Day 25 (Continued)
We were very lucky in Wrightwood to come upon a trail angel in front of the grocery store. ‘Brett’ had just returned from bringing a PCT hiker to LA for medical reasons. He told us to help ourselves to the sick lady’s food (“dang we just bought our groceries”) and asked if anyone needed a ride back to the trail soon. “What! Yes we will go right now or whenever is convenient for you!”
Brett offered us peanut M&M’s, strapping tape, Band-Aids, and advice for the trail ahead. After giving him a small donation for fuel (happy we did since he has spent hundreds of dollars helping hikers) we bid farewell and were back on the trail. Down in Wrightwood it was hot, back up high it was cold and the forecast was for it to get colder, and maybe rain or snow the next day. We hoped to beat the storm.
We walked a mile or so and saw our friend Todd at the first campground. It was 5:30pm so we joked about but then seriously considered ordering Mile High Pizza to be delivered to the campground. However, with a mileage sign reminding us how far we had to go and the weather forecast fresh in our minds, we kept walking a few more miles.
Eventually we set up camp and made dinner, brrr it was cold.
We woke up to very cold temperarures, high winds, and our camp was inside an ominous cloud. Everything was wet and frozen outside. That day we were supposed to climb up to Mt Baden-Powell at over 9,000 feet and we were already freezing as we walked to ‘Vincent Gap’ at 6,500 feet. As most hikers continued up the mountain, we remembered our snowy situation on Mt San Jacinto and considered what our mothers would want us to do. We concluded that they would want us to take the snow alternate route, ‘the Manazanita high desert route’ (at about 4,000 feet) and connect up to the official endangered species PCT detour route that most hikers were skipping via a road walk.
Well our moms would have been happy, it was windy and a little chilly but sunny most of the day.
Meanwhile ominous clouds hugged and poured over Mt Baden-Powell and the ridge.
Eventually our detour required us to climb 3,000 feet back up to the ridge. We considered stopping before the climb and setting up camp, but having only walked 15 or so miles and thinking the weather might actually get worse the next day, we climbed. As we climbed further up the wind pounded and it hailed/snowed on and off. At first this just brought a nice rainbow.
Cashmere struggled to keep up with Physio who excels at uphill. She worried that if she got too far behind she would be hunted by a cougar.
Eventually we reached the 7,000 foot Buckhart Pass and hurriedly tried to descend to a lower elevation with a hopefully sheltered campsite, ideally before it got dark. The snow/hail continued and seemed to strengthen.
Eventually we rejoined the normal PCT, found a sheltered campsite by a nice cold creek and set up our tent on some snow. We bundled up, quickly ate dinner and went to sleep. We awoke a few times during the night to the sound of snow on our tent and when we got up to pee had to pound it off. Others who didn’t make this effort later reported that their tents collapsed on them!
Despite our best efforts, when we awoke things were getting a little inundated, with 2 inches of snow outside.
We hadn’t slept too well due to the cold and snow. We got dressed, packed up the icy tent (ooooh how horrible for my hands!) and started walking, making the first footprints in the snow for a bit.
Then we reached the part of the track where most of the hikers, who take the road detour, reach the track.
We reached a trail camp with an outhouse (exciting!) and a fellow who we haven’t even ever met, said “Brett was looking for you two”. Huh? Apparently trail angel Brett was very concerned about the hikers doing the sketchy road walk in the clouds and was making them get rides with him part of the way. Very nice of him to think of us but happy we didn’t get tempted to abandon our ‘one continuous walk from Mexico to Canada’ goal as it would have been very tempting with the weather and who wants to backtrack to make up miles?
As we’ve mentioned before we are getting increasing hiker hunger. It seems to get especially bad after such cold nights. As we walked in the cold the next morning, and the snow continued to fall, our hunger grew. We had read about a restaurant 1.8 miles off the trail coming up. And all our hiker friends were talking about it. “No we shouldn’t” we thought. We passed mile 400 (there were actually a few signs for this plus one for 401 and 400.5 that some jokers made, presumably in better weather. We put on a smile but all we could think about was the restaurant.
As the snow fell thicker and heavier we decided we deserved the hot food, plus we wanted a break from the elements. Upon reaching the road we started trying to hitch, then four more hikers came and started walking. There were hardly any cars so we started walking but then had the luck to get a ride. However, when we arrived at the restaurant we saw a closed sign on the door!
Some hikers came out and told us we could come in for a hot chocolate though. So we joined the 15 or so hikers at the bar and drank some hot chocolate. Then we each bought a bag of potato chips. But it just wasn’t hitting the spot after our snowy ordeals.
Before too long Cashmere was bugging the bartender for more details: “so has the cook left already?”, “oh, he’s still here? Where is he? Can I talk to him?” Before you knew it, Cashmere was at the end of the bar, convincing the cook to open the kitchen back up. Eventually he begrudgingly said he would, and Cashmere quietly relayed to the hikers that it *might* happen but didn’t want to get people’s hopes up just in case. Then Physio spotted the cook walking into the kitchen raising our hopes even further. Five minutes later the bartender announced that there would be burgers and fries. An enormous cheer erupted and Cashmere immediately gained ‘trail legend’ status.
One and a half burgers each later, plus a generous ride in the back of the bartender’s truck, and Physio and Cashmere returned to the trail with renewed vigour.
We were finally full and it had stopped snowing. We hiked and hiked, passed a few people setting up camp, and found our friends Bush-tit and Tom-tit setting up camp. We scoured the area for a sweet campsite to maybe join them but our incredibly high campsite expectations were not satisfied and we carried on to a nice flat spot. Although snow surrounded the campsite, it didn’t actually snow that night, but it was another very cold one.
When we awoke the next morning, the sun was finally out. So we just hung out at the campsite for awhile waiting for the tent and other items to dry out a bit.
Around 9:30 or so we finally started walking. It was a bit of a nuisance of a day as we were in a 40 mile stretch that had been burned pretty bad. Apparently after fires in California, a plant called ‘Poodle Dog Bush’ sprouts like crazy. Despite its innocuous name, apparently it leaves an awful rash like its other ancestors in the forget-me-not family. It also smells strongly, a bit like marijuana.
Our day of hiking was basically spent trying to dodge the plant, we couldn’t look around much, just stared at the trail mostly trying to avoid the newly-renamed-by-Cashmere, “Poodle Dog Dick”. This eventually annoyed us enough that we hopped on a parallel road for the last three miles of a particularly bad section. This involved a bit of navigation and map-reading but was a nice change.
After having dinner with some hiker friends at a campground we snuck in three more miles of late evening hiking and found a great campsite on a saddle.
We had been pushing our miles a bit the previous two days due to increasing excitement about the Acton KOA, an RV park where ‘hiker trash’ (what we are) can order pizza and Chinese food to be delivered. We were excited to do an 11 mile ‘Nero’ there. A nero is when you only walk a bit of the day and rest for much of it. We got an early start and Cashmere fantasised about what kind of Chinese food to order.
However, when we soon got to our water source for the day, a fire station, they had coolers (aka chilly bins) filled with sodas, granola bars and snickers, priced at a $1-$2 donation. Even though we don’t usually even like soda, we each grabbed one plus a snickers for Cashmere and a granola bar for Physio. Yum. We indulged in these treats plus the trash can (hiker trash love trash cans) and we carried on. Ugh we felt sick from drinking soda too fast. Then we made a rock sign to tell our mom’s we loved them for mother’s day.
Unfortunately we had doddled to for too long and our last 8 miles to the KOA that we craved were hot and felt long. Physio felt particularly sick when we were just a few hundred feet away and had to stop and rest. When he finally came to we went in, set up the tent, and a nice man named Fancypants organised a pizza order. Oh my god, the lasagna was so cheesey and delicious, fresh salad, mushroom pizza, yum! The only trouble was the KOA was out of quarters and we couldn’t launder our dirty and potentially poodle dog bush-infested clothes. I (Cashmere) begged to use one of the large fleet of bicycles but the Chinese owner couldn’t be convinced.
Finally me and my new friend Fancypants opted to walk 1.5 miles to a nearby shop to get quarters and scope out the beer selection. The brewski selection was poor and they only had 3 quarters but we did manage to get a ride back to the KOA. Then we went for a swim and hot tub with lots the other hikers. The hot tub wasn’t particularly hot and probably filled with little kids’ urine but luckily hiker trash don’t mind too much, we are the kind of people who get excited by a trash can…
Finally the KOA people got some quarters from the pizza delivery people who had been to the park a zillion times that day fueling the hiker trash appetites. We did some laundry, found out the Chinese food restaurant isn’t open on Sundays, almost cried and then ordered more pasta and a hot sandwich. By the way I forgot to mention that after we showered and awaited magical quarters to do our laundry, we wore hiker loaner clothes. Cashmere had a particularly impressive moo-moo on.
We had gotten super involved with the ‘hiker box’ at the KOA, where people put extra food they don’t want to carry and such. So the next morning as we set off at about 6am our bags were heavy, but we needed to top up our resupply in Agua Dulce, 10 miles away.
We were happy to have started early as it was going to be a scorcher of a day. We crossed under a large motorway and came upon a particularly awesome, special section we hadn’t even anticipated, the Vazquez rocks. Awesome!
Eventually we got to Agua Dulce. We got some supplies, some awesome sandwiches from the shop, and then an iced latte for Cashmere and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream which we downed. We were just hanging out in front of the local grocery store waiting for the heat of the day to pass.
Our new friend Meta described how he had a blister on the bottom of his foot that had turned into a callus and then cracked (a totally normal conversation for new hiker trash acquaintances). Cashmere told him she had that happen once and eventually sewed it together herself so that it would stop cracking open. As Meta was in significant pain and open minded to more radical options to resolve his problem, he eventually decided to have Cashmere undertake ‘field surgery’ on his foot!
In the afternoon the Mexican restaurant next door became the object of our interest. Other hiker trash had already been in there for hours drinking and eating. Finally bored with Physio dominating the phone/internet device, Cashmere went in to order some take away burritos to eat on the trail. She bought an apple juice, ate some chips and salsa, but was soon bought several drinks. She eventually got away from the ‘vortex’ to get hiking again. With ‘happy hour’ now underway it seemed a truly dangerous vortex. Later we found out that the hiker trash who had stayed did some pretty dodgy drunk resupplying and weird night hiking.
I’ll leave it to Physio to tell you what happened after Agua Dulce. Thanks again for reading and your comments.