Before I open my eyes I feel the throb of my mouth. My bottom lip is full of something otherwordly, a mass of whatnot bigger than the sun. There are many things to think of today, and only one I can focus on.
The whole world is contained within my bottom lip.
I Ibuprofin while Jelly Bean softly snores beside me. I check our GPS track. The second half of the San Diego Trans County Trail is decidedly more urban than the first, and in order to camp, we have to be stealth and specific about where we land. We will hit Cedar Creek Trailhead 27 miles from where we lay in our bed and breakfast. The first ten miles is a road walk, one with thick grimy snow on the shoulders. When Jelly Bean wakes up I lay out the options.
“I propose we take a Lyft up to where the road walk ends. We’ll skip eight miles of the trail but we’ll get to the campground tonight and an eight mile road walk with snow covered shoulders sounds like shit to me.” Jelly Bean agrees. We’re not here to road walk! We pack our bags and within in an hour, we are on our way back to nature, dirty snow be damned.
At ten AM we’re dropped at the end of the road and into a cow pasture. There is gentle rolling trail and there is no snow. With no snow, no elevation gain, and no severe heat, we are free. I can’t believe it!!!! This land is gentle and forgiving. Unencumbered walkin’! Fuck yeah!
Today there are huge surging waterfalls, and there are poppies. The poppies burst forth in scads, zig zagging up and down mountainsides in giant swatches. I think of the wet year, how the surprise snow lead to perfect conditions for a superbloom and I cry. I love the poppies, and I decide the poppies love me too. Humans do such a bad job with nature, and I want to do good. I make a promise to the poppies and the Kumeyaay land.
I’ll do better I think.
We can all do better.
I arrive to our campground around 3:00PM. I am at the top of the hill, surrounded by cartoonishly nice houses— ones with turrets, nestled in a hillside that overlooks the entire trail I have just come up. There is an RV, and I know from Girl scout that the RV contains the campground host— a notoriously grumpy dude who will give you shit for sure but likely let you camp if you ask nicely.
I throw away my trash, fill up my water bottles at the spigot, and fuzz out my eyes as I shove chips into my mouth in great handfulls. Jelly Bean shows up and I want her to deal with this camp host because I am embarrassed to ask for things, generally, but then I decide that I don’t approve of that line of thinking and that I will do it myself instead.
I knock on the RV and a white guy in a national parks hat opens the door. He looks down the bridge of his nose at me wordlessly, and he narrows his eyes. I pause, waiting for him to speak and he says nothing.
“I…ah…we’re coming from the Salton Sea and are headed to the Pacific Ocean. We wondered if it’s okay to camp here? I mean if it’s allowed? or if you would mind?”
My voice sounds 3 octaves higher than normal and I am annoyed.
“You’re not even supposed to have been down there at all.” the man says, his voice quiet. “Trails been washed out and flooded so many times over the past few months. People have DIED. It’s not safe and you trespassed.”
I explain that there was no sign (there wasn’t), that I hate danger (I do!) and that I am sorry (I’m not really— it was fine— but that’s okay.) Eventually the man softens his face.
“Salton Sea, huh?” he says. “That’s a pretty long ways to walk.”
He let’s us stay. He unlocks the chains of the privy (bless him), he offers outlets for our phones. He tells us again about all the people that have died and we nod solemnly as we cook our dinners at the picnic tables. I make rice noodles with vegetables and peanut butter, Jelly Bean makes instant mashed potatoes.
Tomorrow, we trespass and we bushwhack, two things I haven’t done much of before, but look forward to them both with a spark of excitement I know is perhaps naive.
“5:30 AM alarm!” Jelly Bean says.
Tomorrow we see what we’re made of.