Mile 256.21 to 266.12 — Today’s miles: 9.91
It’s cold again this morning, and because we’re down among the pine trees, the sun is slow to reach us. But I get up early anyway because I’d like to hike with Proton again before he leaves the trail. I eat a meat stick and half a bag of crushed Pringles in my tent at 5:15am — “meals” like breakfast have lost all meaning at this point. The bathroom issue is still present this morning; I try scrambling up one side of the ravine and hiding behind some rocks. It’s not great.
Proton still leaves before me, but I’m out about five minutes later, hiking at top speed because I’m so cold that my fingers are numb. Zydeco and I catch him a bit later and the three of us tackle a steady uphill section with beautiful views of mountains to the right and the outskirts of Big Bear — today’s destination — on the left. Proton suggests my trail name should be specific to the desert section I’m hiking. Desert Dan, he proposes. “Who is Dan?” I want to know. No, I’ll stick with Apple Juice (the judges will also accept AJ).
Proton stops to chat and I zip past, feeling good on the relatively flat terrain, excited about town food and a shower and laundry. I hike for an hour or so alone, and when I stop for a water break Proton strolls up, and soon Zydeco is here too. We set off again, Proton in front, and though I am quite literally hiking at my max possible speed, when I look up Proton is just a tiny speck in the distance. He never looks like he’s even trying, just strolls along easily. I’m jealous.
A few steps from the trailhead he is sitting in the shade, waiting for us. I check my watch: I’ve done 9.91 miles and it’s 10:05am. Pretty close to ten by ten! I hope to achieve that goal for real this week. We pile into Proton’s rental car with another hiker and head to town. I get out at the hostel, where a kind of organized chaos reigns. The guy in charge, “Sarge,” demands to know if we are hiker trash before he’ll let us check in. I’m not sure how to prove this (but I sideline my critiques of “hiker trash” during this conversation), but I seem to pass the test and get my little room just off the main common area.
I shower immediately and it is amazing, even if I have to use shampoo as body wash, and then meet Proton and Zydeco for lunch at the Thai place, which Zydeco generously treats us to. I eat a lot and feel overwhelmed by all the people and the kids screaming and running around. Proton drives us to the grocery store, which is even more overwhelming. I made a list ahead of time and it helps. I buy Cocoa Puffs and soymilk.
Back at the hostel I immediately eat four bowls of cereal in my room. I stake out the laundry, pouncing when the washer becomes available. My clothes now smell clean, though they don’t all look clean. I fear my hiking shirt may be permanently sweat-stained already.
I talk to Cyn for a long, long time while all kinds of activity happens in the common rooms outside. Some folks are watching Top Gun in another room, I can tell from the soundtrack. I walk to the post office for stamps, buy postcards, apple juice, and coconut water at the convenience store. I bail on dinner with Proton and Zydeco, too wiped out to do anything but sit in my room. I have new blisters to care for before bed, and then clamber up into the top bunk and pass out to the low sounds of another movie starting in the common room.
[ETA: Toby being adorable with what I believe is his third talenti jar filled with cocoa puffs. –Cyn]