I rush down the long switchbacks, running half the way. And Fixie does not run. “Sorry, my friend is at the bottom with baked goods,” I apologize with a huge grin, breezing past groups of day hikers in breach of trail etiquette (uphill hikers have the right of way). “You’d better run,” they agree.
The ten miles south of Sonora Pass are absolutely spectacular. A huge ridge walk over red volcanic soil, trail grade back to PCT standards. The views are expansive. Snowy peaks to the South and hobbit-home looking green rolling hills to the East. But the flowers continue to steal the show. I am torn in my rush toward hugs and cookies, about blasting through such beauty, and pause to take a few photos of the spectacle that changes dramatically as I drop elevation.
I take one short break, calling Stephen from the ridge. I have been halfway to quitting these past days and need to talk through my next move. I could resupply in Bridgeport and keep going today; skip up to Tahoe; or go home with Hanie for a rest but without a way back to Sonora Pass. I could also get a ride to the airport and be in Portland for dinner, but that’s been ruled out by the morning sunrise, lush greens against the last lingerings of dark sky.
I can see the line of the road below, as jarring as always. I think I am almost there, but then the trail takes a massive switchback in the wrong direction. I sigh and press on. Then I am there, and so is Hanie. I get the best hug I’ve had in two months, hiker aroma and all. “I though you’d be dirtier,” she comments. She’s brought trail magic too; a bag full of stone fruit from a local farm; a cooler with coconut water and good beer; avocados, tomato, baguette, hard boiled eggs and even salt and pepper. And cookies. Several dozen giant vegan cookies, half chocolate half sunbutter. I stand roadside, in shock after such a tough week, grasping cookies in each hand.
Other hikers have huge smiles, commenting on how long its been since our last trail magic. Someone discovers the beer and there’s a mad rush to the cooler, though it is barely 11am. “You’re a Trail Godess,” says Rebel Biscuit to Hanie.
Just as I am about to retreat with my maps to decide what to do, a car pulls up and Soccer Mom, Rooster, Crunchberry and Winedoc all spill out of the back seat. There’s more trail magic, and ever-opportunistic hikers rush across the street to see what’s there.
There are tales of a harrowing evening crossing the ridge during the storm. “We thought it was over,” they explain. “Rooster was full-out sprinting.” And then the most amazing coincidence: Crunchberry, a vet from Georgia, treats Hanie’s parents animals. How they figured this out so quickly, I know not (though Hanie is in vet school, so that helped), but wow.
The car also brings the answer to the question of what to do. Soccer Mom’s Mom (Soccer Ma-Ma?) is here picking her up for a wedding. Soccer Mom’s Dad (Soccer Ma-Pa?) Will be driving her from Sacramento, just 20 minutes from Hanie’s house, back to this exact spot in two days and I have a ride. To Davis I go, for rest and friend-time and eating.
Hanie, also the goddess of attention to detail, has a full set of clean clothes, including flip flops, for me to wear on the way. I take a futile wet wipe hiker bath, and change. On the drive home, all kinds of details spill out of me in a jumble of fragmented stories, as Hanie insists that I keep eating cookies.
Then a hot shower with homemade soap, a new razor and a fluffy towel. More cotton (!!!) clothes to borrow. Everyone needs the kind of friend that will lend you underwear. There’s vegan Chinese food for dinner, and a new friend to meet who will also be spending time in Merced in the fall. The two of them watch as I eat constantly for more than an hour, never quite getting full. And then there is sleep. Pillows and clean sheets, and deep, deep sleep.