I am awake before Maddy and Julie’s alarm. It’s very comfortable on this couch and I slept well. The alarm goes off and we start packing up our things. I lay out all of my food real quick and repackage everything, dumping out the old peanut butter pretzels and sesame sticks I’ve been carrying since Campo and just haven’t wanted to eat. I should have done that earlier. My foot feels a bit swollen and tender as I walk around but it should feel better once I have my shoes on and get walking.
We get breakfast at the Teddy Bear Restaurant, which is a lame name but the food is good. I order a veggie omelet and hash browns and have cinnamon cornbread, and ask for two glasses of water since I think I’m still a bit dehydrated. It’s all good.
Since Julie has a flight at twelve and she’s tight for time I’ve decided that she doesn’t need to make the trip to drop us at the highway and stress. She drops me off at the Motel 6 that OT and Ziploc are staying at that looks like a white-and-blue greyhound station. Julie gives me a big hug and I get one from Maddy and I say goodbye. Julie is awesome and I’m going to miss Maddy, since she got off from Big Bear early she’ll be a day behind and it might take a while to gain on us. Catch up! Please!
I sit with OT in his room for a couple minutes then meet Ziploc outside. He orders an Uber for us back to the trail and I sit in the back with my pack. The driver is playing Billy Joel and River of Dreams comes on and OT and I sing and tap our hands and feet to the music.
“I sing this song to my wife,” he says.
“My Dad used to rock my little brother to sleep with this album,” I say.
We get to the trail. I met Twinkle Toes here last year, and so I send a picture of the highway to her. “Hey! I thought you were going to meet me here again. Where are you,” I write.
Then off! It’s two miles through scrubby pine and bushes to the fire closure detour. It’s magically become a good temperature again since yesterday and the weather is perfect. A cool wind but nothing too chilly and clear blue skies. I fall behind to pee (those two glasses of water at breakfast) and find OT and Ziploc waiting for me at the paved road at the start of the detour. Aww. We all walk it together, I’m a couple of seconds behind. Ziploc and OT walk together, side-by-side on the broad dirt road ahead of me.
The road is rocky and steep and our packs are heavy, but it’s not too bad, especially in this temperature. Once we get back on the PCT it’s easy going, the trail gentle and not rocky. I get to Caribou Creek and decide to filter another liter of water. Christian is there and we talk as we collect water from the slow-moving creek. I wasn’t sure about him at first, because he was very opinionated about my homemade tarp, but after talking for a while I decide he’s a good cookie and forgive him for his MYOG-criticizing transgression.
I talk with him and Carson and Dasha for a while. Magneto shows up. I finally head off and catch OT talking on the phone to his family. I sit and eat chips and we answer questions from curious and enthusiastic dayhikers. OT shows them his rattlesnake video and they pick up his pack to see how heavy it is. We head off together and talk for a while, with 8 miles to go until camp. It’s pretty, gentle green/dry hills and. Real pine forest. The trail is flat and we make good time. We catch up to Ziploc at a break and head off together. We’re an odd little group but they’re gems and I feel lucky to be hiking with them.
We hike together until Little Bear Springs Trail Camp. I see the composting toilet and let out a low whoop. This is where I got my trail name last year, the picnic table here is The picnic table, and I’m excited for this. Ziploc and OT move in to camp under the trees, but I tell them I refuse to go by without reacquainting myself with My picnic table, and so I go and sit with two Swiss guys who have a giant 2-gallon ziploc of different gummy candies. Their names are Rabbit and Ape, and I talk to them and tell them my trail name story. They don’t like the Red Vines they got and so they pull them from the giant bag and give them all to me. I cook dinner and eat red vines as I wait for it to cook. This is a good picnic table, with extra sturdy, thick wood. It will last a long time.
The sun nears the horizon and is turning bright, so I pack up my things and head off to where Ziploc and OT are camped. OT is eating his dinner. “It’s going to be cold tonight,” he observes, and I start shivering against the cool breeze.
I’m not going to be cold tonight, I decide, so I set up my cowboy camp and put on all of my clothes and wrap my tarp over my sleeping bag like a burrito. I pull my water filter in with me in case it freezes and settle in for the cold night.