I wake up many times during the night and each time I fall asleep to the sound of Liza’s soft breathing. If you just so happen to have insomnia in the middle of the Anza Borrego desert, I recommend sleeping next to Liza, her sweet sleep breathing is truly the kind of stuff you see in movies, the kind that people write about because it’s just that soothing.
At 5:30 a tiny alarm goes off in the distance and slowly we eat and shit and pack and change and we’re walking by seven, just like we’d planned. Has a group of eleven people ever managed to simultaneously be up and out by seven AM? I truly don’t think so.
Immediately, we climb and this is our steady state for seven miles. In the seven miles many things happen. Scrubby wash plant turns into mountain flora. The Ocotillo intensify, reaching and striating out in great gestures of surrender. The creosote is as tall as my face and twice as wide as my body, the teddy bear cholla glows.
Liza and I talk about throwing away our whole lives. For me a marriage, my gym, the house I co owned, the Pacific Northwest. For her, a farm she owned for six years and a partner she loved for sixteen. Her business was successful but it never felt like enough. My business wasn’t successful and I didn’t have the heart to wait it out or keep trying. People tell us they are amazed by us, our willingness to go be into nature for great expenses of time. We agree that the trick to doing exactly this is to both have a fair amount of privilege and also to allow oneself to grow very poor. Both of us need more work soon.
The sun intensifies and Liza and I split up. I think about polyamory. Polyamory is such a nice thought, a notion of unlimited free love and resource. I am currently trying out polyamory and I find it to be kind of interesting. People have trauma responses when they feel abandoned and that’s real and pressing and honest but sometimes not my work to take care of. Unlimited free love means less alone time, which makes it harder to feel myself. What’s the difference between an agreement and a rule? A boundary?
I don’t have any answers, but what I do have is the end of the climb, which feels really sweet. I barrel downhill toward our water cash, let the Anza Borrego dump me on the highway, where I hike a little bit up, hunting in the bushes. I thought I’d see my friends at the waypoint, which I don’t. It hurts my feelings. They all just….left? I also thought I’d see water, that the cache would be obvious, but instead I just see broken beer bottles and slurpee cups and Cheeto bags. I hunt back and forth for ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes. I don’t find the water, and I decide I need to make a plan.
We are 12 miles from the next reliable water source, and it’s hot. I have about a liter left, I’d like to have two more to feel safe. I’m at the highway, I could hitch into town— but I could also just present my empty bottles upside down on the shoulder of the highway and hope for the best.
I hold my bottle out and hope I don’t look too rangy. One car passes, two cars pass, three. The fourth car passes and pulls off the highway just in front of me.
“I follow you on Instagram!” the passenger says.
I…..am thrilled. I spend so much time wondering if the force social media has on my life is worth it, but in this moment, with this nice friend (hi Megan!) and her nice water i think yes. Yes yes a million times yes. It is worth it.
I head back to the trail glowing, and just as I hit it I see my friends. The coordinates we all had were wrong, a tiny bit off, everyone’s so sorry about the mistake and they cheer when I arrive. I am flushed. I am flushed with the exhalation of not being abandoned, of finding the cache, of kind strangers who give a shit if I have enough water to drink. I make a pot of beans to celebrate the rush and I eat them slowly while we discuss the trail, our digestive systems and farts, and last but not least— gay sex.
I am happy. Like, really really happy.
📍 This section of the SDTCT is on unceded Kumeyaay, Cocopah and Cahuilla land. My writing is a part of a fundraiser for Border Angels, a humanitarian aid group based out of these beautiful borderlands. My next entry will not go up until the fundraiser meets $2000, so please consider donating if you like the work and have the means.