October 9, 2017
Quiet Camp – Big Bear Nero
6.9 miles/2 hrs 15′
I still don’t know if I walked through a closed section of trail to the eventual highway. Seemed that way when I arrived at the road but there was no indication I was breaking laws coming south through the forest. Oh well. You do the best you can.
I wake to the wind raging in billowy gusts through the treetops. I’m up along the ridge in this quiet camp lucky to be sheltered from this powerful force of nature. I thank Juniper and White Pine all around me for letting me sleep instead of enduring the dreaded tent-flapping staccato sleep-impeding torture all thru-hikers know. The walk to the highway begins a little later than the usual 4am start because (a) I am meeting Ina (I think) and (b) I am going to town. What’s the rush when you have seven short miles to walk? No rush at all.
Halfway there I have cell pick up and learn Ina is not coming, she’s sick in bed and ditched me out here in the wilds. Just kidding. It was merely an option for her to come out, not a necessity. Now, I hitch.
I stand by the road at 8:30 am with a big smile for all the drivers that pass me by. I know someone will stop, they always do, so why stress? No stress. Between passing vehicles there are mountain bluebirds fluttering about. They look at me with love and vibrance as I do them. I am, after all, not just RedFeather on trail, I am Ootskoipiiksaaki, or Blue Bird Woman, my Blackfoot name. These are my kin and it’s a pleasure to hang out with these friendly little birds.
In less than ten minutes I have a ride. It’s a big pickup truck with Nevada plates that passed me by, drove down the road, turned around and rolled down the window with a smile. My new friend Erick heads into Big Bear for a weeks worth of supervising work on a time-share development being built by his company. He knows nothing of the PCT and is curious as to why I was hitching, but thought I looked harmless so came back he says to help someone out. I am beyond grateful as I always am for a nice, safe hitch. Erick even finds me sitting on the corner in town to let me know the post office is closed because of Columbus (colonial) Day.
I do laundry. Get a nice hotel at a hiker’s rate and am gifted by the nice proprietor with a before-noon check-in. Shower. Double breakfast. Bus to the grocery store. Bus back to hotel. Pizza. Kombucha. Kefir. More food. Popcorn. TV. Silence. I feel odd waves of nausea thankfully leading to nothing. I call local trail angel ‘Papa Smurf’ for a lift the following morning back to the trail and am grateful not to have to hitch.
I learn from instagram my SOBO friends are 100 miles ahead of me hauling ass. Loving it all. Oh to be young again. I admire their speed but more so am just happy to have spent a bit of time with humans so deep into the stoke of a walk. We all find our own rhythm, speed and mode of movement. Mine is slower; mine is my own. I’m loving it, too.
Of course I’m up after midnight watching pointless TV. Why not? Tomorrow I get new shoes in the resupply, some more food, then back into the forest again.
October 10, 2017
HWY 18 Drop-Off – Juniper Tree Camp by the Big Old Couch in the Forest
13 miles/5 hrs
Papa Smurf picks me up just after 9am out front of the Robin Hood Inn. There’s just enough space for my pack in the back of his jam-packed SUV. He has fresh Carl’s Jr right out of the frier. Offers me some tater-tots. I am so stuffed from town I can’t accept. I’m gonna burst as it is. I get out of his vehicle right where I hitched the ride into town. He doesn’t want any money but I slip him a bit for gas. It’s something else that ppl help hikers out the goodness of their hearts and pocketbooks. Speaking of which, I sent my friend Hamburger Helper a card and a twenty dollar bill. It was just too much to get to the cash at McDonalds last week and have money waiting to pay for my second breakfast. So, I doubled his generosity and asked he pay it forward to a NOBO or SOBO in need of some help next hiking season. There are truly ppl out on trail barely able to make the trip, using their funds wisely and loving the journey. A bit of cash would’ve helped me as a young athlete so I feel good sending this kindness back and forward. Besides, I’m not even thru-hiking this trail, it’s a half-trail kinda thing, you know?
On the drive I learn Papa Smurf and his wife have been trail angels for 5 years. They hosted over 300 hikers this year alone. It all started when they saw ‘one of those skinny hikers’ walking the highway 18 to town and offered him a ride. Their lives have not been the same since. I notice a second amendment baseball cap on his dash but decide that’s not a discussion I want to entertain, so don’t go there. Although I honestly can’t understand the overwhelmingly powerful and dominant attitude towards guns in this country. Not to mention misinterpretations of laws and amendments and such. No, this is not a time to ask about the hat. Instead, I say sure, yes, go ahead when this kind man asks if he can pray for me before I set out on trail. It’s from a place of kindness so why not. I am not someone who prays to any god but am a person of spiritually, with nature as my temple. His kind words wafted into the morning air, trees and sky and clouds listening in, saying we are here for you, too.
Just like that I am back on trail. Pack loaded with food. So much food. Likely too much food but oh well. Not too much water just yet because there’s a spring 10 miles ahead. Cold, clear beautiful flowing spring that brings me joy and quenches a moderate thirst at 10 miles in, that is. I have different foods because I am getting sick as I always do of the food I’ve been eating. Hummus, carrots, bagels, salami, nutella…and of course butter yes always always butter. And these new shoes. Yes I feel like shit but I have food and water and new shoes so life is good. i move slowly letting this lethargic feeling settle in with no concern. I know the feeling will shift in time. It’s also why at 13 miles into the day, right near that big once-was-white couch and bear locker I decide at 3pm why not hang out and camp under a big Juniper tree. What’s the rush. No rush at all.
Me wondering where everyone is at the couch
I think back during this leisurely afternoon to the young USPS clerk asking me all about the trail. She could not believe I’m alone. ‘Girl, you are tough. You got any protection? At least a knife or something?’ I tell her yes I have a knife, some mace but most importantly I have common sense that I use as my first line of defence. I tell her the trail is safer than any city. That I feel totally safe on trail. Always. Well almost always but always enough.
Being amongst the Pinion, Juniper and sage makes me feel safe and loved and clear and free.
So I decide to stop and hang out. There is big ‘no camping’ section ahead and if I continue on it would mean walking well into the night, so I choose to stay and chill and begin my usual early day well before the sun rises, walking into her morning rays feeling alive and connected. Yes, that is the way I hike, morning dark is what I like, evening dark is when I sleep.
I bear bag my food because of the waft of salami coming from my food bag. I’m asleep before 7pm.