Part Twenty-One: Chapter Ten, Part Three: Oh, Look, Other Women Hiking the PCT, You Stupid Asshole
The rest of this chapter-- from a literary standpoint-- is a complete waste of time, but from a factual standpoint, it's very revealing.
Cheryl wakes up, puts on her super sacred, spirit-walking Bob Marley t-shirt, starts hiking to Belden Town and barfs out a crap-ton of geographical information that she knows exactly dick about but was capable of copying-and-pasting into her stupid book to make herself sound knowledgeable and I'm getting really tired of this.
"Down, down, down the trail went on my last full day of hiking in the Sierra Nevada."
You haven't hiked the Sierra Nevada at all, GFY.
Cheryl has absolutely nothing to say about the trail between Three Lakes and Belden Town because she probably hitched a ride, but she's suddenly at Belden Town and all she can talk about is how her feet hurt because she doesn't understand how boots work. "The tips of [her] toes were blistered" because her boots are too fucking small (which Greg had told her back in Sierra City and she paid no attention), and omg, everybody, let's immediately feel sorry for her because no, let's not.
She retrieves her stupid resupply box with the twenty dollars inside and immediately buys "two bottles of Snapple lemonade" because of course she does. She goes to the porch of the store to slam them and then,
"'Cool shirt,' a woman said. She had short curly gray hair and a big white dog on a leash."
Blah, blah, blah, and then the woman asks-- seriously--?
"'Are you, by chance, hiking the PCT?'"
No, she's only pretending.
As these two assholes are talking, another woman shows up and holy fuck, three female PCT hikers are all together at once! Then Cheryl writes this and I don't even understand what this is supposed to mean:
"At last I'd met some women on the trail! I was dumbfounded with relief as we exchanged in a flurry the quick details of our lives."
What? That makes no sense at all, but that's probably because I know the definition of "dumbfounded." Sooooo, you were astonished with relief? That doesn't-- you're an idiot.
Blah, blah, blah, meet Trina and Stacy, two women who are hiking the PCT. They all go camp together and Cheryl has another one of her meltdowns as she's going through the contents of her resupply box and I'm not even going to bother quoting all of it because it goes exactly how you think, but I should point out that there's another goddamned book in the box:
"...a copy of Margaret Drabble's A Summer Bird Cage, which I wasn't quite ready for yet--"
and please stop. No one cares. I already know you're a fucktard and no book is going to convince me otherwise.
As Cheryl is tending to her stupid feet, a man arrives and Sherlock Strayed says,
"I knew in an instant that he was a PCT hiker by the drag of his gait."
OR MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE HE'S ON THE FUCKING PCT AND HE HAS A BIG PACK AND LOOKS DIRTY AND TIRED AND I HATE YOU SO MUCH.
This guy's name is Brent and Cheryl greets him "like an old friend" because she's a totally legit PCT hiker now except she's not, and then she makes a big production about her busted-up feet, so Brent takes a look.
"'You boots are too small,' he said, echoing what Greg had told me back in Sierra City. I stared at him vacantly. My boots couldn't be too small."
Your brain is too small.
As we've already concluded, Cheryl doesn't understand how boots work and explains that she royally fucked up her feet on the descent into Belden Town and omg how could that happen because she was going downhill, and Brent has to explain how boots work.
"'But that's the point,' Brent replied. 'With the right size boots, you'd be able to descend without hashing up your feet. That's what boots are for, so you can descend.'"
"DUH"-- written in large, angry letters in the margin
She then has another REI flashback because of course she does and explains how the REI employee made her "walk up and down a small wooden ramp in the store for this very reason," and knowing what we know of Cheryl, this 1) probably never even happened in the first place because she is completely full of shit or 2) she walked down the ramp exactly one time and was all, "Yep, these are profoundly comfortable."
She calls her friend Lisa, blah, blah, blah, and signs her name on the trail register (big shout-out to reader Tori, an actual PCT hiker, who told me that Cheryl, back in 1995, only signed the trail registers that were easily accessible by car and neglected to sign any of the trail registers between the points that are car-accessible-- you know, the ones ON THE TRAIL ITSELF-- which further proves what a lying sack of crap Cheryl is). Cheryl notices that Greg hasn't signed the register and then has a conversation with Brent that makes no sense to me whatsoever.
She asks Brent if he knows anything about Greg, and Brent tells her that Greg had decided to quit. My question at this point is: If Greg had been ahead of Cheryl, and Brent behind Cheryl, how the fuck would Brent know anything about Greg's plans? Cheryl attempts to cover this by saying that "The Australians" had told Brent that Greg had quit, and this still makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If Greg had been ahead of both Brent and The Australians, how the fuck would they know anything about his plans? HOW.
Apparently, The Australians had decided to quit the PCT and go hike the AT instead (that's the Appalachian Trail for those of you not in the know), and before Cheryl copies-and-pastes everything she can find about the AT, she takes just enough time to make Brent say,
"'That's a seriously awesome shirt, by the way.'"
DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE.
Cheryl "Expert-at-Everything-Hiking-Related" Strayed then tells us all about the AT, and the only telling part of all of this is how she explains that the AT has much higher traffic than the PCT-- which is why she likely pretended to hike the PCT instead of the AT, even though the AT was much closer and would have been easier for her to reach. She could not have gotten away with her pretend hike on the AT because there would have been too many hikers to come forward to say that they never saw her on the trail. That said, to this day, there is still not a single hiker, Trail Angel or person who gave her a ride to come forward to confirm her story. Seeing as she's super famous now, I find this very unbelievable. People love to ride coat-tails, and NO ONE has come forward to confirm her bullshit story. Not a single person. You go make of that what you want.
Anyway, blah, blah, blah, facts about the AT that Cheryl had to Google, and then she comes to the part about trail names. PCT hikers enjoy giving nicknames to the other hikers on the trail, which is good fun and I love it. Cheryl then makes all of this shit up:
"Half the time that Greg, Matt, and Albert had talked about Brent they'd referred to him as the Kid, thought he was only a few years younger than me. Greg had been occasionally called the Statistician because he knew so many facts and figures about trail and he worked as an accountant. Matt and Albert were the Eagle Scouts, and Doug and Tom the Preppies. I didn't think I'd been dubbed anything, but I got the stinking feeling that if I had, I didn't want to know what it was."
She eventually gets a trail name. She gives it to herself.
Trina, Stacy, Brent and Cheryl decide to go have dinner at the bar in Belden Town. Cheryl explains that after having paid for a shower, laundry, "the Snapple, a few snacks and incidentals," she has fourteen dollars to her name, so she orders "a green salad and a plate of fries, the two items on the menu that satisfied [her] deepest cravings, which veered in opposite directions: fresh and deep-fried." This costs her five dollars, which leaves her nine dollars until she reaches her next resupply box, 134 miles away. She sits there and pouts--
"I drank my ice water miserably while the others sipped their beers."
--and grow up, nobody cares. They're all discussing the "socked in" trail that lay ahead of them and that's when super-cute-bartender overhears and offers Cheryl some wine on the house because of course he does. Cheryl is just that beautiful.
Cheryl goes back to camp and writes a letter to heroin-addict-Joe because "his birthday was approaching and the wine had made me nostalgic for him." She describes "having sex with him against a stone wall in a private cove of a public park," as if we care, and then,
"I remembered the giddy surge of emotion I'd felt every time we scored another bit of heroin..."
and just shut the fuck up. Blah, blah, blah, I won't bore you with the rest of it, and she goes off to mail her stupid letter. As she's in front of the mailbox, this happens:
"'Hey, good-looking,' a man's voice called to me after I put the letter in the box. I saw only the burning end of a cigarette on the dark porch."
It's the bartender who gave her the free wine, and I'm really baffled by what happens next because we can only assume at this point that the constant, running loop inside of Cheryl's head looks something like,
and for reasons I still can't comprehend, she decides to not fuck this human being with a penis who is clearly interested in her.
She goes back to camp to have a meaningful conversation with Brent about the beauty of the stars and then suggests that they should make wishes.
Brent makes his wish and when Cheryl takes goddamned forever to think of hers, Brent suggests (no he doesn't) that Cheryl should wish for a horse. I won't even bother with her stupid reply, and thank god, Chapter Ten is over.