Story time! And one to go down in the books:
The best day of my life.
June 6th, 2018
It started off like any other day. The sun woke me up as it warmed my quilt, I went and poured a cup of coffee, and joined a handful of hikers gathered around a map to figure out what to do with the fire and impending closure.
We couldn’t walk through the fire, obviously. Even though it was basically out, there were still fire crews working there and we’d just be idiots if anyone attempted it. There was a shuttle that bypassed sixteen kilometres of trail, nearly cutting the day’s walk in half (I was a big fan of this option). Or some trail angels were offering to take hikers the whole way to Casa de Luna, our next stop. As much as I liked this cop out, Donna – the owner of Hiker Heaven – had a good point: why come all this way to walk 4,300 kilometres, only to skip 39 of them?
Shuttle + 16 it is.
We had until 5:30PM to do our resupply, stretch, and rest, and enjoy the rest of the day.
The store had been closed yesterday for filming, but was open again now. I overheard a girl say something about Jennifer Garner and ‘some guy’ called David Tennant and I nearly chocked up the trail mix I was munching on.
THE David Tennant?
The tenth (best) Doctor (of Doctor Who)?
In the middle of nowhere?
Andhow do you not know who he is?!
He’s my number one actor/character/famous person and I’m actually a huge Doctor Who nerd girl. I even have a Doctor badge on my pack (necessities, right?).
I was on that next car ride to the store.
The girl wasn’t lying.
HBO was filming their new show, Camping, and right there in the parking lot was my favourite person I don’t actually know.
Oh my Lord.
As I walked past him into the grocery store, I tried to play cool and pretend I wasn’t hyperventilating on the inside. Wandering absentmindedly up and down aisles, resupplying properly was torture. I grabbed my ramen and rice bubble bars, and vaguely remembered I was supposed to eat more vegetables. One cucumber should do it.
He walked in with Jennifer Garner and a few of the crew, as I was looking at juices. Into the same aisle I was in. I froze. And then backed away to the next aisle. And then came back and looked at juice again, but stared out of the corner of my eye. And then backed away again. There was no doubt to anyone watching that I was a deer in the headlights.
A big friendly fella, Chris, approached me and said, “If you need anything, you just go right on over there and ask them to move”. My reply was a bad joke about only needing a photo with David Tennant, and he said it was absolutely no problem! Let’s go right now!
I started giggling and backed into a shelf.
Playing it smooth, alright.
Chris introduced me and asked if I could please have a picture, and I’ve been in shock/dream state ever since.
David was honestly so lovely. He put his arm around me and grinned as I laughed and cried and made an absolute fool of myself, and then stayed to chat a while longer.
“So what’s in your shopping basket today then? … That’s a lot of noodles. And tuna. Interesting picnic you’ve got there.”
In between more giggles and tears, I choked out that I was on a big walk. He kept asking questions, and seemed genuinely interested. Thank goodness he wasn’t an exasperated actor embarrassed by the scene I was making. Or maybe he was, and he’s just a reeeally good actor and a gentleman to boot. What’s done is done, either way.
I got a pretty great photo, and some pretty great memories.
Side note: Jennifer Garner waited there, smiling, so beautiful and gracious and everything I would have imagined her to be. In retrospect, I could have/should have acknowledged her too… My bad.
I kept walking up and down aisles, staring at that picture like a full on stalker. Oh man.
At least I remembered to pay for the ramen/tuna/cereal bars/cucumber. Slowly I came to my senses and realised I probably could have kept my cool a little more and cried a little less. There’s no doubt he deals with that and more at Comicon or similar geeky conventions, but I’m guessing he/crew wouldn’t have imagined a 27yr old dirty Australian hiker girl melt down in a convenience store in Agua Dulce.
Four years ago, I travelled through Morocco with Jack Gleeson – or more commonly known as Joffrey from Game of Thrones. Tom Morris, my travel companion at the time, chastised me for freaking out when I first saw Jack in our hostel: “He’s a real person. He is NOT a character. Leave him alone.” It was great advice! Like I said, we actually befriended Jack and his mates (two more Jacks and one Rory) and ended up travelling with them for close to a month.
This was playing through my head as I walked out into the carpark and knew that I hadn’t treated David Tennant as a person, but as the character I was obsessed with. My parents have done their best to teach us to never be too proud to apologise when we’re in the wrong, so I did.
Embarrassing as it was, I approached him again.
I could feel the eyes of staff and crew around, wondering just how crazy I was, but he wasn’t fazed. I quickly apologised for going overboard and losing it, and thanked him all over again.
“Oh, nonsense. It’s always lovely to bump into real fans. And I think you are absolutely charming!”
Day = made 🙌🏽
When I got back to Hiker Heaven and tried to tell the story to Speedy and others, I worked myself up into tears again. It might take a while for me to settle down. Luckily, there were other things to keep me occupied in between smiling like a lunatic at my new screensaver.
Sarah got a box from workmates that included some ‘walnut and caramelised butter’ biscuits. Being a Kiwi (aka. she’s from New Zealand), she agreed with my that these are biscuits, and together we did our best to explain the difference between cookie and biscuit.
There was a sewing station, and I was able to fix up the holes my thighs have rubbed into my bike shorts. Booty girl problems!
The clock neared 5, and we had another meeting around the maps. A third option was introduced: there was an alternative route. Donna had been going over maps and ideas throughout the course of the day, and had found a series of back roads and horse trails that would lead us almost parallel to the PCT. It ‘only’ added around four kilometres to the trail.. But because I’d only mentally prepared for 13km or so, it was a huge jump to have to do the whole trail, plus more. 42km altogether. A whole marathon.
Yesterday? I was ready for a cry.
Today? Emotional day already. Now this. The shuttle was coming in 15min. My big cry was happening.
I tried calling Dad, and it took a few minutes to get a hold of him (which didn’t help). He and Mumma told me everything I already knew: I can do this. I’ve already come so far. They are so proud of me. It’s like eating an elephant: you do it one bite at a time. Just take this one step at a time. A little bit further, then another little bit further. I can do this.
I knew all these things, but I simply needed to hear it from them too, as I let out all those pent up emotions and sobbed (quietly). They prayed for me over the phone, and my breathing was slowing down again when Speedy found me to say the truck was here and we had to go.
Sitting on top of one another, we crammed into the tray of the truck and I said goodbye to Hiker Heaven way before I was ready to.
That smile is lying to you: I wasn’t ready to walk at all.
Maya and Dario were having dinner at Mexican, so I said sorrynotsorry to Speedy and told him I needed a margarita to face walking again. Poor fella. He trailed in after me, and we ordered them as soon as the waiter arrived at our table.
I’m going to go with this was a really good idea, because it meant we also got a little feed before heading off. Corn chips, salsa, and nibbles of scary fish and salad.
Having my pocket full of stolen toilet paper, I figured I was as ready as I would be to start for the night.
But then the waiter came over.
We were offered another round of drinks: the family next to us had heard our international accents and could clearly see we were hikers, and wanted to bless us!
Heck yeeeeah another strawberry margarita right here, thank you very much ❤️
I went over to thank them personally, and turns out they were another family of God sent angels who were in the right place at the right time.
Exactly what I needed.
We chatted about hikers they had seen pass through over the years, how I have a best friend called Prudence!, and how crazy Speedy and I were to try and hike tonight… Chris told me: “Just do it one step at a time”. Call it divine, called it serendipitous or chance – their small act of generosity and words of kindness spoke more deeply than they realised.
Chris, Prudence Joy, and family: thank you for the extra boost of love (and tequila). You guys topped off a very big day.
Speedy and I only made it another eight kilometres.
Mountaintop camping under a starry night.
Best day of my life.