It happened just about the way I thought it would.
On Friday morning (as I was eating breakfast), my boss showed up at the campground and told me that I could leave on Sunday. Basically, I had to work the rest of Friday, then on Saturday, and then I was done. Originally, I was supposed to leave the next Thursday, but I was so ready to go and happy to leave earlier than planned.
The maintenance guys had gotten the yurts completely down and hauled away the day before. My main job in the campground was to ensure the yurts weren’t stolen, so with them gone, the highers-up decided that I could go too.
Also, the gates to the parking lot were to be closed and locked on Sunday. On Monday the Forest Service was to close the trail in order to cut 149 hazard trees. With the trail closed, there was no need to have the parking lot open and no need for a parking lot attendant.
I had the van packed with all of my belongings except my bike by early Sunday afternoon.
On Monday morning, I got up around 5:30, after a restless night of little sleep; I typically don’t sleep well the night before a trip. I loaded the bike into the van and drove off into the dark.
I left the mountain as the night was dying* and met the daylight as I drove along the river.
I saw a fox in the middle of the road, its canine eyes shining in the brightness of my high beams. It didn’t run from the van, but walked briskly down the yellow line. I followed it slowly for several yards, excited to watch it. It was the first fox I’d seen all summer. I didn’t even know foxes live on that mountain, but now I can say confidently that they are there.
Later, once the sun was up, I moved into the desert and passed through a forest of Joshua trees. I wasn’t sure those crazy plants were Joshua trees until hours later when I did a Google image search. It was also hours later when I realized I should have stopped the van and taken photos of them. I was so hellbent on getting out of the desert while it was still somewhat cool, I didn’t even think about stopping.
I made it to the highway exit travel mecca ( with a Pilot truck stop, a Love’s truck stop, a Flying J truck stop, AND a TA truck stop, as well as about twenty-five food and drink options) around noon. I did my laundry at Pilot, then caught up on my email at McDonald’s. I slept in the parking lot of the Flying J, which was fine except for too much light and too much noise. It’s going to take some readjustment to sleep in civilization.
I’m at McDonald’s again, using the free WiFi and electrical outlet to write this dispatch. I was going to try to do without coffee today, but when I realized I was falling asleep while writing, I decided to get some. When the young woman behind the counter asked for 75 cents for my small coffee, I realized she’d given me the senior citizen price. My vanity clashed with my frugality, and I had to decide if I should tell her I won’t qualify as a senior citizen for at least another 15 years (60 is the senior citizen milestone, right?) or take the discount. Frugality won, and I took the discount with silent dignity.
Shortly, I will get back on the interstate and head to MegaBabylon to visit friends. As I walk through the parking lot, I will probably notice once again how big and wide and open the sky seems here, then remember it’s because there are no trees to frame it.
* I stole the image of dawn as the night dying from Robert Hunter’s lyrics for “Sugar Magnolia.” I was listening to the song as I went down the mountain, and this time when I heard that line, I was hit by Hunter’s brilliance.