Mile 1402.5 to mile 1429
I can’t sleep. I don’t know why, I just… can’t. Part of it may be that my farts are so bad they’re suffocating me. Whatever the case, I figure I might as well be productive. I turn on my phone and catch up on my blog, look at instagram until my phone dies. Then I lay awake, staring at the milky way smeared across the sky, listening to the ground squirrels do their thing in the manzanitas.
It’s almost one a.m. when I finally fall asleep.
I wake, of course, at 5. Well, I think. How motivated can I be on four hours of sleep? Pretty motivated, it turns out. I’m a hiker, it’s what I do. I can do this shit all day. It just feels right. Even with no sleep. Even when I’m exhausted, walking feels better than resting. Resting won’t get you to Canada!
Except it’s hot today. So hot. A heat wave! Yesterday was relatively cool and now it’s going to get a little hotter, every day, until we’re all cooked. It’s morning and Twinkle and I are hiking towards the highway that leads to Burney, through the shadeless chapparal, and I feel sick to my stomach from the heat. And that wierd thirsty/not thirsty feeling. How did I ever hike the desert? And not just hike it but do 25s every day, right from the start. And carrying all that extra water. I think we only took two zeros in the first seven hundred miles.
“How did we do the desert?” I ask Twinkle. I feel like the sun is roasting me.
“You hiked until you cried,” says Twinkle.
“Ah,” I say. “I remember.”
We reach the highway and there’s a sign- Wild Bird Cache, One Mile Ahead. My favorite trail magic, and it’s here again this year! I’m so excited I practically jog the last mile to the cache. When I get there it’s a glorious sight- a giant cooler full of ice, soda and candy. Reclining camp chairs, a picnic table in the shade. There’s a standing white cupboard that’s new from last year and Twinkle and I open it and exclaim at what’s inside- it’s filled to the gills with food. Peanuts, applesauce, ramen. Cans of chili, boxes of macaroni and cheese. Pasta sides, instant mashed potatoes, tuna. Condiments.
There’s a propane coleman stove (they thought of everything!) and twinkle dumps a can of tiny sausages and a can of chili into a pot and stirs it all together. I eat three mini butterfingers, a reeses peanut butter cup, two applesauce cups, a can of peas, and a can of tuna with mustard on my tortilla chips. Twinkle drinks four sodas with his lunch.
While we’re stuffing our faces a golf cart pulls up and an older couple gets out. They’re smoking cigarettes and carrying beer in beer cozies. It’s Cathy and David, the couple who stock the cache! They sit with us while we exclaim in wonder at everything they’ve done.
“Solar shower back there,” says Cathy. “Soap and shampoo and everything. Got fresh towels above the cupboard.”
I take a shower. It’s amazing. Afterwards I wander back to the picnic table to find Twinkle working his way through his fifth soda. We’ve been at the cache for two hours. I’m starting to crash, and there are two things I can do right now- go to sleep, or walk.
We walk. It’s really hot, and getting hotter by the minute. It feels like it takes us a million hours to go the seven miles to Burney Falls State park. We look at the falls- pretty, misty, crowded with day hikers. The longer I’m on the trail, the stranger “regular” people start to seem. The day hikers look pale and tired and confused, standing on the pavement blinking into the sun. And their calves are so under-developed! Something bad is always happening to them- an icecream cone falling, an ill-fitting piece of clothing, a sudden need to go online when service isn’t available. Their lives are tragedies and they feel lost and they don’t know why.
I’m talking about myself, of course. In the off-season.
The Burney falls store is dissapointing, just like everyone said it would be. I buy a package of balogna, two bags of chips, a peppermint patty and swipe some mayo and mustard packets from the deli. The checkout clerk stares at me while she rings me up- I smell like rotting mice (thanks to the straps of my pack, which smell like rotting mice after 1.5 thru-hikes without a wash) and my face and neck are streaked with rings of sunscreen and dirt.
“Can I have a bag?” I ask the clerk, after I’ve paid. She continues to stare at me and the other clerk comes up, stuffs my things into a bag.
Outside Twinkle is unpacking his resupply box at a picnic table, and I join him. Our food is exploded everywhere and I sit there, squirting mustard and mayo onto slices of balogna and folding them into my mouth, while families with children stand nearby and gawk. Twinkle says he could hear the clerks laughing at him when he was inside the store.
“They were lauhing about my sunglasses tan,” he says.
After our Burney Falls chores are done we walk five more weary miles, up and over the forested mountain, to Rock Creek where we’ll camp. It’s still so hot and I’m grumpy, sweaty, chafing everywhere. I have a sudden realization on the final descent to Rock Creek- it’s where I camped last year! And there’s a swimming hole there! This thought bouys me the last mile down the trail and I float into camp, strip off my clothes and dunk myself in the water, sit there curled up with my arms around my legs until I’m shivering a little and the last of the tired achey heat has gone out of me. Only peace is left, and we walk a few yards upstream to a hidden campsite next to the water and spread out our bedrolls, fall asleep to the rushing sound of the creek.
Photos on instagram.