Day 17 – Howler

The wind howls and makes my sleep fitful – I’m up several times just to watch the tent bow over onto my legs. Nothing to be done about it at this juncture, so I roll over, again and again, until the sun rises and it’s time to go.

I’m out after my spot mate; I’m moving slow today. One of the first things I do is to put something slender and sharp into the meat of my palm. It feels like I’ve grown a spine from my hand – a cactus spine, maybe? – so I rummage, grumbling, for my fingernail clippers, and manage to get it out. I think.


The wind is screaming on the walk, so loud I can hardly hear myself think. I’m stopping what feels like every 30 seconds to tie my shoe, nurse a stubbed toe, put on or take off clothing. My thoughts are growing excessively dark – I’m an idiot, I can’t do anything right, I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be anywhere. I don’t deserve to be loved. I understand, on some level, that I’m spiraling, that I have to break the cycle somehow, but I’m going uphill and being shoved around by the wind and I can’t even walk six miles without finding reasons to hate myself. The wind alone is enough to drive a person mad.

I’m only saved by the downward-tending trail, and the highway. It’s only 8:30 by the time I arrive. I should be proud – nearly 7 miles by 8:30 – but I can’t bring myself to be.

The wind is throwing a tantrum, even here. I put my phone down on top of my pack, and it throws it a couple feet. I struggle into my wind shirt while trying to hold my thumb out for passing cars.

I’m just calibrating where I should stand when an SUV comes up, drops off some hikers. I sidle over to it, and when the driver turns around, I smile. I assume, from the Papa Smurf shirt, that this must be the trail angel Papa Smurf, and I ask if he’s going back into town. Soon enough, my pack’s loaded and there’s an adorable dachshund-ish dog in my lap and we’re zooming off to Big Bear City.

On the way, Papa Smurf gives me the rundown, tells me about places to stay and where to do stuff. I’m overwhelmed, still reeling from my morning, still not quite trusting my own own judgment, so when he offers to host me I leap at the chance. He’s running into town for an appointment, and he offers to let me do my resupply while he’s there. I accept that, too.

We drop my pack off at the house, and he’s got time to cook me an omelet before we’re off into town. I resupply, chat with my mom before he comes back, and we’re all over town helping hikers before we’re back at the house. I sort through my resupply, and while Papa Smurf offers to slackpack me the 10 miles around Big Bear, I just kind of… Sit. Aimlessly. Shower. Do laundry. Eat a little while Greg and another hiker talk. Futz around on the Internet while Papa Smurf watches TV. Charge things. Try and fail to nap. This failure seems a little less wounding – though only a little.

As the day progresses into evening, more hikers roll in – some of whom I know; we catch up, shoot the shit, shake down Angelina’s food bag, even if we don’t shake anything out of it. We exist in each other’s company, and when Mountain Mama, Papa Smurf’s wife, orders pizza, it makes me feel a little better about today.

I get a text from Sasha, who spent the night at home last night – she’s ahead of me now. It’s supposed to be cold, which is one of the main reasons I decided to stay the night – down to 28F. I tell her to stay warm, and then settle myself onto a couch the size of my torso in an effort to keep a path open amidst five other sleeping hikers for Papa Smurf when he gets home from work. I don’t know quite if this whole couch thing is going to work, but I’m asleep soon enough.


Start: 259.4  •  End: 266.1  •  Day: 6.7
Notable Accomplishments: Off trail by 8:30 •  Found Papa Smurf  •  Decided to give myself a rest

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