Do not write blog posts about technology, it will come back to haunt you. About a mile down the trail this morning, I pull out my phone to check for service. I need to follow up with serious family things. But instead of watching a little AT&T appear, I watch my phone slip from my palm, landing face down with a gentle whomph on the sandy trail. I pick it up to see with disbelief that the screen has shattered. I check to see if it still works, and shards of glass get stuck in my thumb. Of all the ways my phone could have been lost or damaged in the last thousand miles – drowning, fire, being left behind – it cracks on such a gentle drop.
I walk the ‘miracle mile’ of flowers, watching as clouds begin to gather. In the shelter of the porch at the Echo Lake store, I watch as alternating hail and heavy rain pours down from the sky. I pick up my box from the tiny post office window. I am supposed to grab food and head back out this afternoon. But I have a shattered phone, a family crisis, and yet another day of overactive weather to contend with. Hikers just arrived fresh from town are so reluctant to leave in the storm that they head right back to Tahoe for another night. I sit eating kettle chips and a whole container of humus trying to sort through food for the next leg. I can’t focus. I am shivering in the cold despite being dry. Dry except for the tears now running down my face.
So to town I go after all. To see if I can fix the phone, and have more time to call family. Soccer Mom is hiking out, alone into the storm, though the sky has brightened a shade. Her mom, here again with trail magic fruit and beer and chips, kindly drives me and another hiker to South Lake. To the computer store that will repair my phone, and to a centrally located motel.
But the No Vacancy sign glows orange at the Apex inn. I check with the office just in case, but there are no rooms. Not with all the hikers and storms and peak summer season in Tahoe. I ask if there are any hikers around that might want to share and the woman at the front desk hesitantly says I can try knocking on room 115. So I do.
A twenty-something scruffy bearded white dude answers and offers to share. I have vague memories of previously meeting. Somewhere. Maybe. I decide to stay, sharing a small room with a I guy I know only as Angler. Who brings me a beer as I call family outside. And turns out to be a genuinely interesting dude.
At the nearby outfitter, a local man who likes to help hikers gives me a ride to the computer store and back so I can retrieved my phone. He takes a detour around traffic, kindly explaining why so I do not get nervous, a small woman alone in a truck with a stranger.
When I return, my happiness about the fixed phone meets a sombre scene. Mr. Noodles’ pack has been stolen, taken from the row of packs on the sidewalk. It had a bottle of wine in the side pocket that perhaps made it stand out. It also had his phone with all his photos, and gear he has carried not only this far on the PCT but for the AT as well. Such a low moment on the trail, seeing someone in a potentially hike-ending situation. But there’s nothing I can do right now, other than offer to contribute to new gear if the pack fails to resurface.
Back at the hotel I eat microwaveable vegan food, which is delicious, and watch Fresh Prince reruns. At midnight, Angler returns to the room, approaches my bed and pulls open a knife. Not the most comforting gesture for a dude to pull toward a lady he doesn’t know well, late at night in a motel room. I look up, concerned. But the situation is all innocent. He’s been drinking with the neighbor who has gifted him the blade. Which he’s so excited about he needed to show me, at midnight. And with that, I decide it is way past time to be awake.