I stretch out under my blanket and get out of bed, Twinkle already up and mucking around in the bathroom. Kelsey texts us and says he’s downstairs with Chris. It’s his birthday today, and Twinkle bought him a little cake and candles at Albertson’s yesterday. We take the elevator down, and I walk around the corner to scout where they are. “I don’t see them, I don’t think they’re here,” I say, coming back around the corner, and Twinkle blows out the candles. Then I see Kelsey’s beard and see them sitting down. He motions at me and mimes to ask me what I’m doing. I walk back around the corner and tell Twinkle that they’re there, and we walk over and sing happy birthday to Chris. He’s so embarrassed, and gives us the stink eye, and everyone laughs it off. PSA: I am a terrible scout.
There are hot cinnamon buns, and I grab some yogurt. I just have a lot of yogurt and cinnamon buns for breakfast. Yay. I sit with Twinkle, Chris and Kelsey, and Chris’ girlfriend and Kelsey’s sister. Then we say goodbye and head back up to our room.
We sit and start packing. I spread the food all over my bed again, and try to separate it into food for my Kennedy Meadows box and food for the next week into Kennedy. I just end up winging it and throwing things into the different piles randomly. I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.
We rush the last hour to finish getting our stuff together. I walk down with my pack and two different bags of food. The plastic grocery bag I have my food in is stretching down and cutting into my fingers as I carry it down to the lobby. I sit at the computer and try to figure out how to print a shipping label out; it says I already have a USPS account for my email address, which I don’t, and I don’t know the username if I do, so Twinkle lets me use hers. I pay for the label and print it out. The really nice younger woman at the lobby desk, Itsel, only has regular tape, so I do my best, then Twinkle runs down to the gas station across the street and brings back packing tape! Twinkle is MAGIC!!! Now I can leave my package here and they’ll give it to the mailman, so I won’t have to stay another night. Whew.
We leave our packs with Itsel, who is super nice and curious about the PCT, and asks how much our packs weigh as we moan about how heavy they are and dramatically carry them over. My right foot hurts when I put pressure on it a certain way when I walk. I hope it’s nothing bad, although a bad foot would certainly solve any Sierra dilemmas.
We walk along the road in the bright sun, a wind blowing and keeping us from sweating. Twinkle half-heartedly throws her thumb out as we are walking, which will most likely not get us a ride. We cross the railroad tracks, and walk down to the Best Western to drop a bunch of stuff off at the hiker box there. Godongo and Zydeco and David, who I met once walking out of Whitewater Preserve and who is now Thirsty Detour, are here, and we all go to get lunch together. The sushi place is closed, and so is the Mediterranean deli, so we walk down the street again to the Mexican place. I order a burrito and we all talk about what we’re doing about the Sierra and how dangerous the passes and rivers are. We pass around reports Twinkle digs up on her phone from hikers who have gone through and who say that it’s Very Dangerous and it’s going to be Bad For A Very Long Time, about stream crossings that are up to people’s chins. I tell them about my alleged route through Owen’s Valley around the worst of it. Or, Twinkle and I might skip up to Carson Pass and start hiking there. I don’t know. But then, people are hiking through! People are posting pictures of the snow. I feel like if I skip the Sierra I’ve failed, I’m a Bad Hiker, I’ve given up and quit, even if I go back and finish it later in the year. I want to experience the Sierra as a PCT hiker, going through in the early season like I’ve always imagined. What am I doing? Everyone seems to be quitting or skipping ahead. How much of the stuff I’m hearing is fear-mongering? How much isn’t?
Afterwards, Twinkle goes to the hair salon to see if she can get a trim, and I walk over to the convenience store to get some more water bottles for a big 40 mile dry stretch ahead. The gas station store smells like incense and there’s Indian music playing. Twinkle and I meet up again at the hotel. Twinkle calls Connie, the lady who drove us back from Albertson’s yesterday, and she says she’ll pick us up in an hour and drive us to the trail head. It feels really weird to call people and ask for things like that, even if they’re more than happy to help out.
I sit around and read blog accounts of hiking through the Sierra in 2011, the last big snow year, until Connie comes. She drives us out of town, the windmills covering the hills like whirling, mesmerizing hordes of insects. I ask her how she feels about them, and she says she doesn’t like them at all. We get out, and in the distance I see a hiker who’s just hiked in start running towards the car. “Would you want to give someone a ride back? He’s probably pretty smelly,” we say, laughing, as he jogs across the overpass with his backpack on to try and catch Connie before she leaves. Two other hikers come out of the wood works from the north, and Connie seems excited to help out and meet more hikers. Both of her brothers are trail angels but she’s never done anything, even though she’s been wanting to.
Then Twinkle and I head off. Twinkle is complaining about her pack being heavy in her silly dog voice. The trail parallels the highway for a while, then we lose it for a while after a bunch of bee boxes and another water cache that Connie’s brother maintains. We follow a dry creek bed for a while, then climb over a sandy ridge to find the trail.
We make it 3 miles from the road before I find a sheltered camp spot under some Joshua trees for us. I eat a blueberry bagel with smoked salmon flavored cream cheese, which was kind of a mistake, but it’s not inedible, so… Twinkle is feeling grumpy so we compose a Yelp review about the poor hotel amenities at our campsite. No electricity or running water! No continental breakfast! Dirt everywhere!
“Towns are so comfortable to be in, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just live there full-time?” I say.
Katherine and Finger Guns join us to camp. The wind is blowing and tugging at my sleeping bag, and puffing it up with air so that it feels like a sail. Maybe I’ll just blow away.