May 9th, Friday
238.6 to 259
It was a long, cold night, and I was curled into a ball, half on top of Zach’s warm body, head buried under the covers, and shivering when morning came the next day. I felt achy and exhausted, but cheered up a bit when I unzipped the tent and saw our campsite in the light of day. We were surrounded by tall, stately conifers, and sunlight poured through the branches as bird-song lit up the forest. It was nice to see a landscape that looked nothing like a desert.
Tim was already packed up and wished us farewell. We sat in our tent a while longer, poring over the map. If we did twenty miles today, that would leave us only seven miles for tomorrow to hike to Highway 18, where we would hitch to Big Bear Lake hopefully in time to pick up our package before the post office closed.
With this in mind, we packed up and headed out, leaving the forest behind for a tangled maze of manzanita. I was feeling grouchy from having a lousy night’s sleep, and Zach’s knees were hurting him again. Still, it wasn’t a bad day. The mountains we were walking along were lovely and green, and in the distance we could see the snow-capped peak of Mount San Gorgonio (some hikers took a day-long detour to summit this mountain, but we didn’t).
As we walked, I began to feel hungry. This was nothing new, but it came with a kind of urgency that I hadn’t felt before. I thought over which snacks we had left. We were rationing our Snickers at this point, so what else did we have? Peanut butter. We had almost a full jar. I asked Zach if we could stop and eat some.
We sat in the fold of the mountain and pulled out the peanut butter jar. I ate about half a cup, right out of the jar with a spoon. My body ravenously consumed the fat- and protein-packed paste with wild abandon. Ever after, whenever I felt hungry, I put myself to the Peanut Butter Test: I’d ask myself, “How good does it sound right now to eat half a jar of peanut butter, straight?” If the idea seemed kind of odd, it meant I wasn’t really that hungry. If it sounded like the best idea ever, it meant I really did need those calories.
We also saw our first bear that day, a grizzly!— but it was in a cage, part of a complex that housed exotic animals for movies and TV shows. It looked at us lazily through the chain-link about fifty feet off trail, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
|See the bear? There's totally a bear. See? See?|
In late afternoon, we found ourselves back in a forest, walking through a wide forest of pine and cypress that even had a couple tiny streams trickling through it. Despite his pain, Zach was in a good mood because the scenery reminded him of Oregon.
We also ran into an unexpected bit of trail magic: we turned a bend in the trail to find a dumpster and full-size couch sitting by the side of the trail (in the middle of nowhere, I might add). The magic was courtesy of Big Bear Hostel and featured fresh apples, soda, cookies, and a bunch of canned goods and first-aid supplies. Delighted, we rushed over to join the four or five people already there, and they yielded the couch so we could have a turn.
Couches are truly amazing things. In fact, chairs in general are. They mess up your back like no one’s business— but wow, are they comfortable! After two weeks of sitting on the ground, this couch was an amazing luxury.
We talked to a girl who had indigo hair (in my head, I nicknamed her Indigo). She said that this was her fourth week on trail. “On my first week, I had two blisters on every toe,” she said.
“Literally,” the guy with her said. “She’s not exaggerating.”
I recoiled in horror. “How?” I asked.
“I don’t know! I guess I have really sensitive feet.”
We fell to talking about the trail, and she asked us how we liked it. We said that it was hard, and that it hadn’t been a whole lot of fun lately.
Indigo shook her head disapprovingly. “If you’re miserable, you’re going too fast,” she said. “Take a day off!”
Zach and I exchanged glances, then smiled politely at her. We knew then what we know now: if we had taken a day off every time we felt miserable, we would still be trying to get to Canada today.
After we ate some snacks and enjoyed the couch, we climbed a round-topped mountain (more like the Ozarks, a welcome difference from the jagged stony hills we had been climbing). At sunset, we found a small camping spot under a juniper on the ridge. For once, there was no wind, so we settled in nicely. Zach even had time to read me Lord of the Rings. We still didn’t sleep well that night— it was cold and I just couldn’t get comfortable. But at least there wasn’t any wind.