No one at LAX knows I have butt chafe.
A reintroduction to life as I knew it a mere 7 days ago,
the airport is unusually surreal. Everything around me is so normal. I myself look normal. In fact, unless someone was really staring at my feet to notice a few blisters, no sign of my section hike remains. A very premature case of chafe had cropped up last night at Warner Springs (my exit spot for this trip). I shifted in my barstool, kind of grateful it would only be getting better from here, kind of bummed out at the same time. Even if it meant suffering, the suffering brought on by hiking has a weird appeal to it.
Before stepping inside the airport, I poured out a few ounces of water,
taken yesterday from San Ysidro creek, on the baked concrete. I waited until Zog and ThatWoman disappeared in their truck, eaten by the LA traffic after dropping me off. People rushed by without noticing what I was doing. A few hours ago water was precious. Now, like everything else, it was just normal. Water was everywhere. Half filled bottles on the sidewalk. Water fountains. Water disguised as beer. Water dripping lightly from a pipe under the soda machine.
I was transported while watching it drain out of the bladder. I could almost hear the bees buzzing, gliding inches above the water’s surface as it gently tripped across the granite rocks. Now the buzzing was from taxis and the skycaps were looking at me, laughing and saying something about my skirt. The airport doesn’t like people carrying liquids, so I let go of my odd little souvenir.
I scanned the crowds, unconsciously looking for hikers.
After all, these had been my people for the last week. A tribe of pleasant pseudo-strangers, leap frogging day after day. Occasionally sharing tips or opinions or meals or nap spots. Disappearing then reappearing in some unexpected spot, answering the question, “Wonder what happened to (insert trail name here)?” A few of the airport crowd seemed likely suspects. Despite being clean, they had odd tan lines and tired-looking gear poking out of cool backpacks. We didn’t say anything to each other, because now we were a crowd. My heart ached a little bit for the calm, ambient fraternity of hiking culture. I let go of that membership, folding it like a uniform shirt I would need later, but not now.
I wish I could complain and say no one warned me.
It’s a lot more fun blaming people, but fact is I was warned, and actually, from what I hear of it, I got it a lot better than my heroes the thru-hikers. My time travel had only lasted for a week. I was properly weirded out and overstimulated (do this many babies cry in public all the time?), a tad nauseous from being in a car going 65mph down the highway (my body was like, saywhat), but enjoying having a plug nearby for my devices all the same. So I could write this. And bide my time until the next section. Also pizza.
Despite the wacky juxtapositional factor and awkward adjustments, I had an amazing trip and couldn’t wait to get back at it. I knew it would be the beginning of a lifelong addiction. Section hiking was a way I could be a part of the PCT while biding my chance to thru.
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