I don’t know how it happens, but we thru hikers have an incredible ability to spread news. I know who is ahead and who is behind, hear tales of other hikers I haven’t yet met, and find out exactly where to eat in every town. Perhaps we are all just gossips — or maybe it’s just our own verbal newsletter.
However it happens, we have been all chatting about snow for the past few days. We all are wondering how bad it will be and when it will come. We all have been making plans, and Rainbow Dash, Ant, and I decided to hunker down in Wrightwood to let it pass. It seems like everyone on the trail is thinking exactly the same thought.
I was trollying along up the hill behind Rainbow Dash thinking about getting to town and seeing Ant. We had a room reserved and I knew food was in my future. The morning got even better when I remembered that I had packed out a Starbucks espresso shot. I could have flown up the mountain!
The clouds were cartwheeling and tumbling atop the mountains, looking as joyful and playful as I felt. I stared long and hard at the highway below — we had climbed up into the hills since yesterday, and the cars kept getting smaller and smaller, until I felt as if I was a small plane, flying above it all.
Rainbow and I have hiked more than 150 miles together, and it has felt natural. Since I started moving my body, I’ve been amazed at how fast I can befriend someone while in motion with another person. I think there is magic in exertion. Moving through space in time with another frees us to communicate on a deeper level.
I have thought a great deal about how I felt on past challenges and how I have felt in these past four weeks. It is also magical, as if I have been able to move deeper in myself through that same movement-based magic.
I remember the pain and suffering I caused myself on Bike & Build, the doubt, self hatred, and anger thrown in all directions. I was filled up with fear. This trip, things feel so different. I feel my empathy muscles (which once were so atrophied with disuse) bulking up. I feel joy and self compassion bubbling just under my skin.
“Pine Nut,” I say in a small, calm voice, “you have a big enough heart to love your crankiness and hunger and foot aches.”
And then I eat a snack and breathe into the discomfort, because I really do have that much love in me.
When we got high in the mountains today, the snow began to fly. I put on my puffy, then my rain pants, then my buff, hat, mittens, and finally my rain jacket. We moved. We walked fast.
I was warm and happy, even when the hard balls of frozen snowy ice began slicing through my vision, cutting at my face. My toes were freezing and I scrunched them with every step. And on we crunched, slipping along treacherous, slick ankle breakers, sailing up inclines, rushing pass hikers stopped on the trail.
We finally got to the road at 11:40 — 13 miles done, packs light without food and water. There were seven other hikers huddled together, without cell service and without a car in the road. They were hoping for a miracle.
I texted Ant from my Delorme (love it!), asking for major backup. And then three cars appeared from the town, hearing of the low temperatures and shivering hikers. We piled in, and within minutes were all lumped in the tiny office of a small town motel.
Not worrying about the rooms, we all descended upon the hiker box full of food. There were Doritos and chips and even a bowl of small candies on the desk. We scarfed it all down, having not stopped to eat all day. I took ramen and dehydrated Thai food and instant pudding with me into the room, shivering from the cold and wet.
Ant appeared, all fluffy haired and happy, telling me I looked so tan. It felt like it had been years, and also like the entire thing was so meant to be. It feels so right to be side by side again, ready to walk into whatever madness comes our way.
I won Rock Paper Scissors, and got to shower first. It was the first time I have gotten to use shampoo and conditioner this entire trip (and motel bars of soap simply stay in my hair, making it worse than ever). I moaned in pleasure with the big frothy suds in my hair and hot water burning my freezing hands and feet. My luscious locks fell out left and right, from stress or lack of brushing, I’ll never know.
And then it was off to the library and pizza place, and then right back into bed with Ant, Rainbow Dash and Michael (a new friend) chatting happily in the other bed. And commercials and Naked and Afraid making as all laugh at the world.
Life is good. And I have a whole day to soak up food and warmth and humanity tomorrow.