Mile 541.5 to mile 569
I’m having the loveliest dream when I feel Sheriff smacking the foot of my sleeping bag. I sit up.
“Your hair is full of sticks,” he says.
Twinkle is gone, up at 4 a.m. to make it to Tehachapi in time to get his box from the post office. Sherpa and The Boss are stuffing away their tent ( Sherpa is doing it, actually, as he does everything- put up the tent, cook meals, carry the food and water. That’s why his name is Sherpa. And The Boss is, well, The Boss. It’s a hilarious arrangement and Sherpa, in particular, seems to derive a great deal of joy from it- sprinting down the trail with a wild grin on his face, The Boss walking calmy behind.) I try to put my stuff away quickly but somehow, per usual, I’m slower than everyone else. This is a mystery to me but hey, what can you do.
The trail winds all morning through a burnt oak forest full of wildflowers. Windmills churn atop every golden ridge. I’m limping until the ibuprofen kicks in, as the hotspots I got during the day I wore thick socks have turned into massive blisters under the pads of my feet. For a couple of weeks I’ve only been taking a single ibuprofen at night, for general immflamation so I recover faster, but now I’m back on the painkiller train. I don’t like it, as ibuprofen upsets my stomach but hey. What can you do.
I reach the road at 12:30 and immediately a dude named Bobby, who owns the best western in tehachapi, offers me a ride into town. In his car I pull down the little passenger mirror and look at my face. Wind burned, dirt crusted into the creases around my eyes. Dirt mixed with sunscreen in rings along my neck. A busted straw hat, rim hanging off. And I’m suddenly aware of the way I smell.
Bobby drops me in town and I pick up my package, find Twinkle at the bakery. Tehachapi is a small, sad place, just a couple of shops and a burger place, no-one on the street. Everyone’s at the burger place and we order food, drink shakes, stare blankly into space. I really want to shower and wash my clothes- miraculously the sante fe motel down the street lets me do both for $13. After my shower I sit in the empty room on the unmade bed and sort my resupply while my laundry dries, retape the blisters on my feet. Then I wander down the main street looking for a hat- the only store that sells hats is the christian store, and I end up with a hilarious cap that has an american flag with a cross where the stars should be and the words “AMERICA- god shed his grace on thee,” which we all think is HILARIOUS.
Sheriff Woody, Twinkle, Coffee, Sherpa, The Boss and I get rides back to the trailhead from a couple of trail angels and we shoulder our packs under the windmills, heavy with too many liters of water. It’s an extra dry year this year, and the water report’s looking a little glum. We trudge up the trail for 2.5 miles, complaining about the weight of our packs, and then drop them when we find a likely campsite. The wind is howling but we set up just so, figure we’ll be alright. Below us the windmills blink and the lights of the highway move across the plain. Later the stars come out. I’m tired, feeling beat after so many days in a row of heat and wind. But the desert is almost over. To Kennedy Meadows! I think, as I drift off under the wind blown sky.
Photos on instagram.