I crawl out of my tent to go eat breakfast with Energizer Bunny and Dexter. They’ve been doing this since the beginning but I had a habit of eating breakfast in my tent before packing up. But I’m starting to like their morning ritual so I’ve been joining them.
While I cook my oatmeal, Dexter is deep in conversation listening to a woman whose hair is wrapped in a blue towel and is carrying a small purse. I’m unclear whether Dexter is there willingly – she has the kind of stance that suggests she is about to leave, or trying to leave, but has gotten stuck. I wait and watch and she stands exactly the same and eventually I call out, “Hey, your oatmeal is getting cold” (which it is) to give her an out should she want it, but she shoots me a strange smile and continues to talk with the woman for another few minutes before joining us.
“So…” I say when she sits down.
“Hold on, I want to write something she said down.” And proceeds to write on her fuel canister in sharpie. It says, ‘As you give, so you shall receive.’ The woman told her she’d heard Jesus tell her this when she’d died during a medical emergency. I’m a little surprised Dexter took this to heart because she doesn’t seem to be into the God thing.
The woman keeps coming back to talk to us, and it becomes clear she’s struggling with some mental stuff, that it’s unlikely much of what she’s telling us is true. She’s nice enough, and a good story teller. We start packing up and I give her the book I’ve just finished and she goes and talks to some bikers who are camped a bit away.
As we leave, my brother calls. I haven’t heard from him in a while. Afterward I call my dad, then my other brother as I walk down the beach.
When I hang up, I’m glad for some headspace of my own. I think about how scary it is to let yourself want what you want – a long hike, a different job, a life made up of art – and to go after it, to try to take it for yourself.
The beach miles fly by, the road miles drag. We walk over the bridge and into Waldport, where Dexter gets a package from the post office and then we get spaghetti and pizza. All you can eat spaghetti. I can only eat one serving.
From there, we keep walking until camp. Dexter stops a few miles before us to stealth camp because her knee is bothering her but Energizer Bunny and I make it to Beachside State Park. I take a quick shower and realize my foot has been bleeding. Long hikes are strange like this – at home a small sore would grab my attention and drag me with it, out here pain is part of the process and you bleed and shrug and move on. I try to call Mark, but mostly he can’t hear me, so we send each other voice text messages, back and forth until we say goodnight.