It’s an easy eight miles into town from the shelter. I’m on the trail before seven, hiking fast across the ridgeline as the sun tries to burst forth from behind the slate-colored clouds. Thousands of feet below, an explosion of green. Roads snake through pastures and trees. Tiny doll houses dot the landscape. Everything big and small at once. Enough to make you look twice.
Inside my head, last night’s lightning strike replays on a reel. Then fantasies of cold soda over ice, a massive sandwich on thick multi-grain bread with all the fixins’, ice cream piled high in a waffle cone. Near-death experience. Food porn. Over and over on repeat.
The trail switchbacks steeply through a dark Oak forest. All ragged undergrowth and wild leaves. I have to stop myself from running, for my knee’s sake, down the smooth dirt path. And then, a paved road.
First stop: Dairy Queen. I devour a fried chicken sandwich, refill my fountain soda three times. Order a sickeningly sweet chocolate ice cream treat with three different kinds of candy mixed in. Eat it outside in the muggy heat.
I don’t feel like hiking any more today–it’s too hot, I’m exhausted, I just got struck by lightning. So I splurge, get a cheap motel room all to myself. Lie on my back on the king size bed with the lights off and the windows open. Still don’t really believe what happened last night–can’t fathom it–there must be some other explanation. Talk to Lee on the phone as he drives through some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Northern California mountain town. I tell him all the details and he says that’s just how his friends described it, too. Three of them got struck, Lee’s the only one who blacked out. Doesn’t remember a thing.
“Welcome to the club,” he says, laughing.
Later, I resupply at the grocery store across the street, do laundry, take a long cold shower. Sleep for ten hours.
When I wake up I’m still tired. My head aches. Feel like I had too many beers last night, even though I didn’t drink a thing. Fozzie, Jersey Girl, and Two Ferns show up, get a room at the motel. Convince me to stay another night. I lay out my sleeping bag on the lumpy pull-out sofa in their room, spoiled from two nights in a bed. It feels so, so good. And then I start to panic. Set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. I’m getting soft. I’ve got to get back on the trail.