May 10, 2018
That zero day was a strange one. Ever since the night before I’d been irritable and pissy, particularly with Ghosthiker, and not for any good reasons. It just seemed like everything she said was triggering me terribly. When we went to Walmart that afternoon I told them if they finished before me to just go ahead back to the hotel and I’d see them in a bit. I’m notoriously slow when it comes to shopping, so they didn’t find this unusual at all. In reality, I needed some space. Apparently, I’m just a hormonal, angry teenager all the time.
I moseyed through Walmart, deliberately taking my time so I could be alone and also knowing I’d be sending a box ahead to Lone Pine because resupply here was so cheap. Even so, with the insoles I needed for my New Balance trainers, some probiotics and other vitamins, and certain necessary pricey things, I ended up spending about $200 and got another $100 back in cash.
It wasn’t until we were enjoying delicious tacos again at Ephen Tacos that I really looked closely at my checking account and realized I was way over my monthly budget for this hike. I suspected most of it was due to eating out and staying at hotels more often than I’d originally planned. I’d have to go back and really pick through the numbers. Either way, the revelation felt like a rug being pulled out from under me. I left Ghosthiker and Sparky to finish their food and walked to the post office with my huge bags of resupply I’d be mailing ahead, hoping the walk would calm my panic.
Now I was anxious about money AND crabby for no reason toward Ghosthiker. Fantastic.
The ladies at the Ridgecrest post office were SO helpful! They let me use the priority mail tape and offered me different sized boxes so I could fit everything, seeing me struggling with my stuff. It was a lot. Whenever I finally arrive in Lone Pine I’ll have that huge box of food and other supplies, another box from Mom full of organic, GMO-free food, and a pre-packed resupply box from my brother with my bear can and microspikes, and maybe a little food. Also my new ice ax from REI. It was going to be a lot.
Relieved of my Walmart bags, at last, I walked unladen to the Big 5 up the road to get a fuel canister. While there, I chatted with my mom on the phone. Apparently, one of my brothers was getting a tattoo and she wasn’t too happy about it. All of us kids know her stance on tattoos, so my brother had called her ahead of time to gently break the news before actually getting the tattoo.
“Well, I guess this is probably a good time to tell you something.” I said carefully.
Silence on the other end of the phone, then, “What?”
“I’m seriously considering getting one when I finish the PCT.”
“Don’t tease me.”
I laughed. “I’m not! I’ve been thinking about it ever since I decided to do this hike. I don’t know if I actually will, but at least now you know I’m thinking about it.” We had a good, long conversation about it. She didn’t sound angry or anything, maybe just resigned to the fact that her children didn’t share her opinions about tattoos. As long as she knows it’s not a rebellion thing and that we still love her, that’s what matters.
“At least all of the tattoos they’ve gotten so far have been scripture or something, right?” I said encouragingly. She admitted that was true.
While I was browsing the store absentmindedly, Sparky and Ghosthiker arrived to pick up their fuel canisters and they could hear me talking to my mom. They were both grinning. I talked about my family a lot, particularly my mom because we get along so well most of the time and are pretty close, and mom and Ghosthiker were already friends on Facebook.
Afterward, while we walked back to the hotel, we stopped at Baskin Robbins on the way, I was feeling much better about everything in general and regretting having been so upset with Ghosthiker. I got two huge scoops of ice cream in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone to ease my mental state over my finances (spending money on comfort food to feel better about my finances seemed like a good idea at the time) and had consumed the entire thing before we reached out air-conditioned hotel room. And I didn’t even feel full.
Ghosthiker went immediately to the pool and I busied myself with some town chores like giving my pot, spoon, and folding cup a good scrub with hot water and soap. Then I changed and got in the pool. Ghosthiker was basking in the sun, so in an effort to pretend I’d never been annoyed, I splashed her a little and we chatted a bit. Then I swam for a while longer to give my body a little low-impact exercise.
Ghosthiker came and sat down near the edge of the pool and apologized for something she’d said the night before that she knew had upset me. She hoped she hadn’t offended me or anything. I was so surprised by this that it took me a moment to respond, but I told her she’d done absolutely nothing wrong and apologized for being so cranky. I admitted that sometimes I felt like the younger sibling or step-child of the group and that it wasn’t anybody’s fault but my own. There are certain things that tend to trigger me as a middle child that I know are my own issues, and I assured her I knew full well neither she nor Sparky would ever deliberately do or say anything to demean me. It was all in my head.
Ghosthiker is also a middle child, but she is more like some of my sisters; strong-willed, no-nonsense, and one who easily takes charge of things. I tend to be that meek, nonconfrontational middle child who’d rather fold than put up a fight. I tend to just keep quiet and let people with stronger personalities take charge because that’s easier. Ghosthiker said she’d noticed how easily I’d been adjusting to their plans or decisions along the trail and never seemed to have a strong opposing opinion about anything, and she’d been feeling bad about that and hoping she and Sparky weren’t making me feel like I had no say in any of our group decisions. It’s amazing how perceptive my trail family is.
I’m terrible at making decisions when I’m in a group unless I’m the officially designated leader, like in a workplace setting or as the director of a play. I admitted this to Ghosthiker and told her that since she and Sparky have so much more backpacking experience than I do (i.e. several years worth vs none at all until this hike) it just made more sense to differ to their judgment on this hike. There was also the age difference which, in my mind, made them both significantly wiser than me in, well, just about everything.
Ghosthiker laughed at this and said we really were like a real family, and she hoped I didn’t mind having “Trail Parents.” All in all, it was some good “real” talk, and I think we both felt a lot better afterward. Ghosthiker is phenomenally patient with me, more so than I deserve.
After she went back to the room I stayed out by the pool for a long time just enjoying the solitude and relative quiet of droning town noises. I laid in the sun and tried to tan the pasty white parts of my legs and abdomen and worked on my trail journal, then I got back in the pool for a bit and did some good low-impact stretches. Then it was back into the sun to dry out again. It was almost 5:00pm before I finally decided I’d better go back to the room to make dinner plans and start some laundry.
It was an easy-peasy evening. We snacked on stuff we had with us and drank the various beers and sparkling drinks we’d picked up at a gas station on our way back from Big 5, watching some movies on HBO. My New Balance shoes don’t have a ring or velcro for attaching my gaiters so I used my needle and dental floss to sew a ring on the front of each shoe. I don’t have any velcro so I’ll just have to keep pulling them under the heel of my shoe and hope they survive to Kennedy Meadows or Lone Pine.