I won’t lie to you — after 30 miles, I woke up a little stiff. The night had been a tiny bit colder than I might have liked (I am still cowboy camping), but the sun rose and scorched me out of my sleep bright and early. At 6.30am I was too darn hot, and woke up Rainbow Dash, for the first time in our hundreds of miles. I felt bad, but also kind of awesome for waking up first.
We headed up the trail, me stumbling behind, trying to call Capital One while trudging ever upward in ever deepening sand. Sometimes you just have to take a break from this glorious reality to deal with grownup, normal people, boring bill things. And sometimes you have to dash from spot to spot to try and find the right combination for serviceable service. I am not, as you have probably gathered, one of those off the grid hikers, bless them.
I tripped along, getting hotter and hotter and wetter and wetter as the morning was blazed into the afternoon. I flipped on the last of The Hobbit as I picked my way through this real desert — with scarce bushes, occasional joshua trees, and poor lizards (I can’t imagine how anything lives out here). The dwarves made everything terrible and I looked at the black burns that engulfed all the trees. Bilbo was lost and found and I felt the pain in my feet grow. Gandalf brought our good hobbit home and I wondered how I have changed and will change.
“Gandalf looked at him. “My dear Bilbo!” he said. “Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.””
As the day grew weary with age, so did I. The blister that had sprung up between my toes yesterday doubled in size and then popped with a glorious, stinging pain. The small bones in my feet, such warriors yesterday, became peevish with the miles and called out regularly for rests.
“Come now, you boor,” they crowed at me, “we must stop this madness sometime!”
But we didn’t, and onward we stomped, down and down toward a tiny highway far in the distance. The windmills, thousands of them, swung slowly all around us. There were short blue ones and tall white ones, two bladed beasts and traditional three bladed machines, some old as dirt and others looking new as the day. I have been told that your heart can beat out of whack from the low level frequencies, and I listened to my heart and wondered if it was okay.
I was moving into a dark hole of a mood — wondering how I would ever get the cold Arizona Iced Tea and red Gatorade and guacamole that I desperately needed. I was sucking on Lifesavers that I had carried all the way from Idyllwild (mile 400 miles ago), sacred candies that a trail angel had given me for the desert. They tasted better than everything in the world. But afterward, I was still in the desert feeling awfully sorry for myself.
We made it out alive (no strangely exploding hearts) and got a ride into Mojave, which is a place that everyone loves to hate (like New Jersey, perhaps?), by 5.30pm. I was right in time for my meeting!
But alas, nothing is simple, and we had been dropped off at the Motel 6 1.4 miles from the Motel 6 I had meant to go to! Google told me it would take 27 minutes, but I flew there, strengthened by my grocery store goodies: cold coconut water and oddly fizzy fresh fruit and Starbucks cold coffee drinks and guacamole in my pack. I dashed around a crazy man talking to himself on these crazy railroad tracks that went right through the sidewalk, thinking he must have thought I was one of his kind with seven days of filth caked on me. But I made it with food and 15 minutes to shoot the breeze with the first friend that arrived.
After my hour and a half with my unlikely group of new compatriots, one offered me a ride home for the night. We picked Rainbow Dash up from the grass outside a gas station where she was being mistaken for a train hopper by a real train hobo! She got in the massive old Jeep, and our driver told us about his days riding trains, and the place underneath where you can get out of the wind. He said we were hobos just like he was, and we puffed up with pride.
At last we were back trail side, eating spicy guacamole with old couscous and ready to slip into dreams fast so another day can rise and we can discover what magic comes next.