McIvers cabin (644) – Inyokern (652)
Bugs bugs bugs. Flat dead bugs under my air mattress. An unshakeable cloud of sweat flies. One loud bugger just by my ear, the swat dodger. I trotted around and swung my handkerchief and attempted a Buddhist mindset of not minding.
With less than 10 miles left till the road, I didn’t have to bother much with the slow trickle coming from the spring. My pack was super light on account of having nearly no food left. My remaining food was mostly melted chocolate. For second breakfast I squished a bag of melted M&Ms into a ziplock baggie of granola crumbs and ate the mixture with dirty fingers.
Beautiful and a gorgeous day but really all I was thinking about was town, and food, and more food, and a hotel. Since I’d given myself permission to stay in a hotel, it was all I could think about.
When I got to Highway 178, it was full of RVs and trucks full of camping gear. It was the Sunday afternoon, end of the holiday weekend. Everyone was driving home from their weekend on the lake, not especially eager to pick up random hitchhikers.
It took a little while to get a ride. A Mexican family picked me up and I sat in the back seat watching their little boy play a Lego motorcycle racing game on a phone. “Oh, you’re going that way. We’re turning south, to L.A.” said the mom, when she finally got cell service. “What are you doing out here?”
“I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”
“Oh. What’s that?”
They dropped me at the intersection. Highway 14 was full of fast holiday traffic. It was at least 15 degrees hotter than in the mountains. I could see drivers gaping at me in the millisecond it took them to whiz by. I felt like an asshole. I was never going to get a ride. Probably I would get a ticket first. The hotel was only a few miles. I started walking. I came to some road construction, brand new asphalt and loads of dust. On the horizon, I could see the road I would turn on. It shimmered in the distance.
Shit, what was I doing? Could I maybe figure out an easier solution than marching across the surface of the sun for the next few hours?
I pulled out my phone and called the Mayfair motel. I tried to break the ice with some easy questions.
“Hi! Do you have rooms tonight? Do you have a hiker discount? Oh, one more thing – could you pick me up? It’s really hot.”
That nice lady sent her son to get me. I can’t even describe my joy when that pickup truck pulled over, heavy metal blasting. I maybe did cry a little but my tears of gratitude were instantly evaporated in the heat.
“You must be my knight in shining armor!” I yelled as I fumbled with the door. It took me far too long to figure out the seat handle thing. The heat was getting to me, or maybe it was just being away from normal civilized things and people for so long.
That nice young man with puffy hair drove me into town, pointing out all the stores I might need and offering to drive me if I wanted to go anywhere else. His mom checked me in ($50 for hikers!). There was a pretty dog behind the counter and a tiny careful garden planted around back. The woman told me to leave my dirty clothes outside my door and she would wash them for free.
I turned on the AC and took a long awaited shower and watched myself a little Law & Order marathon. The hotel lady brought my clothes back hot from the clothes line and cleaner than they’d been in weeks.
Later that night, thinking back to those minutes trying to hitch beside the hot road where I knew no one would stop (or maybe the wrong person would stop, maybe that was a premonition from my gut), I realized that that had been the closest I’d come to wanting to stop hiking.