In the morning I flew down the trail. My pack was practically weightless with no food left and only two and a half litres of water. The descent took me out of the forest and into rolling high desert filled with low shrubs and the occasional joshua tree. Over the hills and in the distance I could see the outskirts of civilisation around a dry lake bed.
I only had five more miles to the highway crossing where I’d hitch to Big Bear, but all the energy I’d had on waking was now gone. I sat on a rock by a dirt road crossing and chugged water and electrolytes for half an hour. When I got moving again, I might as well have been crawling.
After a few rounds of “100 bottles of beer on the wall” I reached the highway. I hauled my gear across the road and joined the Doobie Brothers, who I’d been leapfrogging with all morning. I stuck out my thumb; within minutes we had a ride.
Debra, our driver, lived in Big Bear. She talked about the drought and how it had been affecting tourism in the area. The dry lake bed I saw used to be Lake Baldwin. We passed by it as we drove in to Big Bear. She said avocados would eventually cost $6 each. I had a sudden craving for guacamole.
We were dropped off at the post office in Big Bear. The three of us needed to go a few miles further to Big Bear Lake, so we walked to the bus stop up the road. Across the busy street was a donut shop.
“I want donuts,” I said, mostly to myself. “See you guys later.”
I left my pack outside the store and entered with wide eyes.
“How would you like a dozen donuts for six dollars?” The owner asked me. My stomach growled.
“Yes,” I answered. “Yes please very much!”
As he filed a pink box up with assorted donuts an older man struck up a conversation with me the table where he sat drinking coffee.
“Are you a PCT hiker?” He asked.
“Do you need a ride anywhere?” He said his name was Lanny. He and his wife stocked one of the water caches on the PCT on the way in to town.
“That’s awesome! I’d love a ride!” I said. “I’m trying to get to the Big Bear Lake Hostel.”
Lanny helped me load my gear into his car. Within minutes we were are the hostel.
“Let me know if you need a ride again.” We shook hands and I thanked him profusely.
At the hostel I had barely reached the front porch before I was called in through the open door to the front desk.
Sarge, the manager, arranged a girl’s only room for Growler, Kat and I – and Justa, Rally and Squatchie for when they showed up. I texted them to let them know. They texted back to say they were going to book a room elsewhere. “There’s a Jacuzzi,” they said. I texted them back: “I have donuts”. They were there by the time I was done showering.
While waiting for my laundry I hung out in the hostel common area in comfortable loaner clothes and chatted with the other hikers who checked in throughout the day – the Shaggys (big Shaggy and Shaggy from day one who had the guitar), Papa Smurf, Limey, and a hiking couple named Bushtit and Tomtit.
In the evening I went out for Mexican food with Kat, Rowan, Puff Puff, Jaybird and Roxanne, followed by finishing off the donuts with the ladies in the dorm.
Squatchie, Rally, Justa and I decided we’d resupply in the morning and get a late start on the trail, rather than take a zero day. I also decided to mail my stove and rain jacket ahead to Wrightwood, five days ahead. There was no bad weather forecast for the next stretch and I’d gotten tired of cooking. It had begun to feel more like a chore and less like a reward at the end of the day.
Full of Mexican food and donuts, I curled up in my bunk in the stuffy ladies’ dorm room and following whispered conversations and hushed giggles, slept soundly through the night.