Zero in Idyllwild
A car alarm goes off at 9am and I wake up from a bizarre dream. My shoes didn’t fit and I was trying to buy new ones but I was trapped in a bathroom at a fancy wedding and couldn’t sneak out. I don’t know. I really wanted my anxiety to calm down on the trail but so far, no luck. I guess I’m awake now, though.
It’s snowing outside. I have a text from Lionheart, showing a snow covered campground, what they woke up to this morning. I’m not sad to be in my warm bed instead of a chilly tent but I’m a little jealous. I’ve been second guessing all my decisions for a few days now, and my brain loop keeps it up: should I have hiked out yesterday? Ugh I don’t know. I didn’t and I can’t change that – but I sure can fixate on it!
Everyone needs to make a plan to get back onto the trail tomorrow, once the storm has passed. Because of the fire closure and everyone’s differing skill levels and purist-mentality, there are too many options about how to do this. Unsurprisingly, I’m stressed. Mike, Lynn, and Cate have decided that tomorrow they will take Devil’s Slide back to the PCT and then go from there down Fuller Ridge, a spot on the trail that is still somewhat snowy and may require microspikes and care. They do not plan to summit Mt. San Jacinto because of the weather.
I had initially really wanted to summit San Jacinto, but the weather has put me off. Caddy, Hobo, and I decide we will take Deer Springs trail instead of Devil’s Slide, which cuts off a few extra PCT miles. We should have a 12 or 13 mile day and should be able to get down and past Fuller Ridge by late afternoon. I’m pleased with this plan in terms of what I think is right for me, but I’m really bummed to be splitting up from Mike, Lynn, and Cate again. I only just caught them. Will I ever hike with them properly again? Are they my trail family or will I lose them? I love the idea of getting to know Caddy and Hobo better and hiking with them tomorrow sounds good, but I can’t help feel a bit lost. I am annoyed at myself for this – I want to be independent, make my own plans, follow my own path, hike my own hike. I never feel this dependent. Why aren’t I settling into this life and my own abilities out here?
I call my mom and tell her I’m sad. She’s in New York and has just had brunch with Sam, one of my first friends from college – that means we’ve been friends for a decade, now. I love that. My mom tells me about brunch and how lovely it was. “I reminded Sam of something he said to you years ago in college,” she tells me. I ask what that was, having no idea what she means. “Well remember, Sam said to you, that he thought you had very unconventional thoughts but that you’d live a conventional life?” I laugh. Yes, I remember. “So I told him that and he said, well, I was wrong! And I said yes, that was wrong.” We both laugh, and I feel a little better. It’s really nice to think about my mom and one of my close friends spending time together. It makes my heart happy.
I call Alley next and cry to her. What the fuck is my problem?! I’m so overwhelmed, still scared I can’t do this, still not feeling confident at all. I wish she was here. “Babe, you could come home right now and we’d all still be proud of you,” she tells me. I love her. I try to stop crying.
While I’m on the phone with Alley I see Claire, my friend who I haven’t seen since Warner Springs. She is the woman who was hiking with her daughter until mile 109 and then continuing on her own. I am so excited to see her; Alley and I say goodbye and I sit and have tea with Claire. Talking to her is soothing; she’s not my mom but she is a mom, and she somehow knows all the right things to say. I tell her how scared I am that I’ve been making the wrong choices, how stressful I find it to be alone, how I don’t feel confident in my own skills yet so am attaching myself to other groups and then feeling stressed if they make different decisions than I want to make. Claire tells me bluntly that I’ve got to make my own decisions. “I always act as if I am entirely alone out here,” she tells me. “If there end up being other people around, great, but I have to make my decisions as if I will be completely alone. Because I am.” This makes a great impression on me; I resolve to be more like Claire. Everything is going to be okay.
I meet Lynn, Cate, and Mike for a fancy final town dinner and it’s delicious. I order steak and we laugh and laugh and laugh and Lynn teases me for being in my pajamas at this nice restaurant (they are my only warm long sleeve clothes). We talk about how we will all probably end up at the same campground tomorrow night; they will just have a slightly longer day. I just don’t feel up to doing Devil’s Slide, a steeper trail, and am (mostly) certain I have made the right choice. Everything is going to be okay, I tell myself. I try to believe it.
On the way home from dinner I realize my shoes feel large. “I think my feet have finally gone back to their regular size after all that swelling from the heat,” I say to Mike. He agrees my shoes look big on me. I look down at my clown shoes and laugh. We all part ways to run final errands before bed, and on my way back to the lodge I meet a woman named Jo. I don’t really want to chat to a new person – it’s cold and starting to rain a bit, and I’m waking up early to finally hike out – but as soon as she says hello I notice her accent. “Are you South African?” I ask. She is! Her name is Jo; she’s South African but currently lives in the Yukon in Canada, she’s hiked the Appalachian Trail, and she’s so nice. We have a good chat and I’m happy I stopped. Trail life is so strange; the smallest interactions can either bring great joy or great sorrow or great irritation or great excitement. Maybe that’s how life always is, I think. This is just amplified because I think of it as an adventure. But maybe life is always an adventure.
I get back to the lodge and say goodnight to Cate, Mike, and Lynn. I text Caddy and Hobo to confirm that they’ve signed me up to go on the shuttle with them tomorrow to Deer Springs trailhead; they have. I go through my pack and try to lighten my load a bit – I almost toss my spice kit but instead just dump out lots of salt and paprika, making each baggie much smaller, I get rid of my olive oil, and I begrudgingly let go of the potato flakes and dried veggies I’ve been shlepping since the first day at Campo. My food bag is more than full enough for the next stretch and I’m obviously not eating these things; I’ve gotta let them go. Finally it’s bedtime. Tomorrow I’ll be back on the Pacific Crest Trail. I hope getting back to the proper hiking will make my brain feel calmer.