12/17 The Horse of Shoes

Fischer Bike Trail to War Memorial

20 K

It’s a short day which means sleeping in! I still wake up relatively early, but I can linger with coffee and write. In spite of this plan, by 7:00 am the sun has crested the trees and is lasering the tent into an oven. Guess we’ll have to linger elsewhere.

We hunker in the shade while eating breakfast with Ellie and Bro. “I think one of the best things about the trail, is you can have Oreos for breakfast and nobody judges you” says Ellie as she tops strawberry filled Oreos with peanut butter for a brilliant breakfast dessert. I “go back to the tent for something” and Super Mario hands off the goods; luckily I have one pair of unwearable socks with holes that are upcycled into ginger beer anti-clinking covers, and (disgustingly) go into my food bag. Mario and Peach take off early, hoping for a long lunch break by a creek.

Prana and I are not far behind, but only make it about 3 k before getting to a cute, diminutive ‘waterfall’ in a cool shady bend. We sit down to filter water and over an hour later start hiking again, after an extravagant reading/writing break. The walking is lovely, standard well-maintained bike tread hugging a steep spine, and the first half of the day looks out over sharply crenelated ridges marching into the distance. As we are walking along, Prana suddenly yelps, then tries to take a few steps, seemingly unable to put weight on his left foot. What the? I was walking right behind him, I didn’t see anything happen. He is starting to make panicky keening sounds, and I feel panic bubble up in my chest. “Tell me what to do to help,” I instruct him. He grabs my shoulder for balance and starts tearing at his shoe. He finally removes it, and his breathing starts to slow down. “I’m pretty sure a bee stung me again,” he is able to explain. I don’t know how it got into my shoe, though.” Sure enough, another sting mark in the hollow of his ankle confirms the suspicion. “It must have followed the neon orange stripe on the tongue and crawled in.” Damn, I feel bad for him. He seems rather nonplussed now that things are sorted out.

Eventually the track devolves back to gravel road, and while the stream it roughly parallels is lovely to look down on, it is discouragingly inaccessible. We come upon Mouse on the side of the road having lunch, and plop down to do the same. Hummus and pitas, but, as it was purchased in the aforementioned Western Black Hole, of a much blander and less satisfying brand than normal; I can’t complain too much as it still burns as fuel. The sun comes out while we are sitting, instantly rocketing the temperature to 85 degrees; Prana and I scuttle back into the shade like crawfish scuttling back into mud while Mouse arranges herself to solar charge. “I think my main hobby is naps,” she confesses. “I’m really good at them too. I train a lot!”The rest of the day is fairly nondescript, other than the heat. I listen to some Vitamin Strong Quarter, then switch to stories on the Dirtbag Diaries. The humidity and blaring sun are sweltering. We come upon Bro wilted in a narrow patch of deep shade. “Hey Bro! Whatcha doin?” “Just sitting. I’ve been here over an hour.” “You’re not reading or anything?” “No. I wasn’t supposed to be here an hour. I was just supposed to be here until I wasn’t overheating.” He looks longingly across the glaring sun to the next distant patch of shade, as though the light were as solid as a concrete wall. “I just haven’t had the courage to go back in it again yet.” With words of encouragement, we leave him to his melty fate.

It’s not much later when we come upon Super Mario and Princess Peach sitting in a tiny sliver of shade in front of a horse statue. The memorial! Here by 5:00, with two more-than-hour-long breaks. I love well-earned short days. We sit down as well, and I type away, trying to catch up from being behind on the last five days. There’s a giant granite picnic table and hewn stone benches. I am fascinated by the horse statue, which is gorgeously formed with surprising nuance, considering the whole thing is made of rusty horseshoes.

Bro arrives, and so does Ellie. We lounge in the goldening sun and lengthening shadows. Ellie’s toe has finally reached a tipping point: she has to do something with it. I suggest she clip the toenail as far down as she can, then try to dig the side of the nail out of the skin with the nail clippers. She scrapes and levers and separates, and pulls several flakes of nail out of the skin. “The surgery was successful,” she pronounces. “The patient will live.”

We gather for the ritual of the Super Sevens, and then cook dinner. Some stories shared, then to bed.

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