Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I15 at Cajon Pass

When last I wrote I was staying at the hostel in Big Bear. It was so relaxing. I was totally rejuvenated.

I got a ride to the trailhead and I bounded down with super-woman vigor. There was a recent fire and there was a sign on the trail that said day hikers ok but PCT thru-hikers should use the road. I decided to see what the day hikers got to enjoy. My map showed other dirt roads that I could take to get to their official walk-around.

When I got to the spot the day hikers were allowed to go to I could see footsteps continuing onward. So I continued onward too, into the closed area.

I have no idea why it was closed. It was a beautiful trail, freshly worked on. You could still see the marks from the McCloud. Creeks were full, riparian areas unburned. Even burned trees give shade unlike dirt roads. I skipped down the trail feeling happy and strong.

At the end, where the trail met the walk-around again there was a nice stream crossing the road. A whole bunch of hikers were swimming in the creek. I stopped and got in the water a little bit, got out some food and ate. I talked briefly with the other hikers but they were into partying and I didn't want to be brought down. I felt too strong and healthy to be slowed down. So I continued.

I ended up at a campsite called Bench camp at the edge of where the pines grew. The camp was full of scarlet bugler penstemon and hummingbirds. Seemed like a nice place to stay. I camped alone. My first alone night after all this time. A nice 20 miles, too, which was my goal for each day on my way to Wrightwood.

In the morning I got going before 6AM. The trail headed down Deep Creek. It reminded me a lot of the Sisquoc Gorge or Red Rock on a huge scale. The water looked so inviting but as is the PCT way, you stayed way above it. It's a scenic trail so apparently water is for looking at.

At about noon I ended up at Deep Creek Hot Springs. I took a nap under a tree next to the resident naked guy. Every hot springs has one it seems. I alternated between soaking my feet in the hot and in the cold water. A guy named Jeremy was there floating on a pool mattress. He looked so comfortable.

In a couple of hours a breeze came up so I decided to get going. I didn't have as much of a super-woman feeling as yesterday, but I figured if I felt good enough to go I should get going what the getting was good. Just then a bunch of the guys I've been bumping into arrived. I think they may have stayed the night there. They thought I was crazy to keep going.

It was so hot leaving the hot springs, but the breeze and my wet clothes made it bearable. I met some local day hikers who said the temperature was 103. They thought I was crazy to have long sleeves and long pants. I find it's a lot cooler if you're not exposed to the sun. Like portable shade. I would soak my clothes any time there was a side creek. It helped a lot.

The trail reminded me of the 40 mile wall. It went on forever. Eventually I reached a dam on the Mohave river. I didn't know the Mohave had a river. I got to cross deep creek again. I crossed it then sat in the shade for an hour. A bunch of locals with gang tattoos showed up and jumped in the water. I jumped in, too.

They asked me what I was doing. I told them about the PCT. They thought the PCT was a local trail and had no idea it went from Mexico to Canada. The one woman in their group was worried about me. She gave me an apple, an orange and a coke and said she'd pray for me.

Soon I loaded up my stuff and kept going. It was getting late and I had a couple of hours to make my 20 mile goal and find a nice place to camp.

I hiked into the chaparral along a pretty valley and a strange escarpment. I guess the San Andreas Fault is in the area. There was a van-load of geology students at the trailhead.

The hours came and went and about 6PM I started thinking about camping. I knew there was a little spring coming up but the book says no camping. Near to the spring I saw what looked like obvious camping spots carved out of the chaparral. Then I saw a tent. I decided to camp at the little spring. 21 miles.

In the tent was a guy named Steve. After I set up my tent I got inside and started playing my penny whistle. That prompted Steve to come over to my tent, which was really far from his, to say hello. He's a nice guy just like all the hikers. We talked about our hikes and our former lives for a while, then I went to bed.

Early in the morning I got up to the sound of the noisiest birds ever. I got going a little before 6AM. A few hours into the hike my little pinky toe started to hurt. It seems that it's all raw like meat. I couldn't stand the feeling of my shoe against it. So I put on my flip-flop on just the one foot.

At about 8 or 9AM I stumbled upon a cooler full of oranges. So good! I rested a bit there with a guy named Emily's Dad that I had bumped into several times since the day before. After resting, I put my shoe back on.

I hiked a little longer but the shoe wasn't working. So I made a hiking sandal out of my flip-flop and a shoelace. It worked so well I ended up hiking with it on my left foot for the next 15 miles.

I walked along Silverwood lake (I think that's the name) but I didn't go swimming. It was still early and I wasn't hot enough. Too bad because once I left the lake it really heated up and the trail got steep in shadeless, harsh scrub and there was no more water, either.

The trail went up and down with no relief. I wanted to find a shady nook to rest in but couldn't find one. I came upon Steve who was eking out a sliver of shade next to a rock. I made some shade with my Z-rest pad and rested with him for a while. Then it was back to work.

The trail became horrible. It was windy, hot and shadeless. The wind blew so hard on some of the ridges it blew me off course. Unseen rattlesnakes were going off in the bushes. At least that's what I think it was.

I kept hoping to find a nice place to rest but I couldn't find anything nice. The trail just went on and on in this punishing wind and waterless, scorching sun. Eventually my flip-flop foot was hurting because my heel kept crashing into rocks. So I powered down 4 Ibuprofen and put my shoe back on and with brute force, an iron will and fierce determination I powered my way at full speed, passing Steve, passing Emily's Dad (who is a hiking machine) and storming all the way out of this horrible place to Interstate 15, itself a horrible place.

After examining the options, there was only one reasonable option: to walk the .4 miles to the McDonald's, fuel up and sleep at the Best Western. That's where I am now after 28 grueling miles. I don't ever want to walk that many miles again. It's too much. But I guess sometimes there's no choice.

See you in Wrightwood!

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