hop Along texts me. She says she’s getting off trail and heading back home to Canada because she thinks her ankle might be broken. Kyra is continuing on her own. I text her for a while, and lie in my bed and cry for a bit. I’m love them both and I’m going to miss Hop Along, her hugs, her cheery, optimistic personality, her Canadian “eh?”s at the end of her sentences. I really wish I could have hiked with her more. Maybe Kyra will catch up with me.
I sloppily pack up all of my stuff, and start walking across town to the Holiday Inn, where Twinkle has our room. I stop at the German Bakery, squeezing through the crowded room and focusing on trying not to hit people with my backpack. There are a bunch of discounted day-old pastries on the counter so I buy a cherry coffee cake, in the hopes that it tastes like cherry pie.
I head across the railroad tracks which parallel the main part of town, and follow the directions on my phone through a nice neighborhood with bright, mowed grass and small, pretty yards. The road widens into an overpass over the freeway. Walking on the shoulder, I can see what must be the post office in the distance, and a swathe of trees which hides the hotel. I go up to our floor and knock at the room number Twinkle gave me. She opens the door, and I flop my things down near a bed and present her with the cherry coffee cake.
I walk up the road to the PO to get my package, and see Spider Bite and Chris on my way out. Back in the hotel room I open the package, which my mom sent me. There is a package of jalapeno cheese puffs, and bottles of coffee, as well as other snacks to add to my resupply. I don’t usually drink coffee but I have one anyway and leave the rest in the room’s mini fridge. Then we walk back into town to get lunch and resupply. As I walk I try to stretch out my right foot- it feels tight, like the muscles are bound up in the arch and forefoot, but it feels better once I start walking. We get lunch at a small diner off of the main road. I order a big lemonade and drink several glasses of water. The food here isn’t very good though, and I poke at my cold breakfast burrito made with ready-eggs.
Then we start the long walk to the Albertson’s, which is in another part of town. Tehachapi is almost as big as Big Bear, so there’s lots of walking. We stop at a Kmart to be in the air conditioning and see Legend again; then again at the Starbucks. We get to the Albertson’s and I walk around with a cart to do my resupply. I get blueberry bagels, and spend a long time trying to find the cream cheese, which isn’t in the normal dairy section against the back wall, but in a refrigerated aisle. There are a bunch of different flavors – chive, blueberry, strawberry, smoked salmon.
“Do you think I should get smoked salmon cream cheese for my blueberry bagels?” I ask Twinkle.
“No, I think that’s a terrible idea and you’re crazy,” she says, and I start laughing.
I turn to a man nearby who is looking at some Brie. “Doesn’t smoked salmon cream cheese on blueberry bagels sound good? She says I’m crazy but I think she’s just jealous she didn’t come up with it herself,” and he looks and me and starts laughing, too.
“I think you should try it,” he says.
“See? I’m not crazy,” I tell Twinkle.
She just shakes her head at me. “You know what, I can’t stop you. When you come to me later saying how terrible it is I won’t feel sorry for you.”
I put the smoked salmon cream cheese in my cart.
As I continue shopping, I feel anxiety rising up in me in waves as I see how much junk food I’m getting and worrying about getting enough food to send to Kennedy Meadows for the Sierra. Twinkle finishes and is waiting for me, and I’m finally done and check out, feeling anxious and helpless.
We sit in the front with our food, and try to find an Uber back to our hotel. There aren’t any cars running now, though, even though there was one this morning, and we don’t want to carry all of this food all the way back in the heat. Twinkle runs inside to ask for materials to make a hitching sign, while I sit outside guarding our food. I feel stuck, stuck in the town vortex, stuck in making a decision for the Sierra, stuck with how little planning I’ve done to resupply for the Sierra, stuck at Albertson’s with no way back to our hotel, and anxiety and panic wells up in me, and then I feel even more anxious and panicky because I feel bad about being so frozen and useless. Then Twinkle comes back and says that she found someone who will drive us back to the Holiday Inn. Twinkle is magic!
Connie comes out and we follow her to her car. She’s super nervous and quiet. Her brother is the person who maintains the water cache up before Tehachapi, and her other brother trail angels in Lone Pine. She drops us off and we say thank you, thank you, thank you. Twinkle gets her number just in case.
Back in the room, I spread all of my food out and try to repackage it as best I can and separate it into a food resupply for Kennedy Meadows. Maybe iIshouldn’t have drank that coffee, maybe that’s why I’m so wired and anxious. Twinkle heads off to get sushi for dinner, and I stay behind and try to figure stuff out. I have no idea how much food I need to send, where I’m going to go after Kennedy Meadows. I try to research alternate routes- I could walk along 395 in Owen’s Valley? I call my parents, flustered and overwhelmed. Maybe I need to take an extra zero day just to figure this all out. Maybe I need to just flip around the Sierra right now. Thinking about this is both an immediate relief, and a gut feeling that this would be a wrong decision. I feel like by skipping around the Sierra, I will be quitting or failing. I feel stuck and unproductive and I don’t know what to do, and part of all of this is just the lack of direction and underlying urge to leave and get back on trail that I always feel in towns. What is my thru-hike going to look like? I feel stuck in my purism, because at heart I’m a trail purist- I want to be able to hike every step of this trail in a continuous, unbroken line, from Mexico to Canada.
I go to look at maps and the Sierra snow report at a computer downstairs until Twinkle comes back from sushi. We head down to the outdoor pool in the dark and sit in the Jacuzzi for a while. My foot feels weird when I walk on it. Twinkle leaves, and I sit for a while, alone, in the lukewarm, chlorinated Jacuzzi before a family with a little kid comes in and breaks the tepid night-quiet. Chlorine water drips from my clothes onto the textured concrete, the night air warm and, in my mood, vaguely uneasy. I open the gate to the pool with my room card and let it click shut behind me. The door we came through to leave the hotel is broken and only opens from the inside, so I wander around the outside of the hotel trying to find a way in. The door that leads into the darkened gym is locked, so I backtrack through another set of gates and go through the yellow light of front lobby, wet and holding my small towel the best I can around my waist. I wait for the elevator and join Twinkle in the room.
I take another shower and sit on my bed, watching crappy reality TV with Twinkle. In one show, a bride comes in with her family to choose a dress. She really loves the first one, you can tell it on her face, and so does her father, but then they ask the sister and she says she hates it, and the bride’s face just drops. After a couple more brides, we switch to a house remodeling show. Twinkle and I make fun of the shows, but it’s kind of nice to watch them and it keeps my mind off of things, even though inside there’s still a constant undercurrent of me mulling over my options for the Sierra, and it’s exhausting. What am I doing? I really want to be home right now.