Cibbetts flat campground to Mt Laguna
I feel completely exposed – J and I are lying on a groundsheet in the middle of a campground, surrounded by people coming out of their tents and RVs. We’re not really that close to them, but it’s like having people in your bedroom. I turn over on my air mattress. “Is it time? ” I ask J.
“Yeah, I guess we’ll do this. Are we gonna be bandits?” he replies.
We start getting ready to sneak out of the campground. We’d meant to walk the extra 1/4 mile last night, so we wouldn’t be in the fee campground, but just couldn’t make it. Our “sneaking out” is somewhat leisurely – I’m just not moving very fast.
I peel my socks off to look at my blisters. Ugly. I don’t feel like dealing with them, so I put my socks back on.
We’ve only got ten miles to go to Mt Laguna today. It should be easy, but now that we’ve actually started walking, I am overwhelmed by thoughts of sitting down. “J, do you mind taking the lead today?”
“I’m hurting today too, don’t worry.” He steps in front though, and we limp on together. The trail runners out for their weekend jogs that keep blasting past us are kind of demoralizing.
It’s funny though. In between all the moments where I think about how my feet hurt, or how I’m tired, or how my feet hurt, I remember how amazing it is to be walking here, along the rolling green hills, with no place else to be and my lover beside me. Then I remember that my feet hurt. This is going to be a work in progress.
We start off in a meadow with giant oaks but quickly ascend back to the desert of southern California. It doesn’t look anything like Tucson. There’s no water anywhere but the hills are densely carpeted with shrubberies (nice ones). In the mornings and evenings the hillsides light up gold and green. In the middle of the day, like now, it’s a bit warm. We come to a little valley and it’s the lushest thing I’ve seen in days. The sound of running water is only properly appreciated in dry places. We stop and rinse our faces. I wash up a little more – I smell so bad I’m starting to offend myself.
After the oasis it’s back to shrubs. And then trees! You can smell it almost before you see it – the warm, golden, vanilla-pine of a ponderosa forest in the summer time. It carries us to Mt Laguna.
Finding the town of Mt Laguna is almost as hard as the hiking. We wander through a campground for a while until we get to the highway. Our first stop is the sports and supply store, with a porch out front full of tired looking thru-hikers. This is our first real intersection with the thru-hiker crowd, and it’s more awkward than I expected. I’m interested in the other hikers, but also afraid that I’ll just hate them. I’m not always good at liking people. And I’m both afraid of not fitting in and wanting to totally reject the idea of fitting in. I’m not here for them.
But the porch has chairs, and I take a free can of Pepsi from the cooler out front, set up for tired, thirsty thru-hikers just like me. When I go in the store, Dave, the owner, asks me how I’m doing. We chat about my feet and he recommends gel insoles. His tiny store is packed to the ceiling with hiker supplies. I could’ve outfitted completely with what he has. I have a feeling that a lot of hikers come through and end up doing just that – starting from scratch after the first couple days with their kit. Wise business decision, setting up shop here. Dave talks me into the insoles. He’s made the sale, but he also had me take off my shoes to check the size. I’m not sure he came out ahead on that one.
J and I find some other hikers to share a campsite with, Michael and Tarzan. They’re pretty nice, turns out. The campground has hot showers and my feet are feeling better already. Every day a new day, back on the trail tomorrow.