Day 26- 14.4 miles from North Fork of Mojave River at mile 313.7 to Cleghorn Picnic Area at mile 328.1

Someone was coughing all night, and I had to put earplugs in to sleep. When I wake up, Johnny has already disappeared; she’s an early riser.

I pack up, and walk across the creek with my shoes in my hand. After waiting for my feet to dry and putting something over my blister to keep my stinky/damp sock off of it, I’m the last one out.

The trail rises steadily above the creek, until it’s on a sloping golden plain looking out over the entire valley. I sit and look at it, lovely golden-brown, marked by patches of pale-green fields, the enormous gravel mountain that is the Mojave Dam looming strangely in the middle. I pass a trail head with a metal sign that says “don’t trash your desert,” with the “your” emphasized. I hate people treating the desert like it’s ugly or disposable land, because the desert is beautiful and fragile and home.

The trail goes along the side of the valley, winding around the side of the hill so that there is little ascent or descent. Where the folds of the hills are just right, I’m buffeted by wind so hard that I have to stagger and lean against it. I’m feeling unmotivated and tired today, my eyes heavy, although it might just be the wind sucking away my energy. I leapfrog Rambo and Seinfeld, as well as Karmel and Ram, the Israeli couple I camped with last night. Spider Bite, This Way, Galy, and Fred all pass by too. Eventually no one passes me anymore even as I’m going slow, and I feel like I’m all the way in the back, behind everyone, but I kind of don’t mind. I stop for a while and watch a herd of horses run full-tilt across the valley floor. They look like those sculptures the size of a needle eye, but even from this far I can see their legs pumping, muscular and fluid. They stop running to drink water and I move on.

The trail goes through a strange industrial area, with pile of gravel and stacks of concrete and metal pipes, and follows the side of a road. I sing Mariachi by Ani Difranco back-to-back, since my earphones died and it’s the only song I know well enough to sing completely. It helps pass the time. “I don’t want to strive / for nothing / anymore” I sing in between breaths, keeping an eye on the trail ahead in case I walk onto someone taking a break.

I find a cooler of trail magic that’s empty now except for bottled water and some wine. I sit and read the trail register, where people wrote about all of the good things that were in the cooler, but I make two big tuna wraps with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce and other random things and don’t mind. Karma and Nirvana were here two days ago, and Sprite, Soulshine, and Roadshow were here just yesterday.

The trail goes up, up, up. Soon I’m at the top of the hill and I’m so busy looking at two little smiling clay-sculpture people that I fail at first to see Silverwood Lake spread out before me. The trail follows the lake shore at a distance. I think a lot about the trail name of Picnic, and whether or not I like it. It’s fine, but I’m not 100% sure yet. So many people know about it now, though.

There’s a bunch of trash along this section, and I want to pick it up, but I don’t have anything to carry it in and I’m on a mission to get to the picnic area in 3 miles, where I can order pizza. I see a big foam cooler down the side of a ravine, and decide to stop and carry it out; foam degrades badly, and it has a handle and it’s light so it’ll be super easy to carry. I swing my pack off, ease myself partway down the embankment, and hook my trekking pole on the handle to pull it up. I hoist myself back up onto the trail.

I carry the cooler in one hand and my trekking poles in the other. Suddenly it hits me that it must look like I’m going on a picnic. I laugh, and something clicks; I think I’m taking Picnic. The cooler has a big hole in the bottom, so I can’t use it to carry other trash, but I enjoy the last few miles into the picnic area as I swing my little picnic cooler.

A ton of people are there, sleeping by a pavilion on their foam pads under the sun. They’ve all ordered pizza, and I don’t have cash, so I’ll have to wait for someone else to come so they can split the 30$ minimum order with me and pay me back. Twinkle Toes walks in maybe 15 minutes later, and I place a call for us for 2 large pizzas and a 2-liter soda. I thank the lady on the phone for delivering to us; she obviously knows who thru-hikers are and asks me how far I’ve walked today.

While we wait the hour for the pizza to come, I talk with a girl named Christine, who I mistook for Rainbow Snake when I sat with her at the zoo before Big Bear. Her hiking partner, Claire, is here too. Christine is still having knee issues, but not the same as when I met her. Karmel and Ram are here, too, and a guy named Andrew who looks like that one blue-eyed actor from that show that’s super popular, Supernatural. Or is it Vampire Diaries? Johnny comes up, and we offer her in on our pizza delivery. Johnny has decided not to take Johnny-On-The-Spot as her trail name, so she’s Morgan now.

The pizza is delicious; Morgan and I split the vegetarian one and Twinkle gets the pepperoni. We talk late into the evening. We realize that the hole in the cooler I’ve been carrying is actually meant to make it a portable toilet seat, and we all howl with laughter. I’m glad they don’t suggest the trail name of Porta-Potty. “I can’t believe I packed out a toilet for three miles!” I say.

Morgan and Andrew head out, and Twinkle Toes, who I have alt-nicknamed in my head Danger Camp because she likes camping in illegal places, convinces us all to camp on the picnic tables at the pavilion, probably illegally- but, safety in numbers? A hiker comes in in the dark and I introduce myself as Picnic for the first time. We all get in bed, turning our headlamps off as ranger trucks drive by to head home, just in case. I feel weird breaking the rules like this, but my picnic table is super nice and the night is warm. I write until my arm cramps and then I go to sleep. (I always feel like I’m breaking the fourth wall when I mention writing my blog posts every night, but hey, it’s what’s happening on the ranch).