I can feel Carrot’s van before I open my eyes. I can feel the dogs in their little donut beds, covered in a blanket. I can feel the thick comforters, the kind of masc Nautica one, the fuzzy one with the tiger on it. I can feel the pictures on the wall, the Sonoran desert and the trains and our beautiful friend, Margot. I can feel the tiny pink post-it that says “love you” in my handwriting, plus a heart with an arrow through it. I was surprised to see that was still there; when I noticed, it made me cry.
I can feel the things under the bed, the cans of beans and salmon, the tasty bites, the shelf stable bags of pre-cooked brown rice. I can feel the chips and the tangerines in their macrame holder, softly hanging from their golden hook. I can feel the cold brew and the chocolate bars and the almond milk and the roast chicken in the fridge. I can feel Carrot next to me, maybe dawn has broken through the cracks in the windows, maybe she’s draped a soft black cotton T-shirt over her eyes. I feel myself here, it’s flooding the knot of my tiny body.
And then we are awake. The dogs leap up, screaming at first and then burrowing deep under the covers, so far down you think that surely they will suffocate, but they do not. We lay silently and then we rise, drink coffee, chat about the day. Today is an endless expanse of nothing, just eating and sleeping and resting and coursing through my body is simply one word: yes.
Except half of us don’t want to rest. Some people have flights that don’t allow for a zero and some people are antsy, hate town, gotta go. I’ve never been a long distance hiker that hates town, I fucking LOVE town. The accommodations! A store! A coffee shop! Maybe a restaurant or a park to lay in. A bed! An electrical outlet, actual electricity just fucking flowing out of the WALL, and you can just, like, charge your phone, man.
Town is beautiful.
We devise a plan. We will all eat pie in Julian, it is a town famous for its pie. Half of us will go back to the trail at two, to hike eight or nine or ten miles. Half of us will sink into an oblivion of comfort, scroll so long on our phones that we forget our names. The naughty lazy hikers will skip some miles to meet up with our accomplished friends, we don’t give a fuck. We will write our blogs. We will tape our blisters. We will stare into the abyss.
Before the pie, though, we hold poly council. The thing is, I’m not the only person giving polyamory a shot and we’re all not quite sure about it. Five of us pile in the van and we ask: Has anyone ever done polyamory successfully? What does it take? How can we best operate when we need freedom but also have no choice but to love with our whole hearts? Can polyamory imprint boundaries onto formerly co-dependent monogamous relationships that are healthy and good? I think really hard, try to be thoughtful and really listen and say the right things. Of course I fail just a little bit. Almost no topic requires me to be this careful and I am imperfect and grateful to be marinating in the existential soup of the questions with these people.
Eventually we break and we pie. Carrot drives half of the group to the trail and I wash my clothes in a bucket, place them in a sunny patch on the grass to dry. I feel sad and empty here, in this small sliver of sunshine, and I cry. I have so many tendrils of love, care and attachment reaching out and into the abyss, and in that is so much despair. What even is anything? I ask myself.
I conclude that the answer is that anything is everything.
Carrot returns, Hadley and Kelly get a hotel room for another night. Raine, Liza, Carrot and I drive to a campground just eight miles away and at the campground, we make smoky little pots of slightly burned beans at the picnic table. We talk quietly about many things, about long distance hiking and gear and queerness and feelings. I smile soft secret smiles at everyone, Liza and Raine are two of the quieter hikers and I relish in more space to just hear them talk. The sun starts to set and there’s nothing more to do or say. I brush my teeth in the van, spit into the pee jug, look at the stars one more time and finally, I am asleep.
📍 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 $3000, so please consider donating if you like the work and have the means.