PCT Days 20-29: Catch-Up

I’ve been falling behind on blog posts. Every night, Fancypants gets out his bluetooth folding keyboard and types up that day’s entry… while most nights, I collapse onto my air mattress and can’t bring myself to write anything (on my identical bluetooth folding keyboard, natch). I take notes during the day, but forming complete sentences at 9PM (hiker midnight) after miles of walking has been beyond me lately.

So here’s the quick and dirty (everything I own out here is increasingly dirty) version to get me closer to caught-up:

Day 20: The wind woke us up at 2:30AM and just kept blowing, which was a crappy start to a long, hot 4000′ hike up Mission Creek canyon. First sighting of the dreaded poodle dog bush. Cooked and ate dinner with another dramatic view of desert below. Miles hiked: 15.6, Mile 229.1 to 244.7, old road campsite

Day 21: A crazy mix of nature and the human world today: We passed a “private zoo” in the woods right next to the trail where we saw a sad grizzly bear, tiger, and lion in sad, empty cages. Then a few miles later there was a couch right on the trail and next to it a dumpster that had been converted into a cabinet of wonders—candy, soda, emergency supplies, trash bags, and info for the town of Big Bear Lake and the Big Bear Hostel that supplied this impressive trail magic. We hiked our longest day yet—21 miles on Day 21—in order to make it to Big Bear that evening. Miles hiked: 21.3, Mile 244.7 to 266, Big Bear Lake

Day 22: A zero day in Big Bear Lake: running around doing town errands that in-hotel laundry and resupply boxes had saved us from up until then. A jacuzzi tub and cable TV. All the food, including dollar taco night with Allie Rally and Shannon Squatchie. Miles hiked: Zero, y’all.

Day 23: Today was a day of perhaps inevitable bad meal decisions for me. Leaving Big Bear Lake we stopped for a massive breakfast of biscuits & gravy + donuts. And then hiked uphill. At which point I regretted the massive breakfast. That evening, I was very excited about the can of Pringles that I’d packed out from town, so I ate half of it while Fancypants made dinner. I gave myself another stomachache and had to bury my half of the mashed potatoes. Miles hiked: 13.4, Mile 266 to 279.4, bike trail campsite

Day 24: Today I: trudged through sandy, meh burn areas; unintentionally sat in a stream; and admired a very fancy pit toilet. Miles hiked: 21.9, Mile 279.4 to 301.3, riverbed campsite

Day 25: Deep Creek Hot Springs. Famous as an on-trail oasis of natural hot springs; infamous for the warnings about not submerging your head in the water due to dangerous levels of potentially deadly fecal bacteria. Total party spot for naked hippies, hipsters, and large groups of Russians from Los Angeles. We soaked, people-watched, and then kept on hiking. Miles hiked: 16.4, Mile 301.3 to 317.7, spring site

Day 26: Our longest day yet. A long trek through uninspiring scenery, then a long walk around a huge reservoir, then lakeside lunch to the smells of diesel and barbecue and the sound of full-volume Spanish-language music. More uninspiring scenery, then suddenly we crest a hill and a dramatic sunset vista opens before us, the trail snaking along a ridge line, down down down to Interstate 15, where we stumble at the end of a twenty-five-mile day to the oasis, the sanctuary, the glowing goal that kept us walking past sunset… the McDonald’s at Cajon Pass. Hiker Hunger has finally hit—at an opportune time. Miles hiked: 25, PCT Mile 317.7 to 341.8 + 0.9 miles to McD’s and the Best Western

Day 27: A second huge meal at McDonald’s, laundry at the Best Western, and the decision to road walk to Wrightwood—11 miles and 3000′ elevation gain on a two-lane highway vs 28 waterless and poodle-dogged miles with 5000′ elevation gain on the trail. Plus it let us catch up to fellow hikers Allison and Andy Dilly and Dally. Tacos and beer for dinner. Miles hiked: 11, Cajon Pass to Wrightwood on Lone Pine Canyon Road

Day 28: Zero day in Wrightwood, the friendliest trail town yet. Businesses welcomed us and locals stopped on the street to offer us rides, places to stay, friendly conversation. We ate and sat and ate and sat and ate some more. Miles hiked: Big Ol’ Zero

Day 29: Another road walk to rejoin the PCT, then a tough climb up to the summit of Mount Baden-Powell, where the views extended for miles, clouds resting in the valleys below, and swallows swooped overhead. Then back down, sunset over an ocean of clouds, to a hiker-filled campground and a campfire. Miles hiked: 20, 5.4 miles on Highway 2 + PCT Mile 369.8 to 384.4, Little Jimmy Campground

Photos: PCT Days 13-17

PCT Day 13:

PCT Day 14:

PCT Day 15:

PCT Day 16:

PCT Day 17:

(All also on Flickr)

Photos: PCT Days 11-12

PCT Day 11:

PCT Day 12:

(All also on Flickr)

PCT Days 18-19: Wind + Rain

Day Eighteen started covered in grit from the windstorm the night before… and still windy. We headed across the desert floor towards Interstate 10, and it felt like walking through a wind tunnel operated by an angry, meth-addled god. The scenery was enjoyably un-scenic—we walked under high-voltage power lines, along a trash-strewn washed-out road parallel to the freeway, and then under four lanes of I-10.

Up a hill and under an imposing bank of clouds we came to Ziggy and The Bear’s, a legendary trail angel house where hikers are welcomed into a remarkably well-organized carpeted backyard, fed, and given access to a shower, couch, wifi, hot coffee, etc—all for the low low price of promising to send a postcard from the end of their journeys.

We arrived in the morning and planned to leave early afternoon, but sprinkles turned into rain and we decided the prudent decision was to not battle a repeat of last night’s wind, this time with the addition of rain—that would have been a great way to soak our down bags and end up in real trouble.

More and more hikers showed up seeking refuge from more and more rain, and as the hikers filled the lawn chairs the rain started to pool and flow under the carpet—right where everyone would normally sleep. Once there were 30 hikers and a small lake in the middle of the sleeping area, with Ziggy and The Bear desperately searching for dry places to put everyone (the garage, the shower room), we took the lower-chaos option and got a motel room one town over. Three friends—Rally, Squatchie, and PT, soaked after a 20-mile hike—joined us and we packed a room full of dirty hikers.

The next morning we got up early, took a cab back to the trail, and started hiking for Mission Creek Canyon. The clouds, rain and cool air from yesterday were gone, replaced with sun and heat.

Traveling by foot has brought me into more intimate contact not just with the physical landscape but also with the auditory landscape—the crunch of gravel underfoot, the hundreds of birds that we hear but never see. The human-made sounds have been the most unexpected: whirring wind turbines and the hiss and crackle of high tension lines. Airplanes pass overhead constantly, but in some places their sound rushes in suddenly—perhaps an artifact of bouncing off of valleys and ridge lines—before disappearing with the same whooshing flourish.

That night we camped by water, a rare luxury so far on this trip, sharing our site with a hiker named Dude who was on his fifth PCT start after an AT hike and two successful PCT hikes. A bartender in his pre-trail life, he said he was only making about ten miles a day because he stopped and had so many conversations.

Day 18: 5.1 miles, Mile 205.8 to 210.9 Ziggy and the Bear’s, then Banning motel

Day 19:
18.6 miles, Mile 210.9 to 229.5, Mission Creek campsite