Mission Camp - mile 259
After coercing the cousins into cuddling some warmth into me they depart and I linger at camp with P-track. We have an enjoyable morning where we get to know each other over shared coffee and breakfast. I get crumbs all over his gear, he forgives me, and we wind up hiking together all day. He makes me laugh often and we get along great. We hike at a decent but slower pace and it's nice to be around company. The trail passes by caged stunt animals (lions and tigers and bears - seriously!) which is a bit odd and briefly depressing.
We take a 3 or 4 hour long lunch and enjoy ourselves thoroughly. I make a killer dinner of Annie's mac & cheese plus broccoli and garlic, preparing it now to enjoy as dinner later. After moving on from our break we discover, of all things, a small sofa plopped down by the trail with a cooler of mangos. We want to kick ourselves. The two of us squatted in dirt and pebbles for hours while upholstered comfort lay just a mile away. It's been placed there as an advertisement of sorts for a hiker-friendly hostel in Big Bear. This whole stretch with the past few towns has had that - water and soda at various road crossing places there by hostels and hotels competing for our business.
When we reach the next campsite we are informed by everyone there (who had passed us throughout the day as we lazed about) that the cousins and Maya had lingered for hours, right up until 6, and were only going about 3 more miles. I feel kind of touched, knowing that they definitely waited longer for me. I ask P-track if he is willing to hike on at a much faster pace and he says yes. I tell him I'd like to be able to say goodbye to everyone, and it's the truth. I am slowly acknowledging that I just can't do back to back 20 mile days right now. In fact, I'm getting really worried that it may be too late.
Life on the trail consists of an ebb and flow of people moving in and out of your life as you walk at varying paces but I keep wishing I could stay with this group. We catch them setting up just as the sun sets and I happily move into the group once again, knowing deep down it won't be for much longer