6-6 to 6-10 It's a Trap!
Three of four packages were waiting for me when I returned from Grumpy Bear's breakfast on day one. An old SUV had come at eight to take loads of hikers the four miles to the bar down the road where the pancakes were endless, but the eggs and meat were finite and closely guarded. I stayed behind after the first load of hikers was returned to the store and taught Far Out how to make some basic pool shots. I'd missed playing on a table, having a beer with locals, and engaging in conversation not related to hiking.
The first three packages contained the Isabella resupply, my bear can and some excellent items sent by David, and new, desperately needed shoes. The missing fourth was to provide me with socks and sock liners, a ground cloth, and an air mattress to help me sleep and stay warm in the 12000' areas to come. Upon package distribution, the store proprietors started me a tab. Packages were received at $5/day; general store items were priced with a markup commensurate with the time and labor required to drive down to Ridgecrest, purchase them at Costco, then bring them back up the hill. Not cheap.
Truly, I needed a few days off to rest my feet and hip and heal my now-infected finger. My missing package worried me a bit, but I took it as a sign to rest up, relax and eat/drink for a day or two. I mingled with Windsong, Pinecone, Jackass, Molasses, Ewok, Shreck, Shamiko, Manbearpig, Dogger, Twisted Hair, Cheesemeyer, Mover, Otto, Catdog, Karma, Crash Test, Half and Half, Pit Stop, Navigator, Star Rider, Sunshine, Vibes, Doc and Scheise Ja. There were games of "never have I ever," there were insightful moments of painful realization all around, there was excessive pancake consumption, a record 19 hikers managed to squeeze into a pickuptruck on another ride to Grumpy's breakfast. People began to leave and others took their places. A package arrived for me. Half my shipment, the socks and ground cloth. No company phone number provided. Grrr. Would there be another? Was the order cancelled?
Internet is fickle and expensive to residents and businesses in Kennedy Meadows. The internet cafe doles it out sparingly to a chosen few, and I have not enough interest in listening to stoner stories nor patience for stoner etiquette to figure out how to become an internet-user at Tom's. Furthermore, only a very expensive pay phone connects hikers to the outside world (now known as "the Matrix"). There was no way I knew to find out whether I'd received an email regarding the missing items. My solution was to just enjoy some time off and play more pool at Grumpy Bear's, this time having ridden in with a trail angel named Betsy Ross, who had chatted with me and shared her artwork with me at the general store. Dogger, Twisted Hair and Cheesemeyer watched us for a couple hours trading her nice, worn-in 19oz cue back and forth. Excellent shots were made and missed. We were evenly matched and both very much enjoyed simply playing the game. I was renamed Hustler.
Ms. Ross surprised me and Far Out the next day by walking down to the camping area and taking us for a picnic to the river with Spirit, her lovely dog. We walked up the shallow river-bottom, sat in a deep spot and listened to the willows and water. She gave us meatloaf sandwiches and organic fruits and vegetables and we drank good beer and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Rocks were artfully stacked. Spirit rolled in something revolting and we all got soaked trying to wash the stench from her. Then, hearing of my plight, she offered use of her computer, and I finally was able to get a timeline for leaving. Package due Tuesday or Wednesday.
Far Out took off early Monday afternoon, and I spent a few hours on the porch chatting with Half and Half and a few others off and on. Half and Half humored a couple hours of my questions about his walnut orchard and vineyard and life in general. We had immediately established that we had a great deal in common, and I felt like our conversation left out a sizeable portion of the usual bullshit. He was instant family.
When Betsy Ross rolled in, I introduced them, and Half and Half suggested a trip to the river with some wine. Catdog joined in, and I had another moment on the South Kern free of the hiker herd. Betsy stacked rocks as an art installation. We sipped wine and told stories until dusk. Catdog and I returned to the store with Betsy, leaving Half and Half to camp by the river. I envied him.
Tuesday morning, I got my bear can together, shipped a resupply to Independence, sterilized my water bottles, put my pack back in order and tried out my new shoes. Much tougher soles, less ventilation, hopefully a bit more supportive. I evaluated my still-ugly finger wound; Vegannaise had given me a eucalyptus poultice a few days before, though I am unsure of its efficacy. No pus had exuded from it in over a day, but the flap of skin which had been nearly flayed from me was healing short of its mark. I expect a big scar with a ridge from the little space between the top of the flap and the finger. Not infected now, though.
After doing my chores, I came up for breakfast and saw Half and Half, who had gotten a ride for the two and a half miles back to the store. He was meeting friends in the area, and decided the store would be a more interesting place to wait. With him were Pit Stop and Navigator, a couple I'd met at the Saufleys. We sat on the porch talking for most of the morning, then Half and Half met his friends and invited us all to camp with them at the campground by the river. Betsy showed up soon after and offered to drive me down after UPS showed up, just in case my package was a rare on-time case.
"Maniak," was yelled from the front door and I leapt out of my seat. Free! Package arrived! I was packed within the hour. Spent the night stacking rocks in the river with Betsy and Spirit, chatting with my new friends, and wishing I'd ordered the medium NeoAir mattress. Ah well, I can put my clothing bag under my hanging-off feet; it will force me to elevate them at night.
Tomorrow, fattened with cheeseburgers and beer, I get to climb to 9 or 10 thousand feet with a pack heavier than before. Brilliant!