|My camera died on June 3rd, so the photos in this entry are actually from the next morning, right before we left.|
June 3rd, Tuesday
Zach and I dropped our backpacks with a horde of others in the General Store’s front lawn, a dusty enclosed area with sawn-off logs and dilapidated benches for sitting. The store front looked exactly as I had imagined it: dusty, rustic, with weathered wood. A newer addition was on the side, a huge deck covered in plastic tables, which were, as mentioned, crammed with hikers. Zach and I wandered to this first, seeing a bunch of people we knew. A line of hiker boxes were off to our left, along the main building: above them, on the worn wood siding, were hung many signs, such as: “People say I have a bad attitude. I say screw ‘em!” and “I don’t normally drink beer. But when I do, I prefer to drink a lot of it,” and “FISHING” and “Warning: This Establishment is Frequented by Pickpockets and Loose Women,” with a large “KENNEDY MEADOWS” sign in the middle.
The store was dark and crammed with convenience food, none of which had any prices on them. They had a tab system where you gave them your credit card, and they gave it back when you left. Zach and I knew this was a bad idea, and decided to buy things as we went.
Everyone there was buying with abandon, without the slightest clue of how much they were spending. Every group we saw already had multiple empty six-packs of beer on the tables next to them. It was 10 in the morning, and a good half of the hikers were already buzzed, with another percentage already considerably wasted. Everyone was in a celebratory mood. I felt vaguely glum and eyed the restaurant menu. Maybe Zach and I could split a burger for lunch.
Zach and I took care of business first. We picked up our boxes ($5 fee for each): one was a food box, and the other was a shoe box, packed with extra Clif bars and Snickers. I pulled out my new pair of shoes: Asics trail runners with heavy tread, much more heavy-duty than the flimsy (now completely shredded) New Balance shoes I wore. I tried on the Asics, and they felt unbearably hot and tight. I hoped they’d feel better once I broke them in.
I took stock of our food and organized it while Zach went to a nearby trailer home to pick up the bear canisters we’d been able to reserve through a loan program (a $5 fee for each was all we had to pay, in addition to postage to send them back).
So, already we’d spent $20, our supposed budget for each stop, and we hadn’t even gotten anything to eat.
In retrospect, I wish that I had been able to relax about money. I drove myself insane with worry— much more insane that I would have been paying off the debt later. I’m terrified of debt, and I didn’t want to start going into the debt before we’d even left California. So poor Zach had to deal with my horrible control-freakiness about money.
I was starved, so I grabbed some oatmeal from the hiker box and ate it. The hiker box was a treasure trove: we picked up half-empty fuel canisters, huge bags of nuts and dried fruit, and tons of oatmeal.
Zach had discovered a few days ago that he had accidentally left his long-sleeved shirt in Tehachapi, which was a big problem with us headed into the cold High Sierra. In the hiker box, he found a shirt almost identical to the one he’d had before— it was brown instead of green, and a little tight, but it worked. He wore it from there to Canada.
I found a seat next to The Animal. At first I was amazed that we had paced him, until I learned that he’d taken several zeros, as well as taking side trips to climb nearly every peak within ten miles of the PCT. He was still clearly having the time of his life, although he was taking a day off to ice a sore ankle. I sat next to him, feeling gloomy and vaguely listening to the guy sitting next to us, Veganaise, talk about how he usually eats organic GMO-free vegan food. I felt hungry. But I didn’t want hiker food.
Inside the store, we looked for supplies, and as we did so, who did we see but Matt and Sam. They were in high spirits, their faces flushed red, as they bought yet another six-pack. We talked about our trail names— they were now going by Brunch and ‘Chete. We told them our trail names, and Sam chuckled. “Tabasco and Leftovers, huh? How did you get that?”
Matt cut in, raising his eyebrows to accentuate the innuendo, “He sure spices up her leftovers!”
And we all laughed, because, honestly, it was pretty funny.
We opted out of showers or laundry, since both were pretty expensive and had a waiting list. We didn’t feel quite dirty enough to warrant the money.
We broke down and bought a $10 burger and fries for supper, which we split. We also decided to camp there for the night, since the sites out back were free. The backyard was a dusty slope, interspersed with trees and random structures like a popcorn stand, a small amphitheater, and random sheds. Zach and I walked away from the circle of people passing around joints (the smoke was thick over their heads) and found an out-of-the-way spot to set up our tent.
That was one of those days when I really wanted to get a lot done— journal, wash clothes, take stock, write home. But we had no cell service, no wi-fi, and no motivation. All I remember was sitting around doing nothing, and watching everyone else sitting around doing nothing.
I was still feeling stressed about food, but wanted to buy something special. We agreed on two bags of Fritos, but after we bought them I began crying because I felt like it was a luxury we couldn’t afford. Then I proceeded to eat most of a bag by myself. That didn’t help my mood.
I felt like our time at Kennedy Meadows should have been more exciting, more joyous, more celebratory. But mostly I just felt tired.