August 23rd, 2015: Day 2
Of Burritos and Early Morning Conversations
The morning haze obscures the double gash of the Ruby Pipeline in the rolling hillside of California. It is chilly and it takes me a long time to get out of my sleeping bag, but talk of breakfast at the Mexican restaurant motivates me to pack up quicker then I normally would. The world has an orange ring around it, as I watch as bright yellow finches take turns drinking sips of water dripping from the camp site's water supply.
With three booths, two two-tops, and a family table in the center of this half of the building, the restaurant is pretty small. The other half of the building is the kitchen and the bathroom. Everyone in the dining room is within chatting distance of everyone else.
Besides us there are just a few workers finishing up their breakfasts, and I enjoy my no meat please burrito immensely.
A gentleman sitting at the table near the entrance of the shop, noticing Barry's No LNG ball cap, gets his attention and says, "So, do ya think that the pipeline's gonna go through?" He and his wife during our conversation get a massive breakfast plate.
When talking to people about the pipeline, I always hope they share with me how the proposed route of the pipeline makes them feel. "I don't think we should be exporting Natural Gas. And I don't like all those people's land getting condemned". As Dana, Alex and Emmalyn continued the conversation, they talked about purposes and people affected by the Jordan Cove project. The gentleman says something about using dynamite to break up the bedrock for the dredging process; it all sounds really extreme to me.
We line up for a photo outside, and the second day begins.
It is a narrow shoulder that we walk through agricultural country. Barry's pace is what can only be best described as, peppy. I mostly stay to the back. We stop for a minute or two often to try to identify a plant, point out a bird, or just about anything wild. Every half mile or so, the landscape drastically changes.
When Jeannie catches down to me, we start up conversation. I thoroughly enjoy our conversation. Mostly we consider the plants, and growing things around us. Punctuated with my mooing at cows our conversation drifts up and down about the growing plants, and what the animals are thinking.y's pace is what can only be best described as, peppy. I mostly stay to the back. We stop for a minute or two often to try to identify a plant, point out a bird, or just about anything wild. Every half mile or so, the landscape drastically changes.
"I think it's really important to let my imagination ask questions" Genie says as we walk by beautiful horses with dusty leather brown bodies and night black manes. "Like do those trees feel our presence?" She asks, gesturing toward some grey poplars lining a house's driveway on the other side of the road, "Do they bless us? And then how would I imagine the answers?"
We rest a couple times during the hike towards Merril. The sun is bright and there is little shade to be found anywhere along the road. We make a game out of using the GPS to guess the distance to the next landmark. We take a couple breaks under a lean-to structure housing irrigation pumps for the surrounding alfalfa fields and under some trees by a railway overpass. A couple hours into the afternoon we reach the next town.
A woman from Merrill pulls over to meet us, "Oh I could talk about the pipeline all day." She says, "If you want to meet me at my house, I live just north of this road when you get into Merrill".
Before she pulls off, Barry asks her, "Hey do you know where there's an ice cream place in town?"
She gives us directions there and I smirk at Barry. He had been talking about a bowl of ice cream all day. "I like to have a goal to work towards" He says to me. Apparently it's enough motivation to get us there well ahead of the time our pit crew is to meet us at the Stateline RV park.
We finally reach more shade in town, which is just the overhang of a church. Some detail about it attracts the notice of Emmalyn and they guess what some part of the architecture is made of. I collapse onto the steps thankful for shade. But she continues on, her water is out, and she is overheated, so she makes a b-line for the gas station with its promise of cool drinks and air conditioning. I tell them that I'll catch up, because I just want to be in this shade for a bit; those 10 miles went by pretty quickly.
Genie stays back with me to keep the buddy system. I regain enough energy to continue on. Merrill is indeed larger then Malin and while they have a larger community base, the town somehow feels less friendly.
When we all meet back up at the shop, we order our ice-cream. After a long walk in the heat, my cherry lime shake is particularly satisfying. As we relax in the shade, our conversation drifts from our observations of the town so far to whether or not it would be okay to take a nap under a tree.
When we finally head on, the road south out of town has a lot less traffic and is very pleasant. A corgi mixed with something else runs up to us cheerfully from a house on tiny little legs. The homestead also has one horse with twitchy flanks, which runs a circuit around its enclosure before going to the back corner to be around another horse. The little dog of patchy brown and white walks along beside us then squats down under the fence of the horse's pasture but continues to walk with us along the fence line.
Genie worries that the little dog is following us, and I don't believe her until we get to the end of the fence. Then the little dog pops out the other side, and happily lopes after us. "Oh I knew it!" Genie says. I drop my pack on the side of the road and clap my hands and coo at the puppy.
She runs towards me and I start back towards her house. I walk quickly and try to keep her attention because dogs get distracted by smells really easily. Her momma is all brown dog of indeterminate breed lying down peacefully in the shade of some bushes. She lifts her head as we approach and the little one yaps excitedly and runs over to her momma. She plops down and I tell her firmly to stay. I walk back to my pack and a mile and a half later we reach the camp spot.
When Alex and Dana arrive we all do a little bit to get dinner together. The plan, rice and stir fry, which Dana whips up masterfully operating the camp stove like a pro. My muscles ache and my feet shout at me everytime I step without care. When food is eaten a few people go off to see the woman who met us on the road. I can barely move, so I opt out, preferring a shower, and a final pack inventory, before they return.
The evening descends and bathes the Ruby Pipe slash in a hazy faded orange. Alex and Emmalyn are talking about the route and shadows from the camp light swing and dance on the wall of my tent. A low cloud hangs over the mountain, a red finger pointing accusingly at the mountainside.