After picking up my package from the post office, I mosey on over to a little dessert shop and order a root beer float. Dazed, I stare into the distance.

It's 3 more miles to get out of town, to a place I can camp.

But I have a bivy. I think I might just find a place to stealth camp in town. Maybe behind a building somewhere.

-

A couple walks up to the shop with what looks like hiking gear on their back.

I know who they are.

I know who they are, because two days ago, when I was almost sick from lack of water, I passed by water caches that were labeled "Amber and Jordan".

They taunted me. Maliciously.

They had a gallon of water every 3 miles. It was too much water, but I didn't take it. Maybe they needed it for some reason I didn't know about. But...I thought about it.

Are you Amber and Jordan?

"Um. Yes."

I almost stole your water.

Mind you, and this point, I'm just staring at them, without expression. I'm too exhausted for anything else. Although I had been walking and running hard for the past several hours, now that I was sitting, my body had begun the process of relaxing and trying to recover.

I do inform them that this is not an ideal place to eat, but I'm about to head over to a real restaurant. I invite them, and they accept. I'm surprisingly happy about it.

As we sit down at a restaurant table, we start talking about all sorts of topics, and it turns out, we all get along very well.

And they didn't cache their water. Someone volunteered to do it for them.

They're headed the opposite direction, and we exchange stories.

They're going to stay in town tonight at a hotel. I, on the other hand, had already made a rule for myself to not stay in any more hotels.

I meander about at dinner, though. As I've stated before, it's best to take advantage of the connections you make on the trail, even if it doesn't fit into your predetermined schedule. So we continue to talk.

Now it's dark.

I don't want to walk out there and try to figure out where to camp. But I will.

Fortunately, Amber and Jordan come to my rescue.

"We can probably change our room and get two doubles, if you like. We can split the room."

I wasn't supposed to stay in any more rooms. But it sounds lovely.

I gladly accept.

Forget my rule.

We talk about gear well into the night, as we're all relative noobs, at least in comparison to the people we watch on Youtube.

It does occur to me that I've almost walked 800 miles. I'm not really a noob anymore. I do, however, still feel the massive inefficiency of my process and my gear. I still have a ways to go before I master this skillset.


I told a friend back home that if I had coverage, I would remotely attend her Secret Santa party.

Well, I'm in town, sitting in a hotel room.

I have coverage.

My friend decided upon and put together my gift for me: a digitally signed photo, printed and framed.

I think it went over well.