Day 22: I-15/Cajon Pass (342.0) to Campsite (356.2)
14.2 miles (night-hiked)
No one really felt like getting up early after the late night and the day was hot af so hung around the Best Western all day waiting for it to cool down.
Sara had her shoulder treated by retired army medic hiker, he literally scrubbed it off her whie she bit a towel. Trail name is now Tough Stuff. She's gonna take another zero to let it heal, if it was me I'd probably be packing my bag to go home. Joe also has a really nasty blister on his foot between first and second toe, so he’s going to stay another night as well, I'm sure they'll catch up no problem since I won't be putting in too many miles tonight. The Best Western staff are super chill about letting a dozen or so hikers hang out by their pool, but I managed to snag a prime nap spot in the room that Joe and Sara got for tonight and spent most of the day enjoying the air conditioning.
Brian, Chad, Tony and I opted to head out in the evening. No sign of Festus and Francis, wasn't sure if we’d catch up to them today. Started out around 7pm, a steep climb up out of Cajon Pass, yo-yoing around with a couple other hikers I don’t know. It was pretty cool to look back across the hills at Cajon Pass and see the car headlights snaking up and away into the dark of the mountains. We ran into One 11, Kaylyn and Kristen, and everyone stopped to share watermelon beer that Brian had packed out.
A little later on I started getting grumpy and tired from not eating dinner, but used that to rage hike miles up the hill, red shift all the way. Around 1am got to a campsite on top of the last climb that Brian and I decided to stop at, the others kept going. While we were setting up in the dark, heard a french accent out of nowhere “Brian? Jackieeee?” and it was of course Yves and Francis already camped there! I felt bad waking them up and cowboy camping away from everyone else close to a ridge overlooking what will hopefully be a nice sunrise.
DAY 23: CAMPSITE (356.2) TO HIGHWAY 2/WRIGHTWOOD (369.3)
The french-Canadiens returned the favour and woke me up as they were packing up and leaving at 5 am. We agreed to meet up in Wrightwood later on and maybe split a room. I was going to go back to sleep but instead I had a long breakfast watching the sunrise. It was beautiful and the pictures I took couldn’t quite capture it. I think if I hiked the trail again I would definitely carry a proper camera as a luxury item. I packed up and Brian was still sleeping in his tent so took off alone.
Quiet morning hike through the pine forest. The elevation kept going up but it was a gentle enough grade it wasn't anything difficult. Didn't see anyone else for a long time, passed through an abandoned ski resort. Got the feeling I was the only person in the world. I was tempted to take an early shortcut trail (Acorn trail?) into Wrightwood, but the reviews on Guthooks said that it was really, really steep downhill and it was still so early in the day it seemed stupid to miss miles for no reason. I got cell service a little later-Chad already in town and Brian texted that we could meet at the highway to hitch together. I waited for him and we caught an easy ride into Wrightwood-the guy had an adorable dog that didn’t seem to mind our hiker smell and was all about getting some attention.
When we got to Wrightwood, went to a bar while waiting to hear from Chad or Yves and Francis. The bar was full of motorcyclists, we’re talking like a hundred bikes lined up outside the door, and I felt a little sketch, but everyone was perfectly friendly to us even though we weren’t wearing black leather or bandanas. As an added bonus, there was a replay of the Stanley Cup final on one of the TVs in the corner so I got at least a little dose of hockey. We didn't hear back from the others so opted to airbnb a cabin right in the middle of town and hope that they’d show later. Great idea. Picked up Tony, Chad, T-bone, and new hikers Vanessa (lunchbox) and Nick (Trailblazer, for exactly the reason you’d expect) to split the cost. Spent the night drinking on the porch and chatting. Wrightwood is a great little town and could be my favourite stop so far. Slept on bottom bunk in one of the bedrooms, oblivious to Chad’s snoring after I fell asleep.
DAY 24: ZERO IN WRIGHTWOOD
TOWN TRAP. Waking up in a bed is always fantastic. Went for breakfast at Cinnamons down the road, had quiche and coffee and a massive cinnamon bun. Back to air bnb place, Brian had already gone ahead and rented it agin so I got sucked in for a zero, like I needed an excuse. No regrets, Wrightwood is great.
A pretty low key day, got some chores done and then went to the Mexican restaurant next door for margaritas and more food then I could ever hope to eat even with hiker hunger. Our neighbour brought over a case of craft beer, just to be nice. May have to move here. Met new hiker Ocelot at the restaurant. Sara and Joe rolled in from trail a little later and Yves and Francis showed up as well so we all sat around having deck beers. Really great day in general, back to trail tomorrow.
Day 25: Wrightwood (369.3) to Campsite (389.0)
Left town around ten after another breakfast at Cinnamons and check out. Wrightwood is currently holding the position of favourite trail town, closely followed by Julian, the smaller the town the more I seem to enjoy it.
Major uphill elevation today to summit Baden Powell at about 8000 ft. Having a hard time still on uphills and it was slow going for me. Almost stepped on a small rattlesnake on the way up, moved it very carefully off trail with my pole. The interesting thing I've learned about rattlesnakes is that it's actually the smaller baby ones that are more dangerous. It takes a lot of energy for the snake to produce venom and the larger ones have some degree of control over how much venom is used when they bite...they're more to rely on the bite itself to kill prey, and expend less venom . The smaller ones have no control yet, so any bite is going to be full dose. The more you know! Anyways, last mile to the summit was especially rough (calves on fiiiiiire) but the views along the last knife edged ridge were great.
At the summit, caught T-Bone, Sara, Chad and Brian for lunch, Joe had continued on. We had packed out summit beers which made me feel sleepy. Shortly after the summit there was somehow more fucking uphill which seemed like a joke, my legs and lungs were not up for it.
Finally got down to Jimmy spring for probably the best water on trail so far and finally down to the highway. We had originally planned to camp there, but wasn't much space for all five of us, so we ate dinner and decided to push out six more miles of night hiking which I wasn’t thrilled about. Once we got going though it wasn’t so bad. I'm really enjoying hiking during the golden sunset hour, and today we all stuck close together and talked, which passed the time.
Once the sun set we split up and hiked alone. The moon was so bright that I didn’t need to use a headlamp. Had one scare when I came across Sara sitting beside the trail, without my light I thought she was a small, but perhaps rabid, animal and almost kicked her right off the ridge. Cowboy camped at a nice sheltered spot in the trees with but we’re down a member, hopefully Joe should be showing up any minute. Feels like I’m actually getting pretty good at this hiking thing, but going to be sore tomorrow after all the climbing today.
DAY 26: CAMPSITE (389) TO FOUNTAINHEAD CAMPSITE (411.7)
Woke up around 7 to the snore train. After everyone was up and packed we hiked to another trail closure due to endangered frogs. There was a 2.7 mile road walk along a narrow highway with not much of a shoulder, ironically probably the least safe I've felt on trail.
Hiked through a massive car campsite and rejoined the trail. Still a lot of uphill which is rough after yesterday. We had been looking forward to hitching to a Cafe two miles off trail at a highway crossing but discovered it’s closed on Wednesday’s-a crushing blow to group morale but we rallied and bravely carried on.
Stopped at Camp Glenwood for the hottest piped water on trail, and had a quick power nap in which I sunburned my face again. Trail went gradually downhill, through lots of sandy ravines. Stopped for dinner at Sulphur Springs camp.
The infamous poodle dog bush is beginning to show up all over the trail, a ridiculous looking plant that smells strongly of pot and apparently causes a poison oak type rash. Night hiked 5 more miles from Sulphur Springs to get to Fountainhead campsite, I think we'll have great views here tomorrow morning, can see city lights far below (Lancaster?). Cowboy camping. Hit the 400 mile mark today
DAY 27: 411.7 TO 427
Our campsite was even more amazing this morning with the sunrise view, and Brian had gotten up early to make us a fire since there was a ring set up on a bit of exposed rock-a rare luxury. We had a long breakfast, didn’t start hiking until about 9:30.
The morning started to really heat up and there was no shade. Saw the biggest rattlesnake so far on trail, it was as thick as my leg and curled up beside the trail. Opposite the snake was a large patch of poodle dog bush and I had a hard time deciding which was the lesser evil. Ended up going with the snake, edged around him very slowly and he never even rattled. The bigger ones seem to be a lot more relaxed than the babies, like we aren't worth their time.
Met with Yves, Francis and Tony at Mill Creek ranger station for lunch. I got stuck there for about two hours reading the trail register and lying in the shade of the picnic table. The longer I sit, the less I want to get started. Hiked a few more miles after it cooled down around 4, now in camp. One of my lower motivation days so far and I can't keep my eyes open right now even though it's barely 7pm. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
DAY 28: 427 TO SOLEDAD CANYON RD/ACTON KOA (444.3)
Started today much better since I got a decent sleep last night. Hiked alone for most of the morning, walked with a German hiker for a while, although he was keen on having long conversation and stuck close for a while, whereas I prefer to hike alone and not talk so I can actually breathe.
Stopped for lunch at a ranger station, bought two pops from the ranger for a dollar each. I crave soda so much on trail, second only to beer. I find that really odd because at home I never drink it. Hot dry hike through hills, but was way higher energy than yesterday and had a good time running on the downhill stretch to the highway. Brian and Chad and One 11 had made a stop at Acton KOA and I was planning to push on with the rest of the group until I heard that there was a pool there, changed my mind real quick.
The Canadian girls Kaylyn and Kristen were also at Acton, Kaylyn’s ankle has been bugging her and they’ve been there a couple days waiting for it to heal up. We’d been planning to do another 10 miles to Agua Dulce but after my swim and lounging in the sun I decided to stay with the Canadian girls and Chad and One 11. Cowboy camped in a back corner of the KOA waiting for my laundry to finish so I can sleep.
DAY 29: ACTON KOA (444.3) TO AGUA DULCE/HIKER HEAVEN (454)
Woke up to a condensation covered sleeping bag. Left Acton around 8am to try and catch the crew, said bye to Kaylyn and Kristen, they're going to stay another day to let the ankle heel. One 11 and Chad hiked out just behind me and I pushed myself to try and stay ahead.
Big uphill out of Acton but the weather was cool enough that it wasn't so bad and I felt pretty good after the half day off yesterday. Hiked alone, saw literally no one else all day on trail. Went through a sketchy tunnel underneath highway 14, I texted Sara during a brief bit of cell service and she let me know the rest of the group were staying in Agua Dulce for a zero day today.
Passed through Vasquez rocks, they've been used as a movie set for countless shows and movies, including Star Trek and my all time fave film, Holes. The State Park was crowded with tourists, probably could’ve stayed a little longer to check out the formations and eat with the family that was curious about the PCT, but I just wanted to get to Agua Dulce right away and meet up the trail fam and perhaps get a shower.
Agua Dulce is one of the few towns that trail goes right through so no detour needed. Went straight to the grocery store right away to handle resupply. One 11 was hiking in and we planned to grab a margarita at the Mexican restaurant in town, the rest of the trail fam came to meet us and we wiped the place clean out of their supply of coconut tequila. Waaaay too much to drink tonight considering how lame my metabolism is at processing alcohol on trail, tomorrow is going to be rough.
Crashed at Hiker Heaven, a trail angel house run by the Jeff and Donna Saufley. Lots of space to set up tents, and there are facilities for laundry, clothing repair, mail and showers. Again, they don't charge hikers for use of their services and are another fantastic example of the generosity on trail.
DAY 30: HIKER HEAVEN/AGUA DULCE (454) TO SAN FRANCISQUITO VALLEY RD/CASA DE LUNA (478.2)
Hit the store with the crew for last minute resupply and a quick breakfast. Things were quiet, I think everyone was a little hungover, but nothing like hiking all day to clear up feeling shitty.
Started with a long road walk through town to get back to trail, got caught in weird convo with a self-promoting “trail angel” that didn't really do much angel-ing other than talking our ear off about the book he’s writing for a solid half hour. Big climb, it was really, really windy and cold, probably the coldest day since the foggy hike out of Laguna. Stopped for lunch at Bear Spring and changed into wind gear, of course got too hot on the descent so took everything off again. I couldn’t get into the right headspace to enjoy hiking and paired with the hangover it was a rougher morning.
Thankfully I hit my stride in the early afternoon and it became a power hiking day, I was feeling really good and running down the downhill then crushing uphill’s back up with the motivation of taco salad ahead. Didn’t really see anyone after lunch, and the hiking completely cleared up whatever remainder of a hangover I had. The section between Agua Dulce and Casa de Luna has been a favourite so far. Some opt to do the 24x24x24 challenge-24 beers in 24 hours in 24 miles. Not a chance I’d be able to make it.
Dropped down to road in the evening and started highway walking towards Casa de Luna. Heard a shout of "HEY HIKER TRASH" and a van rolled to a stop beside me, it was Terry Anderson herself. Terry runs Casa de Luna (named for a couple reasons, but mainly the fact that it typically takes a month on trail to get there). It’s an amazing place: upon arriving I was greeted by a motley crew of hikers hanging out on sofas on the driveway and encouraged to change into a Hawaiian shirt. Taco salad is served every night. There’s a small manzanita forest behind the house with paths and spots for camping, and there are painted rocks scattered around the property. Love it already.
DAY 31 & 32: DOUBLE ZERO AT CASA DE LUNA
Slept for 12 straight hours and still woke up feeling really groggy-I think my body needed the rest. Made a couple trips to the local gas station to pick up resupply snacks and (of course) beer. Cornhole seems to be the biggest attraction here, I spent almost all day lounging in the shade and watching hikers throw bean bags across the yard. Doesn’t take much to entertain us.
Getting vortexed…this place is it’s own magic world I kind of want to stay here forever eating taco salad and ignoring the rest of the trail and everything beyond it. Spent the day with Chad, Joe and Sara, we painted our hiker rock and had a mini-barbecue in between runs to the store. We also played a solid three hours of cornhole, Sara is terrible, Chad is great, I’m somewhere in the middle. Tons of new hikers arriving today, met Brother (who plays amazing guitar) and Bearfoot (named literally because a bear bit her foot), Tasmanian Tom, Tank, Nemo, Hey Girl, Bloody Smooches, Lukas, Eric and Cy. Apparently I met Cy and Lukas already at hiker heaven, but no recollection on my end probably due to the coconut tequila, whoops. Everyone seems really fun, hopefully we can run into them down the trail. Hiking out tomorrow no matter what the vortex throws at us!