The terrain is easy to follow. Some rocks, of course, but not enough that I couldn’t jog over them with minimum risk.

There’s very little moonlight, unfortunately, due to the overcast sky.

Primarily, I want to get past this section. I’m also considering visiting the nearest town, Kearny.

It’s off the trail, but they say it’s a friendly place.

*The* friendliest place on the AZT, actually. I wonder what that means.

As the night takes hold, all moon and star light, even the reflective light from the clouds, disappears - the headlamp is enough.

The trail bends around the mountains in an unexpected direction, and I’m no longer sure I’ll be able to find a reasonable place to camp.

Before the night began, I did come across some low spots at the base of the hills with patches of green grass - I could have set up camp there. Now, of course, the trail is winding through rocks, heading uphill, with no flat spots in sight.

I’m not concerned, though. The last night hike was precarious and walking into water. This time, it’s a clear path and weaving through hills. It was overcast, but there’s no forecast for rain.

I’ve read online that a place in Kearny allows you to camp in town for free, so I'm going to try to find my way there.

When the trail leaves the mountains, the clouds take over completely, and it’s quite dark. There’s a river nearby, but the trail is a sandy road, without puddles.

I walk by several houses; it's a residential area within municipal limits - you can tell from the garbage cans at the end of the driveway. If we were truly out in the country, there would be no garbage service. It seems I probably shouldn’t be speaking loudly to fictional characters anymore.

There’s a family having a party. I wonder if they have Christmas cookies.
This might take a while

The train tracks that run along the river don’t seem to be used, but as I come to a bridge, there are signs indicating safety procedures for some train traffic.

Up the hill, there’s a spigot with potable water. As I get there, I feel drops of rain. The spigot is attached to a work yard of some sort, and cars roll by every once in a while. The street light turns on and off every couple of minutes with no apparent pattern.

It’s areas like these that are the creepiest. A small sign of civilization, but during a rainy night, it’s essentially abandoned. I could get back on the trail, but I don’t know what I’m headed into.

On to Kearny, and a fairly long road walk.
The walk is fine, but an unexpected feeling hits me.

It’s not physical exhaustion, but emotional exhaustion. With some signs of civilization, I feel the sting of loneliness. It’s odd, because it’s not something I feel in normal life, or in the wilderness.

But out here, in the middle of a small town, nowhere American paved road, it creeps up on me, as the rain starts to pick up.

I’m disappointed, because I’ve been looking forward to eating some pizza in town, but by the time I reach town, everything will be closed.

The rain comes down harder. It’s now a full on rain storm. Fortunately, the rain is vertical, not horizontal, and it’s not below freezing.

I’m still hopeful to get there in time, but there is no coverage, so no opportunity for an Uber or a cab.

So I try to hitch.

In the pouring rain, in the pitch black dark, in a lone figure in a black hooded jacket with his thumb out on a country road.

I wonder how many people are scared just seeing me on the side of the road. Some pull to the other side of the road as the pass by, even though there was plenty before they moved.

I eventually get a small amount of data coverage, and it seems the pizza shop delivers to the bridge I passed earlier, for a $10 charge.

I call.

Hey. I’d like to get a pizza delivered. However, can I get a ride back to the restaurant with the delivery person?

“Uh. I have to call the owner and see if we can do that.”

I don’t see the problem. It’s an amortized solution.

I don’t say that.

But I do get a call from the owner. They’re going to come pick me up and bring me back to town.

I guess that’s the friendliness of Kearny.

I really appreciate it. It was going to take me another 2 hours to get there, and by that time it would be close to midnight.

A big white truck pulls over, and I get in. The pizza shop owners are pleasant people, and upon arrival in town, I order a full pizza.
Happiness on a tray

I’m happy about the pizza.

When I’m finished, the owner takes me to a place where I can camp.

The rain is still coming down, so they say I can stay in an open garage.

I thank them, and set up my sleeping kit. It’s strange. Being in town, but with no good place to sleep, and no bathroom, I feel the sting of loneliness again.

In the daytime, I probably wouldn’t feel so ostracized. It’s probably the night, and the lack of any moon or star lights, and the continual switch between drizzle and downpour.

I get a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what it’s like to be homeless. Homeless around people that have resources to give you just enough to keep dry, but not enough to feel like you belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what I’ve been given. Digging a cat hole behind a wall, however, within view of street lights, feels much different.

It slaps you in the face with the notion: there’s no place for you here.

This must be what they mean when they say the trail is hard.

The dust from the garage is thick, and it’s hard to breathe. Not much sleep is happening tonight.

It’s only one night, though. For some people, it’s life.