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Posts Tagged ‘Trail Magic’

Since we had woken up at 4am and hiked all day, we planned to stop at sunset again to allow ourselves to catch up on sleep again. We had seen another spot around 11,000 feet on the map and were aiming for that before we soared up to another set of ridgelines. At that point, 11,000 feet had begun to seem low.

All four of us hiked slightly different paces toward the end of the day and had spread out a bit before camp. About a mile before the spot we wanted to check out for campsites, I saw a trail split. Remembering that we no longer had the Colorado Trail with it’s signs, wide trail, and easy grades, I stopped and checked Guthook to make sure. A well trod path extended slightly to the right and a spur broke off the to left and looked distinctly less traveled. I knew we were supposed to stay contouring for a bit and the well traveled path looked like it went straight down into the valley. Sure enough, Guthook noted a junction and that we needed to stay left on the less noticeable trail.

I plodded along and found Crosby sitting on his pack by a water source reading a book. I sat for a bit and we found ED, but no Memphis. Continuing to the spot we thought about camping, we found good spots and set up. Still no Memphis.

E.D.: Do you think he took the wrong turn back there?

Me: Maybe, that was not an easy one to catch.

Crosby: Memphis would like sitting down at a fire if he did take the wrong turn. Let’s get one going.

Campfire

We set about doing so, got it going and began eating when we saw his blaze orange hunting vest draped over his pack. We “cooed” to get his attention and he beelined for the fire. He plopped down.

Memphis: I went down that horse trail back there. I went…down. About 1,000 feet down.

The sky changed colors as the sun went down over the ridge and we eventually migrated to our tents and I convinced everyone to get up early again to make the miles we needed to get to the road at a decent time. We had contacted Karla, per Karma’s recommendation, and given her a day that we should get to Wolf Creek Pass, but we hadn’t had any cell service to give a more accurate ETA.

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The other side of the sunset from the campfire.

In the morning, we all got up a little slower, but started hiking upward immediately again. We hiked along a ridge and crept up to the highest point left in this section and sat to watch the sunrise. The whole sky and tree cover below had an orange glow. It seemed magical. It got more magical when we noticed we had several bars of cell service and LTE.

Good morning!

Right as I was wondering if 6:15 am was too early to message Karla, she messaged me. We gave her an ETA at the pass and she said either she or Mark would be there and to keep her updated.

We also got an email from Frodo who was organizing a finishing party for Scout in Chama the following evening. She said she’d be willing to come get us from Pagosa Springs and drop us back off. We responded back with a “yes, please!”

Last but not least, I found texts from The Darkness. It read:

The Darkness: I’m Creede Cut-Offing for you all. See you somewhere around Wolf Creek Pass or Chama at the latest.

We texted back our plan while we let the sunrise warm us. The trail meandered down and all around smaller ridges, a few lakes, and then went tantalizingly close to the road, but not down to Wolf Creek Pass for several miles.

At the bottom of the pass, we found a cooler with sodas. We had one while we waited for Mark to pick us up. We did not have to wait long and Mark didn’t even seem to mind our smell! He knew we would want food first and suggested the Mexican restaurant in town. Karla met us there and we all ate plenty of delicious food.

They took us home and let us shower and helped us with laundry. It was such a nice change to be in a house instead of our go to cheap motels. It was topped off by sleeping in the man-cave and some a-mazing pancakes in the morning! It’d be hard to beat the trail magic from Karla and Mark.

Karla brought us over to Riff Raff Brewery where we found Axel and Let It Be having a beer. We joined while we waited for Frodo. After a group picture and big hugs from Karla, we all jumped in Benny, the van Frodo was using up and down the CDT.

Photo Credit: Axel

She brought us to a motel in Chama where we found Scout, Whistle (who we hadn’t seen since Lincoln, MT around mile 300), Guy-on-a-buffalo, Apache, and Wonderer. So much of Scout and Frodo’s family joined and it was a fantastically supportive group of people. We were later joined by Ridgerunner and K2 as well who had finished their flip a few days prior.

There was dinner, cake, root beer floats, and some beer. Scout and Frodo were so gracious to come get us, too. A lot of us stayed up late talking and were a little slow to move in the morning. We did eventually figure out rides for who needed to get where and were unsuccessful at convincing Whistle to take several zeros and wait for us.

When we got dropped off back at Wolf Creek Pass, we realized The Darkness had skipped town there and had gotten about 5-7 miles ahead of us. After some quick texting back and forth with a horrible picture of a dead creature on the side of the trail, we had a plan.

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Exhausted from Knapsack Col, the miles went slowly. The Winds were rocky with lots of ups and downs…and totally gorgeous like the Sierra’s. Smoke had also poured in from fires on the west coast leaving a new haze.
We were all running slightly low on food and according to Yogi, we had to be at Big Sandy Lodge, where we had sent resupply boxes, by 3pm to get dinner. I was chugging along when I saw E.D. and Memphis ducking under some sort of white fence around a rock. I stopped to look and heard:
“Want a hot cocoa?!”

Me: “Do I ever! Yes, please.”

“Bring a cup!”
I set my pack down, dug out my stove for the bottom protective cover of the jetboil which I can use for a cup. As I sat down, a corgi jumped into my lap.

Two ladies were out on a horse packing trip and had some extra food to share; they were Lannie and Tammy.

As we chatted, Lannie whipped up hot cocoa and deliciously soaked in oil tortillas with refried beans. A wonderfully greasy helping was just what I needed. It hit the spot!

We stayed and talked for about two hours. Conversations ranged from thru hiking to NOLS to horses to bear food storage; that’s when we found out that the fence we walked through was electric, so they could just put their food in and turn it on as bear proof food storage…horses are handy creatures to carry such things out into the back country.

After exchanging contact information, we kept hiking another five miles. Fueled with excellent food and company, those miles flew by in comparison to the morning miles.

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Our food bags were heavy once again to avoid being hungry, although all of us had become bottomless pits and shameless about free food.  We had an easy, quite pleasant first five miles back on trail, but I had eaten almost a full loaf of super heathy bread and could feel it expanding it my stomach making me want to lay down, letting the stream ease me to sleep instead of walking.

The fall foliage had come into full, beautiful bloom sending a thousand different colored leaves dancing through the air with every breeze.  The wide trail without too many troublesome roots made it quite easy to walk staring straight up into the tops of the trees looking at the colors and not pay much attention to where it led.

Eventually, we came upon a brilliantly flat campsite with a privy, a crude shelter with a picnic table, and a perfectly clear stream running right through it.  Hop-a-long, Scout, Natty, and I set up camp and ate dinner at the table appreciating it like no one but a thru-hiker can appreciate an old picnic table.

In the morning, Natty woke us up at 5:45 and immediately started his jetboil for coffee.  Wanting to sleep, I rolled back over dozing until I heard the stove turn off, then mustered up the energy to eat and pack up.

“WHERES MY SPOON?!” Natty yelled, jolting me awake more.  “I left it right here!” he exclaimed searching around everywhere.  “Something took it!”

“What’s it look like?” said Hop-a-long, looking around where we had eaten dinner last night.

“It’s the orange Yogi spoon!”

When no one found it, we determined something did indeed confiscate the spoon.  Hikers get very attached to their spoons, especially one they have carried for well over 2,000 miles.

We went up, up, and more up to Rainy Pass the rest of the morning.  As soon as we came up out of the big trees to the littler, more shrubby trees and wide grassy patches, we felt the temperature drop and saw frost glittering on each tall grass blade.  Leapfrogging each other until we found a suitable sunny spot, we took a break right on the side of the trail near a stream where Hop found a half pound of goat cheese chilling in the water.  After much deliberation, we determined that a.) someone had chilled it for a few moments in the stream and forgot about it, or b.) someone didn’t like goat cheese and left it chilling in the stream because they knew it was an easy spot to fill up water bottles and a hungry hiker would see it before it went bad.

With the sun a little higher in the sky, we moved further and further up valley until we came to Rainy Pass and sat by the sign on the side of the road and had a bite to eat again.  Natty decided he had brought too much food and wanted to play a joke.  He borrowed a sharpie and wrote on it: “Trail Magic, I read Wild” referring to the horrible Sheryl Strayed book that every woman over 40 thinks of immediately when you say “PCT.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUsually, we walk downhill to roads and uphill after them.  This particular one was quite draining because we walked uphill to it, then uphill after it to Cutthroat Pass.  The name alone is encouraging….right?  Crossing the road and going just up the trail, we came across real trail magic in the form of an epic cooler which gave us some motivation.  The rest of the climb was really not too taxing and gave us spectacular views from the top.

Natty and I got up there first and stopped to re-fuel when we met this awesome old hippie named Chris who gave us trail magic of the greener variety and chatted with us.  He had an independent, exploratory dog who wanted to sniff the entire world with unbending excitement.

Hop-a-long and Scout came up and we all decided to continue on until dark o’clock and see what’s there.  Judging from what we saw on top of Cutthroat Pass, we would contour and run ridges the rest of the way to Canada.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe days had become drastically shorter and the nights colder in the past two weeks or so, making getting out of the sleeping bag increasingly difficult.  We got to cruise downhill for some miles in the morning which was nice, but it did not get the blood pumping and my feet felt like frozen blocks attached to the ends of my legs.

We came across the last known water source before our last 2,500 foot climb on the PCT.  Then some middle-aged guys with huge backpacks came from the other side of the stream.  Natty clearly was not in a gear-talk or answer the weekenders questions mood, but I decided to humor them a bit basically telling them they had way too much shit with them, when one said, “Maybe you guys can help lighten my load, I have this bourbon here.  Do you have a cup?”

Hop-a-long immediately produced her tiny wine cup she had carried all the way from Truckee and used to mix drinks with various drink mix powders.

“I guess 11am isn’t too early to drink for you thru-hikers!” one of the laughed.

We laughed remembering sharing tall boys of beer at 5am in the desert when we woke up to get us moving.

They ended up giving us the bourbon as a celebratory drink for the end of the trail.  Awesome trail magic!  Now we had vodka, wine, bourbon, and jack!  They also told us we were only about an hour or so behind Agassi and Snow Turtle who we wanted to catch back up with again since they made it three miles further than we did out of Stehekin.

The climb was a long slog of switchbacks, but by the top, we had fantastic, sweeping views once more and a great knoll to eat a late lunch on.  The trail bumped along and began slowly going down toward Harts Pass which was surprisingly more busy than any of us thought.  I put on headphones to get through the hoards of people walking up from their cars a few miles and asking us if we’d read Wild.  Damn that book.  Just as bad as Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.”  Their actual writing was entertaining, but neither had any idea what they were doing and gave a fairly unrealistic picture of what goes on.

After all the day walkers, all of us wanted beer, so we sat by the trail head looking pathetic eating scraps of food for a while until Natty began flagging down every car asking if they had beer.  None of them did, so we walked on, trying to push another six miles to a marked campsite.

Leaving Hart’s Pass was not super well marked, but we figured it out and not long after, we ran into Lorax hiking south.  We OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApaused, talked, and kept walking trying not to get in too late.

When we knew we only had half a mile or so to go, we saw some headlights and yelled over.  It was Snow Turtle and Agassi!  We finally caught them!  Going a little further, we found the marked campsite which was not very flat or great, but tuckered out, we stopped and passed out pretty quickly, after eating of course.

The next morning, we leapfrogged Snow Turtle and Agassi for a bit, went through Woody Pass after being thoroughly temped to take the old PCT over the large scree field to avoid the 700ft or so descent only to climb immediately back up 800ft, but the reports seemed to say it was unstable.

After Woody Pass, we had only a little more uphill contouring before we went down for about 14 miles to Monument 78, the Canadian Border.

We cruised down wanting to drink the booze we’d been saving and carrying for 80 miles from Stehekin.  That was the furthest I’ve carried booze, not drinking it along the way.

Hitting the monument felt so epic, we began celebratory drinks and photo ops.  We waited for Snow Turtle and Agassi to get the group shot.  Natty read us “Where the Wild Things Are” which someone had left with the register.

Eventually, we realized that we had to move our drunk butts a quarter-mile into Canada to camp as there were no spots by the monument.  We built a fire in the ring and sat around finishing off the hodgepodge of alcohol we had.

The morning came and I looked over to see what I thought was Natty cowboy camping and yelled over at him to wake up when he answered in the opposite direction.  Hop-a-long was near me and looked as utterly confused as I was.  We investigated and found Magellan!  He had gotten in absurdly late pulling a 36 mile day to make the 11am greyhound bus from Manning Park so he didn’t miss his flight.  He had done it, just like Knees had made his absurd goal.  We all did.  Nine miles to food that’s not whatever is leftover from our packs!

Making it there early, we beelined for food and ate quite a lot.  We had a slight mix-up finding my wonderful trail angel mother who had a cooler of beer because we arrived too early and she waited by the trailhead.  It eventually got worked out and we relaxed.

PCT. Mexico to Canada.  April 29th to October 7th, 2012.

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After more awesome trail magic, detailed in “Pass the Beer“, we set off up the hill…it’s always up after town and full stomachs.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I got going after lunch and planned to make it eight miles to the first campsite at Ridge Lake, a solid climb of around 2,500 ft later.

The mountains changed south of highway 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and north of the highway.  They became more rugged, remote, and more scenic.  The most difficult sections are always the most beautiful.  They shot straight up to the sky, then dove furiously down into a valley; and let me tell you, there were many valleys in this section.  The PCT tried to contour as usual, but the contours were wrought with rocks and changed elevation quite frequently for contours.

We passed Magellan on the climb who seemed to be moving slower than normal, but ok.  He said he ate too much before leaving.  That food truck next to the gas station was dangerously enticing for thru-hikers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe top of the climb ended in a tiny pass where we made a short hop over to the other side of the ridge, looking at the sunset in one direction, and a beautiful array of clouds in the other direction.

Those beautiful, mysterious clouds that we stared at began moving in quicker and quicker until we could barely see more than twenty feet in front of us and we almost missed the tiny ridge lake that we sought.  It lay in a saddle on a rather small ridge.  Scout scouted out the best campsite in no time and no more questions were asked about how he received his trail name and we set up in the mist of the cloud that blocked the sun and sent shivers into our bones.

While we ate dinner, we saw a headlamp moving slowly through the fog, scanning the area, but unable to see much, so we called out and directed it toward our campsite.  It turned out to be Magellan, grateful for flat ground and dinner time.

The morning brought much of the same.  We had camped inside a cloud, with its lack of visibility and all of it’s moisture.  None of us wanted to get out of our nice, cozy sleeping bags.  When we did, we found the trail again through the intense fog and headed onward to Canada.

Amazingly, after we left the saddle and made it a little way up the ridge, the fog went away giving us an amazing view of the valley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfilled with clouds while the ridge tops glowed in the morning light.  It really hit us that we had truly been inside a very small micro-climate the night before.

Compared to the long, steady climb that we accomplished the day before, the next eight miles seemed to drag on forever.  The trail shot up and down over ridge passes, shale, trees, wind, calm, all with a chill making it very difficult to keep the right layer system on and not sweat too much.

We took a break looking mostly into fog, but every few minutes, the fog would thin, giving an eerie glimpse of a jagged peak jutting upward from the ridge.  Our breaks did not last long or we would become too cold, so we kept moving.  At the top of the last ridge before a several mile descent, we caught a bit of sun and dried out our rain flies, grabbing a bite to eat.

The downhill seemed glorious, partially because we could hike easily with only one layer on.  A waterfall cascaded down across the trail and we crossed a small bridge and filled up on some delicious tasting fresh water and grabbed more to eat.  Already the afternoon, we kept trucking to the bottom of the valley, only to climb another long slog up to another large ridge.

In about half a mile as the birds fly, the PCT managed to fit six miles of switchbacks to cut the steep grade down.  I could not bring myself to count the switchbacks, because that would just be depressing, but cranked some tunes and enjoyed the increasingly better view the further I climbed.

We all stopped for a snack on top of the ridge and Snow Turtle and Agassi came walking up.  Somewhere we had passed them while they ate lunch off trail.  This particular ridge stayed fairly level for about a mile or so and we meandered along passing many small tarns and very damp ground.  All at odds of how far we wanted to go, we all stopped in different places, ironically, within a mile of each other.

I found a sweet spot with a great view over the next valley that fit my tent perfectly.  It was much easier to get up the next morning to a brightly colored sunrise instead of dense fog.  The four mile descent was still freezing because the sun had not yet hit the valley floor, just the ridge tops.  I leap-frogged Snow Turtle and Agassi all day up and down, up and down.

We passed Cathedral Rock and I pondered the creativity of the early explorers and mountain men who seemed to lack originality in their naming devises.  I understand the whole “wilderness as a church” thing, but not every mountain that has a few spires needs to have some religious crap attached to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain, we hiked down off the ridge, passed Deception Lake which reflected a perfect mirror image of the trees surrounding it.  I decided to continue on a little further until I got tired and ended up camping in Deception Pass which was surprisingly thin compared to the last several passes we’ve gone though.  I found a great one-tent spot and set up shop.

In the morning, I ate breakfast with Lush and Man Party who decided to speed up to finish.  Apparently, Challenger was waiting with Only A Test’s car for them at Stevens Pass with their resupply so they could all hike out together.  Snow Turtle and Agassi passed through too and had a “you’re from Mississippi too!” moment and then kept hiking.  They said that Hop-a-long and Scout had gotten to Deception Lake the night before.

The five of us eventually set off, leap frogging through some more very annoying bumps, one of which was incredibly steep, despite obvious attempts at switch backs.  I definitely had to blast the iPod to get up that one.

We all ran into some incredibly nice older people out for a day hike who lounged in the sun.  We wanted to join them but food and beer called our names with only a few more miles to go.  Everyone seemed to have underestimated food through this section and were either running on empty or the scraps of what they had, but really did not want to eat.  The trail difficulty had surged our already large appetites into over drive.

Stevens Pass came after we dove down the ski resort and found Challenger and Only A Test who gave us beer and soda while we waited for Dead Animal who had been there, but got a call from Hop-a-long and Scout who had taken a side trail down skipping several miles of the end due to lack of food and ended up somewhere random on the side of highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish.

Clown car piling in, all of us made it down to the diner and motel for a large meal.  We went to the Dinsmore’s to grab our resupply packages and say hi to those there, but wanted a bed, so we ended up with rooms instead.  None other than Bounce Box and Major Upchuck seemed to rule to roost inspiring some good old drinking and croquet.

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We woke up in a cloud on top of a ridge.  This particular cloud seemed to create its own weather system that could not exactly be classified as rain nor mist; neither could it be written off as water falling off of trees from the breeze.  Definitely wet and cold enough, I kept my shell on and attempted not to sweat quite so much, but without much of a pack, I found it hard not to fly through miles.

Dead Animal could meet us at around 10 mile increments on various logging roads that he figured out.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I set off for the first chunk, cold and slightly wet.  Hop took an early lead and her legs got soaked the worst from brushing up against the wet vegetation.  We bounced around the top of the ridge and noticed just how localized the weather situation was since we could see clearness in spurts to the east, while we could see nothing but white to the west.

I almost missed east coast rain for a few moments in that stretch, remembering how I sent my rain gear home somewhere in Pennsylvania on the AT because the rain was so warm it acted more like a free shower.  But then I remembered how frequently it rained and the general wetness and I appreciated the PCT a bit more.

We found Dead Animal just as planned and we all sat on mats eating lunch together and trying not to get cold from lack of movement.  Some fresh vegetables were most welcome from the cooler.  We took only an hour break trying not to lose what little motivation all of us possessed and set off on another 10ish mile chunk.  I threw some tunes on at that point to distract my mind from focusing on the crappy weather when eventually I ran into a sobo section hiker who exclaimed amazingly over the drone of my headphones,

“TRAIL MAGIC FIVE MILES AHEAD!” and scampered south.  Instantly excited and newly motivated I sped up and caught Hop-a-long who laughingly told me he came up on her taking a pee on the side of the trail.  They talked in the process.  Only. On. Trail.

We surged ahead completely missing a supposedly major landmark of a weather station just off trail with an outhouse.  Halfmile even made a GPS marking called “Out House.”

Hitting the road, we saw PCT trail bandanas strung up like Buddhist prayer flags across the trail and a large tarp over a circle of chairs filled with a barbecue, cooler, and entertaining beverages.  Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee welcomed us, gave us comfortable chairs, and placed hot food in our hands.  Heaven on a rainy day.  Dead Animal was there brewing up some delicious hot chocolate.

Before I knew it, Hop-a-long had found the best beverage there, something Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee only called “Tasty Goodness” and she dumped some in my hot chocolate.

We caught back up to Snow Turtle and Agassi who had a good bit of tasty goodness and spent a good deal of the afternoon enjoying it.  Blood Bank had the longest stay record that day doing a long 0.7 mile from the weather station down to the road and staying there.  Scout got there about fifteen minutes later and came up with the biggest grin on his face that matched every other thru-hiker’s.  Two section hikers also had holed up there who were local-ish Washington boys, one of which was having quite a bit of fun convincing Agassi to drink more.

I totally meant to get further to make a half day in town with my mom and aunts, but the trail magic was way too awesome and the weather was way too shitty.  From there, I would have to make 18 miles before 1pm, our agreed meeting time.  After several hot chocolates with Tasty Goodness and later some root beer vodka, I decided staying was a much better option.

Right before dinner, Knees showed up who Hop-a-long, Dead, and I had not seen since Wrightwood (mile 368).  It was great to catch up with him for a bit.  Tahoe rolled in late as well as Straw, Willie, and Magellan.

The trail magic came at such a perfect time and turned around my whole attitude after the rain.  I didn’t even care if I had to make miles the next morning.

I managed to wake myself up at 5am and leave by 6am with my new-found motivation from the trail magic and motivation of mom-made baked goods at the end.  I shot up hill, saw Snow Turtle and Agassi’s makeshift camp spot, just far enough up that they wouldn’t be tempted to wait and stay around for breakfast.

The miles were not as hard as they had been and I was able to cruise my way around the bumps through the mud.  I went hard for the first 10 miles and then stopped to stuff half of a large bag of chips down my throat thinking that should give me at least 600 calories or so to make it to delicious cookies and brownies.

The route down to Snoqualmie Pass was fine until I was about 4 miles out and all the day hikers were hiking up and I moved against traffic, having to give them the right of way.  A few stopped me and asked me the usual questions which I was really not in the mood to answer since food was so close.

I made it to the ski area and decided that running down the ski slope was much faster than taking the trail all the way to the road and I plunged down it.  I laughed as I walked down it thinking only that Vail’s bunny hill was steeper than that.

I found my mom and two aunts who had found Dead Animal, Pinky, Sticks, and Ahab.  Delicious beer made it into one hand and a large helping of vegan brownie in the other and I was happy.  We decided to hobo it up in the parking lot, all sitting right down over a few parking spots in the back, drinking and eating.  Eventually, the rest of the pack at the other trail magic made it to my mom’s trail magic and we had quite a posse drinking in a parking lot.  Classy.

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As we hiked up and over what seemed like every foothill, we began to see clouds coming in from the west.  All of our first reactions were something of a “huh…clouds” since we hadn’t seen any in at least a week.  Soon, the clouds got darker and bigger and looked like they could actually drop a wee bit of precipitation.  But no! Sand and dust began to kick up west of us and the wind began to howl and blast us on the left side.  Highway 138 was never far – I had started to see it about 10 trail miles from where we cross it, but the trail had to skirt quite a lot of private land.

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The weather had pulled a 180, going from making my eyeballs sweat to making me lean sideways into the wind in attempts to walk straight.  Luckily, we walked straight into Hikertown at the road where Sean gave us a tour around.  Hikertown was basically a home-made ghost town with the post office, city hall, the dentist, the grocery etc.  I found my box in the box office infested with ants that had gotten into 3/4 of the food.  I was super disappointed, as there was Mom-made rhubarb bread and a giant vegan cookie from Miracle Morsels (the best local granola company near my mom who resupplies me).

We called the store a few miles down the road who will pick hikers up if several wanted to go get food.  A nice guy picked us up and waited while we got food and listened to the local jabber which consisted of motorcycles, tequila, and guns. They found it amusing that we wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada.

“I should do that on my motorcycle!” One started.

“It’s foot and horse paths only,” I replied.

“Oh well, I’ll ride beside it!” He continued.

We attempted to explain contours and how it tends to drop off on one side and shoot up on the other, but then he just started talking about tequila again.

Back at Hikertown, we ran into the Canadians, Alien March, Sprinkles, Bacon Bit, and Gumby, hanging out in the hiker lounge, which really consisted of some couches in Richard the Owner’s garage.  The wind whipped up something fierce and it began to spit some rain as well while the temperature plummeted.

In the morning, the weather had not eased at all so we hung out, lounged, and ate while a few more people trickled in.  Safari came in with my sunglasses that had slipped out of my pack some 25 miles before while night hiking, Shags came in, Maverick, and a few others.  We got a surprise visit from Terri Anderson and Bounce Box too.

“The original owner of Hikertown was a little out there.  He used to paint a sign with whatever small phrase came into his head that morning.  The place was coooovered, I can see some evidence of that over there,” she said as we listened intently.

“When the place sold, we came over to make sure the water was on for the hikers and told them no one had moved in yet, so camping in the yard would be fine.  The next thing I hear is that some hikers who came by our house and had slept there, only to have the new owner wake them up with a plastic movie rifle.  There was an ‘ahhhhh’ from the hikers then and ‘ahhhhh’ from him and that just went back and forth until words explained everything.  The new owner had no idea he purchased land right smack next to the PCT or what it was.  Eventually, he gave in and reopened Hikertown.”

According to my trusty phone weather app that seems to like lying to me, the wind from the night before and that day was sustained 20-30 mph with 55 mph gusts and that would increase after 5 pm to 35-40 mph sustained with 65 mph gusts.  However, it seemed to die down a bit around 2 pm and the sun warmed us up a bit, so we left at 2:30 pm for a 16 mile walk along the aqueduct.  I was just glad to leave Hikertown.  Even for my standards it was sketchy and sleazy.

The walk along the aqueduct seemed long and mostly flat.  The wind smashed us all around but died almost completely around when we stopped for dinner with Marcus and Klondike.  Klondike had a surprise call from the New Zealand National radio which wanted a follow-up interview with him.  If you’d like to listen it’s at http://www.reallylongwalks.com.

The Mojave desert was not what I expected: it was super windy, not scorching me, and we had to follow the aqueduct in order to avoid more private land.  We passed thousands of Joshua trees and turned off wind turbines.  At one point, I leaned completely into the headwind and it held me up.  Other times, I amused myself with my shadow that was in front of me because the trail decided to take us a mile southeast at one point.  We got to the first water 16 miles in and searched for a flat and wind protected spot.

In the morning, we walked through some fresh construction near the wind turbines and began heading toward the hills.  I felt incredibly slow after battling the wind the previous night as well as that morning.  I was not the only one and we took a long ass break at the second water (the last for the day).  There, we met Tuna Helper who was on his 12th day and trying to break Scott Williamson’s speed record of the PCT.  I didn’t believe him at first because he wasn’t angry and running like every other mile hound.

“How many miles are you trying to do today” we asked.

“Probably 52 due to the water sources,” he answered.

He also warned us of the super sandy climb we had ahead up to the ridge.  He was right.  We contoured the foothills for 3.5 miles, then dropped a few hundred feet to climb 1500 ft or so.  The climb was all sand and made walking difficult, but the wind had died to a light breeze.

On top of the ridge, my stomach loudly announced that I was out of calories by rumbling until I stopped on a flat rock and raided my food bag playing the game of “how much can I eat.”  About a quarter-mile later, a blanket provided shade from a tree over a beach chair, apples, and bottled water trail magic.  It was an awesome surprise.

We then had a long, slightly bumpy descent into a functional wind farm where the wind made dodging the horse shit significantly more difficult.

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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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