I woke up a lot earlier than I expected, surprisingly well-rested. I found a spot on one of the couches on the front driveway and spent some time answering emails and text messages, and writing an email to Osprey to see if they would replace my backpack. I was soon joined by others as the sun rose, and when Terrie Anderson joined us I gave her a hug and thanked her for making her home into such a welcoming space for hikers.I lined up for coffee and pancakes and chatted with Joe Anderson about log houses and trail drama, then parked myself on a couch for the rest of the morning and watched hikers come in.
In the afternoon I walked with Cuban B, Tent Fire and Rowan to the convenience store to buy beer and snacks, Shaggy, Kat and the Doobie Brothers were also there, along with a hiker called Iron Man who was temporarily off trail and instead spending his time giving rides to hikers. He offered us a ride back to the house, even though it was only a quarter mile away, so five of us packed ourselves and our purchases into the tiny sedan and Iron Man floored the gas pedal, getting us back to the Anderson’s in record time despite nearly killing us.
When we got back to the house we helped Terrie unload groceries – big boxes and huge cans of hiker food – and stacked everything in the garage. Some time later a van full of hikers from the trailhead pulled up. I first saw Fancypants and Bucket – and then jumped with excitement when I saw Squatchie and Rally hop out of the back.
“Oh my god!” I hugged them both. “I’m so happy to see you guys!”
We spent some time sitting on the couch and catching up. I was so glad to see them that I had nearly forgotten about all the troubles of the previous day.
I took advantage of the hiker shower in the backyard, trying my best to keep the curtain closed in blustery winds so as not to expose myself to the hikers who were playing frisbee golf nearby. When I returned to the lounge area I checked my phone to see that Osprey had already emailed me back – they were going to send me a new pack to Tehachapi! I had barely had the chance to share this news with my friends when someone called my name. I looked down the driveway to see Jaybird, just arrived, holding up my long lost mesh bag of small things.
I ran up and hugged him. “You are my favourite person in the world right now!”
He said he had found it down the side of the trail, tangled in some bushes. “I didn’t see your note,” he said, “but it looked like something that wasn’t thrown away on purpose so I picked it up.”
For dinner that evening Terrie and Joe had prepared an amazing taco salad buffet. I ate too much and felt terrible, but didn’t regret it at all. It was also Iron Man’s birthday and Terrie had brought in a cake after dinner and a group of us sang Happy Birthday and celebrated with him. Later, I played cards with Rowan and the Tits, and a couple called Cashmere and Physio. We played loudly, laughing and cheering until we realized how late it was, so we tried to keep it down out of respect for the neighbours.
I went to bed late that night, only after everyone else tired out and I was one of the few left out front. I was exhausted but happy and relieved that everything had worked out. Tomorrow we would hike out together, hopefully making it to mile 500. For a rare moment, the trail seemed to be cooperative, like a living ribbon of dirt trying to urge me along. I tried to savour the feeling, knowing that greater challenges were sure to come.