Mile 886.5 to mile 895.5 plus 9 miles on the Duck pass trail
It’s cold again, but this time not too cold. I wake once to pee and the milky way is there, smeared across the sky. I crawl back into my sleeping bag and drift off again, curled into my little ball. The clear cold air of the infinite universe works its way into my bag, icing my nose. I sleep.
We wake at six and I stuff my things away- I’m ready to go by 6:25. I am getting better at this! I put on frozen shoes, yanking the laces to get them loose. Breakfast is granola stirred with chia seeds and protein powder in my plastic container- and then it’s time to hike.
I feel good today. I feel happy. I feel alive. No more molasses blood! We’re hiking through dry pine forest, we’re climbing up the sides of mountains. The shuttle from Red’s Meadow to Mammoth Lakes isn’t running so we exit at the Duck Lake Pass trail- we climb up and up, past a series of glittering blue lakes, their tops scrimmed in ice. We work our way over a modest pass, postholing in the noonday sun. We pound down the other side. We see day hikers.
Like birds! Like when you’re at sea and you see birds, and you know you’re nearing land.
We reach the trailhead, I take an awesome dump in a pit toilet, and a few minutes later there’s a road where a shuttle miraculously appears- the free shuttle to Mammoth Lakes. We run it down and climb aboard, amazed to be moving by means other than our two feet. The shuttle winds around several lakes and day hikers get on and off. And then we’re dumped in Mammoth Lakes, warm sun beating down, concrete everywhere. We pass the brewery and Tiny is there, Mack, Big Sauce, NotaChance! They plan to head out in the morning but we say, take a zero tomorrow, hike out with us! And NotaChance says, ok! So we’ll all be hanging out on the trail again.
BearClaw has a room at th Best Western and she says, in her incredible generosity, sure, five more dirty hikers, why not? We drop our stuff in the room and then stink up the pizza place down the road- I eat an entire gluten free pizza. Afterwards everyone heads back to the brewery but I don’t drink so I shower, do laundry, and then I’m hungry again. I walk alone in the cool evening to the grocery store and it feels good to be by myself, think about nothing. Smell all the different town smells. I stop at carls jr. and eat a bacon guacamole burger and sweet potato fries and then I’m finally, finally full. At the grocery store I buy blueberries, raspberries, a head of romaine. A pint of chocolate ice cream. A roast chicken for the morning. Back at the room everyone is drunk, sprawled out eating twinkies or wandering around, drinking fireball, trying to organize themselves. Coughee is in the hot tub eating french fries.
“I dropped a little burger in the tub,” he says, when twinkle and I get in. The water is super chlorinated and the lights are overly bright and after a few minutes I’m too hot. I go back upstairs, standing dripping water in the elevator, other hotel guests staring at me. Back in the room everyone is even more drunk and I feel even more sober. Someone turns on the TV and it’s the nature channel, shots of people fishing. The room feels too warm. Oh, town days, I think, remembering my awkward, cushy neo-air, the soft bright stars of the milky way.
Photos on instagram.