October 3, 2017
Exposed Ridge Camp – Manzanita Bush Camp just North of Mt.Williamson
10.5hrs/?miles (many miles!)
What a night. What a f**king night. The first time I wake is from the flap-flap-flaping of the tent vestibule that’s come un-staked. I hear this through my very efficient ear plugs. Which is precisely when I realize I am socked in with mist. It feels like I’m camped on the Labrador Coast. I can barely see the hand in front of my face. The wind rages. The mist blows. I am on an exposed ridge. This is not ideal.
One thing is certain, this is going to be a long, long night.
I do a quick fix, tying the vestibule off with some cord onto a low and hearty high desert brush. Back to sleep with the earplugs so tight in my ears I’ wondering if I will be able to retrieve them in the morning.
I’m up again at 3:25am. I don’t hear this time, I feel. What do I feel? The tent, half collapsed on me. Who knows how long it’s been this way. I guess the earplugs worked. I guess I might as well get up. There is no hope staking this little tent down with the raging wind having picked up more force as the hours passed. I stay in the tent with it’s damp, moisture laden rain fly drying itself off through the mosquito netting, onto and into my sleeping bag. I am calm through the whole process and take my time. I leave the earplugs in and there is a strange sensation of being underwater as I get out of the tent, collapse the lone remaining side, roll it up before it blows away, pack my bag with the stuff sacks full of everything that is soaking wet from the mist coming from gawd knows where. Before I’m finished packing the sky miraculously clears. Stars twinkle above as if to say good morning, wind rages over my entire being and what feels like the whole earth, the momentum of its force to strong.
I take all but five steps and am in darkness save for those twinkling stars who now seem to giggle down at me. The little headlamp that saw me through over half of the Appalachian Trail and 40 days of this southern PCT walk has crapped out. The same one I dropped in the creek before Pinchot Pass when I fell in that early morning, that shone up at me and said ‘hey I’m down here, let me light the way for you’. No. No no no no no….
I change the batteries to brand new ones I always carry. Nothing. I fiddle, tap, shake it some more. I flip the batteries around. I get out my cell phone and use its light to make sure it all makes sense, those batteries, this headlamp. The worst of my concern is not the darkness nor walking in it. It is that the next miles are through some major poodle dog brush, everything I have is soaked from that mist, it is cold and early and there is NO WAY I AM STAYING HERE ANY LONGER in this situation.
There is two more hours to the light of day. What to do? I use my phone as a light. I don’t realize the phone has a flashlight option so all I use is the light of the screen that keeps going out every few minutes. I have gloves on because it’s so cold so have to take them off every time this happens. I don’t carry a spare battery nor a re-charge devise so what this phone has by way of charge since leaving Casa de Luna is all I have. Damn.
I walk with my down jacket+wind jacket+gloves+toque+knee-high-woolen socks+Buff up to my nose. I walk and shriek when I see the dreaded PDB clusters on the trail. I shriek when I see something in the dim light of my phone that sorta-not-really looks like the PDB and have to laugh. I reach the busy highway with all the cars transporting people to work and bolt across when it is barely safe but not going to get any safer to do so. I think about stopping at the Ranger Station to get water from a spigot that is apparently there. I miss the place to enter what seems like a compound but really isn’t it’s just so damn dark and misty again. I walk right by and don’t realize it until over a half mile later. Oh well. Keep walking. I have enough water for coffee/butter/hot chocolate and man am I hungry after rage-shiver-cold-speed-walking the past few hours. Finally, I stop on the trail and have a little boil up as light comes to day.
Soon after this long, long day of walking in which I see only 2 day hikers and two section hikers drags on and on and on. I stop after 6 hours to dry out my tent, my sleeping bag, my stuff in the hot warm sun. I sit and chill then pack up and walk many more miles. More mist and fog and cold enters the afternoon. I’m grateful for the morning reprieve that allowed my gear to dry. I walk the road where there is an endangered species closure of the PCT. The alternate route does not make sense. I feel like I’m in the twighlight zone with little to no traffic and the incessant wind and fog. Yet there is no rain and I’m grateful for this, too.
I stop and make camp with ample light. There’s no way I’m going to set myself up for making camp in the dark with no headlamp and little battery left in the phone.
Like magic, as the sun is setting the sky clears and I see all around the glorious space I call home for the night. Mountains and lighting and Manzanita all around leaves me happy and loved and safe and secure in this natural world.
Tired. Happy. Grateful.
October 4, 2017
Manzanita Bush Camp – Hwy 2/Wrightwood/Ina!
A wonderful late start waking at 430am. Late compared to 3am that is. I rise this ‘late’ because of the lack of headlamp and drained i-phone battery. I leave camp at 530am using the last of my battery charge and the glow of the screen to guide the way until light. And then it happens. I am shuffling along doing everything I can not to crap my pants. The ground around is hard-packed white gravel-dust and impossible to dig into even with my trowel. Oh no. I just make it to the road and find a side road with some space that is not used nor traveled and far enough away from any movement corridor, dig a hole and oh my sweet relief. I can breath again. Holy crap. Close call. It happens more than you think on a hiking trip.
Up and up past Williamson Mountain. Past the turn off and down the trail to the beginning of the climb up Mt. Baden Powell. I don’t even walk up the few hundred feet to the latter mountain with the stars and stripes fluttering in the wind honouring the founder of the Boy Scouts because, well, I am more interested in my good friend Ina Yoko Teutenburg and her doggie Princess Sophie who are NOBO on the trail to meet me today somewhere out there. I am so stoked to walk with Ina. We raced bikes together/against each other and she is the most respected and feared female road cyclist for reasons I won’t go into other than saying you don’t fuck with Ina. And, she’s awesome. She is the toughest looking chick I know with an inner sensitivity that belies her tattoos, her still thick German accent and her ability to ride a bike better than most guys I know. Oh, ya, and she almost won a medal in the London 2012 Olympic Games finishing fourth, not to mention winning so many races on the international calendar I would need a whole other webpage to highlight. Ina. Most importantly, my friend, Ina. One of the few gifts I came out of countless years of suffering in the sport of road cycling with is a friendship that continues to grow with this awesome lady.
I see so many day hikers making the trek up to Mt Baden Powell. I feel awkward because I’ve seen so few people for days now out on the trail. I’m so close to Los Angeles and grateful not to see the city scape. I just don’t have an interest in looking at a massive blob of sprawl coughing out fumes of pollution in what was once a beautiful place on earth.
Then, Ina. Sophie. We say hello and they turn around to head SOBO, back to the car. The plan is we’ll walk together a week or so. Ina hikes as if she’s walked all the way from Canada. I can barely keep up. I’m tired (always tired) and haven’t had much food today with my supplies almost gone. Sophie trots along as if she’s a thru-hiking dog, too. Ina has her pack loaded to test things out. I know she has more weight than me and wonder how the hell I am going to keep up with her. I am not surprised and this is why I love Ina so much. She takes control of every situation and gets shit done.
Ina and Princess Sophie
Eight miles later we are at Ina’s car. Soon after we are in the town of Wrightwood, the funky little ski town close to San Bernadino that has not changed much if at all in decades. Ina has friends who have a house there (actually she has a friend who was born and raised there) so we’re lucky to have a wonderful place to stay for the night. No gentrification in Wrightwood. What you see is what you get and I have to say I like it. The hardware store is the unofficial trail hub. They have the package I sent and a whole system of accepting and distributing hiker boxes. They have a registry and I see my SOBO hiker trash friends where here the day before; are long gone now. We go to the local pub. I devour the biggest sandwich known to man and a salad. And a few Ina approved beers (she is German after all). We go to the grocery store, back to the house, eat more food, then Ina makes me even more food, we hang out looking at our phones and Guthook’s app to see what the next few days in store. Yes, Ina doesn’t need to look at my phone because she already figured out there is an app for the trail, finds it, buys it, masters it and before I know it she’s out driving a few gallons of water for us so we don’t have to carry so much the next day. My hiking friend is doubling as a trail angel. Ina is the best.
So happy. So tired. So very grateful to be with someone I love and respect. So stoked to have some company the coming days for the hike. Goodnight.