Day 7: Fin

July 25, 2017
Groveland campground to Oakland
Mileage: 0
Elevation Gain/Loss: N/A

Last night, I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t even bother to unzip it. This comes to haunt me in the middle of the night when I wake, cold, and have to squirm around to find the zipper and un-do it while lying on top of the bag. 

Too soon, morning comes. Maybe it’s just me, but tension still seems to hang in the air. I hope the girls can’t feel it. I hope this isn’t the memory we’re leaving them with. Everything we do still seems backwards. We don’t eat breakfast here, we don’t boil water, we don’t do any camp chores. We simply pack up and leave. On the road, we stop at a coffee shop for pastries and bagels, but Cherub and I can’t eat anything here. Small towns don’t have much in the way of GF options. In the car, I eat the last breakfast I packed for myself and hope Cherub wasn’t lying when she said she had food. 

Driving out of town, inching closer and closer to the Bay Area, we pass so much fire traffic. Dozens of white pickup trucks, a mix of the “suits” behind this operation and wildland firefighters taking a day off or driving into the belly of this beast. A line of wildland firefighting trucks, which look boxy like ambulances, only with all the fixings of a firetruck. In the front seat of one, we spy a female firefighter as we drive by. Yay! Cheers to a woman in a man’s world! They’re a line of ants, crawling in the opposite direction as we drive away towards civilization and clear skies. We pass the Detwiler Fire command center, a sprawling temporary complex on top of some burned out fields. Did they intentionally burn these fields to set up camp? I wonder why? So no sparks will start a new fire near HQ?

We stop only once, at a gas station, and I pour tortilla chips into my Talenti jar. We won’t be stopping for lunch and I seem to be the only one that’s hungry. Why am I always the only one that’s hungry? 

 Sweet sweet Ponderosa.

Sweet sweet Ponderosa.

The hills and golden grass cedes to suburban sprawl then the highway spits us out into Oakland, sooner than I would like. We have paperwork and wrap-up things to do, so we go to the youth organization's campus where we can sit in the cool of their boxing gym or in the quiet of their garden. We eat plums straight off the tree, letting the juice run down our hands and stain the paper evaluations we’re filling out. Last night’s argument/weirdness still hangs over my head, unresolved, so I mention it on the evaluations when it asks about issues in the group, hoping not to throw anyone under the bus. When we're all finished, we mill around, waiting for the girls’ parents to pick them up. Cherub brings us each a lemon, fat and citrusy, a peace offering of sorts. MJ peels hers open right there, eating it plain, slice by slice like an orange. Her and Laughs school us on all the things lemons are good for, all the ways they can be used. Deodorant, stomach soother. Again, I'm reminded...they are so smart. 

Laughs gets picked up first. It’s weird hugging someone goodbye after spending five days in the woods together, not knowing when or if you’ll see them again. Twenty-four hours a day, for seven days in a row, then nothing. 

MJ's mom is running late, so I take advantage of the hot Oakland sun to dry out my hiking boots and soak up some Vitamin D. Everyone else sits in the shade but I stand around in the sunshine. I know it won’t be this nice in the city. 

Her mom walks through the gate, thanking all of us many times. We hug goodbye, then watch them walk away, hand-in-hand. I love seeing how much they look like each other. 

Cherub backs her car out of the gate, then we follow. This is it. It’s weird how suddenly our little cat pack disbanded. 

We’re supposed to have a reunion dinner in a month or so. I hope it happens. 

 Bye bye, Half Dome.

Bye bye, Half Dome.