Aka Picnic! I am an 18 year-old homeschooler and college go-er in Reno, NV who likes to backpack and hike. I did the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2015, the John Muir Trail in 2016, and I am currently thruhiking the Pacific Crest Trail, from picnic table to picnic table all the way to Canada...
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May 25th- Day 34- miles from ridge before Vasquez Rocks at mile 447 to Hiker Heaven aka the Saufley's at mile 454.4
The sky is dark and I strain to see stars, without luck. Kyra's alarm goes off at 4:30 and I wake up enough to realize that we're in the middle of a cloud or fog bank. I'm warm in my sleeping bag and I don't want to get out. I'm grateful for the warm nights lately, and not having to go to sleep with cold spots and shivering.
I hike in the front, slow, my feet tired and my knee muscles achy. Kyra walks next, quiet, and then Hop Along with her freshly injured knee. It feels luxurious to hike without my hat. It's cool enough that I'm not sweating but it's so humid in the gray, dim mist that I feel gross. Ugh. I hate humidity. It makes me want to curl up in a ball.
We come over a ridge to see the highway cutting through the gray. It's overwhelming to see how many cars are coming through, on a random highway in the middle of the desert, early in the morning on a Thursday. It makes me anxious. Highways are not happy sights.
We talk and laugh as the trail teases us by winding along the road from a distance. There's a poison oak bush leaning over the trail that someone has marked with pink plastic ribbon. We finally drop down, and go through a culvert underneath the Highway. It's creepy and dark and I turn the flashlight on my phone on halfway through. A trickle of water flows in the center.
On the other side, we see Vasquez Rocks looming in front of us, curved and sculpted sediment tilted on its side and pocketed with holes. The stream running from the culvert is covered with flowers that have fallen into the water, and tadpoles wiggle along strips of algae. It's idyllic in the mist.
We stop and take pictures and laugh at ridiculous signs posted that point out different plants. How are people supposed to know what plant it's pointing out if there is a huge tangle of ten different plants by the sign?
Swayed passes by us as we wind in between the rock formations. We rise out of the for a bit into yellow grass and juniper Serengeti. We stop briefly to inspect the porta-potty at a trailhead. Hop Along comes back and reports that it's the fanciest porta potty she's ever seen, so Kyra and I have to go over to see. There's a mirror, a sink, soap, paper towels, and toilet seat covers. I see some vans drive in to Vasquez Rocks, and I find out later they're shooting a commercial.
We join a road and hike through to the center of Agua Dulce. We drop our packs at the cash register at the grocery store and get food for breakfast. Hop Along gets the avocados she's been craving, and I get a warm vegetarian breakfast burrito. We all split a four pack of cherry Reed's Ginger Ale.
As we're eating, a white truck full of hikers pulls up. It's the shuttle to Hiker Heaven, so I stuff the rest of my burrito into my mouth and jump in with Hop Along and Kyra. It's a 2 minute drive, by houses with horse pastures along a small paved road. We pull up and I get my pack from the truck bed.
We walk through a gate with a PCT marker, and immediately sit down to ogle and pet the dogs that come running over. There are 3 pit bull mix puppies that are all wriggles and hugs. We pull ourselves away for a quick tour, then back to the puppies. The mother of the 3 puppies comes up and covers my face with kisses before I can react. This is Hiker Heaven. I miss my dogs so much, and I just want lots of hugs.
We hang around and talk to people, and set up our tents. I still feel clean from my shower at the KOA but there isn't a line so I take a quick one anyway. Kyra gets on another shuttle to REI. Cotton Candy comes and she and Hop Along and I take the shuttle to town. We get Mexican, and I eat so much that I kind of want to barf. Hop Along is underage in the US (but not in Canada) and orders a mojito without them checking her ID.
Chris and Kelsey are in town to grab some food. Kelsey looks wild and dirty, his long beard mottled with dirt. Chris has a wheeze, and I say his trail name should be Wheezy, after the penguin in Toy Story, since he's a doctor for a polar expedition. He gives me the evilest eye I've ever seen, which is hilarious. I like Wheezy.
We catch the shuttle back, and hang around some more as more people I know come in. Rick is here, and Spider Bite and Galy, and the Trio, and the mermaids, the big group, Andrew, Morgan and her sister Louise, who started hiking with Morgan in Wrightwood after her college semester ended.
We get a ride into town again, and we get ice cream cones. We walk down to the liquor store to look for headphones for me. They have them, and as we're sitting in front of the hardware store while Kyra has her camera looked at, I try them out. A Vance Joy song comes on and I break into a huge smile and dance around. It's so great to be able to listen to music!!
We head back and wait for the shuttle in front of the grocery store. Twinkle Toes comes up and shouts my name excitedly when she sees me. The shuttle comes, and we stuff 22 hikers and 10 backpacks into the truck- Cotton Candy, Hop Along, Louise and I squeezed into the backseat, Morgan and another hiker in front, and everyone else crammed into the truck bed.
Then I hang out into the evening. I call my mom, talk to people, pet the dogs and horses, and get the box my family sent me. I get off the phone with my mom as it's starting to get dark, and sit with Twinkle Toes and Rick on the porch. Someone has a guitar and is singing songs by the fire pit, the lyrics to "I'm Yours" rising and falling as people join in on the chorus. Someone comes by and passes out glow stick bracelets "for safety"; I trade my purple one for a green one. We talk, then eventually I head back to my tent organize my things and get into my sleeping bag, which is so puffy from being able to sit out all day. I decide to go to REI tomorrow and get new shoes and socks even though the ride is 20$. My feet have been sad the last couple of days and I think new shoes will make them happy again. It's been almost 500 miles, which is about the right time to replace trail runners.
People talk late into the night and turn on their air mattresses. I finish writing and put my earphones in and tune out to some music. At least, that is what I predict I will be doing.
May 24th- Day 33- 16.6 miles from Messenger Flats Campground at mile 430.4 to ridge before Vasquez Rocks at mile 447
I can hear the rustle of people packing up. I look over and it's Hop Along and Kyra. The sky is still dark, but it's warm out, warm enough that I could be perfectly comfortable naked if that were my wish, which it wasn't. I pack up quickly with my red light and force myself to chew a couple of handfuls of trail mix. I sit to put my shoes on and decide to change to my second pair of socks, since the ones I've been wearing are encrusted with a mud that is a mixture of sweat and dust. They're dark and when I move them they crinkle like paper. My second pair have holes in them, in the big toe and on the bottom of my forefoot. But they're clean and smell like laundry detergent, which is luxurious.
I fold up my accordion foam pad, and wince as I fold up my crinkly Tyvek groundsheet. Hop Along and Kyra have already left, headlamps bobbing away in the dark. The noise I've made packing up has woken up other people, and I can hear their zippers zipping. Tents begin to glow like fireflies around me.
I head out. There's the faintest smudge of sun on the horizon in the crook of the mountains, greyed-out purple and orange. I smell the Poodle Dog Bush in the dark, and realize that I need to watch out for it still. I hike slow, my feet and legs warming up. I dip into a forest with hanging mosses and dead trees piled up on the slope, and think about every single horror movie I've had to watch the previews for, the horror TV shows I've accidentally watched the pilot episode of, every creepy pasta video I've watched over my brothers' shoulders, the time when I was middle-school aged and after my classes all of the kids would play Slenderman under the tables with the lights turned off.
Then the sun breaks over the horizon and the valley below slowly fills with golden light. All of the evil things are gone. I come up on Hop Along and Kyra, and sit to eat a more proper breakfast (basically just more trail mix). Across from us, we can see the trail cutting across the sides of the mountain, so far away.
I hike with them the next couple of miles to North Fork Ranger Station, where there is a cache that is the last water source until Acton. Hop Along got in first and comes out of the restroom, and announces that there is toilet paper, to which we cheer. Then we walk down the road a little bit more, everything still shaded from the sun by the mountain we just came down from. There's a cooler of sodas and ice and trail bars maintained by the rangers, which are a dollar each. I only have a 20, so Kira throws in a dollar for me and I get a cold Coke. I sit on the picnic tables and drink it, watching the big group roll in. I lick my barbecue Kettle chips bag clean, then follow after Hop-Along and Kyra down the trail.
It's hot, and my feet are sore. I leapfrog with a couple who I don't exactly remember the names of, Cowboy and The Flash being unofficial trail names they made up and aren't taking, as the big group passes by us, practically running down the hill. I try to keep up with them for a while to see what it's like, but I have to slap my feet down clumsily to match their pace. My feet hurt so I stop. At what point do I switch to a new pair of shoes? Mine feel pretty shot, the foam compressed down to almost nothing in some places so I can feel the sharp edges of rocks.
It's hot, and I'm sweating. I can see the ribbon of green down below where the road must be. A raven croaks and circles around in the strong updraft. The wind buffets my face. The sky is so blue i have to squint. I put sunscreen on my hands and the back of my neck, but it just slides around and mixes with a film of sweat.
I try to learn how to whistle as I go around the flanks of the last hill before the road where I'll walk to the Acton KOA. I blow air through my lips and try my tongue in different positions, but end up just raspberry-ing in frustration. I plop down in the dirt by the side of the trail and use my service to read articles on how to whistle. Everything contradicts everything else.
Kyra catches up and we hike the last .8 miles to the road together. My shirt sticks to me with sweat, even though there's a beautiful breeze that picks up my hat and throws it onto the side of the trail.
Kyra stops to leave a note for Hop Along, whose other knee is bothering her now, and I walk past a movie warehouse place to the KOA. There's a big teepee and a field of grass with a rotating sprinkler head spraying water into the air. I see the glint of the blue pool water and squeal a bit about it with Kyra when she catches up.
We plop our packs down on a picnic table in the shade, and we go into the store to register. I pay for showers and pool access, then go back and get a pint of rum raisin ice cream. I sit with Kyra and eat it with my spoon. A guy who is looking for David (aka This Way) comes up and gives us cold sodas. I tell him I haven't seen him since he passed me walking up out of Cajon Pass.
Then I go down to the showers and clean myself, and wash my hiking clothes in the shower, rinsing them until I don't squeeze out gray water. It's glorious to have a shower room to myself and not have to rush to finish for someone waiting or for a timed shower.
I hop into the pool and swim around for a bit, stretching my left knee, which has been tight and sore like the right one was a couple of days ago, before Deep Creek. I think it's just normal grumpiness after pulling a 24 mile day yesterday. I sit in the sun to dry, almost falling asleep.
I pull myself back to the picnic tables, where Hop Along and Kira are. Cotton Candy shows up, and we all get pizza delivered from a place in Acton. I almost finish my half of a large veggie pizza, olives and mushrooms and onions and slices of green bell pepper. I shove the rest in a ziploc bag and pack up to leave with Hop Along and Kira. I will gladly pay 15$ for pizza, apparently, but I refuse to pay 15$ to set up my tent here on a patch of dirt. Priorities.
We hike out, slow, complaining about the uphills in commiseration. I've been hanging around a lot of Canadians, and I realize I've started to end some of my sentences with an "Eh?".
We hike in the wind through wavy rock formations, the beginning of Vasquez Rocks. An outlaw named Vasquez hid here for a while. A bunch of TV shows and movies have had scenes shot here, including Star Trek and The Lone Ranger. It makes me happy that Leonard Nimoy was probably in these hills.
We consider a spot along a ridge, but decide it's way too windy. Nowhere is flat, it's all hillside, but we find another ridge that is more sheltered from the wind a minute later, and set up cowboy camps side by side. Hop Along eats her leftover pizza from a ziploc with her spoon, and we show each other pictures of our families and pets. Eventually we all cuddle up into our sleeping bags and stop talking and fall asleep.
May 23rd- Day 32- 23.8 miles from Sulphur Springs Trail Camp at mile 406.6 to Messenger Flats Campground at mile 430.4
I wake up to everyone beginning to pack up around me. Swayed, Larry and Amanda are at the picnic table, almost ready to go. With my cowboy-camping superpowers, I'm up and walking before anyone else. I hop over the creek to use the outhouses there, then walk down the road, looking for the PCT sign we saw on our walk in yesterday. I can't find it, so decide to head back to the junction. The PCT split three ways, one heading south, and two heading north, which was confusing.
After bushwhacking my way across the creek, I see the PCT sign on the road, and take the trail across the creek again. I meet Swayed, Larry and Amanda there as they're walking out. Swayed starts laughing, since I got out a good 2 minutes before them and clearly got turned around.
"I went in a bit of a circle," I say sheepishly.
The trail goes along the road, and reconnects where the other trail from yesterday crosses. I think one of them was an equestrian route, but which one I'm not sure. I warm up my calves and feet, and then cruise for what feels like a hard two miles. I catch up to the Terrible Trio after falling behind for a snack break, as I will now call Swayed, Larry and Amanda, as they've all got an evil sense of humor. Or humour, since they're all either British or Canadian.
I'm surprised to come upon Anika and Julian, since Julian looked knocked low for a couple of days, sick, after Baden Powell. Apparently the probiotic drink mix I gave them helped a lot, which I'm glad about.
It turns out we've actually gone 5 miles, which is a great surprise. I sit down with them, and eat barbecue potato chip crumbs. "What is Swayed doing?" I ask, since he's further down the trail, talking to someone. They tell me there's service, after a day or two without it! Woohoo! I become the official announcer of cell service to passing hikers, and get to text my mom, and confirm my arrival date into Agua Dulce.
I pull myself up eventually, leaving a crowd of hikers with phones in my wake. It's another 5 ish miles to the next water source, at a fire station. I put my head down and cruise. A sobo stops me and tells me where the shortcut trail to the water is.
I come up to the water, and find about a dozen hikers crammed into the shade of the outhouse. I claim the picnic table with the Trio, and I filter water from the faucet and eat snacks from my food bag. The faucet sprays everywhere and I get soaked, which is good because it's hot. A construction crew comes up and sets up shade and tables, but they're just taking a lunch break from the heat and not feeding us. Entitled hikers, we are, who associate cars and people with magic surprise food.
Everyone leaves, one by one, and I claim a spot against the back of the outhouse where it's shady and eat some more food. I'm the second to-last one out, before only Pascal, who is part of the big group/clique I've been traveling around. These big groups are so contained and cliquey. When everyone is all together they just talk with each other and largely ignore the other hikers. I'm pretty sure that's how it was when I was with my group, which is now a day behind and completely morphed and amalgamated with another group. They're now calling themselves "the Assholes" apparently. But now I hike solo so I'm not even a part of them anymore, and I just hop around from person to person and meet new people to hang out with every couple of days.
I follow some hikers from a distance back to the trail, through the Mill Creek Fire Station complex and across a road. The sun is hot, and I hike, looking up from my feet to check for snakes or Poodle Dog Bush, or to glance at the dry, burnt-out hills. The sky is a single, harsh blue under the brim of my hat. I can't tell if I'm soaked with sweat or water from the faucet anymore. Sweat trickles down my bra. I have to wet the roof of my mouth periodically with my tongue, to keep it from being completely dry as I pant the hot air with my mouth. There's a merciful breeze that barely helps.
It gets cooler as I get higher and onto the other side of the mountain, where a wind threatens to take my hat away. I can smell the hot, sweet, cloying smell of Poodle Dog Bush before I see the little castle-cloisters of bright green. It's everywhere, and I'm careful to avoid it.
My feet start getting tired a mile before the stream, and I plop down in the shade for a couple of minutes with Cotton Candy, a hiker I haven't seen since camping in the Boulder fields near Sunrise Highway on day 4. She has blue cotton candy colored hair that sits in buns on top of her head, and a hot pink shirt, and green leggings, and is generally colorful and spunky.
We get to the stream in a mile, and I filter water while sitting by the big group. Everyone leaves except for Kyra and I. I eat some peanut M&M's from the huge ziploc Twinkle Toes gave me while Kyra soaks her feet, and then we hike together. Kira is a super quiet person, but we stop every now and then to admire a view or a bunch of flowers or a burnt out tree that fell over, blackened roots holding enormous white boulders.
We're hiking through some tall grass in an overgrown area full of Poodle Dog when the grass right by us erupts with buzzing. I freeze, and Kira jumps back. "Where is it?! Where is it?!" I ask. Kira tells me to move further down the trail. We watch the rattlesnake and wait for it to move. It disappears down the slope, and Kira moves by cautiously. We hike the long switchbacks together up to the top of a ridge, through forested slopes.
At the top, mountain tops rise faint and blue in the distance above a sea of white haze. Green mountains roll away below. The sun is bright and slowly falling to the horizon. It's so beautiful I want to cry, and I slow down to a snail's pace to enjoy it, walking with Cotton Candy while Kyra stops to put her knee brace on.
I throw down my groundsheet and sleeping pad at the campground, and dig out my sleeping bag to air out. The campground is officially closed, the tent-sites overgrown with grass, the bathrooms and trash cans locked. I sit and cook dinner with Cotton Candy, Hop Along, and Kira. We talk about our favorite Haiyao Miyazaki movies and I share the home vacuum-sealed bag of Parmesan I got in the hiker box in Wrightwood. The big group hangs out at another picnic table. We're excited about the ice cream and pool at the Acton KOA in 14 miles- we debate getting up early to hit the pool in the heat of the day.
I watch the sun set from my sleeping bag as I brush my teeth, stratified pink and orange glowing on the horizon. My dirt tan is super intense right now.
May 22nd- Day 31- 14.3 miles from Buckhorn Camp on Endangered Species Detour mile 3.1 (between miles 390.2 and 394) to Sulphur Springs Trail Camp at mile 406.6
I get my food from the bear box and go to the bathroom, and am packed quickly with my new groundsheet. I head through the campground to the trailhead that will take me back to the PCT. I'm hiking by two dayhikers and two other thru-hikers for a while before they drop behind. Soon I'm back on the PCT, along a green mossy stream. My feet ache from walking on asphalt on the road walk yesterday.
The trail has been a steady up with very few stretches of down since Cajon Pass, and today is no different. It's hot and I put my head down for the most part and push through it. I'm walking through sparse, dry pine forest, along the ridges and flanks of endless pine-covered hills. I don't see anyone all morning, which is super nice.
I am startled by a rattlesnake on the side of the trail as it moves away. It's about two and a half feet long, black, with a blonde rattle that sticks into the air as it moves unhurriedly in the shade. I watch it for a while and eat some string cheese, then move on.
I hike around a girl named Kristen as we get close to the 400 mile mark, even though we don't really talk much. I see the marker and take a picture, then move on. I've been hiking for a month today. 400 miles in a month- I'm pretty happy with that. 400 times 5.5 (the months I'll be out here, about) is 2,200. With my faster speed in Oregon and Washington I'll be set to finish on time. We'll see my time through the snow in the Sierra...
I find two girls I met in Wrightwood, Hop-Along and Kyra, at Camp Glenwood a half mile later. It's basically just a locked-up building with some outhouses, picnic tables, and a faucet that sprays everywhere when I try to fill up my dirty water bag. Hop-Along is hilarious, and Kyra is super quiet. They decide to walk to the Highway 2 crossing in another half mile, in the slim, tragic hope that there will be trail magic. At the very least there will be a trash can, an outhouse, some picnic tables, and shade.
I join them and we goof around and talk and crack up. We sit in the shade by the front of the outhouse and eat our food. Kira and I make some ramen. The outhouse vent is right by me and whenever I talk it echoes back at me. We discuss Gatorade and whether it actually tastes good; I don't think it tastes very good at all, but I say I'd definitely go for some right now. I mention that I don't have any earphones, and it turns out Hop Along has an extra pair that she upgraded from, and she gives me her old ones. Yay! I can't wait to listen to music at night, and maybe some podcasts.
There aren't many people driving by. A couple of dayhikers we saw hiking here pass by to use the bathrooms and tell Hop-Along and Kira they won't make it to Canada at the pace they're going, even though they're both recovering from knee injuries so they have to go slow; they also made rude comments about their pack sizes. Rude-jerks.
A car pulls up and a guy hops out. "Would you guys like some Gatorade?" he asks.
"Yes!" we say, and he hands us two big bottles of cold Gatorade. There was trail magic at this parking lot after all! We just had to wait for it.
We eventually head out in the heat, Hop Along and Kira right behind me. We catch up to Swayed, Larry and Amanda as they're filling up their water bottles from a small cache. I hiked with Larry and Amanda coming down from Baden Powell. We hike in front at first, and then they leapfrog us as we stop at yet another outhouse along the trail to pee.
There is a ton of Poodle Dog Bush along the trail here. It looks like such a friendly plant! Hop Along, Kira and I catch up to Swayed, Larry and Amanda again and we form a big hiker train. I hike in front because they designate me as the fastest, even though my legs are sore and tight right now. Kira and Hop Along continue hiking, and I go with Swayed & Co. to a campsite with picnic tables and outhouses along a creek.
I'm fully planning on making some dinner here and then hiking some more, but soon there are people trickling in and I don't have the motivation to leave. I hang out with Swayed, Larry, Amanda and Godongo at a picnic table, with a big group at the picnic table over. They're all hilarious and awesome. Larry and Amanda are from Canada and Larry is always saying "Eh?" At the end of his sentences.
I make a ziploc of chocolate pudding after my dinner and snacking, and I'm too full to finish it, so I trade it for some high chews with Shakedown at the other table.
As we're getting ready for bed, some puffy little cloud cover is coming over the mountain. Swayed teases me about me cowboy camping, saying it's going to rain even though it's obviously not. His 2-person tent is right next to mine, so I tell him I know who I'm crashing if it starts raining. We all crack up. I really enjoy those three. I think I need to find some people like them, who aren't super into drinking and weed and partying and other boring things.
I'm sitting in my sleeping bag in the dark, putting my new earphones from Hop Along in, when the plug snaps in half. I stare at it for a few seconds and then resign myself to another couple of days without music. I'll finally stop being lazy and get some in Agua Dulce.
May 21st- Day 30- 23 miles from Grassy Hollow Visitor Center at mile 370.3 to Buckhorn Camp on Endangered Species Detour mile 3.1 (between miles 390.2 and 394).
I wake up early of my own volition. I'm fully awake and it's warm out. I eventually decide I should just get up even though I don't know what time it is, and pack up super quickly. I fold up my fresh Tyvek groundsheet as quietly as I can, as it crinkles loudly. It's so much faster with a groundsheet for cowboying and not just using my tent!
I eat random things and fill a water bottle up at the faucet. The water is cloudy and I filter it, as suggested by the rangers here. Then I'm out, the sun rising and casting long shadows on the forest floor. The trail switchbacks down to the Highway, and I pause to use the bathroom and empty my trash and eat before starting the switchbacks up to Baden Powell.
I hike behind a guy named Bill for a while, as I'm always faster when I'm matching someone else's pace. That way I'm not lazy and fighting the urge to take breaks every ten minutes. The switchbacks are challenging but good, my pack not feeling too horrible, I'm sweating and focused on the trail above me, trekking poles pumping back and forth to keep up my momentum and pull myself upwards.
Near the top, we start hitting snow banks, and I and the other hikers head straight upwards, getting back on the trail where it switchbacks again. Catch 'Em is here, playing rap and Disney movie soundtracks from his phone out loud. It's kind of annoying so I hike ahead.
We pass a tree along the side of the trail that has a memorial sign for a guy named Walley Waldron, with the PCT heading off on the right.
I continue straight ahead and I'm at the top and I set my pack down against a squat little obelisk memorial for Lord Baden Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts. I walk up the last hundred feet to the proper top, and look at the LA sprawl for a while before heading back to eat lunch. I sit with Catch Em and a thruhiking couple, listening to the Lion King soundtrack on Catch Em's phone. I think it's one of the only Disney animated classic movies I've actually seen.
We head down, navigating around and over even more snow banks. They're not bad at all. Julian and Anika are down camping off the side of the trail. Apparently Julian is pretty sick. I remember that I have a probiotic drink powder and give it to Anika.
I hike behind a Canadian couple, Larry and Amanda, as they slackpack. If I can match someone else's pace I'll go much faster and I manage to keep up with them until Little Jimmy spring. There is cold spring water flowing out of a pipe into a trough, and someone has made flat-top log benches to sit on. We talk with two day hikers who are super excited to get to talk with us; one of them wants to hike the PCT sometime soon. They're doing the JMT this summer and they have the same start date as I did! It feels weird to have hikers come up to us and be in awe of us; we're just walking. But, then, I was the exact same way.
After drinking the cold, delicious water, and eating some more bagels with cream cheese, I head out. We all stop again at Islip Pass. From here, you can either do a 20 mile trail walk around an endangered frog detour, or go further along the PCT and do a short 2.7 mile road walk around. I elect to do the road walk with a bunch of other people.
The PCT goes straight up for 4 miles, along the tops of ridges with views of LA. Even though we've been above LA all day, I haven't had service at all. I cross the highway again and do another short section of climbing, then rest at a picnic area. I boil water for the Mountain House sticky rice and mango I got in Wrightwood, because it's one of my favorite foods. Then I let it sit in my mesh while I start the road walk.
I decide to play music as I walk, and I sing loudly as I pick my way down the road on the shoulder. I switch from each side of the road several times to get a better shoulder. It's not that dangerous; there aren't that many cars, and there's always at least 3 feet on the side of the road to walk on. It's the first time I've been able to listen to music, since my earphones died and I haven't replaced them, and I thoroughly enjoy myself. The sun gets closer to the horizon and bugs zip through the air, glowing like dust motes in the late-afternoon light.
I get to the turnoff and am hiking into the campground when I see a man jogging back and forth in a small clearing, and turn my music off. He's blowing air out of his mouth as he runs. He isn't wearing a shirt and car keys dangle from a loop around his neck.
"Hi!!" He says, and asks whether I actually need my trekking poles for stabilization when I'm walking. I say no, but that I like them.
"Where did you come from?"
"Mexico," I say.
"Habla Espanol?" He asks, cocking his head to the side.
"No," I say, and explain that I'm hiking from Mexico to Canada on the PCT.
"You're surely not alone?"
"Please tell me you're carrying pepper spray."
"Nope." I say. At this point I'm walking on, and he asks if he can jog with me into the campground for a while. He jogs in circles as he continues to talk to me.
"But, bears, cougars, and rattlesnakes come out at night and attack you," he says. At this point we're in the middle of the campground and he points to the information board. "It says on that sign." I just shake my head. He points out a poster with a bunch of events listed for Memorial Day weekend. "Look, there's a talk about snake risk," he says.
I look at the poster. Biologist with snakes, it says. Huh.
He says he'll make some dinner soon and I can join him after he's finished running, and then he starts jogging around the campground. I set my pack down and open my sticky rice with mango. It's absolutely disgusting so I throw it away; slimy, liquid mango cubes, dehydrated rice, sesame seeds and some sugary water.
I fill up my water bottles at the faucet; the running man points it out for me on one of his lackadaisical jogging loops. I reluctantly agree to join him for dinner, since we're in the middle of the campground with a ton of other people around, so it's not like he can do anything too weird, and I can't turn down real food.
I sit down at his table and he pulls a paper bag out of his car. He starts pulling out peanut butter jars, baby food that he got on clearance for 10 cents, and muffins that he got for free at his college reunion. I eat a muffin and talk with him for a while, which is super weird. I realize suddenly that he's autistic... I awkwardly explain that I need to hike on and find a campsite further up the trail for the night before the sun sets. He offers me a spot in his campsite, but I say no, and he asks if he can hike with me up the trail for a bit, and I say no thanks, I'm good. I say goodbye, and he's super sad and says he'll be lonely. He's definitely on the autistic spectrum so he doesn't mean it in a creepy way because he thinks I'm his friend, but that doesn't make it much less creepy. I'm glad to walk away.
I walk up through the campground and see a bunch of hikers. They invite me to camp, and I quickly change my clothes and put on a hat so the guy won't recognize me from afar, which would be awkward and unwanted. I eat the rest of my bagels and cream cheese for dinner, and we make a fire and hang out around it. Runner guy, now in a shirt, continues jogging around the campground.
The couple I met on the top of Baden Powell and Godongo are super fun to talk with, and we talk very late, standing around the campfire even after we've put it out. Our senses of humor jive, and for once I seem to be on the same pop-culture bandwidth as someone else.
We realize how late it is (10:30) and we crawl into our beds. I'm cowboy camping and a huge spider keeps on scuttling up and trying to get in my sleeping bag, which freaks me out.
May 20th- Day 29- 1 mile from Highway 2 and Wrightwood at mile 369.3 to Grassy Hollow Visitor Center at mile 370.3
I sleep in until 7 in the gorgeous bed. Michelle pokes her head in to wake us up. Heath has made a big breakfast- fried eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and bacon for the meat-eaters. Michelle bakes bread so there are also slices of toasted homemade bread. Heath introduces me to the concept of peanut butter on pancakes- as well as a healthy amount of butter and syrup. It's all delicious. Then we pack up quickly and they drop us off in front of the gas station in town. Twinkle Toes and I look at each other and just say, "Wow!" The world is awesome. Thank you Heath and Michelle!
Twinkle and I head over to the Mountain Hardware store to pick up packages. I get a package with a sheet of Tyvek since my polycryo groundsheet ripped down the middle. They sell it here, though, and there's already a Tyvek groundsheet in the hiker box. Oh, well. I spread out the crinkly white sheet on the asphalt and cut it down to the size I need, then put my old ground sheet and the remaining Tyvek in the hiker box. It's so loud, but I hear it gets softer if you put it in a washing machine or as you use it.
I leave my pack in the back patio of the hardware store and go to resupply at Jensen's, a building down. They have a hiker-food section and "Hiker" logo labels in the aisles to point out popular hiking foods. This town is so friendly and cute! Everyone knows about hikers.
I repackage my food back at the Mountain Hardware. Catch 'Em is here, after being evacuated out of Mission Creek due to his heart problem. Apparently a guy named Nightcrawler wearing Levi's and blue Nikes stole his heart medication and wallet at Deep Creek Hot Springs. He also stole the donation jars at both the Warner Springs Community Center and at Mike's Place. If any sees him, watch out... It really sucks that there are people like that on the trail, let alone in this world.
The entire back patio is set up for hikers, with hiker boxes for food and gear, a register, and a trash can. Twinkle and I head our separate ways- I hang out at the tables in front of the bakery and edit my journal posts and post them up on my blog.
I'm almost done and am thinking about finding a place to fill up my water bottles and hitching back to the trail, when Twerk walks up. He hiked through the night to get here from Cajon, only stopping to sleep for 4 hours. It's really awesome to see him. I tell him the bakery's closed and give him a hug, then we head over to a restaurant and order food. I get a veggie burger again, but this one is 100% better than the one last night: avocado, sprouts, soft bun, thousand island dressing, and hot, salty fries. Twerk has a small appetite as usual and takes forever to finish his BLT.
Sam from England, aka Tallboy, comes in and joins us. The pull of wanting to stay in town and wait for my friends is strong, but so is my antsiness to get out of town and save money, especially when I'm all ready to go. Tarantino comes and says he might have fractured his foot in this last section, and might be having to get off trail for a while. Karmel and Ram are getting off, too, because of Karmel's Plantar Fascitis. Is this the part of trail where people start getting off due to injuries? It's scary to think about having to stop, and sad to see people get off.
I head over to the Mexican food place with them. When I'm walking a car pulls up, and it's Craig, a guy who found me through Sounds of the Trail and always leaves me super-sweet messages asking how my hike is going through Instagram. He's in town after hiking up around Baden-Powell, and recognized me from a distance because of my poofy hair. Wow!! He says to get in touch if I need anything in the next hour because he'll be in town.
I sit with my friends at the Mexican place. I feel really torn about wanting to get hiking again vs. staying. There's no point in staying though, because I'm ready to leave and would be wasting around 60 dollars on splitting a cabin and meals... I call my dad, and decide to head out. I ask someone at the bar inside if they can fill my water bottles, and then start walking to the road to hitch.
Then I remember Craig and decide to see if he'd give me a ride back to the trailhead; it'd be nice to talk to him some more. He says yes, after he and his friend finish eating, so I walk back and sit at the table with Twerk, Rawhide, Tarantino, and Tallboy. The group I hiked with just a week or two ago has changed and morphed so much, and I feel outside of the group mindset. Craig texts me and says he's finished, so I say goodbye and walk out front.
It's awesome to talk to Craig and his friend as he drives me back to the trail. I tell him the story of how I got interviewed for Sounds of the Trail. So freaking weird and cool that we met! He asks me how I'm doing and I reply that I'm doing great and taking it slow and enjoying myself.
I meet an older hiker named Ninja Tortoise who has done All The Trails and I walk with him the mile to Grassy Hollow Visitor Center. He's almost done a triple crown, except for the last 150 miles of the CDT because they were closed when he came through. He's done the AZT, Florida Trail, and a bunch of obscure ones I've never heard of.
We get to the picnic area, and I set up my cowboy camp. I see Twinkle Toes coming from a different part of the campground and wave. "Picnic!" she shouts. It feels nice to have someone welcome me into camp. There are a ton of other hikers here. Marble, Soulshine and Sprite and Roadshow... I don't have the time to catch all their names. I make the mac n cheese I've been carrying forever with refried beans, which tastes just OK. I'm not too hungry after my late lunch.
We all joke around, and stand around the fire someone has made in one of the picnic barbecues. A couple who's been taking their time and started almost a month before me has made melted spam and cheese sandwiches. I listen to Ninja Tortoise and another hiker compare the merits of different actors in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.