I wake up at Pineapple’s and before I open my eyes I can feel that my whole body is tired. The blisters on my toes are throbbing, my hamstrings are wound into little fists of hard knot, and I am ravenously hungry. This is the first time I’ve ever hiked nine days in a row without any significant rest, and though I am excited to finish and see the ocean, I also just want to be done.
I really don’t feel like hiking today.
It’s funny, the allure of the indoors. OF COURSE I want to rest at Girl Scout’s housesit, OBVIOUSLY I want to eat Pho and sleep in Pineapple’s guest bedroom. But the indoors makes me soft, I think. The more I am comfortable, the less I want to walk all day for absolutely no reason. It makes sense to feel soft from this vantage point in my deeply comfortable bed! I don’t feel like hiking today, but I will hike anyway because that’s what hikers do.
Hikers gotta hike I mumble to myself under my breath. I am groggy and my pep talk works only vaguely.
BUT! Today shouldn’t be too hard. We have fifteen miles to go, and I make a personal goal to get to the ocean by 2:00PM. I’ve hiked faster than I’ve ever hiked before on this trail, and I feel confident that we can weave in and out of the neighborhoods at a quick pace.
We make an executive decision to leave most of our gear behind and hike without the weight of our shelters, quilts, and extra food. Pineapple takes us for vegan croissants and oat milk lattes and I decide this is officially a tropical vacation, which really lightens my mood. Just a long walk to the ocean, with feather light backpacks and third wave coffee in hand! What’s not to like?
Pineapple drops us where she picked us up the day before, and we head into Penasquitos canyon. We pass a playground, all plastic climbing structures and swing sets. We work to weave around the mud while chatting about our plans for the day. I roll my ankle a little, and wobble to my left, slapping my foot right into a thick mud puddle. I stumble right trying to yank it back out without spilling my latte and it becomes clear that I am either A) going down hard into this mud or B) losing my shoe.
I choose the latter. The mud sucks my shoe down into the muck, ripping it right off my foot, tied and still attached to my gaitor. I spill not one drop of my coffee and Jelly Bean and I laugh until we cry. Of all the terrain to almost deeply lose my shit, I’ve chosen the one directly in front of the play structure.
I dig my shoe out and it weighs approximately ten more pounds than the other, due to the mud. We continue on and start seeing signage for the San Diego Trans County Trail for the first time. This route was once a planned thing, something that didn’t include trespassing or bushwhacking, but it was abandoned by the city early on and these little signs are all that’s left. We weave up flat canyon for ten miles and it is sun dappled and sleepy. There are many dogs, small dogs and big dogs with their people in tow and I pet them all.
We come to a waterfall, and cross through thigh high water with just a little bit of negotiation. This route truly has everything! Just when you think it’s smooth sailing, the SDTCT will throw you a curveball.
Jelly Bean and I split off. I cross under a highway, and walk along roads of San Diego, watching people coming and going to work in their suits. I am on track to hit the ocean at 2, and I see a taco shop right on trail, with a huge hand painted sign in the window.
NO LARD IN BEANS.
It feels like a direct invitation. I cannot turn down a taco, wouldn’t want to really, and so I stop. I eat a giant fajita plate with rice and beans and fried peppers and onions and guacamole, then stop in the coffeeshop next door to drink a very large and very strong cold brew. I feel like I am living in a thru-hiker fantasy, one where the perfect food and drink is just on trail and I am deeply amused. I won’t hit the ocean by two, but I’d rather finish with a full belly and with Jelly Bean anyway so fuck it.
Just as I leave the coffee shop, Jelly Bean limps up. We both have tremendous and painful blisters and have slowed considerably as a result. We hit Los Penasquitos Marsh Preserve and try desperately to keep our feet out of the mud to avoid irritating our blisters and we fail miserably, sloshing through puddles until the narrow path breaks open and the ocean is just ahead of us.
I am happy at the ocean, deliriously so. The shore to the sea is rocky, making every step painful on my raw toes but I step up to the Pacific anyway, put my hands in it, splash it a little on my face.
The ocean is vast and I let myself feel small in comparison. I am but an ant, a speck, a piece of stardust in a giant universe, and the Pacific let’s me know that’s totally okay— more than okay really, actually preferred.
Thank you, I say to the ocean, whispering at first and then saying it a little louder.
Thank you for giving me a place to walk to.