Being dorks on top of Mt. San Jacinto
Clifs on cliffs
The largest river we’ve seen yet! On the trail back from Mt. San Jacinto.

All we have is time

“All we have is mornings in bed, coffee and aspirin. All we have is time.” — Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

My husband and I spent the night of his 29th birthday under an I-10 underpass. We were unshowered, dirty and grateful.

We were snug in our tent, clumped among our friends, and mostly shielded from the heavy winds that endlessly blasted the valley around us. Having spent the previous night shivering and sleepless in an official campsite, the tractor trailers and freight trains overhead seemed a small burden to bear. We have recently slept on a beautiful gray-sanded riverbank, on unfolded pool chairs on a near stranger’s lawn, in a derelict cabin whose missing roof boards let in the starlight, and, notably, in a proper bed.

One of my favorite times of day is when Honeybuns and I brush our teeth, usually one of our last chores before bed. I like to think about all the places I have brushed my teeth in the last few years, the sunsets we’ve watched with Crest-filled mouths, the people who have snored around us at night.

Most of our amorphous group of friends, Team No Trust (so called due to the high concentration of ex-vegans) has been in Big Bear Lake for the last day or two. We caught some beers (naturally) and the new Alien movie (naturally) and have been puttering around the grocery shops and outfitter.

During our day in town, perhaps a half dozen strangers stopped Honeybuns and me to talk about the trail. Everyone here knows of the PCT and many will get a wistful look in their eyes and say that they wish they could hike it. “You could!” we want to say. “You could if you wanted to!” But we usually smile and wish them well and head on our way.

We have been uncommonly lucky in the trail magic we’ve been receiving from strangers. We keep running into Palm Springs-resident Deb, who helped out our friends Pitch, Hikelopedia, Banana Pants and Fran. She’s been passing out snacks and helping hikers with rides for the last 100 miles or so.

On Honeybuns’ birthday, we received a visit from Snorkel, who we last saw at the start of the Colorado Trail last year. She and her boyfriend drove for almost two hours just to take our smelly selves out for dinner (and kindly provided us with those most coveted of provisions, Hot Hands and Pro Bars.)

Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama let hikers crash at their Big Bear City home and provide shuttles and meals as well as encounters with their cute cats and dogs. And a handful of other trail angels have been floating around, offering clean water and snacks at tucked-away sites in the desert.

We’ve been out for a little over two weeks now and yet it feels like so much longer. Time really does work differently here. (“You’re on Trump Time now!” Banana Pants will joke whenever I say this.) Days and forests and meadows and rocks and sand blur into a smooth single brushstroke, punctuated by inside jokes and mountaintop views that seem untethered and all jumbled out of order. Our trail is linear but our lives on it are not. Though I’ve been diligent about keeping up with my nightly diary, I’ve given up trying to mentally frame each day in our larger narrative. I’ve come to enjoy and embrace the abstraction.

Perhaps ironically in light of this, one of our new group games is listening to Honeybuns summarize the day’s news at night. (That is, on those nights when we get service.) I miss our D.C. home. I miss our friends and family, the instantaneous communication, the adrenaline spike of a Twitter refresh. It is strange to be so far removed from a rapidly changing political climate, to hear everything hours or days late.

But I know this is where I need to be right now, moving forward and passing through. I am grateful for our friends, here and afar. I am grateful for our time.

Published on May 20, 2017