I slept very well at the hotel. I fell asleep early and slept well until super loud birds outside woke me up. I guess the birds here had to learn to shout even louder than the birds out on the trail, what with the raging wind and the freeway and the multiple train tracks going through this narrow canyon. It had felt good to be somewhere warm and quiet. I had never left my room at all once I entered.
The clock in my room wasn't set so I had no idea of the time. I just got up, took another shower, packed up and headed off to McDonald's for breakfast.
Cave Man, a thru-hiker I had bumped into a few times, was at McDonalds. He had slept in the tunnel under the freeway. He said there was a dry spot on the concrete big enough for himself and that it had been quiet and wind-free.
I ate an egg and bacon muffin sandwich and two cups of coffee. I think caffeine has anti-inflammatory properties because my knees and feet felt 100 times better after the coffee. I was ready for my final 5 miles.
I headed into the tunnel. Sure enough, it was quiet and free from wind in there. It was mostly wet with a small dry spot just big enough for one sleeping bag. On the other side of the tunnel, the riparian area also seemed calm and sheltered. Note to self: Next time you can avoid the hotel and sleep in the canyon beyond the tunnel.
The trail winded around in areas only hikers and hobos would ever wee. That's the thing about the trail. It conditions you to life as a homeless person. You stop fearing it. You always feel like you are home, as long as you are away from town.
I winded through chaparral and rock formations called the Mormon Rocks. I could imagine condors living in the rocks long ago. It is such a contrast between the nature of the area and the thought of condors against the horrible noise of the freeway and the trains carrying miles of containers of cheap plastic crap from China. Our modern way of life is so wrong. It struck me now that my farewell, worst backpack trip ever had been nothing of the sort. It had been more of an affirmation of how the PCT has impacted me, made me strong, made me able to endure, made me happy.
The wind was much calmer on this side of the canyon. The weather was still misty and foggy. There were few views. As I entered the sheep fire area I saw some Poodle Dog Bush and left a note on the trail warning people not to touch it. It gives you a rash worse than poison oak.
I rounded a corner and Swarthout Canyon Road came into view. A few more corners and I could see my truck. I signed in at the water cache and then walked down the road to my truck. Hike over.
Funny how the last couple of days had felt so bad but a good night's sleep had erased all bad feelings and made me feel welcoming of the hardships, the wind, the cold, the weather. I wished I was continuing on up the mountain on the other side of the road. I felt proud of myself for hiking in such difficult conditions and for hiking every step of the distance, relatively short as it was.
I drove to Wrightwood to have a celebratory second breakfast and ruin any weightloss I may have obtained. There were hikers there but I said nothing to them. I was no longer one of them. I am a post-thru-hiker. One of the changed ones. A person you may see walking down the street who carries a big secret. I drove home thinking about that secret, how it could be put into words. Perhaps it is something you can only understand through experience.