I haven’t always been called Dust Bunny. That started in May of 2014 while I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It was my fourth day on trail, and it had been a windy four days. The Santa Ana’s were in full effect, whipping sand and dust around the desert at high speeds (sometimes gusting up to 60mph). The whooshing sound became the normal soundscape, and sometimes the wind felt like an oppressive weight added to what was already being carried on my back. The whole morning of that fourth day, several of us had been walking a particularly exposed and windy ridge, fighting to keep our balance using trekking poles. There were times a gust would blow right into you and knock you off balance, like a bully on the playground. It was one of the first challenges I faced, all at the same time as I was learning how to live on a trail.
I looked over to the group on that windy ridge and asked, “are these the famous Santa Ana winds?”
A gal I was hiking with looked at me without skipping a beat, “I don’t know, but they sure are the famous pain in the ass winds!”
Having spent the winter prior to my hike in overcast Portland, OR, I was also concerned about getting a sunburn in those desert miles, so diligent sunscreen use was on my list of new daily rituals. I hadn’t quite mastered the art of getting all of the wind whipped sand off of my face before applying a new layer of sunscreen, but I also operated under the assumption that the dirt was acting as an extra layer of sun protection. I embraced all of it wholly as a new and exciting experience. As I began to run into other hikers, they’d look at my face and comment on how dirty I was. In a certain way, I’d be super proud because I didn’t care, but in other ways I was wondering why I was being singled out. Everyone was dirty.
I was taking a break with two other hikers that afternoon, hiding in the shade and meager wind protection of a concrete outhouse. I was trying to block the wind in order to use my stove, and we were all feeling a bit beat up by the constant struggle of hiking in extreme winds and heat. A hiker named So Way wandered up to join us and looking right at me:
“Whoa!” he said, “you are gloriously dirty!”
The others nodded in agreement. I still hadn’t actually seen what people had been talking about, and I didn’t have a mirror handy. I eventually took out my phone and took the following picture, squinting at the screen in the bright sun to see what everyone found so amusing:
“I see,” I thought to myself after taking in the full scope of my own filth.
I promptly whipped out a baby wipe and took care of the dirt, adding a layer of sunscreen to my newly cleaned face. It wasn’t until later when I was setting up camp with Duckets that Al came bounding down the trail, grinning widely.
“I came up with a trail name for you,” he said to me.
“Dust Bunny.” He said it proudly, waiting for my reaction.
At first I wasn’t crazy about the name, rejecting it as being too cutesy. The topic was dropped during dinner, but when we all tucked away for the night into our respective sleeping bags, Al looked at me and said, “Good night, Dust Bunny.”
It was in that moment that I knew it was going to stick, just as the dirt that stuck to the sunscreen on my face got me dubbed with the name.
Thus, Dust Bunny was born.