Day 29: Baden Powell and Slightly Beyond

Date: May 8, 2017
Miles: 369.3 – 379.5

The owner of the Inn made us all a lovely breakfast of eggs, fruit, cereal and toasted bagels this morning, and after a second breakfast of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Allen and I got a ride in to town.  I ran a couple errands, got a big sandwich and then we hitched a ride back to the trail.  Since it was already well into the afternoon, we only had enough time to summit Baden Powell (in the sun!  Yay!) and set up camp a few miles up the trail.  It was my first night sleeping on snow and I was surprised to feel the cold seeping up through my inflated sleeping pad, but the view of the sunset on the icy landscape was so quiet and peaceful that I didn’t mind. 

Day 28: Wind, Rain, Sleet, Sun and Snow

Date: May 7, 2017
Miles: 347.2 – 369.3

*Fair warning to the young and/or sensitive – there’s a bit of explicit language in this post. In my defense, the weather made me do it.*

My thinking this morning was that I would hang out in my tent for a couple hours and wait for the rain and wind to stop.  My first realization thereafter was that I hate hanging around in a tent.  It’s boring. My second realization was that the wind and rain was not going to stop.  The third was that I was going to have to hike through the crappy weather for about 20 miles in a skirt because my shorts were soaked and I didn’t plan on needing rain pants until Washington.  Awesome.

So I got dressed, stuffed my soaking wet tent and everything else into my pack and marched up into the hills toward Wrightwood in the hopes that fast walking would get the blood flowing to my fingers and toes again.  

Within a few minutes, the overgrown brush had soaked everything from my waist down and I just kept muttering at the plants, ‘Are you fucking serious??’ – because that was surely going to help.  A mile or so later, I came around a bend in time to hear someone yell, ‘Fuck this shit!!’ into the wind. That’s when I met Sugar Tits (Josh), and we decided that hiking in misery together sounded better than hiking in misery alone. 

We hiked from the canyon at 3500 feet up to about 8000 feet through rain, sleet, sun and snow. Our breaks were just long enough to put food in our faces. 

By the time we got to Wrightwood, a snowstorm had started.  The locals we talked to said they had never seen this kind of weather in May before. Lucky us! 

The first thing I did in town was find a hot cup of coffee, and then I reserved a room at The Rhinestone Rose Inn where Josh and his friends Emily and Urs were staying – in the Romance and Roses room, no less!

The Inn didn’t have laundry services so I soaked my clothes in the whirlpool tub. I thought the tub jets would move the clothes around like a washing machine, so I hit the button to start them and gallons of water shot straight out of the tub and hit the wall, flooding the room before I was able to stop yelling and find the off button. Awesome. 

I managed to dry out the bathroom, myself and my clothes, so I joined everyone else who was laying around in the huge hotel bathrobes watching a movie until no one could stay awake any longer.  It was a nice warm ending to a long cold day. 

Day 27: Misty Mountains & Golden Arches

Date: May 6, 2017
Miles: 328.1 – 341.9

“Don’t leave any town without an extra cheeseburger.” ~ Saunter

The weather I didn’t know was coming came in today.  We left Cleghorn under low-lying clouds and stayed under them all morning. 

It was eerie to walk under crackling transmission lines that disappeared into fog. 

And exciting to walk along ridge lines with the wind blowing my hat into the grasses and forcing me to lean into it in order to stay on the trail. 

Around noon, we reached what everyone had been talking about for the past couple days…the practically on-trail McDonald’s in Cajon Pass.  I had a breakfast meal, a Churger (a McChicken smushed in the middle of a McDouble), fries, a strawberry shake, and ordered two breakfast sandwiches to go. 

Katie’s Churger looked way better than mine.

Rain was predicted to start around 3 pm, so guess what time we ended up leaving McDonald’s?  Some people decided to get hotel rooms in Cajon Pass and wait out the weather, but we figured that, as people from wetter northern climes, we could handle it, right??

Yah. I can totally handle this.

We hiked another five miles in the wind and rain with cheeseburger shaped rocks in our stomachs and camped in Swarthout Canyon, hoping for a break in the morning. 

Day 26: Cinco de Mayo Surprise

Date: May 5, 2017
Miles: 307.9 – 328.1

Today was an exercise in umbrella futility.  It was hot and muggy, which we found out later was due to some inclement weather moving in to the area, and it made for a tiring day.  I tried to shield myself from the sun while I was hiking with my UV umbrella, but it would either turn inside out at every gust of wind making me look like a walking satellite dish, or the sky would become overcast, rendering it unnecessary. As soon as I put it away, the sun would come back out and the wind would die down. I gave up. 

Crossing the rainbow bridge.
Hot, exposed, sometimes sunny, sometimes windy ridges.

The trail passed through some less scenic areas, none of which are ever included in promotional materials for the trail or anyone’s photo albums, but are no less a part of the experience.

The destination today was Cleghorn picnic area at Silverwood Lake. It didn’t actually click in my brain that we would be camping at an actual lake until I walked over a ridge and saw the dark blue water stretching out across the vista. It was such a welcome contrast to the dusty brown from moments before.

When we were about three miles from the park, we heard a voice coming from the roadway above us yelling, ‘Beer and tacos up ahead!’  Tacos!  I set a personal land speed record in those last few miles.  When we got to the park, we met Breanna, who had a cooler full of cold beverages and taco fixings on the grill.  Katie took a turn grilling vegetables and we all ate huge, delicious tacos. And ordered pizza.

My taco in a taco.
Roi, Satch and Redmoon.
Katie cooked up some tasty peppers.

After the two dinners, Paul found a stretch of sand for us to camp on and we ended the day with hot chocolate and slept under a bright moon.

Day 25: Don’t Miss The Moments For The Miles

Date: May 4, 2017
Miles: 298.5 – 307.9

I think the earth moved a few thousand miles closer to the sun today.

I slept in until nearly 6:30 this morning, thinking that it wouldn’t take long to hike the 9 or so miles to the Deep Creek Hot Springs, which is where we planned to spend the whole day. It was true that it didn’t take long to hike, but it also didn’t take long for the sun to come up and start crisping me like a holiday game hen.

Breakfast in bed.

The creek theme continued, as it was just too hot to resist crawling into every cold body of water we could find.

It was a relief to get to the hot springs and find a cold pool to swim in as well as pools of varying heated degrees. I blew up my air mattress and floated around on it until I was nice and pruny.

We probably could have racked up some miles today (the McDonald’s right off the trail in upcoming Cajon Pass has been calling our names for DAYS), but we figured that we won’t be back this way again and we don’t want to regret missing out on some of the more memorable parts of the trail. It was worth it.

300 miles!

Dinner time. This was the first time that Neal (light blue shirt) ever had ramen noodles.
The ultimate in ultralight – remove the tines from your fork.
Sunburned, sore and happy.

Day 24: Creeks For Days

Date: May 3, 2017
Miles: 279.2 – 298.5

“You know what I love about my life right now, man? All I have to think about is where I’m going to camp and what I’m going to eat. So simple.” ~ Lieutenant Dan

Today’s theme was creeks and spending as much time in them as possible.  We packed up and left camp early so we could get some miles in and still have time for all of the breaks we like to fit in to a day. 

The view waking up.

We came to Little Bear Springs Camp which, according to the Guthook phone app, contained a ‘composting privy with an interesting structure,’ but it just looked like a toilet with some walls around it. I used it because it was there and that meant I got to dig one less hole in the forest. 

The toilet in the middle of nowhere.
Some dry and dusty hiking followed, and then we found a shady spot on Holcomb Creek with flat rocks perfect for sitting and the shoes and socks had to come off. 

More dry and dusty hiking happened before we got to the Deep Creek Bridge where we met Splash, a trail angel of sorts who brought a cache of Dr. Pepper and left us with Pringles, Krispy Kreme chocolate donuts, and some of the best homemade chicken soup I’ve ever had. I mixed it with mac n cheese and bacon bits, because why not?

Me on Deep Creek bridge.
Splash and the soup.
Random Calorie Casserole.

We decided that the beach under the bridge was a great place to end the day, so we got some more creek time in, then set up camp and fell asleep to the growing frog chorus. I hoped that the snake I saw swimming in the river wouldn’t get curious about the lump of sleeping bag lying on the beach close to its home.  If it did, I slept right through it. 

Day 23: Leaving Big Bear

Date: May 2, 2017
Miles: 266 – 279.2

This morning we hitched a ride to a restaurant (we’re starting to get good at this) to meet John for breakfast, and then we hitched again to get back to the trailhead.

Hiker parking.

It’s always nice to come in to a town with little water and near empty food bags – our backpacks feel like day packs. It’s another thing to leave a town with five days worth of food and sometimes several liters of water. It can feel like you’re carrying rocks. And the way out of town is usually uphill.

We hiked up and up and up and came around corners to find views of Big Bear Lake and snow covered mountains that made us all stop to take pictures only to continually find better spots for pictures as we walked. We passed some trail runners who stopped to enjoy the view as well before sprinting off and the few of us there collectively decided that those people are a little crazy.

Big Bear Lake
“Use love as your guide in everything.”
The dinner crew.

Day 22: Hitchhiker Level – Beginner

Date: May 1, 2017
Miles: 256.2 – 266

We were up early today because we were headed for Highway 18 to get a hitch into Big Bear Lake for resupply and the use of modern amenities. It was an easy, mostly downhill, hike and ten miles flew by.

Please step on the vegetation with the biggest boots you can find?

We reached the highway and I was just about to call Mountain Mama, one of the trail angels in Big Bear City who, along with Papa Smurf, hosts hikers at their home, when a man pulled up in a minivan and offered us a ride to town. He said he was giving rides to hikers so he wouldn’t have to go into work just yet. We were glad to be a diversion. Bless his heart, the man drove us to the post office and waited while a couple of us picked up packages and then drove us all over Big Bear Lake until we found a cabin at Wolf Creek Resort big enough for the eight hikers we’d managed to collect by then.

We spent the rest of the day eating, buying groceries and cleaning ourselves and our clothes. We had to hitch a ride from our cabin to the grocery store because it was a whole mile and a half away and just because we can hike ten trail miles before 10:30 in the morning doesn’t mean we want to walk any further than is necessary once we hit a town. It took about ten minutes for someone to pick us up, which just puzzled Roi to no end. Apparently it is much harder to hitchhike here than in other countries, although I will say that it probably didn’t help that we looked homeless or that he kept throwing his hands up in the air, yelling, ‘You Americans!’

Once we finished our chores we had a trail family-style lasagna dinner at the cabin which was a lot of fun.

Gringo, Tom, Katie, Matthew, Roi, Connor and Allen

For dessert, Roi and Alan tried to get shamrock shakes from the McDonald’s across the street, but their lobby was closed and they wouldn’t let them walk through the drive thru, so we settled for pints of ice cream and peppermint patties from 7-11 instead. Roi just couldn’t understand why an American McDonald’s would turn down his money just because he was on foot.  There is quite a bit about America that Roi finds nonsensical, like the practice to add sales tax on the restaurant bill, but not on the menu.  I so enjoy his take on things. 

Day 21: Makeshift Memorial Day

Date: April 30, 2017
Miles: 240 – 256.2

In my bedroom last night, the trees were my walls, the stars were my ceiling and the moon was my night light. Every time I woke up I saw them and fell asleep again with a smile on my face. There were no critters in my quilt and nothing ate my food, so I consider cowboy camping a success. 

Today we hiked on through the San Bernardino forest until Arrastre Camp, where we stayed the night along with about fifteen other people that rolled in. Outro (Matthew) was one of them and we were happy to see him again. 

Along the way we passed a depressing animal training facility with motionless tigers and bears pacing back and forth, hit the 250 mile mark, and found a dumpster in the woods with no trail magic in it. Only one black banana. 

Gringo, taking a rest on what I’m sure is a super clean couch.

During our post-dinner hot chocolate, Roi shared with us that the next day was going to be the Israeli equivalent of our Memorial Day. He told us that the meaning of the holiday changed for him when he lost friends in military conflicts and a cousin to a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv. They were all near his age – in their twenties. We ended the evening with a shared moment of silence for his friends and whomever else we were each thinking about. 

Day 20: The San Bernardinos Kicked My Bum

Date: April 29, 2017
Miles: 226.1 – 240

“When you get to the end of a canyon, you know the only way out is up.” ~ Katie

Nothing super remarkable happened today.  Except for the wrong turn that I took that led Roi, John and I to a dead end, from which we had to scramble up a steep hill to get back on trail. We realized what had happened when we looked up and saw Katie and Connor on the trail up above, asking what the heck we were doing down there. 

You can’t tell from this picture, but that is not John’s happy face.

When we got back on track, we walked for miles along Mission Creek and then we hoofed it straight up the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest for 4.5 miles until I died. I died three times. If I don’t get in better shape by the sierras, they are going to kill me. 

Into a new wilderness.
This was the view for miles. I had the back of Roi’s backpack memorized.

Part of the forest that we went straight up through was destroyed by the Lake Fire in 2015 and what is left standing is sadly beautiful. I tried capturing it with my camera, but like all of my photographs so far, they can’t adequately convey the grandness and the solemn feeling of it all. I walked most of the way through this area by myself and was grateful for the time alone. 

I finally crawled into camp exhausted and with dead legs and found Roi and Paul hanging out with a man from Camas, Washington and another from Brisbane, Australia.  We conjectured about the condition of the Sierra while we made dinner, which for me was a Ramen Bomb – ramen noodles and mashed potatoes mixed together. It’s as gut busting as it sounds and I blame Roi for telling me about this. I’m trying to digest it as I type this post.  Katie and Strongback rolled in a few minutes later but John decided to camp a half-mile back since he was tired and hungry and didn’t want to go any farther. 

Do not try this at home.

In addition to the Ramen Bomb, I am trying another new thing this evening – cowboy camping. I keep saying I’m going to do it but then I chicken out at the last minute. Not tonight!  Of course I didn’t do it last night when it was nice and warm out, but waited until we climbed to nearly 8,000 feet…I’m feeling glad that I have a zero degree quilt, for sure.  Camas man kindly shared with me all of his stories about creatures that he has woken up to find in his sleeping bag, so…yah. Thanks Camas man!

Look Ma, I’m cowboy camping!

The dreaded poodle dog bush.