Day 23- 9 miles from I-18 at mile 266.1 to Van Dusen Road at mile 275.1

I wake up at 7 (late) after staying awake late last night, from a dream that I met Carrot Quinn and someone took a bad picture of us together. My phone is buzzing- it’s my mom, so I talk to her, half-asleep at first. We Face-time for a good 45 minutes with the rest of my family, too, before I need to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I would talk to my family for hours if I could. I realize afterwards that it’s also Mother’s Day so I send a text to my mom.

I finish repackaging my food. Macadamia nuts obviously belong in the same ziploc with dried apricots and spicy peas, right? I think I have way too much food but I don’t want to get rid of any of it! I spent so much money on it; I have no idea how much I’ve spent so far total, but food is so expensive. My pack is going to be so heavy and full.

I head downstairs and back up several times, talking with Rachel and Donny and watching the dogs play. A hiker calls from the hostel and Rachel goes to pick him up. It’s David, aka This Way (but everyone calls him Crocs because he hiked in them for several days to let his blisters heal from ill-fitting shoes). He’s from South Korea and carries a Camino De Santiago shell on his blue Osprey pack, and is super nice. Apparently he got the illness a few days back that’s been affecting a lot of the international hikers. I guess there must be a bacteria strain or virus here that isn’t everywhere else? I haven’t heard of any Americans getting sick with it. Or maybe it’s from Hillbilly’s place back at Cabazon; I’ve heard crazy stories about Hillbilly and his house. Apparently he offers everyone moonshine and really strong weed when they get there, and it’s kind of unsanitary. He has a room full of M&Ms memorabilia and lots of guns.

David takes a shower as I pack up and start bringing my things down. Rachel and Donny are driving him to the community church since it’s Sunday, and last minute I decide to go with them so I can get a ride back to the trail. I throw my stuff in either my pack or my plastic grocery bag, fill my water bottles, and head out the door. Just before leaving I put the card I made for them on the kitchen table.

I say goodbye to David as we drop him off, and then they drive me back to the trail. We take pictures, and say goodbye, my eyes getting a bit watery. They’re awesome people and I’m really bad with goodbyes… I sit around the trailhead for an hour or two, updating my blog with the ten days worth of posts that I have backlogged, and get maybe 2 of them up. There is trash everywhere from trail magic that’s been left at the trailhead or from day hikers/thruhiker snack breaks, so I use my empty plastic grocery bag and pick it all up. There’s a Triple-Crowner parked at the trailhead, Stone, who takes the trash. We talk for a long time about trail things.

A car pulls up and drops off a hiker who looks very familiar, who waves and comes over to say hi. I’m always nervous when that happens because it might be someone who I really should know the name of, but have forgotten. But no, it’s a hiker named Twinkle Toes who I’ve only met briefly in passing, and was just happy to see a familiar face after taking 4 days off-trail in LA.

I dump half of my water since I didn’t have time at the house to look where the next water source is and just filled them all up. My pack weight feels immediately better. Then off I hike, with Twinkle Toes for a bit before I stop to pee and fall behind. I think I must be getting my hiker legs, because I’m going fast. I stop to inhale a whole bag of popped rice chips in one sitting.

My knee muscles start acting up again, and as I walk I try to figure out what is happening with it. Maybe it’s the downhill that triggered it? I decide to stop at a campground 8 ish miles in that my paper maps say have a picnic table, which I’m super excited for, but when I get there there are no picnic tables to be seen. The only person I know here is Twinkle Toes. As I cook my dinner, I listen to an AT veteran named Sketch. He says that I shouldn’t call the veggie meatballs with spaghetti I’m making for dinner meatballs; apparently he got an associates in the culinary arts and it’s bad form to call veggie meatballs, meatballs. I ask him what I should call them instead and he doesn’t answer (I will continue calling my vegetarian meatballs whatever I want). My dad made them for me and they are delicious, mixed with ramen noodles and a tube of tomato paste for sauce.

It’s really cold out even though it’s only 6, so after talking with Twinkle Toes for a bit I crawl into my tent and talk to my mom for a while via text and otherwise kill time until I go to bed.