Note: The batteries in my Spot GPS have died, and I am getting new batteries on Wednesday so for now the GPS will be inaccurate.
Start: Camp at mile 317
End: Best Western, Cajon Pass, mile 342
Miles hiked: 25
Hiker hunger. We all have it now. McDonald’s was within our reach, and the excitement would charge us all. I put my head down and hiked the first twelve miles, some by a beautiful mountain lake before taking a rest. I got service here, and called REI to order a new sleeping pad. Their customer service was amazing, giving me a discount, and sending it overnight to Agua Dulce to make sure I would get it when I arrived. I was amazed at how great the customer service was! Soon Carrot caught up to me and we ran into an empty root beer bottle taped to a large empty bin of ice cream. I warned her not to open the bin, as it probably had a snake in it. As I said this, an older gentlemen in a tiny skirt greeted us. “Would you like a root beer float?” “Yes!” His name was Copper, and his leather skin showed that he probably spends most of his time outside…in just a little skirt. He’s hiked the trail before, and now just does trail magic. He had a cool delivery truck with a topper that he rigged on to it. It made me think of my dad, and how he would get a kick out of this weird hodgepodge of things connected together. The float was fantastic, and powered Carrot and I for several more hours.
I made it to McDonalds and was greeted outside by an older man who I did not know. He wasn’t a hiker, as he was clean-shaven, and wearing jeans and a polo. “Are you Steve?” He asked. Shoot, they must have caught me skinny-dipping yesterday, and now I’m in trouble.
“I’m Twinkle Toes, but some call me Steven.”
“Ah, I have been following your progress!”
The man was Bill Smith, and he has relation to one of the partners on my engagements for work back in Denver. He lives close by, and told me all about the area. It was very interesting to hear about the hot springs, Mount Baden-Powell, which I would climb here soon, and the whole area. He was very interested in what I had seen and how things were going. It was great to meet Bill and talk to he and his wife. Fun that they came out just to say hello, and made me happy to meet someone so nice and interested.
I joined McButter, Carrot, Sheriff, and Mannopause for an unhealthy amount of burgers, mcnuggets, shakes, sodas, ice cream, and pies. There were over 20 hikers in the McDonalds, mixed with people of the real world, who likely wondered why this McDonalds was a hungry hobo hot spot. McButter had to hitch here, as he has had something happening in his right foot/ankle. He’s getting off the trail to figure it out, and hopes to be back soon. I felt terrible for him, and could see how upset he was to have to leave.
We ended up cramming tons of hikers into one room at the Best Western. My normal crew, plus Young Oak from France, Mack from New Zealand, and many others all piled in. McButter was soon picked up by his uncle who is a doctor in LA. We had a large group hug. There was no joking, as we were all real bummed to see him go. I hope he makes it back onto the trail!
Start: Best Western at Cajon pass, mile 342
End: Grassy Hollow visitor center, mile 371
Miles hiked: 29 PCT miles plus 1.2 miles from hotel to the trailhead, for my first 30 mile day!
Sheriff and I were the first ones up, and out by 5. I left feeling extremely sad. Carrot was still sleeping, so was Mannopause and Young Oak. McButter was in LA. I wanted them to be hiking with us.
The trail took us under the highway in a long, pitch-black, windy tunnel. Then another tunnel under the train tracks. We passed the San Andreas Fault line and sat on it talking with other hikers. We wondered what it would feel like if there was a major earthquake and we were here. We climbed all day through the valley and into the hills. Trail magic was given by a triple crowned and his girlfriend who works for Burning Man. They had PBRs and hot dogs. It was perfect. I made it to the intersection of highway 2 at 4pm, nearly 28 miles by 4. Nice. I felt great too, as the ascent was steady and soft on my feet.
I hitched in and out of Wrightwood very easily, picking up my resupply box, and getting another unexpected box from my uncle Ron and family. It was full of Carmel corn, fancy mints, skittles, and all sorts of hiker goodies. Best of all, it included a personal note from my uncle Ron. He’s been following along, and seems to really be enjoying the GPS. I felt happy knowing that he can follow along and get excited about this. How cool, I thought, that modern technology and GPS allow for these connections out on the trail. I know that if he were younger, he would be right out here adventuring with me. I often dream of how fun it would be to hike, or even just be with my family when they were my age. It’s fun to dream of what that would be like. I imagine my uncle Ron would be quite the speed demon out here.
I met back up with Sheriff and other hikers after Wrightwood. We all loved the morning clouds that hung in the valley earlier in the morning. They crept slowly up the mountains, engulfing all in their path before eventually being dissipated by the strong southern sun. It was a beautiful morning watching the clouds, trying to outrun them up the mountain sides.
Start, Grassy Hollow visitor center, mile 371
End: Copper Canyon camp, mile 396
Miles hiked: 21, with 4 mile yellow mountain
Not all days are easy. Today, I was miserable. Maybe it’s still missing our hiking group we had. I really miss hiking with McButter, Carrot, and Mannopause. It was inevitable that we would have to split up eventually, but still it seems too soon. I laughed so hard that I was crying every single day with them. I looked forward to all of us exchanging stories and laughing at one another every night. Our group was perfect. But out on the trail, it’s hard to keep groups intact. That bums me out.
The day started with me waking up at 11:30pm. Sheriff and I were cowboy camping in a grassy tree covered meadow. We have cowboy camped nearly every night, and never have had any issues. But this night brought extremely strong winds. Cold and consistent, they shot right through my sleeping bag and chilled me. I tried for two hours to get warm by lying in different positions, but none worked. At 2am, I gave up completely, and brought my pad and bag into the bathroom at the campground. I slept right on the outhouse floor. I didn’t even care. I was exhausted, bitterly cold, and uncomfortable. I was Desperate. I slept well, but had a few messed up dreams of bears trying to get into the rest room. Strange. I woke to Sheriff opening the door, “what in the hell are you doing in here?”
When I got out, the thermometer on the visitor center read 26 degrees. Our platypus water bladders froze over night. The wind chill had to be extremely low. I wore every piece of clothing I had on the hike out.
Soon we were climbing 3,000 feet up to Mount Baden-Powell. Named after the founder of the Boy Scouts. It’s a large mountain in southern California at 9,300 feet. The wind was a consistent 40mph, with gusts up to 70 every 30 seconds. The wind was so cold, yet we were climbing so it was impossible to stay comfortable and not sweat. At the top we could see the Los Angeles skyline and the ocean. It was a pretty great view. But we couldn’t enjoy it as the wind was battering us. It took all I had in me just to take my hands out of my pockets to snap a few pictures. I was really looking forward to this peak the past few days, and was pissed the conditions didn’t allow me to enjoy it.
On the way down, the PCT kept high on the ridgeline. The cross wind was fierce. It knocked Sheriff fully over at one point, and his knee began gushing blood. Cursing the wind and the mountain, he admitted to me later that he was close to reaching his breaking point after falling. Every step was a struggle. We were freezing, with absolutely no shelter from the icy winds. Our only option was to keep moving and hopefully find cover down the trail. Each step we were being pushed from side to side, fighting the wind that so desperately wanted to push us off the ridge.
After hours of agony, dehydration, and hunger, we found a nice spring out of the wind. We drank several liters of water and gorged on our food. I especially liked the caramel corn I had gotten from my uncle Ron, aunt Frances, and Jeannie. It was from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and made me nostalgic for home and family after the rough conditions we faced all morning. When you’re thru hiking, there’s no escaping the elements. There’s no warm bed and hot shower to go home to. You’re stuck out here, and you have to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at you. You have to make it work. Today, it got the best of me, and the day was a constant struggle to keep moving along. The desert has been a place of extremes. Hot, cold, rain, chilling gale force winds. It’s thrown it all at us in just over two weeks. It’s been the most uncomfortable hiking I’ve ever done. But you have to embrace it, take what it gives, and roll with the punches if you want to make it to Canada. While making dinner, a fellow hiker looked at me, “We’re going to make it to Canada.”
So far this trip I have hiked with some really wonderful people and if you are interested to check out their takes on the PCT so far please check out Sheriff Woody and Carrot’s blogs, as they are super interesting and fun to read: