I wake up to the bleat of an alarm in the van, I am slow and disoriented. The sun is rising and I am remembering 624-9631. 624-9631 is my grandparent’s phone number, my grandparents have been dead for at least 12 years, maybe thirteen? I can’t remember the last time I dialed 624-9631. Did I even have a cell phone?
I make coffee, I make breakfast ramen. I quietly wipe the sleep from my eyes and what I feel, from my head to my toes, is heavy. There’s two more days of this hike and that’s it. I am a greedy human with an unquenchable desire to grasp and grasp and grasp at that which I love, I never quite learn how to just let things be. I do not want to finish this hike.
What awaits me after this hike is a tremendous expanse. It is an expanse of time so uncertain that I can barely make out the shape of it in my mind. In the van, I am here with Carrot and the dogs. Carrot and the dogs are moving to Alaska on April first, but are they? In the van with Carrot feels permanent and the haziness of temporality is confusing. We’re here, and soon we…won’t be? Her fingertips are on my lips and soon they will be….1,000 miles away? And this is what we want? I am confused.
We finish our breakfast and I remember that in the cabin next door there is Liza. There is Raine and there is Kara and there is Hadley. There’s Riley, and Kelly, and Beau and Audrey and Pilar and Sasha. There’s Ashley, the hiker we picked up along the way. I know better than to place my morale on other people, but from my half awake state, I do it anyway. Today, Carrot is here. Today, I am one amongst many people and we are going on a very, very long walk.
Carrot drives our stuff to Pineapple’s dad’s house to lighten our loads and the rest of us get lost a few times before finally walking gently on rolling hills. There’s a small bushwhack, it’s humid as we plod up and over and I think about acceptance as I walk. I accept that there’s no way to know what will be. I accept that I don’t know quite where my place is or where my heart goes. I accept the beads of sweat rolling down my back. I accept that there are all these thorny plants in the way of my path, and still I’m going forward.
At lunch, we gather sticky under short oak trees. We play a game. The game is this: we decide that we can break into groups of three and those groups can share new collective names. Liza, Sasha and I become Muffzasash. Beau, Ashley and Audrey become Beaudash. I laugh so hard that I get a stomachache and then it’s time to pack up lunch and walk some more.
What is thru hiking if not an excuse to be dumb together? And what is friendship if not the freedom to forge tangled bonds of connection in the dumb that we’ve cultivated?
Kara and Riley announce an alternate. If we road walk a bit, there’s an In and Out right on trail. If we road walk a little bit more, there’s a Thai place where I can get something vegan. My feet ache and suddenly I do not give a fuck. Thai! Food! Let’s eat some Thai food motherfuckkkkkerrrrs!!!!!!!
For five miles I walk to the beat of those words. We hug the highway, cars honk as they speed by. I decide that thru hiking is a tapestry of joy woven 100% from contrast. We walk until it is excruciating and then we lie down. We are dirty for days and days and days and then we wash. There is no electricity and then it comes right out of the wall. There are dry, hard pellets of unsatisfying food that one must eat in massive quantities to survive, and then– just like that– there is the possibility of Thai food.
📍 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 $3500, so please consider donating if you like the work and have the means.