From hiker heaven to the Oasis water cache
After wrapping up some loose odds and ends, I’m finally ready to leave hiker heaven. “Do you have a donation box?” I ask Donna.
“Over there,” she points to an ugly vase back in the corner of the garage. The Saufleys can’t possibly be covering their costs. I wonder if it is the transformation they appreciate – watching tired, filthy hikers coming to their respite, only to leave refreshed, clean(ish), and in good spirits. I feel like I might be ready to go on. We get a hug and our picture taken, then it’s time to go. Dimples and Snake Eyes start off with us today – can’t go wrong with some good company.
Based on the reports and hearsay from other hikers about the horrible, dry desert coming up, I keep expecting to be walking through blazing hot, rocky wastes. This hasn’t happened yet. Today we take off into hills that are golden and green. The land here looks rumpled, like an old quilt, patchworked in greens and yellows here, blues tans and greys out in the distance.
While we’re heading up, my hiker hunger catches me. “Let’s stop at the next shade to eat,” I suggest to J
“Sure thing.” To bad there’s no shade! I’m starting to think about army crawling under a thornbush when J and I pass a day hiker. “Is there shade up ahead?” J asks.
“Yes! Up over the hill! May you have joy in everything you do!” And he’s off.
There is shade over the hill. But the top of the hill ended up being rather far away. Really far away. Shade, food, so far away… then up over the crest is an oak grove. We crash. Avocada and Sara show up and crash next to us. Dimples and Snake Eyes draggle in and do the same. J lives up to his trail name and passes out in the dust. Dirtnap, dirtnapping again.
We cross into the next valley and it’s oak groves and manzanita all the way down. The next valley is the same, but softer. The bushes give the hillside the texture of an old teddy bear. “I’m just wandering through my bedroom today,” I think. Here on the trail, I never leave home, I simply wander from room to room. My house stretches across the country, my backyard is the whole world.
The next valley over is a water cache, where we leave Avocado and Sara for the night. Dimples and Snake Eyes are a bit further back. J and I have a few more valleys and hills in us yet. These hills have been ground into long east-west ranges by the San Andreas fault. The rock looks like it was ground up then smushed back together. We have to cross them all.
Our goal for the night is another water cache, maintained by the Andersons, trail angels who live a few miles further on. Not only do they leave big, beautiful jugs of water, but they’ve put out a cooler, stocked to the top with cold drinks. “Oh man, I wish everyone else had made it here tonight,” I tell J as I pop open a cold soda, kicked back in a camp chair (chairs – a true trail luxury).
“Yeah,” assents J. “It would be great.”
We say goodnight to the creepy clown painting in the tree – detours tomorrow.