A zero in kennedy meadows is a zero well spent. I wake at six in the cold, well slept, frost all over everything. I walk to the general store and sit on the porch. Tiny and Guthrie are there.
“They’re not open?” I say, peering in the dark front door of the store.
“They don’t open until 9,” says Tiny.
“What the fuck,” I say. “That’s like hiker noon.”
I take my gatorade bottles down to the spigot but there’s a padlock on it. I try to plug my phone into the outlet on the deck but the electricity is off. So I sit on the porch with Tiny and Guthrie, huddled in my down jacket, eating from a bag of potato chips, feeling like a feral cat. I didn’t drink as much as the others last night, though, so I’m in high spirits. I feel fucking fantastic. So glad to be here.
The sun creeps over the hills and a couple other hikers trickle in from the sandy stretch behind the general store where we’re all camped. The sun spreads across the ground and we drag chairs out close to the road, sit in the sun with our eyes closed, waiting for the store to open. We’re all thirsty, some of us more so than others. Some of us hiked 22 miles yesterday on 2 liters of water and then went straight to beer. When will the water be back on? Don’t these people know that life starts at 6 a.m.?
Just before 9 the music on the deck turns back on, a fabulous mix of pop from somebody’s ipod. Then the water, then the electricity. I start a load of laundry and take a luxurious outdoor shower in the wooden stall behind the store. I walk around in slow motion, doing things inefficiently and all out of order. My brain is in energy-saving mode. This, I’ve realized, is what happens on zero days. All the energy in my body is going to my knees, my calves, my feet. My tendons and ligaments. More blood to the tissues! Screams my body. And fast! We don’t know when she’s gonna start hiking again!
All day I eat burgers, random snacks from the hiker box, enjoy the company of my friends. The sun moves across the deck and we sit in chairs, soaking it up. I sew a couple of patches onto my pack, cut the heel bump thing off my fresh pair of cascadias and sew that up. New shoes! Seven hundred miles on my last ones, this oughta help the foot pain I’ve been having the last few days. I always get that when my shoes are about worn out.
In the afternoon it’s warm and nearly every hiker consumes an entire pint of ben and jerry’s. Sherpa, incredibly, goes for a thirteen mile run. A few hours later the staff of the store puts out a bunch of leftovers from a cookout for the locals and we descend on it like a pack of feral dogs. Afterwards there’s a fire in the fire ring behind the store and, suddenly, shots- the neighbors are shooting at us.
“Euro trash!” They scream, bewilderingly, obviously intoxicated- “Off of our property! Stealin our stuff!” All the hikers have to move the tarps they’ve set up in the woods, drag them closer to the store. The generator at the neighbor’s grumbles, their drunk shouting competing with the hikers, sitting around our own fire drinking coors and singing disney songs. I crawl into my sleeping bag past hiker midnight and lay there, feeling sleepy but awake, listening to the warm wind.
Photos on instagram.