Yesterday was an emotional day. I have had many of those the past three months, but yesterday was sharp and it cut me deep down. The physical pain is almost nonexistent in moments like this. I got up this morning and slowly packed my things. Last night, the motel manager helped me figure out how to take public transit from Etna down to Weed, CA. It was a lot more complicated than public transit in my hometown (LA). I had the option of catching the 7am bus or the 11am. Needless to say, I woke up late (thanks whiskey and other hotel mates who invited me to watch Game of Thrones) and missed the first bus. My body is sore, my feet are swollen, and my knee is most definitely pissed off. I sat out on the porch and smoked a ton of cigarettes and began the terrifying process of letting folks back home know that I had decided to quit. It was a weight bearing down on me that I needed to get rid of right away. With announcements like this, its best to just rip the bandaid off quickly. I called my parents, my cousins, my brother, Jessica, and my roommate to let them know what was happening. I posted a story on my instagram letting everyone know too. It immediately got a couple hundred views and the texts started to flow in. Lots of questions, typical ones, but plenty of them. It gave me this knot in my stomach just talking about it. It seems more and more ridiculous the more I talk about it. But this is the path ahead, and I need to own it.
I slowly hobbled over to the bus stop, across the street from the only grocery store in town and waited patiently. When it came, I told the driver I was ultimately trying to get back to Sacramento. He told me to pay the fair and he would let me know when my stop came. As we headed out of Etna across large swaths of farming community, the colors and light reflected throughout the bus's windows. A million thoughts were running through my head. The doubts, the second guessing, the daydreaming and sort of general wondering of the mind consumed the moment. Through it all, my new goal became laser focused and narrow: get home and worry about the rest later. So that's what I tried to do. I road the bus to a transfer in Yreka and waited another hour to catch my southbound bus to Weed. While I was there I gave the lady working at the station my zlite pad. I figured I wouldn't need it anymore. Not for a while anyway.
I took the southbound line to Weed, CA. I've been here a few times before and always liked this little town. Its quiet and charming. But today it was hot as balls. Mt. Shasta was back in view, towering over the whole town. It looked magnificent and commanding over the entire valley. Just like my last few days on the trial, there was no way to escape its towering peak. I hobbled from the bus stop to Weed's Greyhound station, which was probably the shittiest and most charming bus stop I've ever been to. It was seriously loaded with character, and owned by an extremely grumpy asshole who definitely needed a hug. I was the only customer there that day. I had some time to kill before the Greyhound picked me up so I walked a few blocks to the local brewery and grabbed a brat + stout.
The bus finally arrived and all of its passengers jumped out to grab a smoke break. Most of the folks on this ride were rough looking folks whom I can only venture to say had lived uniquely difficult and hard lives. All working class and ex-cons on this line, no one who ever had anything handed to them. I shared stories with a few folks during my 9 hour ride to Sacramento. I really wanted to photograph some of their faces - weathered, torn, lit with emotion - but I didn't want to be rude. And I didn't want them to feel like I was a patron at the zoo. But their faces each told stories. Stories that I wanted to know.
I finally arrived in Sacramento around midnight. Pablo met me there and took me back to his house. We stayed up and exchanged stories about our respective week's and then he went to bed. The next morning, his wife Jacquie took me to the Sacramento Amtrak station. I headed west towards Oakland. When I arrived in Oakland I walked 15 blocks to the MegaBus pickup. While waiting in line to get on, I snapped a photo of two kids playing. They, along with their mother, were headed to LA along with me. She was trying to take their photo and I offered to take it for her. She thanked me and got on the bus. I never saw them again.
8 hours later I was back in Los Angeles' Union Station. I felt lost. I felt weird, honestly. I didn't feel like I was supposed to be back yet, because I wasn't. I sat on the bench for 30 minutes just staring at the passing transit riders. I finally decided to get back to my partner's house before she got worried. I walked to the subway and took the redline to downtown. I was greeted with a big hug and a kiss from Jessica. She was happy to have me home safely. For me, it felt good to be in her arms again. But I knew a new set of challenges await. I have to forget about the trail and start thinking about my job, my apartment, my commitments and responsibilities. Suddenly the trail has instantaneously become a thing of the past.