We’re in Pineapple’s den, in her dad’s nice house, in the suburbs of San Diego. Callie’s alarm goes off at five AM, and silently we all sit up, deflate our neoairs, roll up our beds, and change into our hiking clothes– casting jeans and belts and extra pairs of underwear aside. One by one we are tooth brushed and then we are downstairs eating cereal- puffins special K, now with added protein. Pineapple has made a big pot of coffee and there is carton after carton of almond milk.
Pineapple’s dad drives us to the trailhead. He is a nice dad, maybe the only nice dad I know of and he easily laughs as we talk about how gay we all are. Does Pineapple identify as gay? I don’t know, but we’ve decided this is the queer hike of the San Diego Trans County Trail and so if she wasn’t before, we’ve claimed her now.
Today is Carrot and I’s two year anniversary, except we broke up two months ago. She was going to be here, then not, then maybe going to come anyway, then not. It’s hard not to think of Carrot when I hike, and of course today it’s harder. I text her to say that I love her and she texts me back to say she loves me too. It doesn’t change anything, we’re still broken up- but it feels profoundly comforting to love her from far away, to know that what we built doesn’t dissolve with a shift of label. I have never loved anyone like I love Carrot Quinn. I take solace in the fact that that can still be true.
We drive and I sit and the small sadness dissipates. I’m practicing a new thing lately, an exercise of sitting with the feelings and seeing where they go. Most of the time they slide right on by without causing too much damage, without me needing to squelch or fix them at all. Feelings just disappear! I want to take out a billboard. You don’t have to avoid them at all!
At the terminus to the Salton Sea it is perfectly blue skies and the air is toxic but smells fresh. We take a group picture at the sign that says “end” and I feel quiet and grateful and also sure that it’s going to be very hot very soon, and so we walk. Like an amoeba, eleven of us navigate to the wash and I love seeing people use their maps and head in exactly the right direction.
We stop four miles in, in the shade of towering striated wash wall. Liza packed out fresh carrots and eats them quietly. Pilar has a tooth pulled recently and can’t eat chips at all, though she had a big bag strapped to her pack. We all wail in unison.
“A hike without chips is like a hike without feet” Callie exclaims and we all nod in solidarity. It’s true, man. It’s just like- really true. Pilar says she can eat chips in a couple of days and I am honestly very excited for her.
We walk on slick mud and get endless cases of poop shoe, a phenomenon that cakes our shoes in smeary mud until they become platforms. The mud dries and turns to deep sand. We lapse into silence, some of us put on headphones. I am listening to Bad Bunny and I am listening to Kesha and I am listening to Taylor Swift. Pop music makes me feel like I’m flying and like I am invincible.
I bounce up the wash as fast as I can until I become acutely aware that both of my hips and my collarbones are growing deep bruises from my pack. The faster I go, the sooner I sit.
I walk and the feelings come and then go. I am delirious with gratitude. I’m cresting on a wave of grief that slams me. I am thinking about sex, hands everywhere, tracing circles on skin with my fingers. I stop to eat, I stop to pee, I stop to talk about attachment with issues with Hads.
We reach our water cache at mile 17.5 and each fill up our bottles so that we’re all carrying between four and six liters. My shirt sits soaked and stiff on my body, and while I lay it down to dry in the sun we discuss our camping plan. 19.5 miles today? Maybe 21? Our bodies are screaming and there’s a privy at 19.5 so we end on that.
We slog our water for two more miles and we talk about how we knew we were gay. I figured out I was gay because in middle school I changed for gym in the bathroom stall for fear of what the sight of one errant breast would do. Kelly knew they were guy because they discovered cunnilingus in ballet class when they were four years old.
📍 This section of the SDTCT is on unceded Kumeyaay, Cocopah and Cahuilla land.