After quite a social evening with a number of our new trail friends rolling into our camp the feeling of beginning to make a trail community has begun to feel real. Woo hoo, new friends!! They come in all shapes and sizes, ages and stages.
I had a wakeful morning listening to a few guys head out earlier than us and decided to get a head start on the girls….as I (meg) tend be the slowest getting out of camp. I make up for it on the trail though……
This had been my first night alone in the tent, which I don’t like that much, but it allowed me to spread all my stuff from my pack out over the spare tent space which I thought would help me get ready easily in the morning. This wasn’t the case. Exploding out of your pack into the tent is not a remedy for slow morning packup. I fumbled round for my top and shorts, found them, fumbled for my various other bits and did manage to be ready first.
Tamika, from Perth and Io, from Portland headed out with us. We have gathered quite the girl gang. We walked 8.8 kms through some chapparell to Tule Spring. It’s a little nook a 1/4 mile off the trail. The creek which feeds the spring runs through the dry landscape. A lush gully of oaks and other green plants cuts its way east. As you walk along the track next to a multitude of cacti and other desert plants this green oasis seems out of place. In saying that, the scenery after breakfast was beautiful. It was like walking through a sculptural garden. Cacti and succulents are in flower, they have a big flowers and little flowers, pink, organge, soft petals and sometimes waxy. The trail is lined with pretty white flowers, sweet yellow flowers, lovely purple flowers, little button dark purple flowers….you get the picture. It’s incredibly gorgeous, and the only disappointing thing is feeling so foreign as to what they all are. We couldn’t download Apps we could have had helped us have a stronger sense of place. It’s a strange feeling to feel captivated by a landscape of which you know nothing about.
The girl gang walked along in the hottening midday heat, each of us feeling the strength of the sun in our own way. Sand snuck its way into our shoes. It scratched and itched, caused new blisters, and wholly frustrated my already tender feet. Shade from Manzanita and other shrubbery provided little relief when we needed a little rest. Around 12 we had walked 15 kms since breakfast and came upon a water spot fitted out with picnic tables and a free library.
Our other gal pals Zippy and Buttons turned up, along with some other hikers and we hung out under the trees until 3.30. I had itchy feet and pushed the crew on.
The last 10 kms of the trail were a gruelling up and down. It was a matter of putting our heads down and getting it done. After the last push up quite a steep incline I spent the last 5 kms listening to a podcast and some music. It was sweet relief arriving at the highway. The road that would take us to Paradise Valley cafe and our zero day.
Tamika and i had a little boogie and lined the trail with out walking poles as the hikers behind rolled in. We regrouped and crossed the road hoping for a ride to the cafe a mile or so down the road. Hitching a ride wasn’t proving to be easy so we rang a number pinned to a sign and waited. Cindy arrived soon after. Quick talking in her large truck, she jumped out, banged a ciggie out of her packet and sucked hard on it as we shoved our packs and stinking bodies into her ride. She embodies what it is to be an American waitress. Sassy, fast talking, raw and honest, sweet and detached. Cindy runs the cafe with gusto, her long blonde plait trailing around after her. She drove us back to Paradise. We ordered food, burgers for most, sweet potatoes waffle fries and a Caesar salad for me.
The diner was filled mostly with hikers. Cindy knew all the hiker slang, and all the stories that get passed down with each year. A few locals came in. Two ladies catching up on life, a local couple who offered their place up for camping that night and some lonely bikers. We ate and drank our fill and headed out back to pitch the tents in the dark. Cars and trucks soared past, the yellow lights of road and shone into the tent and cyotes sang out into the night. I lay awake for a while listening to it all. How lucky we are to travel. To be able to experience this. Meet all these wonderful new people and have the time and money to see the world in this way. The slow pace of walking and camping is so simple and easy.