Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Big Bear to Wrightwood - Mile 369!
I ended up taking a 3 day break at the hostel in Big Bear Lake. The manager offered me a job there (more like a free place to stay for a few hours of work a day) so I have a backup plan if some future injury leads to a lengthier recovery period. The IT band still felt a bit funny heading on that day but after massaging a knot out of whatever muscle that runs adjacent to it the pain went away. Of course, as soon as I recovered from that the side of my knee bone started getting store. I think it's Iliotibial band friction syndrome, which another long distance hiker said he gets near the start of every hike and eventually goes away. I did 5 miles yesterday and plan on only doing 5 more tonight to give it some time off.
That aside, I felt sluggish leaving big bear and did between 20 and 23 miles a day on mostly flat to rolling terrian, descending through the alpine forests outside Big Bear around 8,000 feet to the low desert at around 3,000 feet. Most of the trail wasn't especailly inspiring until we reached Deep Creek canyon. About midway through the canyon is a series of natural hot springs with man made walls around them forming large pools of varying water temperatures. I pushed myself to get 22 miles in so I could spend the night there and have a good soak. My feet, knees, blisters ankles all hurt but once I got into the water it felt amazing! The hot springs can be reached either by the PCT or a 1.5 mile hike from a parking lot, so it does attract people. It's also a nudist hang out but only about a quarter of the other people (and some of the hikers!) there were nude but that didn't bother me. The book that most through hikers use for information about the trail called Yogi's guide really derides the place but everyone that actually stopped there loved it. Some hikers seemed either perturbed or embarassed and walked right through. I guess they were expecting a totally private PCT-hiker only environment?
On Sunday, two days later, I rolled into Cajon Pass around 11 am, the location of an infamous MacDonalds 0.4 miles off the trail. Everyone goes there, despite claims of hating the place; hiker hunger is just too strong. I honestly haven't eaten at one in five or ten years but a double quarter pounder, large milkshake, salad (need those veggies...) and some chicken mcnuggets really hit the spot. I walked in with one friend, we met another we knew already there and about four more walked in over the course of the next hour or so. The prospect of a 6,500 foot climb in front of me loomed ahead and when offered a ride up trail to a trail angels house (the Saufleys) at Agua Dulce I couldn't say no. The offer came from a former through hiker of 2010 that was between trail crews and headed north on a slow schedule. The friend I walked in with, Guino, and I both went with him. He claimed that there was a daily shuttle from the Saufelys to an REI near Cajon Pass so I assumed an easy ride back. In reality, they go to a different REI in the opposite direction. I ended up talking (or yogi'ing) my way into a ride from a guy at the Mexican place I had dinner at in Agua Dulche. It cost $20 for his gas but saved me a sketchy hitch hike on Memorial Day for the hour long ride back to Cajon Pass. The guy used to be a parapalegic from some disease but had regained most of his motor functions except for his fingers and the ability to walk without a cane. You meet so many characters on this trail it never amazes me.
I got to Cajon Pass at 8 am the next morning, met a new through hiker named Skip already eating at Micky D's. We ate together and headed out up the hill. Skip and I hiked together for longer than I've hiked with anyone else on the trail, our paces were just very similar. We came across an amazing water cache 6 miles in with couches and chairs. Unknown to us at the time, two section hikers higher up on the mountain were watching us. We caught up to them half way up the next ridge and got some fresh pineapple and sodas from their friend who was picking them up. Around the corner was another water cache to break up the dry climb. Skip and I pressed on until about 4:30. He had already hiked in 6 miles to get to the McDonalds so that was the end of his day. I made a bowl of ramen with him and pushed on to a campground at the height of the ridge getting there just before 7:00. I counted it up and that day figured I hiked almost 7,000 vertical feet over 22.5 miles! I think that's the most single day climbing of the entire trip and represents over 2% of the vertical gain of the entire PCT.
When I got to the campground I saw three other hikers I already knew; Glide On who hiked the trail in 1979, and two lesbian girls Ninja Turtle and Raven Lady who I had been bouncing around with since before Idylwild. When I saw the two girls I yelled out "Breakfast at Micky D's and dinner with my LGBTs!", they got a kick out of that. I thought I might see them there since they had signed the hiker registers at the water caches earlier on the trail.
The next day I felt like crap and was happy to only have 5 miles to get to an easy hitch hike on Route 2 to Wrightwood. I didn't even have to stick my thumb out because a 93 year old man was just getting back from his morning walk at Inspiration Point (where highway 2 crosses the PCT the first time). He drove me into town while telling some stories of his own hiking adventures. He said one Memorial Day he went to hike Mount Balden-Powell (which I'll hit tomorrow) and woke up to over a foot of snow on his sleeping bag! It's interesting because most of my rides and off trail help seem to come from either retiree's or people close to retirement that have led interesting lives. I think it takes a few types of people to offer rides and help to strangers and most of those types make for pretty amazing people.
Most town days consist of picking up groceries and any other random things which doesn't take long. This town I had my bounce box shipped to (thanks Mom and Dad!) so I had a lot more on my plate. The bounce box is actually a reused deicing bucket filled with random things I only need intermittently and food that I can send up trail where grocery stores are lacking. This means long term planning is involved for where the box is going and what food it will contain. Some of the random stuff includes my camera battery charger and the backflushing thing for my filter which were both utilized at the bar. I also had to figure out where to send the box and buy some groceries for it and the next stretch. Fortunately another hiker, Slider, who I helped get rid of about 5 lbs of extra crap he didn't need in Big Bear wanted to buy me two beers as a thanks. We ended up at a bar (my spot point) where I could spread all my crap out on some picnic tables, go grocery shopping and mail the box up trail to Independence without having to lug my pack around all over town. Since we made the outside of the bar our home base other hikers naturally gravitated there and pretty soon there were eight of us hanging out. The bartender Paul offered Slider, another hiker Chris and myself a place to stay in his house for the night. We accepted and eventually learned that Paul used to be a CA state representative and later a big wig in the music industry. He drove us around to his amazing house at the top of a ridge with a view of Las Vegas in the distance. We cooked him a huge BBQ dinner as thanks and shot pool in his living room the rest of the night. I actually did really well, must have been the Young's Double Chocolate Stout I was sipping on.
Paul is an amazing guy but kept going off on long political diatribes against coporations, the government, utility companys, Wal-Mart, etc. I agreed with most of what he said but not to the extreme extent of it. Honestly though I'm not out here for that kind of crap but it was a small price to pay for an otherwise great night.
Today I hung out at a coffee shop and will soon be leaving for the trail. I'm planning an easy 5 miles to a water source and campground, then I can do 20 mile days all the way to Agua Dulche. My brother Chris might meet me out there for 60 miles or so which will either be great fun or terrible. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Look for another post this Monday!