No, I don’t mean wildfires, either — I mean the kind you start in your fireplace, in your hotel room, at night. Because you can, and because falling asleep in a real bed in front of a crackling fire in a warm room (and with indoor plumbing!) is wonderful.
Today was our first true “zero” since we started this trip: we woke up this morning in this hotel room, and we’ll fall asleep this evening in the same hotel room. It’s the most relaxing thing in the world, and such a dramatic transformation: we arrived yesterday exhausted, smelly, incredibly dirty, and with filthy clothes; tomorrow, we’ll leave energized, clean enough for polite society, and with freshly-laundered clothes. (Note that I don’t say exactly clean; some of our clothes will never be truly clean again — but they are scent-free once again, which is what really counts.) When I wrote recently about how time slows down on the trail, this is another example: given how we feel right now, it’s really surprising to realize that, just 36 hours ago, we felt so completely different. (And, of course, that 36 hours from now we’ll feel completely different again — but, for the moment, I’m going to revel in how we feel right now.)
The morning began, beautifully, with more reunions: as we were walking to get breakfast, suddenly we saw our great friends Treeman and Hedgehog (a.k.a. Hannes and Julia, the Germans) standing on a street corner, looking around. While I didn’t actually tackle them with a hug, it was the emotional equivalent of the same: it was incredibly good to see them, and we got the same in return. We’d wondered where they were, since we’d been hiking at practically the same pace over the past few days, and were a little afraid that maybe they’d skipped ahead or done something else, and we wouldn’t see them again. Far from it! Turns out they just had a rough couple of days and took an extra day to get here, but followed the exact same route we did.
So then we were four, walking to get breakfast. Then, as we walked up the hill towards our chosen restaurant, a white car pulled a U-turn right in the middle of the road and stopped — us, thinking for a moment that maybe someone was going to hit us — driven by someone we didn’t recognize. At first. Then we realized: it was Kara, another slightly long-lost friend from the trail, with Allie in the passenger seat! So then they headed with us to breakfast…and, a few minutes later, along came Honeybear (Keith), yet another trail friend from several days ago. So many people! Turns out Kara’s husband was in from L.A., too, so our two-person breakfast suddenly turned into a seven-person party.
Excited stories were told, choices discussed, and the past few days were recounted. Kara was heading to L.A. for a couple of weeks to take care of some family business; we have high hopes that we’ll see her again, somewhere up the trail, wherever she rejoins it. Keith is spending some time back at home, too, but may rejoin us, too. Treeman and Hedgehog are happily in town, planning to take a full zero here tomorrow, and have finally sorted out their issues with an inflatable sleeping pad that got a hole in it.
Hurrah! Spending time with all those people again was just so good. We even got to have dinner with Treeman and Hedgehog tonight, which was fantastic. We have high confidence that we’ll continue to see them throughout the trip, which feels great. It was funny, too — having dinner with them in a nice restaurant in town (dimly lit, candles on the tables, the whole nine yards), all scrubbed and everything, felt almost like normal life. Almost, but not quite — still better, frankly. It was a great evening.
What did we do all day today? A little bit of time on gear maintenance, going to the outfitter’s, picking up a bit of food at the grocery store…and a lot lying around and, especially, updating our blogs. (Each entry takes about 20–40 minutes to write in the evenings, and probably another 20–30 to prepare and post once we have cell-phone service.) (Oh, and, last night, we watched Game of Thrones on my phone, too, of course. Can’t let the PCT take away the really important parts of normal life!)
By the way, yet more amazing parts of the trail: Diane, the schoolteacher in Idyllwild who hands out homemade cookies to all the hikers passing through, noticed that Treeman had a tear in his clothes when we went to the restaurant tonight. Utterly unbidden, five minutes later she’d called a friend who is a seamstress, and given Treeman the phone number so she could repair his clothes tomorrow. Amazing. The people along this trail continue to be nothing but incredible, completely out of the goodness of their own hearts.
Spending a day like this in town is just wonderful. Yet, even as I’ve loved it, I’ve felt a bit antsy — antsy to get back on the trail, to be hiking again, to see what’s out there. Maybe that’s one of the best signs that I have this problem they call “through-hiking”: thoroughly ensconced in a warm, happy, relaxing town, I’m still thinking of going out into the hot (or cold), sweaty, potentially wet outdoors and hiking up and down some crazy mountains. It might be crazy, but I love it.
Our plans tomorrow: wake up very early, grab an early breakfast, and then head up. We have lots and lots of climbing to do, and then, possibly, Mount San Jacinto, a mountain over 10,800 feet tall that lies just off the trail — but with a convenient trail that goes up and over the top, then rejoins the PCT. Will we climb it? It all depends on the weather — there’s supposed to be rain and, potentially, even snow tomorrow. We’ll be cautious, but I have high hopes.