I may not be perfect but I’m pretty damn good. —Rebecca Roudman
I have one of the best nights of the walk after G-Punk gives me a magnesium drink that relaxes my muscles. My spot is quiet and solitary – just me and moonlight on the water until it rains just a bit. Hopefully enough damp to keep wildfires at bay.
My walk is all down and very short, to a promised breakfast and my resupply. As I walk past the Lower Rosary, I see more and more tents – and more and more loud people – and I feel so lucky to have found a peaceful spot, at a premium this hiking season.
I come to the highway and cross it seeing a sign to the resort just as a huge SUV pulling an equally huge camper pulls up. Yes, friends, I hitch two miles down. I’ve had about enough of the woods just now.
The resort is a collection of wooden buildings on Lake Odell, with a store and restaurant plus a special tented area for us hikers. It’s all abuzz and frantic when I arrive; so many filthy hikers organizing their resupply, buying snacks, charging their devices and mostly looking anxious.
I learn the chef didn’t show up for work, so it’s only the store food available for breakfast – not even coffee. I grab the worst junk food, a horrible habit of a long distance hiker, and sit at one of the picnic tables to eat it.
G-Punk comes to say goodbye, and I do see a few friends, but the energy is really off-putting. Everyone in such a hurry and so focused, right on the verge of unfriendly. I call Richard and start crying. I am such a wuss! I come here to hike alone but feel so lonely and out of touch because I don’t fit in.
But the trail provides. I have no idea how it manages, but after we hang up the phone, first Wonder (Myra from day one) comes over with an entire quart of half-and-half to drink. She is truly a wonder. She never takes zero days, and also never hikes more than twenty miles on average per day. She really knows herself, her capacity and how this trail will unfold. An engineer, she is organized and disciplined. She just laughs at the big rush, the showing off of big miles then lounging for days in towns. With her Georgia drawl and easy smile, she makes me laugh when she tells me her strategy: walk every day.
‘Slash’ is a NOBO section hiker from Oakland and joins us to paint her nails a dark black. She then offers to paint mine. Sassy and cute, she puts into words precisely what’s been annoying me – how some hikers drop bits of information to get you to respond with praise that they pushed themselves so far. Also how we tend to catch up with hikers going fast and they give us the cold shoulder because our simple plodding works just as well – and perhaps in the plodding we enjoy what we see more?
“You’re subverting the dominant paradigm,” she tells us with a grin. “Colleen the Machine” appears with a half gallon of ice cream eating right out of the container and apologizing that she is high on caffeine. She was morbidly obese and is losing all the weight walking – this year, her second try at the trail. We talk at once, finishing each other’s sentences because we understand the loneliness when we don’t quite match the hysteria of most PCT walkers, the competitive spirit, the sometime lack of camaraderie.
Colleen planned a day around meeting friends for a hitch and then they dumped her because they couldn’t wait the agreed upon 45 minutes. Slash rolls her eyes at Bobby O who throws out little patronizing words to me – “Don’t you think you need to rest?” – but then is so angry when his group walks off without him, unable to empathize with how that sort of thing happens all the time to me.
I mean, we all feel a bit confused and incompetent sometimes, and it causes such a welling up of emotion, why not be more gentle with each other? OK, Wonder doesn’t. She is completely grounded in ‘hiking her own hike.’ But in these few moments with these women, I realize I am hardly alone in my emotions. Though Slash is shocked that us three never listen to music or podcasts while walking. I imagine it might help to ‘keep going,’ but I love the purity of the present.
The party breaks up eventually, and I feel heartened and more grounded, mostly knowing the trail keeps giving me what I need when I need it. And I am a bit unfair since Bat is there and asks if I’ll meet my friends and Moose and Callum and Gretzy all offer a kind hello and “how’s it going?” I bury myself into my phone and updating Blissful far more relaxed now, when I hear my name called.
And there they are – friends from my childhood, well, college days anyway. Tom and Andrea, oboists I met playing in the Colorado Philharmonic in 1985! We rediscover each other’s whereabouts on Facebook, of course. They now live in Eugene and are retired – that sounds like something I’d enjoy – and haven’t changed a bit – well, maybe a little.
We talk about lunch and finding a place for me to crash for the day when they suggest I just come to Eugene. Such a good idea! We talk non-stop in the car to fill in all the gaps and I get to see their awesome home in the hills where I almost immediately crash from exhaustion.
It’s so interesting to talk about our lives and career choices. Andrea makes music still, but left the business to work as a software programmer because it was making her so unhappy. It’s true – and sad, really – that the most ecstatic parts of my life were making music, but also the most cruel, depressing and confounding were making music, with respect to the business part of it. So many nasty, power hungry, competitive people.
Andrea and Tom lived in San Francisco and then Oakland for decades and she decided to take control of her future by quitting her job this year before they laid off most of the engineers. She’s not surprised how I was unceremoniously dumped at age 54. I share far too many details with them and can hardly stand the words coming out of my mouth. I’m just tired thinking about all of it.
I have plans up my sleeve that I also share and I know I’ll land on my feet, as they have. Tom still has playing gigs, but they have made a choice with the direction of their lives and it’s so refreshing to experience it for a day. They also point out when they backpack in the mountains and see the PCT hikers so focused, going crazy fast with headphones jammed in, they shake their heads wondering what’s the point.
We meet another couple in the evening and go downtown where pre-Pride is taking place next to all the funky restaurants, ships and pot dispensaries. At the Jazz Station, we take in a high energy performance of ‘Dirty Cello.’ Rebecca Roudman is a wild, free spirit her long curly tendrils splashing over her face, wearing a lacy, spaghetti-strapped black dress and high wedge heels and jamming on a stand-up electric cello, her strong but sultry voice backed up by a three-piece band including her husband on guitar. Some of the words hit home squarely like a song about an orchestra Personnel Manager whining over open toed shoes and a skirt that’s too short.
We have a blast, but the energy – and a bit too much wine – pushes me over the edge and I develop a whopping headache. I dream of walking all night, shuddering awake to realize I haven’t moved at all. I get the message that maybe I need to not move right now, my incredible friends agree and tell me to stay another day, rest, hang out, do whatever I want.
And that is exactly what I do.