After visiting the post office in the morning and mailing our boxes, we caught the bus to the supermarket in Big Bear City. With the bus to ourselves, we all talked loudly about how terribly we slept.
“It was really hot,” I said, “but I actually slept like a baby. Weird dreams, though.”
“Me too!” Squatchie agreed emphatically. She went on to describe a nightmare she had where people were being cut up by a person-sized egg slicer. The bus stopped and a man got on and greeted the driver.
“Don’t sit by these ladies,” the driver warned him, “unless you want to hear about people getting cut up and stuff.”
We hopped off the bus at Von’s grocery store and entered what would become a four hour vortex of chores and socializing. After buying five days’ worth of food we claimed a corner of the store to strip or purchases of excess packaging and stuff them into our tiny packs. As we worked, locals approached us and asked about the trail. Then other hikers stopped by during their shopping – Limey, Hooch and Coyote Bait. When we managed to pull ourselves away it was around noon. Hooch was taking a couple of days off the trail and had kindly offered to drive us to the trailhead.
As we waited outside for the car, I sat next to Coyote Bait and shared a Starbucks frappuccino with Rally.
“I used to drink these all the time,” I said. “but I stopped because they were making me fat. Now I could drink like three a day and still lose weight as long as I keep hiking.” Thru-hiking was definitely the most extreme diet plan I’d experienced – maybe only second to the cabbage soup diet.
The four of us crammed ourselves and our gear into Hooch’s rental and within fifteen minutes we were back at the trailhead outside of town. We agreed to hike out only ten miles to Caribou Creek since we were getting a late start.
I fell behind the group to change into shorter layers. We were still at elevation, but the landscape we were hiking in was a mix of pine forest and high desert, with the desert heat mitigated only by the shade of the trees.
I met a hiker, Nips, who caught up with me just as I pulled my tank top on. We hiked together for a while, chatting about the trail and our off-trail lives. He moved on when I caught up with the girls, but soon my pace grew quicker and once again I was on my own. I passed Nips a couple miles later as he talked on his phone on the side of the trail.
At the top of the climb I sat down for a break. I drank some water, but realized I wasn’t hungry yet. I wasn’t even tired. My leg muscles buzzed with energy, just waiting to be used. I got back up and hiked on at a quick pace, not stopping again until I reached the campsite.
I set up my tent under a huge oak tree and spread out my food. My pack was absolutely stuffed from our Von’s resupply, and so heavy. I was eager to eat as much food as my stomach could handle. I started with cheese and crackers and summer sausage, and then moved on to lemon pie and cookies. Nips passed by as I was stuffing my face to return my sunglasses that I’d dropped on the trail.
Squatchie arrived an hour later, followed by Justa and Rally.
“Welcome to PT’s pleasure palace of endless food,” I called out. “Feel free to join me.” My tent was a food explosion. I kneeled on my sleeping pad, goods spread out around and over my lap like a convenience store buffet.
After we all had eaten and tucked in for the night we listened to the sounds of birds fade away as the sky grew dark – with the exception of a single nearby bird whose calls grew louder and more incessant as the moon rose.
“That bird is the neighbour no one likes,” Squatchie complained from inside her tent.
“That bird is the Ned Flanders of birdkind,” I said. The bird’s calls grew louder and more frequent. It sounded an awful lot like ‘fuck you’.
“No, fuck you!” We’d call back. “Go to sleep!”
But it didn’t, and eventually we had the sense to put in earplugs. I tucked my overstuffed food bag under my head as a surprisingly comfortable pillow and fell asleep under the bright white glare of the moon filtering through the trees.