October 5, 2017
Wrightwood – Dry Creekbed Camp
25.7 miles/8hrs 45′
The sister of Ina’s friend offers to drive us back to the trailhead. Another wonderful Wrighwood local, born and raised. Mary picks us up just after 6am. We drive into the massive full moon up the two lane highway. Twenty minutes later we are walking South on the PCT. I can hardly believe me friend Ina is here and we are doing this walk together for the next day/week/who knows how long. After all the years of bike racing shared, that we walk so slow with all our gear and no team around us is not lost on us. We both feel happy and lucky to have this opportunity. It’s still a relief after so many years in a sports system to be able to wander about, self-contained, on our own time. As it should be.
Damn, hiking is fun. It’s exhausting but still, so much fun.
We walk up and up on trails blanketed by pine needles. Up and over mom + pop ski hills. I lead the way because Ina is smart enough to know what we both know, we need to pace ourselves or the fun will be gone. Fast. So I walk the consistent pace I’ve built up to over the past 42 days. It’s easy for Ina and I am not surprised. We walk and talk about the things that have happened in our lives the past few years since we’ve seen each other. Sophie the doggie sprints back and forth with Ina warning her she’s gonna be tired. Real tired. But she’s a dog and does what all dogs do when off leash. They roam and run and bark and play. Us, we walk.
We enter a massive burn and smell the skunk-weed smell of poodle dog brush. I laugh when telling Ina how it made me gasp and cower a few days earlier with no light in the morning dark on the trail. The burn is one that came close to reaching the town of Wrightwood, apparently started by the spark from a chain hanging off a rail cart on the track while speeding along. The day heats up nicely making us relieved we started early. It’s a perfect first day for Ina and Sophie. I leave it to them to decide when we’ve walked enough.
The water bottles Ina drove out to cache the night before are tucked into the bush nicely. Soon after we find a massive water cache and laugh because we did not need what she brought out. Still, it’s good not the deplete a cache when you don’t have to, this just means more water for other hikers. Thank you Wrightwood Trail Angels for keeping this cache stocked.
Princess Sophie at camp
We camp less than two miles from a major freeway and a train track rambling loud with carts every twenty minutes. Thankfully we are just sheltered enough not to hear too much noise. Out come the earplugs which make the difference, as they always do. All I can think about is McDonalds less than 3 miles away for breakfast. We are surrounded by sandstone hills hard packed by the howling winds, full of little caves and tunnels for animals, century plants and, yes, poodle dog brush. Bright red-crimson coloured wildflowers wait for a visit from the many hummingbirds we see buzzing around. We camp in a dry creek bed and feel like it’s just us here on earth, even though the fast-flowing corridors of car and train movement are so close by.
October 6, 2017
Arroyo Camp – Hwy 173 – RV Camp with Cherokee + JD
Music blares from the camp next to us at the RV park. The occupants have more ‘camping gear’ than I’ve ever seen and keep bring out another box of something to assemble. They are having a good time. Harmless. Loud. Annoying because of the noise. Yet I feel happy they are ‘out here’ roughing it in the wild. It’s all relative. Though I am happy to be with Cherokee and JD, my Tehachapi Trail Angel friends, I do miss the silence of camping out in most of the places I’ve laid my hear each night of this not 44 day walk. The lake we are camped next to is an unusual bit of nature dubbed the ‘inland oasis’. Seems all of San Bernadino has come out to have their dose of the Great Outdoors, showers, flush toilets and that kind of roughing it All.
We are so happy to be here because poor Sophie had enough. She’s an 11 year old doggie who’s had knee surgery and her leg just gave out. Right when we got close to the place to get water with a spigot that happened to have good cell reception. Which was when I received a text from Cherokee that they were close by and planning on hiking a section the following day. They typically do a drop one car off, hike a long ways to the car from where they start (and leave another car), then pick of said left car at the end of an exhausting hike. They have knocked out a third of the PCT by doing this. Oh, and they ALWAYS leave awesome trail magic somewhere as well for hiker trash passing through. We are invited to camp with them. Soon enough, they are picking us up at a road, taking us back to their camp, and there we are listening to that music trying to fall asleep after beers and sausage and friendship shared with these two.
Long before this noise our day begins with the trek to Mc’D’s. Food. Coffee. People. We are inundated with questions about the trail, how far we’ve gone, what direction we walk, where we are from etc. etc. from so many folks waiting in line to order their egg McMuffins we feel like we just won a big bike race and fans are gathered around. Only we are dirty smelly hikers and they treat us so kind. I don’t know if Ina can quite believe the attention. Sophie is cool as a cucumber about it all, accepting free bacon when it comes her way.
I meet ‘Hamburger Helper’ while waiting in line to order my second breakfast. He’s a trail angel from the Eagle’s Rock area. He has helped hundreds of hikers and used to hike with a pack full of McD hamburgers, passing them out on the trail. Thus, the name. He has kind eyes and listens to my answers as to the above mentioned questions. He is on vacation with his wife, on their way to Oregon. I go to pay for my order when it’s made and the cashier says the man before me has left $10 to help me out. It’s too much. I cannot believe someone who helps so many gives even more. I see him waiting for his grub and thank him as best I can. Which never feels like enough. Wow.
We finally decide we better leave McD’s before we begin the lunch cycle of chow. Which would have been very easy to do. I have to say I think McD’s is gross but on the trail man I could eat my weight in its menu items. We wind our way up a climb, full bellies, burping along, in a state of disbelief that so many people know about the PCT and the variety of folks we got to meet simply because we are hiking.
We leave the roar of the i-15 and walk along a narrow canyon, still moist from a heavy winter of posture. The silence is serene and we feel lucky to leave the hustle and bustle and abundance of fast food behind. The sun warms then heats up the sand below. Poor Sophie has the sprit to triple crown the trails in the USA but her legs start giving out. It’s too much for this doggie and Ina has to, in one of the saddest statements, admit she has to admit her doggie who’s done so many adventures with her just can’t go so long and hard anymore. It happens to us all, dogs and humans, and at least she’s had some epic ones in her short doggie life.
We go down to the lake so that Sophie can cool off in the water. We get the text and connect with our friends. We spend the noisy night and wake up early, me getting dropped off at the place we left the trail the night before; Ina staying with JD and Cherokee to drive them south to their starting point, then drive their car back to the campground while they hike to the car they leave, twenty or so miles north of where they begin. My hike with Ina and Sophie was only two and a half days but what a wonderful time shared. If we only had a day I’d be as grateful.