May 9, 2018
Last night I was exhausted and fell asleep long before dark, so by 3am my body was done sleeping. I lay there looking at the stars and listening to the wind overhead that never rustled my tent and drifted in and out of sleep until about 4:15, at which point I decided I’d better just get up. Mountain Goat, Piss Puff, and 4am were cowboy camping nearby so I tried to be quiet as I prepared to pack up, and remarkably enough I was the first person to leave camp at 5:45am. Our goal that day was to reach Walker Pass and hitch into Ridgecrest. Because it is about 29 miles from the trail it’s not a common stop for thru-hikers, but Sparky and Ghosthiker both had resupply boxes at the post office there and I’d heard talk of a hotel that offered hiker rates. I was eager to get to the pass early, not just to hitch into town but because something in me was feeling competitive that day and I wanted to get there before the others. I’m silly like that.
Where we’d camped was situated along a very rugged dirt road that ran along part of the PCT, and about .2 miles along this road a sharp right turn would put you back on the trail. I went a little beyond that and found a nice, secluded spot to use the restroom. I could hear someone else hiking past as I did my business and I assumed it was Oats, the only other person who’d been packing up when I left.
The trail was pretty easy, with some gentle ups and downs and lots of wildflowers, including this one flower growing very low on the ground that was a gorgeous cobalt blue. I’d never seen anything like it and never did again along the trail. And there was only one. I lingered by this flower for probably too long. It was only about 8 miles to the campground and I did it in about 3 hrs or so. I was feeling pretty good. And hungry. Very hungry.
When I got to the turnoff to the Walker Pass Campground I considered continuing on highway 178 where we’d be hitching into town, but then I saw a little handmade sign that said “trail magic” and saw Oats a little ways down the path sitting at a picnic table under an awning, and my decision was made. Besides, it wasn’t like I was about to hitch into town by myself when I had a whole trail family to hitch with.
There was a hiker named Big Mac who’s wife was supporting him along the trail with an RV and their two dogs, and she had TONS of food and water that she was giving away to hikers. It sounded like Big Mac had developed shin splints and would not be continuing, or if he did it would be several weeks from now. I practically resupplied out of the big box of hiker food that his wife was giving away, and a lot of it was organic and gmo-free! I kept asking, “Are you sure?” She just kept urging us to take as much as we wanted.
Several other hikers trickled in while I sat at the picnic table with Oats, drinking cold soda and water and snacking on whatever struck my fancy. First I thought, “I’ll just eat this granola bar and wait to eat real food in town…and maybe this tuna salad with crackers. And this organic fruit leather. And this little bag of chips. And maybe one more soda…” I slowly and methodically consumed probably 1000 calories over the course of an hour and Oats just watched me with wide eyes, laughing. I couldn’t help it, and I couldn’t be sorry. My stomach felt hollow and I could have eaten twice what I did.
Ghosthiker and Sparky eventually arrived, too, and we hung out a while longer before heading to the highway to hitch into Ridgecrest. Hitching was very easy. A car stopped right away but could only take two, and at the same time a young couple in an RV stopped and gave Oats and I a ride as far as the highway turnoff, so about 8 miles. Within minutes of being dropped off there, a local serviceman in the marine corp picked us up and took us to the Ridgecrest post office where we’d agreed to meet Ghosthiker and Sparky. Oats said she was just there to pick up a package and use the WiFi at the local Starbucks, then she was hitching back to the trail. We were all a bit saddened because we planned to take a zero and knew there would be little chance of catching up to her. Ah well, such is trail life, I guess. She bid us farewell and headed off in the direction of the Starbucks a mile up the road.
With our resupply packages under one arm and Ghosthiker and I holding our sun umbrellas in the other, we started walking toward the Motel 6 where we’d heard they had hiker rooms for $30 a night. It was a hot, hot walk along the sun-baked sidewalk and we were weighed down with our packages. Sparky seemed to think the hotel wasn’t that far and walking to it would be easy, but several blocks later I was starting to get cranky from the heat and my sore feet knocking against the hot pavement. At one point an older gentleman in a white SUV was pulling out of a gas station, saw us, and asked if we needed a ride somewhere.
“No thanks,” Sparky said right away. “We’re almost there.”
We were not almost there. It was another several blocks away, and both Ghosthiker and I knew it. The kind gentleman waved to us and drove off. I would have gladly hopped into his car for a ride if I’d had the chance.
Before we reached the Motel 6, we had to walk past a Quality Inn and the beautiful, cool, alluring pool that sat in a gated area just out front. It was too much.
“Let’s check the rates in here.” I said. Because I was the one on a tight budget, I knew Sparky and Ghosthiker wouldn’t have suggested checking the nicer hotel first. So I did. That crystal clear pool with the sun glinting off it’s surface was calling to me like a siren song.
The Quality Inn cost significantly more than the Motel 6, but they had so many amenities and such nice rooms that it was totally worth it, especially once you split it three ways. Plus, it included breakfast! We immediately rinsed all the sweat and grit off our bodies in the shower and jumped into the pool. I was shocked to find that I’d lost so much weight I was not embarrassed at all about going into the pool in my sports bra and hiking shorts. But I had to keep a wary eye on my shorts. They’d become too loose already. Again, in the real world, this would have thrilled me. But I’d just eaten a ton of food and felt like they shouldn’t have been so loose. We aren’t even in the Sierra yet. Am I losing too much weight too fast?
After we showered again, we went to a late lunch at Ephen Tacos (Best. Tacos. Ever!), then caught an Uber to the theater to see Avengers: Infinity War. Sparky and I really enjoyed it, Ghosthiker not so much. Oh well. After that, we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant, but I’d eaten so much popcorn at the theater that I didn’t really have any more room, so I just ate some chips and salsa. That’s my favorite part of going out for Mexican food, anyway!