I wake up and look outside the tarp – it’s the crack of dawn, cracking its way into my little blue home. Behind a screen of pines, the day breaks pink and gold, and J and I watch the sun rise with our heads still on our pillows. “So this is what sunrise looks like!” I exclaim. “It’s beautiful!”
“Who knew?” jokes J. We watch the sunrise snuggled together. The morning fades into normal morning-ness and we go back to sleep. No point in wasting a perfectly cool, lovely morning by being awake.
I’m exhausted. J and I can pull big days, but when we start stacking them in a row it takes us down pretty quick. We only have seven miles to do today – if we’re taking a rest day, why not rest here, on the mountain, in the pines? So we stay.
We get packed up and finally on our way by 11. We’re so thirsty by now we can hardly stand it. Time to hustle to the water. We hustle so fast J nearly steps on a rattler. “S&%!balls!” yells J. I hear the rattle and J at the same time. “Aaahh!” is all I manage as I fling myself wildly to the other side of the trail. It’s nearly black and thick as my forearm. Mean-looking dude. It keeps it’s pits trained on us as it slithers into the bushes. A rattler in the morning is more effective than any caffeinated beverage. Ha!
The water turns out to be a sad little trickle from a rusted pipe above a mude puddle, at the bottom of a totally unnecessary steep slope. I’m filling up the filter pouch when J yells something to me. “What?”
“There’s a rattlesnake right next to me!”
I put down the filter pouch and come over. J is sitting on the front step of a decrepit spring house. Two feet in front of him, in a bush, a long rattler is draped in perfect stillness. The rattler looks right at me. We sneak back around the springhouse the other way. “Bees everywhere, there’s gotta be hantavirus in the springhouse, rattlers in the bushes, and giardia in the springwater. Let’s get outta here.”
We get the last five miles to the highway with bellies full of clean, cold, filtered water. We have a hitch here, which is still new and scary for me. We spot some day-hikers coming down the hill, so we walk on up. One of them is carrying a chain-saw. “Howdy, how you guys doing,” I lead. It turns out they’re headed to Wrightwood, and they’ll give us a ride. I don’t normally ask guys with chainsaws for rides, but…
Justin, the guy with the chainsaw, drops us off at the grocery store. We’re not the first PCT hikers he’s given a lift to, turns out. J and I sit at a picnic table to figure out where we’re going to stay for the night. I look up Wrightwood on the internet – the guide says it can’t be beat for being friendly to hikers. I’m reading through the next sentence when a woman walks up to me. “Are you PCT hikers?”
“Do you need a place to stay? Want to come stay at my house?”
J and I look at each other. “Uh, sure.” The woman’s name is Yvon. We haven’t done any shopping yet, so she says she’ll come back and pick us up.
And she does. I’m at her house right now, full of spaghetti and ice cream, with clean hair and clean clothes. Yvon and Don are Camino de Santiago veterans, and they’ve regaled us with stories of another walking pilgrimage. Back on the trail tomorrow… Soft beds tonight.