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Archive for May, 2012

We all spent that night sleeping in a ditch next to Hwy 2.  Before going to bed, we ate at the picnic tables, took advantage of the poopers with free tp, and made a discrete fire tucked back near some trees despite a blatantly obvious “no campfires” sign.  It was freezing; the wind whipped and it might have been 40 degrees then and began to steadily drop at night.  One car seemed to come and go quite frequently with a large camera and huge binoculars.

That night was super cold.  I had several layers on and put my thick New Zealand wool socks on and wrapped the bottom of my sleeping bag in a trash bag.  In the middle of the night, I still had to wrap my feet in my puff coat…they were cold again an hour later.

In the morning, Shags came over and asked if the ranger came to us too.  Confused, Dead Animal and I shook our heads only to have Inspector Gadget and Hop-a-long groan from their tents that a ranger had come.

“You guys slept straight through it!” Inspector said.  “He came here first and shone bright lights at our tents and asked us for ID.  Apparently that odd couple in the car were bird watchers who told the cops there were people rummaging through backpacks.”

“They talked to me about the campfire,” Shags said.  “The guy was cool though; he asked if we would be warm enough without it and then asked us to put it out.”

“Did you guys sleep through the dirt bikes too?” Hop-a-long asked.

“I heard them peal out,” I said

“You could hear them going all the way to 5th gear,” Dead Animal said.

“Yeah, well they almost peed into our ditch until one went ‘whoa! Dude! There’s people down there!” Inspector imitated a stoner voice.  “Pretty sure they were drunk too.”

We got a super late start at 8:30 a.m. Just in time for a 1000 ft climb.  Good morning trail!  Up, over and onto the 4th crossing of Hwy 2.  Where we slept in the ditch was the official detour around the yellow-legged frog mating, but that was a 20 mile detour for 4 PCT miles.  Yeah, right…

We did another up and over to the 5th road crossing where the old detour started: the walk, the damn road detour.  Sitting there, we decided road walking sucked, so we began walking and kept throwing our thumbs out.  As the pavement continued, our feet began to hurt, but nothing except motorcycles passed us.

In the end, we ended up walking two road miles to a campground where we yogi’ed a ride from some day walkers to a biker restaurant down the road a bit further called Newcomb Ranch.  There we ate lunch as a large hiker herd (about 11 of us) road walked and got a ride there, including Barracuda and Sparrow…Barracuda is 7 years old….

Lunch, 4 beers, and 2 shots each, we left with a six-pack to begin hitching.  With a 7-year-old, we got a ride easily from some super awesome people in a large vehicle driven by Kristi.  We went back to the 6th crossing of Hwy 2 instead of that campground which had a few mile side trail back to the PCT.

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We only had a few miles to mile 400 which we celebrated for quite a while on the side of the trail there.  Someone had made a large “400” in rocks and we took a slew of pictures.  After drinking some of the six-pack, we moved on downhill to water, then further on to the Three Points trail head.

Picnic tables reeled us in with a cooler full of trail magic soda and some water.  Dan, the trail runner, trail magic’ed us some Tecates to keep the beat strong and we camped there, by the side of the road under a tree.

Deciding to get serious, we began hiking early in the morning.  We did discover that camping near picnic tables and poopers significantly slowed us down in the mornings trying to get out.  We went up and up and oh yeah, more up.

By mile 413, we faced yet another detour…this time for poodle dog bush: renamed devil bush.  Basically, an area of land burns, then poodle dog bush takes over and spreads like wildfire.  It especially likes to grow smack dab in the middle of the trail.  The plant actually looks really pretty with sweet-smelling purple blooms, but it’s more like a poison apple of death that entices you into getting a big fat emergency room bill.

The first part of the detour took us down a dirt road about the same distance as the trail was, but the road took us down the other side of the ridge down to a fire ranger station.  Right above the station was an outhouse with a spigot next to it and a large water tank to provide shade.  The whole group posted up there for a while, even Neon and On-a-move stayed for a while as we all sat and ate as much as possible from our food bags.

When the sun had stopped sizzling our skin, we began again.  The worst of the poodle dog was supposed to be at mile 425 and then between 428 and 430, so Hop-a-long and I tried to go on the trail between miles 419 and 421 instead of walking the paved road recommended detour.  We just really did not want to walk on pavement, but the trail had quite a lot of sand going up then dove through some pretty bad poodle dog bush.  Some of it was not too bad, but there were a few parts where one of us had to use our poles to hold it for the other.  A few other times, on a contour, we would have to shimmy down a little bit to go below the poodle dog bush in the trail, but above the layer beneath.  This was more challenging because usually the sandy eroded shit would not hold your feet, so you had to walk faster to avoid your footing giving way, but not fast enough to carelessly bash into the devil bush.

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Needless to say, we walked the damn paved road after that as recommended because that wasn’t supposed to be the worst of it.  Several miles later, we decided to look for a place to crash when we came up on a burned and abandoned fire station.  Naturally, we thought it was the coolest thing ever and slept in the destroyed hand ball court.  It was super creepy…right out of a horror movie…large group…could pick us off one by one, but no, we were fine, all six of us.

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We managed to have quite a bit of fun in Wrightwood.  Probably too much fun.  Safari, Shags, and Drop Zone had gotten ahead of us and we heard tell from some Canadians that Drop Zone had gotten a ride from the water cache to Wrightwood.  When we finally got a ride down, we fit Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget and me in a hybrid with our packs and we went straight to the Mexican restaurant for Margaritas.  With two double shot margaritas and large portions of Mexican food in our bellies, we found Safari and Shags who had gotten a room at the Pines Motel.  They gave us word on Drop Zone who had apparently just hiked out with another girl and didn’t sobo back to the water cache.

The Pines Motel had plenty of character and great service, but the shower didn’t drain, the TV did not change channels, and we put 5 people in a 3 person room.  We stayed in town to celebrate Safari’s 21st birthday. Our goal: make him puke.

We started with beer and white russians with almond milk then progressed to the Racoon Saloon for tequila shots and jukebox entertainment. When we got back to the room, our goal became fulfilled.

We attempted to get moving in the morning, but all we could motivate to do was head down the street to the Grizzly Cafe and eat extremely large breakfasts.  Safari had called to ask specifically if they had Belgian waffles with fruit and they did.

Food comas set in so we went back to bed for nap time.  Jay, the motel manager, knocked on our door at 10:45 to tell us check out was at 11am.  We packed up and then looked outside.  An evil dark cloud of death was descending from the mountains where we wanted to go and the wind blasted us so hard the trees pelted us with pinecones.  We later found out the snow level had dropped to 7000 feet and there were hurricane force winds going on up there.

We moved to a bigger room and fit more people in it.  It’s super helpful when sleazy motels are run by hikers.  They try to give you the lowest rate for the most people and do your laundry for free.  Our second room had more character than the last and even included brick paneling.

Lounging all day took work.  We got some free coffee/tea from the local coffee shop, resupplied, went through hiker boxes and drank beer.  Major Upchuck came over and hung out, getting fake tattoos and shot-gunning beers with us for a while.  Then, out of nowhere, Hop-a-long found Peter wandering around outside so we took him in and immediately put beer in his hand.

We did manage to get the 6:30ish am shuttle that the motel ran for free.  I wished I had more layers that day.  I huddled under a large bush while waiting for everyone to come up in 3s.

The first five miles were fine except for the wind and the general coldness.  It really wouldn’t have been that bad except I’d gotten used to 85 to 105 degrees and when we got dropped off, it was a whopping 29 degrees.  Then the trail did this annoying thing that trails do of going to 7500 feet only to drop 1000 feet and then gain 3000 feet.

We all stopped at the second road crossing of Hwy 2 at the base of the Baden-Powell trailhead.  As we ate a snack huddled together and used the privy, we attempted to look pathetic to see if the hoards of people in the parking lot would give us any food or anything hot.  They didn’t.

It was then that it hit us that it was not only Saturday, but Memorial Day weekend Saturday.  Hello headphones!  We probably saw 150 people on one side of the mountain. Day walkers, boy scouts, crazy trail runners.  The boy scouts were the most annoying; they didn’t yield to packs going uphill, they completely ignored the small group hiker etiquette, they cut switchbacks, and hell knows what else.

We met a section hiker, Shaka Zulu, who sang a wee song that amused us.  Safari and Shags skipped the side trail to the summit while Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, Bolt, and I went to the top and drank our last two beers and Bolt provided some whiskey.

If the morning was slow, the afternoon was slower.  My energy had been zapped between climbing and answering the same usual day walker questions over and over despite the obvious headphones (i.e. leave me alone sign).  Yes, I am walking to Canada.  Yes, I started in Mexico.  No, I don’t have a job. Yes, I sleep outside. Blah blah blah.

By the afternoon, the sun had partially come out and there it might have gotten up to the low 50s, but as soon as the cloud that usually seemed to mysteriously stay to one side of the ridge tried to creep over, it got cold.  The trail weaved over the ridge and in and out of the cloud.

Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget convinced Hop-a-long to make them quesadillas while Inspector hatched a plan to go to town for pizza, despite having left town that morning after a zero.  He blazed ahead six miles to the 3rd crossing of Hwy 2.

Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I got water from Little Jimmie Spring and pondered the maps and all the information we had on the up coming detour which had to by-pass 4 PCT miles for the breeding of a yellow-legged frog.

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We got sucked into the interstate pass by fast food and a hot tub.  We started out getting a room at the Best Western to wait out the heat, take showers and sit in the hot tub.  Then we discovered the Game of Thrones episode we missed on Sunday was going to come on at 11pm.  I hatched a plan to leave afterwards but that didn’t happen and neither did 5 a.m.  Instead, we drank two 18 racks, hung out in the hot tub and ate Del Taco with a side of Subway. image

Game of Thrones was so worth it, then we passed out.  After a feeble attempt to wake up and leave at 5 am, we ended up getting hotel breakfast at 6 a.m. which had already been severely picked over. Then we went back to sleep or tried to go back to sleep.  Drop Zone had taken over one bed snoring, so we made a cuddle puddle in the other one in the meantime while we procrastinated for several more hours.  Eventually, we managed to leave at 12:30: i.e. the worst time ever to start hiking, let alone climbing in the heat.  We had an illusions that it wasn’t as bad as normal because the freeway traffic created its own wind combined with the smog coming over from Los Angeles.  Thank you for your smog that kept the sun exposure down a bit.  Actually, as soon as we left the freeway wind, it was hot.

After five miles of intense sweating, we got to the cache that Shags had texted us was full.  The best part: we found some chairs and a table and we moved them into the shade.  Baboon hiked with us a bit that day and he had two decks of cards.  Naturally, we played rummy, drank the rest of the beer we had packed up, and took a 3 hour break.

At 5:30 we decided it had cooled down enough to hike, so we began with music.  Everyone had their headphones in that day…22 miles without water and 6000+ feet of climbing to Wrightwood.  We went up and up and up until we hit a dirt road.

There, we paused and decided to take the recommended detour to avoid the all-consuming poodle dog bush which was “barely avoidable” according to the water report.  It was cool in its own way because we could walk 4 wide and blast music off of Inspector Gadget’s phone.  Inspector Gadget and Dead Animal decided since girls apparently don’t poop, we pee rainbows.

We walked around 3 of 4 miles of the detour and passed out on a side pull-off cowboy camping.  It took us awhile to avoid the glass shards all around, but we found spots.

I ignored my alarm for half an hour in the morning by rolling over on my watch alarm to silence it since I couldn’t think enough to hit the off button.  Despite the later start, we got moving and kept moving.  Our large group had decreased to 4 people.

The first 10 miles of the day wasn’t bad, but after a while, my legs just didn’t want to move uphill.  Luckily there was a blanket of clouds that covered the entire valley a few thousand feet below which gave me added entertainment.  The music pushed me through it fairly well.  We passed the Canadians, Julia and Brian who told us that Drop Zone had gotten a hitch into Wrightwood from the cache, missing some 4500ish ft of climbing.  Damn.

We got to the water at Guffy Campground which was a bit downhill but so worth it for the beautiful piped spring.  After an hour break and watching Dead Animal attempt to eat hiker box “100% natural white chicken cuts” which smelled like cat food, we hiked onward with nothing motivating us but Margaritas.

Route 2 was a bit of a hard hitch since there was almost no traffic.  We had to wait about 45 minutes when we got the 5th car to pick up Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, and me in a hybrid.

And then we found this:
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Inspector Gadget and Safari figured out that about 5 miles from the day walker gathering spot was a gas station, so they hitched in for some booze since we were out.  Naturally, we couldn’t go to hot springs without booze.  We waited for them just off the trail in a pavilion where we used the parking lot’s privy and disposed of our trash in the trash bins.

In the meantime, a few other hikers passed through.  One of which I recognized instantly and began laughing, “well if it isn’t Insane Duane!” I shouted.

“Hey Veggie!” Duane laughed, “I told you last year I’d see you here !  Mouse is right behind too!”

Mouse came up a few moments later and we got to catch up for a bit.  I met Mouse back in Georgia on the AT and he got ahead of me in the Smoky Mountains.  They were both trying to speed hike the PCT, so I knew I wouldn’t see either of them again.  Mouse explained why Insane Duane had two backpacks on in one sentence: “he got used to carrying one in front on the CDT and just got used to it, figuring it would make him stronger…its Insane Duane…”

Inspector Gadget and Safari managed to get back at 5:15 where we drank a tall boy and got ready to move.  We made bets on how long it would take Dead Animal to eat half a rotisserie chicken.  He made it in about 3 or 4 minutes.

Ignoring the detour, which we heard from High Life and trail angels we shouldn’t take, we set off contouring the canyon wall about 100-200 feet above Deep Creek below.  A few times, the trail slid down the side and we could only get one foot placed at a time.  At those points the trail maybe was five inches wide or so.

Before we knew it, we annihilated three miles and hit the 300 mile mark! Woohoo! We celebrated safely on a wider section of trail and took some pictures.  I was really glad we did this section late since there would have been absolutely no shade.  We played a game with the setting sun of chasing it around the corners of the contours, almost jogging at times.  Motivated, we did those ten miles in just over three hours with two small breaks.

Shags had gotten to the Hot Springs which were conveniently about 50 ft off trail before we had even left the bridge.  He had found Drop Zone who had somehow gotten ahead of us by skipping 20 miles somewhere.  I couldn’t quite follow his explanation while my stomach raged with hunger from not really eating dinner.  We found a sandy, beachy spot and laid out our stuff in a line, eating some dinner and beginning the magical night of camaraderie in the hot springs.

We found our way around ok in the dark and enjoyed some wonderfully naturally hot pools.  Since it was Saturday night, all the locals were raging down there too, who had come in off a side trail.  Everyone got on edge when a long stream of headlamps began coming down the hill late.  We feared they were rangers coming to bust up the party, but it turned out to be about 20 locals with lasers celebrating a birthday.

Forgetting water, we eventually couldn’t take the heat of the pools and retreated to our cowboy camping sandy beach location where we stayed up talking about aliens, Edgar Cayce, the pyramid of Giza (which we determined that aliens had created using lasers), and many other things until about 2:30-3 a.m.  We lamented the fact that at that time, the big dipper was getting closer and closer to the ridge which meant that the sun would come up soon.

Waking up sweating to the sun scorching us in our sleeping bags, we got out of bed at 7:45 and moved to shade while we made breakfast and then got back in the hot pools.  We drank the rest of the vodka we had and then a very large naked man gave us some long island ice tea.  Switching between the hot pools and the creek, Safari scared a large rattle snake, we found a rope swing and watched Carpenter and Cheesecake race, swimming on their Thermarests.

Lunch and naps in the shade followed since we heard we wouldn’t find shade for about 6 miles, we didn’t fight the sun and stayed.  We headed out right before the solar eclipse started so we attempted to watch it as we contoured the rest of the valley.  On the way, we ran into more than enough locals.

After fording the creek, we hit a water cache on highway 173 and began climbing.  After about 8 miles, we found a large bluff to the side of the trail and crashed out, tired from our strenuous day of swimming and napping.

Motivation came in the morning at 5am when we woke up and got moving to beat some heat.  At these lower elevations, the heat comes in fast and furious, forcing us into shade early to not hallucinate.  We got about 10 miles in the morning before we hit a lake with small pavilions meant for boats.  The trail circled the lake for a good while, probably so we could stare at it green with envy.  A few times, I almost veered off trail to jump in the lake, but I resisted.  The temptation to swim across it came on strong as well.  I remembered Insane Duane’s idea of putting the pack in a trash bag and swimming across Twin Lakes.  I kicked myself in not getting a dollar store floaty.

Hop-a-long and I veered off and as I wrote Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget a note, Shags veered down.  I immediately dove in the dirty lake and proceeded to stay there for about half an hour or as long as I thought I could without getting burned.  Everyone else came down and in too.

“Guys,” Inspector started.  “I don’t have much food and no more dinners.”

“Didn’t you just cook dinner at 9 am?” I asked

“Yeah, I think I’m going to town,” he said.

“We could pool some food,” Dead Animal said.

“Nooo, I think I’m going to town.”

At that point there was no talking him out of it.  Instead we all pitched in for beer and pizza.  Since we had reception, he said he’d call later.  We took naps in the meantime and cooked up some lunch.  When Inpector called us, he told us to meet him under the overpass around 4:45.

We hiked the two miles or so and got to the overpass around 5pm.  Only Neon and On-the-go sat underneath it who had pitched in as well.  We had to continually move further up underneath to stay in the shade.  Eventually a truck with a bike on the back came down and Neon called it that it was Inspector who managed to hitch back with not only his backpack, but also with three pizzas and a styrofoam cooler full of beer.

Another two hours under the overpass, Cheesecake, Dots, Waffles, and Jesse passed as well as Julia and Brian.  We debated about staying there under the overpass for the night, but then decided to hike on a bit.  Being so full, we got to the top of the climb and slept on an old jeep road.

In the morning, we got up early and hiked 10 miles to Cajon pass by 9:30 a.m.

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We mananged to get about 2.5 miles out of town – a good thing for us.  It’s a whole different ball game when you wake up the next morning in the woods as opposed to a motel.  In a motel, you wake up late, get breakfast, a late check out, maybe lunch, then before you know it, it’ll be afternoon, whereas in the woods, you wake up early and just start walking.  Hence the awesomeness of the nero out of town.

A wind advisory came out over where we were hiking from 8pm that night til 5 or 6 in the morning.  That was spot on.  Inspector Gadget set up his tent, but he had to take it down eventually because the wind was too bad.  We could tell we were close to town because we still had cell service.  We drank some beer by the picnic table and fell asleep to 50 mph wind gusts.

The wind woke me up several times that night and we all seemed to have an unspoken agreement to ignore our impulses to get up and slept in until 6:30 a.m.  We started the morning with a beer and packed up to go.

Before we knew it, we’d done somewhere between 6.5 and 7 miles to the next water source at Van Dusen Rd.  None of us quite believed that or the fact that we did a 1000 ft climb already in two hours.  Naturally, we took an hour and a half break because we could.  We stretched and ate and ate some more.  Eventually, Inspector Gadget made it too, despite not feeling too great.

The day, for once, never got too terribly, unbearibly hot so we could hike right through the heat of the day.  We cruised right through the day without noticing how fast we actually went.  Much of the day, we somehow kept up 3 mph.

We stopped for dinner near the trail camp with the shitter which we all used except Safari.  Just as we left, Gadget caught up again.  We managed another two miles then dry camped up on the ridge instead of down by the cold creek.

The morning was super cold and I had one of those times where I ate breakfast in my sleeping bag and then just sat there and stared at my stuff hoping it would magically pack itself.  Eventually, I got it together and started walking.  The first ten miles went by pretty quickly in the morning.  Until I hit 17 boy scouts who I thought had scarecrows attached to their packs.  Some of them were half my size with double the amount of shit with them.  The first group huffed and puffed, “Are there any flat spots up there?”

“For all of you…maybe in 3 miles.”

The second group ignored me completely.  The third wave of them asked me where I was going.  “Canada,” I said.

“No shit,” said the adult.

When we got to the Deep Creek bridge, we went down to Safari and ate lunch in the shade.  All the thruhikers were in the shade and all the day walkers were in the sun.  We compared notes on the boy scouts.  Dead Animal had told them 2 miles to the flat spot and Hop-a-long had said about 1 mile.

“I totally asked them how far to the bridge and they said anywhere from 1 to 4 miles.  Oddly enough, the groups farther back told me the longer distances,” Hop-a-long said.

“Is this the way to the hot springs?” A day walker asked with nothing but a beach chair on her back.

“No, it’s that way.  It’s about 10 miles though,” Dead Animal said.

“They said it was five miles round trip!” The day walker said shocked. “How do I get there?”

“…walk…” Dead Animal said after a pause.

We continued laying in the shade listening to the absurd amount of day walkers going by making an incredible amount of noise.  They seemed to increase in number during the hottest portion of the day.  The five of us, Shutter Bird, and four Israelis were all napping, eating, or enjoying the shade while all the day walkers hiked and complained about the heat. Hmmmm.

“Shit! Kids going in the water source!” Hop-a-long jumped up to get water before they went in.

“There’s already kids in the creek, look,” Dead Animal said.

“Damn.”

The little kids walkd downstream in bathing suits with their dad.

“Daddy, I have to pee!” The littlest one said.

“Don’t pee in the water source, don’t pee in the water source!” I started to say since I hadn’t already gotten water.  They started walking upstream.

“She’s just going to go upstream to pee so we have to triple treat our water,”  Dead Animal commented.

A bit later we heard her screaming and crying.

“Yup. Totally peed upstream,” Dead Animal said.

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We felt lazy and Inspector Gadget felt sick, and, well, we hadn’t had any beer since 8:00 a.m. the day before, so we hitched into Big Bear City early at mile 250 on highway 38.  It was not the easiest hitch.  It took about 45 minutes to go in two groups since there were six of us.  Hop-a-long and I split to help the guys since people seem to trust girl hitch hikers more.

Eventually we got in with a truck that had an enormous husky in the backseat.  I sat with it and it honestly outweighed me, but it was a super sweet dog.  We got a room at the motel 6 and began cycles of showering and laundry.  We did get around to food, but apparently too late as everything closed around 8 or 9 at night.  The front desk guy scrambled around for us and found a Chinese place that delivered and said it was the only place open and delivering besides an expensive pizza place.  We went for it.  It sucked, but due to extreme hunger, we ate the styrofoam filled with msg.

That evening, we managed to stay up well past hiker midnight to watch the epic awesomeness that is Game of Thrones on HBO. But after that we passed out until 6 a.m. when we got up and got our slackpacks ready.  Shags, Hop-a-long and I started trying to hitch back to Rainbow Lane where we got off at mile 250 around 7:30 in the morning.  In the meantime, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, and Safari went to breakfast at the Lumberjack Cafe.

Amazingly, they finished breakfast and we were still standing there. Our next thoughts were to split a van taxi, so we called the only taxi company in town and they told us $33.  Six ways, that’s reasonable.  But then, as we waited, Safari decided to keep trying to hitch out and gets picked up by a very beat up white station wagon that had a Slipknot sticker on the back and a woman who outweighed him at least by a factor of two.  We feared for him.

When the taxi came, we got in and the dude started driving until he asked us, “Does anyone want to use an ATM?”

Now, we’re all thinking we can scrounge enough cash for $33 that we don’t need an ATM.  Inspector Gadget asked him about what the lady on the phone said about the price and the driver started flipping out because it was actually a double rate since we had more than 4 people (which we had expressly stated in the phone call).  We got out. Lucky for us, we had gotten about a half mile down the road and he dropped us at a small market that made hitching easier.

Hop-a-long and Inspector started hitching and got a ride within about 20 minutes in a white pick up.  Shags, Dead Animal and I then started hitching and picked up a ride from a super sweet woman ski instructor in about the same time.  Hitching is much easier in twos and threes.  Occasionally, four works, but rarely more than that unless everyone piles in the back of a pick-up truck.

A few miles down the road, we saw Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget hitching again.  Apparently their first ride wasn’t going as far as the Rainbow Lane, about 10 miles down the road.  We got dropped off first and walked over to the trail and sat down to wait.  Safari had blasted off.  We drank a beer while we waited and they came not too long afterward.  One of the Japanese guys came and joined us for a moment, Wanderer.

When we started hiking, we hit the animal cages where Hollywood apparently put large animals such as bears, tigers and lions.  After a few pictures and petting a 3-legged dog, we continued on down the trail.  Eventually we realized we needed to haul ass to make the post office hours to get Inspector Gadget’s laptop out of his bounce box.

The trail threw a few obstacles in our way of hauling down the trail.  First, we found Safeway brand sodas and a couch sitting on the side next to a beat up dirt road.  Naturally, we had to sit on the couch.  It’s not often such luxury just appears on the trail and thru-hikers are the laziest group of active people ever.  Then we found a picnic table at the water source at mile 256, and due to the lack of picnic tables on the trail, we stopped.

From there we did haul down the trail with our super light slackpacks.  Near the road, we saw name brand sodas from Motel 6…better than Safeway brand that Nature’s Inn left.  When we got to the road, it only took three cars before we got a ride for four of us.  Safari was nowhere to be found and Shags had gotten just slightly behind.  A super nice woman got Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget to the Post Office before it closed.  Laptop, check!

We headed to the hostel across the street as well because a few of us had packages there and we wanted to examine their hiker box.  You can find some amazing stuff in hiker boxes.  And food.  I found a disposable razor which made me super psyched.

We ended up checking out the liquor store over there on the way out and saw another group of hiker trash also making a beeline there.  Converging on the beer, we noticed it was Knees, Hollywood, Extra Credit and a few others.

From there we went to sit at the bus stop to get a ways down the road to Pongs (highly recommended restaurant).  After about five minutes of looking pathetic, a guy stopped and gave us a ride there.  Now, Pongs is a place with hiker portions.  All of us had enough food to stuff ourselves silly and have a whole other meal for breakfast.  Not long after we split into two groups to hitch back to the motel, Double Sprainbow yelled out of a car window, “Wanna hitch???”

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Naturally, we fit seven people in one of those old person cop look-a-like cars.  They had rented the last car in Big Bear because they needed a zero and the town is so spread out.

Back at the Motel 6, we caught up on a Game of Thrones marathon, drank beer, and lounged.  First of all, the room did not come with an ice bucket, so we made one of the trash cans into one and kept the beer cold in it.  Second of all, we decided to be cheap and fit 6 people into one room the second night.  It was a bit cramped, but ok…we managed three of us on one double bed too.

Sleeping in, we were going nowhere fast until the sun cooled down.  We packed up, went thrift storing, and got stuff ready to either send out or put it in the hiker box.

“Anyone need hand sanitizer? I have some extra.” I said

“I’m good,” said Dead Animal.

“I have enough,” said Hop-a-long.

“Why do you guys all need hand sanitizer??” Safari asked.

“Your hands are the biggest vector of spreading germs,” I replied.

“Poop germs,” Dead Animal said.

“I only poop in town,” Safari shot back.

“That will change,” Hop-a-long laughed.

We then sat at the bus stop to get to the Post Office when a super awesome old guy named Don with at least a 6 inch beard and an 80% timber wolf in an SUV pulled over and threw all six of us with packs in the back and drove us to the Post Office and the grocery store while we stalled to escape the heat.

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Getting to the I-10 overpass, we figured out the service road we had to hitch on and thought, “oh shit, this could take a while.”  But then a car pulls over almost immediately and out pops Beardo, who apparently had some nasty stomach virus and had to get three bags of saline pumped into him.  His friend who had dropped him off gave us a ride to the Cabazon Post Office.

Yogi’s guidebook description of the town was spot on: “kinda creepy.”  We grabbed our boxes and went to the corner market to grab a snack and try to hitch to the next town over, Banning, to grab a room for the night since our knees and feet hurt after the never-ending descent from the San Jacintos.  Supposedly, a bus existed between the two towns, but no one we talked to knew where it was or could give us a straight answer, some of which was because English was clearly not their first language.

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Eventually we got a ride over to the street with all the cheap motels after the van dropped a few people off at the casino and everyone seemed to call the driver “dad.”  Our “non-smoking” room definitely had a few burn holes in the carpet and one in the comforter, the toilet mostly flushed, and the TV was pretty fuzzy, but we did manage to get the Silence of the Lambs to come in clearly, so we watched that after getting amazing Thai food across the street.

The next day, we stayed until check out then wandered “downtown,” got our picture taken with a little kid who thought it was awesome to just hike all the time, then watched a $3.75 matinee of Dark Shadows…sweet movie.  Eventually, Pete met up with us (a friend from high school) who had driven over from LA.  We got more awesome Thai food and he gave us a ride over to Ziggy and the Bear’s house right off the trail and we hung out there with the other hiker trash.

They had an awesome shade set up there with chairs, an outside washing sink, clothesline, charging station, porta johns, i.e. awesomeness.  Dead Animal and Shags managed to catch up late that evening.  We spent the night there on scraps of carpet which surprisingly added a lot more comfort.  The morning scorched us from the start.  We started packing up and almost left but then Inspector Gadget and Safari (whose slave world name used to abe Ari) rolled in and we all decided it was too hot to hike out until evening.  That was our 8 a.m. decision and man was it the best decision in a while.

During the day, we snoozed, read, drank cold soda (beer was not allowed unfortunately), and played Rummy, best card game ever.  We did find a spray bottle with water which saved us from completely roasting, even sitting on our asses in the shade.  Quite literally, we sat doing nothing and we dripped with sweat, sucking down liter after liter of water.

Eventually, we did leave, although not until about 5:30 or so.  We had to go up 2,000 ft from the get-go.  Being the lazy ones we are, we found shade in a dug out by the wind farm two miles later and lightened our packs by drinking a few tall boys.

Before we knew it, we got up to the top of the first climb which took a steep turn all of a sudden right by the top.  We all, meaning: Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Shags, Safari and I, hung out at the top looking back down at the interstate below and the flashing lights of the towns.  I managed to wring out the back of my shirt which was drenched in sweat.  We got headlamps on then and meandered along the trail for another few miles.  We passed a huuuuge toad and managed to take pictures with our headlamps.

We ended up getting about 10 miles after a few shenanigans to the first water crossing where we crossed the large creek and found a flat spot in the wash on the other side and fit five of us in fairly close to each other where we passed around another few beers while we cooked dinner at 10:30 at night.  Shags declined our awesome spot to go a few more miles while the weather stayed cool at night.

4:30 a.m. came way sooner than we thought.  I knew the day would kill us when I could throw off my sleeping bag and not be cold at 4:40 a.m. in shorts and a tank top.  We left by 5:30 and hiked through more of the large wash which actually was confusing in pre-dawn light.  Of course, it climbed immediately out of the wash.  At the top of the climb, the oven turned on, i.e. the sun rose.  I rung the back of my tank top out of sweat by 6:30 a.m.

We took a break 6 miles into the a day under a super sweet tree at the second creek crossing.  Looking at the map, from there we had to climb 5,000 ft.  Fantastic. We drank the rest of the beer so we didn’t have to carry it up. It tasted awesome at 8 a.m.  Leaving there, we decided to find a shady tree by 10:30 a.m.

About an hour after the tree, I saw a fat 2 foot rattlesnake chilling right in the middle of the trail and I had to wait for about 5 minutes for it to move.  Eventually, after a half hour search for a decent tree, I found a tolerable one.  Hop-a-long and Safari made it there, but Inspector Gadget, Dead Animal, and Shags ended up at a previous tree.

We cooked lunch at 11 a.m. or so, then slept.  I woke up soaking in sweat and realized the shade had moved and I was partially in the sun.  Sluggish, I sat up.  Hop-a-long was more and more in the sun and Safari had woken up covered in ants.  The ants were shrugged off and I set up my tarp so we could go back to sleep and/or read.  So far, I’ve set the tarp up more for shade than to sleep under at night.

Eventually, when all shade had left that area and it still managed to cook us through the tarp, we packed up and moved over toward the creek.  Luckily, for once, as in the first time on the trail, we followed a creek for several miles uphill.  Good thing since I sucked down a little over 6 liters of water that day.

We did manage to leave the tree, but not until 5:45 p.m. making it about a 7 hour break.  The sun was still strong and amazingly hot.  Continuing up and up, we ran into the wilderness boundary sign.  Usually those signs don’t lie…it’s only the ones that have mileage markers on them.  This one lied.  The boundary, according to two different maps marked the boundary considerably two miles or so after where the sign was, causing us to think we had gone further than we thought.

Eventually, we did figure that out and gave out from tiredness around 9pm, making it a 17 mile day…not bad for having a 7 hour break.  On the last, steeper part of the climb, we ran into the first Poodle Dog Bush.  We had all been warned far more than probably necessary.  Main message: don’t touch it or you die, and especially don’t smoke it.  I made sure I had my headlamp on bright to see it all, some of which was right in the middle of the trail.  I felt like I was in a video game like Donkey Kong were I was walking and if I touched the Poodle Dog Bush, I died, but if I got around it, I got bananas.

The next morning, we lazily did not move until a little after 7 a.m., mostly because we had managed to gain 4000 of those 5000 feet and the air was cooler up high, mixed with these wonderful things called trees which provided more shade.  I still am having trouble conceptualizing trees up high and small, scrubby bushes below.

We took a long time at the first water source because none of us had much energy.  Not to mention, Inspector felt sick.  He claimed to have very bad tasting burps and a stomach ache.

“Have you filtered your water?”

“What have you eaten?”

“Have you puked?”

“What color was your shit this morning?”

Gut feeling’s comment from a few days ago popped into my head, “why do bodily fluids and bowel movements always somehow come into the conversation when you get three or more hikers together?”

We had to finish that climb, then we had two more smaller ones that contoured small peaks in the region.

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