7.4 miles (258.7 to 266.1)
I don’t sleep well without the fly on my tent. I never sleep well without the fly, but I hope this will change over time. I wake at 5:00 and manage to get up, change into my hiking clothes, and pack everything (including my tent) in exactly 30 minutes. When I’m finished with breakfast, teeth brushing, and a call of nature, I check my clock. 6:00 on the dot, a huge improvement from my usual 90-minute routine.
As we hike, the landscape morphs from forest to sagebrush. A few miles down the trail we come up behind a group of day hikers. They pull over to let us by. “Where are you guys going?” they ask. Finally, finally I can answer: “Canada!”
We arrive at Highway 18. It’s time to hitchhike to Big Bear Lake. I’ve never hitchhiked before. Ever. Hiker blogs I’ve read claim that women often get rides faster than men do, and that removing your hat may increase your chances. I take off my hat and stand in front of Dad, sticking out my thumb each time a car (or motorcycle) roars by.
After about 10 minutes, a black Subaru Forester pulls over. The driver is a paramedic/fire fighter. He generously gives us a ride all the way to Big Bear Hostel. At the hostel we meet Sarge and reserve beds for tonight (Dad in a private room, me in a women’s dorm).
Sarge asks for my trail name.
“Eowyn,” I answer, for the first time.
“Lord of the Rings?” he says, like it’s too good to be true.
“Awesome! How did you get that?”
I give a rambling explanation and he nods enthusiastically and says he gets it, then recites a line from the movie that always makes him tear up. Yes, he definitely gets it.
Having successfully outed myself as Eowyn, we take Sarge’s advice and visit Teddy Bear restaurant for breakfast. Later, we claim our resupply boxes, dump our things in our rooms, do laundry, hose off our shoes, wander around. Big Bear is crowded. The sidewalks are filled to capacity. I just want to hide out in the hostel.
Again and again I meet new hikers who ask for my name. As Eowyn, I receive many enthusiastic responses, as well as a few confused reactions.
“From Lord of the Rings,” I say. Sometimes this clears it up, sometimes not. Usually there’s a follow-up question: how did I get my name? I’m incapable of providing a succinct response. The name comes with a loaded backstory, hard to compress into a few sentences. Hopefully I’ll be able to hone my answer as time goes on.
All of the hikers I meet today are injured, and their injuries aren’t minor. There are many swollen tendons. Wounds that won’t heal. Once again I thank myself for starting with low mileage days.
Dad and I visit Teddy Bear again for dinner. This time we share a table with Kacie and Cane Toad, two of my hostel roommates. I devour a chicken avocado salad with a side of fries. We all manage to clear our plates of the massive portions we’re served. Hiker hunger has begun.
*More photos on Instagram.