Dexter is slow to leave camp but gets ahead of us because we have errands. I’m crossing a crosswalk in town and looking at directions on my phone and I see a woman trying to turn right look at me and shake her head, disgusted. I realize she’s probably mad because she thinks I’m homeless and have an iPhone.
On the way out of town Energizer Bunny and I stop at a grocery store. I get some things for snacks and a few meals and fresh fruit and we sit outside arranging our packs when a woman walks up and tries to hand Energizer Bunny a dollar. “Huh?” Energizer Bunny says.
“Oh! That’s very sweet of you. But we’re not homeless,” I say. “We’re hikers.”
“Oh! I felt so bad,” the woman says.
This is new. On the PCT everyone seemed to know that we were hikers and we didn’t have these kinds of encounters. Here, I am noticing people seem a little surprised by my eye contact, my friendliness, my willingness to engage. I am noticing people avoid looking at me. Weird. I am not sure how to feel. I’m not offended. I am a little sad, to see how different it feels to have people think they know you right away. And I feel a little bad, looking like I’m in a different position than is accurate, like I’m dressing up when I don’t mean to. My clothes are too big, because to be on trail is to accidentally starve and be permanently dirty from 800 miles of walking.
We go the AT&T store and the woman there wants to hike the PCT and knows exactly what I am and I get a phone case, since mine is letting sand in. We’re going to leave town, these errands have taken too long, when Energizer Bunny spots an outlet mall that has outdoor retailers – Under Armor, North Face, Columbia. I nearly jump for joy. I power shop and get myself a new bra (I’d had the bra I was wearing for a year before trail, and a month ago one underwire popped out, then the other, and in the mirror I see the sad state of my chest and wonder why I was bothering to wear a bra at all) and new shirt and pants and damn if I don’t feel like a new woman.
Maybe it’ll help with the hitching, too, I think.
Then we have a long road walk. But as hard as it is, I have an awesome new audiobook that makes it pleasant enough. I’m enjoying the book when a truck drives by and creates a huge gust of wind that blows my hat and my PCT 2017 bandana clear off my head. I turn around but there nowhere to be seen. I set my pack down and try to find the telltale red. Nothing. They’re gone.
I am not particularly sentimental. I did really like that hat. Mostly I think: oh man, my poor nose is going to buuuurn. I smother my face in with screen and cover my head with my buff.
I catch up with Energizer Bunny and Dexter and we decide to camp a few miles before where we had originally intended. It’s a nice spot to stealth camp. And we’re tired. And what’s the hurry?