Something pounces on me I the night. I wake in the dark confused, trying to figure out if I should be scared, then remember where I am: the paws belong to a very friendly house cat.
A cool breeze slips through the screen door, but still it is so hot down here in the valley. Sleeping inside always feels stifling these days, even with AC, even without four hikers, gear and resupply crammed in a tiny motel room. Even when I am not curled up with my ten degree sleeping bag at room temperature. We are not indoor creatures anymore.
The day’s plans center around food. Eating, resupplying, eating, making, baking, eating some more. I wander half-dazed around Whole Foods overwhelmed at the abundance, and not a high-fructose corn syrup soaked pop-tart in sight (though yes, even toaster pastries are available in ‘natural’). I am torn between wanting to buy everything, and not wanting to carry any of it at all. Slowly my basket fills with treats, the kinds of foods I cannot find near the trail, and that are too packaged or sugared or pricey to eat often in normal life: cashew cheese, ranch flavored kale chips, vegan donuts, quinoa-ginger bites. I become an oxymoron, hikertrash gentrified.
For the first time in my life, I am trying to gain weight. And fast. But I am in good hands: Hanie is an incredibly talented baker, and takes the task of feeding me very seriously. We bake Challah together, which she swears she only know how to do five loaves at a time. This invovles instructions like “pour the entire bag of flour in the giant bowl, now take two cups out.” We roll and braid dough snakes, even my lumpy efforts come out looking delicious. And there’s a half sized loaf for me to pack out.
I head over to the post office to mail a food box to my next stop up the trail. I politely ask for tape, explaining that I am a hiker and only need a little bit. The woman working behind the counter kindly offers to buy me a roll, and also a bus ticket, not quite understanding. “You don’t have to walk,” she says. I am too far from the PCT, but still the world is generous, at least to the small white girl in a borrowed dress.
I nap away three full hours of the afternoon, waking exhausted and so hot, still not feeling quite like myself. My brain feels muddled, and I have trouble staying on topic, completing simple tasks. I don’t take zero days often, maybe this business of jumping between trail and town gets easier with practice.
We stop at Target so I can replace the sunglasses that never made it out of Tuolumne. What do people even do with all these things, I think, stopping distracted in a row of pretty summer scarves. I try on sunglasses frustrated that the fun ones are not polarized, and the polarized ones not fun. Yet another women’s gear fail.
For dinner, we pick up amazing falafel, and I pile my plate high with cabbage salads, chickpeas and pickles. Hanie bakes more cookies, gingersnaps that come out giant, chewy, perfect. I sit blogging, trying to get caught up after all the long stretches without service. But as always, there are more tasks than time in town, and I need more sleep.