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December 13 2023, Red Hills Hut to St Arnaud:
Orange and I left the hut super early in the morning, walked down the ATV track and hitched into town. He said I had the ‘french toast walk’ going on because I was so speedy—always was when I knew it was town day!
At the road, we got a hitch by the first car that came by.
“Thanks for giving us a ride,” Orange said.
“No worries,” the man said, “ya guys looked needy.”
We got dropped off at the front of Alpine Lodge an hour before they opened. There was a phone on the wall labeled: Afterhours Phone.
I picked it up and started calling the front desk.
Orange started laughing and said, “Kiwis would jus see what time they opened and would wait until that time.”
I ignored him and eventually a man answered.
Orange put his head down, laughing in disbelief, then mocked, “Hello, I’m an American.”
“Hello, Sir,” I said, trying to ignore Orange in the background. “Can you please open the door? It’s cold.”
“We open at 8,” he said, “I will open the doors immediately.”
“Oh sweet! Thank—“
“At 8,” he interrupted then hung up.
I turned to Orange and said, “Welp, at least we got to town early!”
“Everything is closed, Goldie,” he replied.
“At least we will be the first ones inside!” I said, trying to be optimistic.
We sat outside, shivering from the cold as we waited by their front doors looking like a bunch of homeless people. Eventually they opened the doors to their warm lodge and we ran in. There were pinecones everywhere! Home of the day.
We ran into Ben in the restaurant so we decided to join him for breakfast! I saw a girl eating alone, definitely a hiker, so I invited her to join us, too. Her name was Pending, because her life was in a constant pending.
She spoke of her boyfriend in conversation so I asked why he wasn’t with her. She explained he was a guide in Antarctica and that she had already planned to do the thru-hike alone before she even met him. He also happened to be working at the same time she was on her adventure so it worked out perfectly!
Pending was a young and spunky blonde girl who had a zest for life, especially for backpacking. I could tell just by the gleam in her eyes and the way her smile became full when she spoke about thru-hiking. As we spoke of trails we’ve done and the years in which we hiked them, we connected the dots and figured out she even knew my friend Wind Chime who hiked part of the AT with her!
Pending was carrying a notebook for people to write in, specifically advice that they would give to the younger versions of themselves or for future generations to come. I beamed with excitement for the thought of being able to touch a pen to paper again! I read through the entire notebook. Some of my favorites written were:
“It’s the worst, but everything happens for a reason. Trust the process.”
“Spend time with the people you love the most and who love you the most!”
“When someone says close your eyes and open your mouth, it’s always a trap.”
“You can’t please all the people all the time. Don’t try.”
“Life is everything. Be happy, be sad. Be light, be heavy. Lean in, back up. Do it all, and do nothing.”
“Those who never change their minds never change anything.”
“Do not let fear dictate your life. If you want to do something and fear of the unknown, or the outcome, or something else, don’t hold back, take a deep breath, and just do it. You’ll be happy that you did at the end, and if it didn’t go as planned, or you dislike the outcome, you learned that you do not have to do it again. But most of the time, the scariest things, or seemingly scary, will bring the most exciting outcomes.”
“Life isn’t easy and that’s okay. Don’t waste your life worrying about the future and fixating on the past. Learn to love the present moment and all the gifts it brings, as it is the only place we will ever be. Life is a chaotic, beautiful journey and embrace it all. Here are some lines that would’ve helped me a lot as a kid.
-Your presence matters
-Your emotions are not a problem
-You are just as important as everyone else
-Your empathy is a gift
-Empathize with yourself like you do with others
-Learn to be bored, there is a lot to learn in it
-Follow authenticity and love
We decided to split a room—Orange, Jax, Lenses, Ikra and I. I read my porn book while Orange came in and sat in the top bunk across from mine. Such like a slumber party, we talked to each other across the bunks. I felt really good around Orange. I felt as if I could be a kid with him. Being silly felt natural, just the same as talking about life did. Time seemed to fly by and I often felt energized in his presence. I liked how he also went on walks outside to be alone and how, just the same, he was deep in his mind, constantly philosophizing life.
Earlier, I had suggested we all have a tramily dinner so I picked a time and told everyone to be ready by then. Upon meeting new hikers, I slowly kept adding people to the list, having to constantly change the number of people in the reservation. I could tell the front desk lady was getting annoyed of me and sensed that she viewed me as a ‘typical American.’
By the time we knew it, it was already dinner time! Everyone got out of their rooms at around the same time and I did a happy dance in the hallway knowing we would all be joined together in communion.
At the restaurant, the managers shoved all of the TA hikers in one room. We helped push a bunch of tables together so we could seat as many people in one spot as possible. Near the end there were around 20 of us seated for a feast!
Pending placed her hand gently on my arm and says, “Thanks for putting this whole extravaganza together.”
I paused for a moment and reflected. “Oh my god, I did put it together,” I said.
Everyone laughed. I blushed because I wasn’t one to normally put things together like that. I simply felt excited to experience a big sense of community and the inspiration guided me there, into party planning mode. I felt I was definitely more out of my shell during this thru, grateful to be around good people again.
The workers asked us to order separately. Jax let me go first to which I said okay, however I was a bit apprehensive because I seemed to be a bit picky when it came to food.
I began with shyly asking the hostess if I could order my pizza with pesto sauce instead of tomato and right away I could tell the woman had a hard time understanding what I wanted and why. I started to blush as the line behind me began to form.
One of the guys, assuming the manager, overheard and took over her position.
He looked around the room and goes, “Okay, who was the one that called me at 7:20 in the morning and asked to get let in?”
He looked at all the hikers, ceasing to make eye contact with me, and then it hit me.
In a bubbly voice, I said, “Ope, that was me!”
“Yes, I know,” he said, “I recognized the voice. Now tell me from the beginning what ya were trying to request.”
I told him I would prefer pesto base instead of tomato sauce and he goes, “Fockin’ Americans, always so picky.”
I ended up ordering two pizzas and then asked, “Can I also get a pop?”
“A what?” he asked confusingly.
“A fizzy drink!” Orange shouted through cupped hands from the back of the line.
“Fockin’ Christ, where are ya from?” he asked.
“Chicago,” I said.
“And ya happened to fly all the way from your country and land directly here in New Zealand to ask me for a pop right now. Fockin’ great.”
Everyone roared with laughter at his bluntness. Now, there was a full line of people.
“You should’ve went in the back,” Jax whispered to me.
The guy poured me a coke since that’s all they had.
“Here’s your pop,” he said.
“Do you have a straw?” I asked.
“Jesus Christ,” he said.
I refrained from asking any more questions. I was in tears from laughing so hard. I was so used to getting what I wanted in America without any backhanded comments or difficulty of any kind.
Everyone behind me ordered their food quickly and thoroughly.
Hungry while waiting for my food, I threw salt and pepper on the palm of my hand and licked it off then leaned my chair all the way back, nearly falling to the floor.
“It’s like bringing a child to a restaurant,” Orange said.
The food quickly started piling in, one meal after another. By the time we knew it, there was a full hiker feast!
The waiter came back, gave everyone in the room eye contact except for me and asked, “Are ya guys all good? Is there anythin’ else ya need?”
“Yeah, do you have oregano?” I asked.
“For focks sake it’s oreGHANO,” he argued, “we can do this all day missy. You Americans took the English language and focked it all up! And I’m allowed to say this because I lived in Colorado for 15 years.”
He never brought me my oregano or red pepper flakes, which apparently were called chili flakes here.
At the table there was so much joyousness. I felt my abs getting in shape from how deeply and often I found myself laughing. I felt so grateful to able to witness everyone’s smiling faces, joking about trail life and the trials we faced, each one having a different interpretation of the same ‘bad days’.
I loved witnessing how much food and stories brought people together. Everyone was in the moment, holding eye contact, not distracted by technology, simply present with each other. Pending brought out her journal so that everyone could write their piece of advice. My heart was full, my mind relaxed.
When it came time for dessert, I asked the manager if he could make a hot fudge brownie sundae dessert. He said no and that it was an “ice cream sundae.”
I asked if I could have a sundae with a fudge brownie on the side and he goes, “No, ya can have what’s written on the menu with a tall side of shut the fock up.”
The room roared with laughter. He was really giving it to me hard. Jax and I wondered if he was gay.
When he left I said, “I think he is because my powers don’t work on gay men. They usually see straight through my shit.”
“Your powers?” he asked.
As Jax began eating again, he accidentally dropped some food on his inner thigh, very close to his cock.
As he went to grab it, I said, “Lemme help you get that.” I insinuated my body getting on my knees, implying I wanted to pick it up with my mouth for him.
He looked at me in disbelief that I would say such a thing, let alone even think about doing something like that in a public setting. His eyes held a mixture of shock, nervousness yet curiosity for me, but I knew well enough by now that I scared another one away with my blunt flirting.
Eventually, the crowd filtered out with their bellies full of good food and joy written on their lips. Everyone parted ways to their separate rooms and looked forward to the day ahead of them.
When everyone left, I went outside to get a breath of fresh air and found myself surrounded by a mother duck and her ducklings. I let them nibble on my macramé rings, naughtily tricking them into thinking I had food.
Orange checked up on me making sure I was okay before he left to go on a walk and I began thinking about the future. I began wondering what we could be if I actually felt open to it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t and I didn’t see that changing anytime soon.