Trail Closure: Pass Go, Collect 35 Miles



img_1395Lovely comfortable Hiker Heaven.  We had to say goodbye to Doug, the chickens and their evil rooster, the retired thru hiker horse, the pony, the 5 dogs of all sizes, ages and personalities, and the oasis of sociability. When we’re on trail we have only brief interactions with our fellow humans since we’re so focused on making the miles. When we’re in town we get to know people.

Trail angel Mary, from Acton, has probably driven hundreds of hikers from Agua Dulce at about PCT Mile 454 around the closures (444-429) to 419.  The extra miles missed have to do with road access mostly.  Fortunately I got to hike this stretch last year, including remarkable and much filmed Vasquez Rocks.  She picked us 4 women up (me, Puff Puff, Crusher and Witch) and chatted as if we were her first.

A quick sidebar: The staff at the Mexican restaurant in Agua Dulce were extraordinarily welcoming. This is a town that knows hikers, the trail runs through it, but this time of year there is just a trickle of SOBOs, and we were treated like celebrities, free Margaritas, excellent food, and kind conversation.

Water and campsites were my concern as we had got a late start hiking, just part of being dependent on kind souls like Mary to get you where you need to be.  There were no campsites called out on Halfmile or Guthook in the area where darkness would descend, but one of the lessons I learned from the desert last year was that “abandoned dirt road” often means plenty of flat ground. So it was. Just a mile or two before the next water source, within ear and eye shot of Highway 2, a lovely flat, pine needled campsite. We will not be far from civilization for the rest of the trail. There are roads and lights and ski lifts from now on, really it is part of what makes the PCT through Southern California so extraordinary. Wild country is abundant amidst this intense population density.  Sometimes I grasp how my friends down here who love hiking can love hiking.

I have a bad habit of eating in the middle of the night as I wake up frequently, a life long insomniac. A sound sleeper, usually Puff Puff doesn’t notice, but one time she did and teases me now,  “I heard the crinkle of packets last night! ”  She finds it hilarious.  I have realized it can wreak havoc with my GI system, dang it.  So Day 2 out of Hiker Heaven was tortuous for me.  We camped at Little Jimmy after 17 miles. There was a lot of steep uphill to get here, very slow due to my stomach issues, but a good choice as this was the last water source before Wrightwood cutoff in 15 miles, so there really wasn’t anything to gain by hauling water uphill to camp in the wind, just would have reached our resupply stop a bit earlier. Day 3 was easy, and as I walked through a trailhead parking lot I stuck out my thumb and a deer hunter pulled over and took us to town, real food, resupply, and an amazing place to overnight “Bear With Us.”

I had an idea.  We could Inn-to-Inn hike Wrightwood to the Best Western Cajon Pass, about 28 miles and mostly downhill.  The alternative was to hike about 22 to water, a lovely cache next to a dirt road with railroad and freeway noise.  Not a bad day’s work although we had the headlamps on for the last hour and a half, including through a sketchy tunnel beneath train tracks and an even sketchier underpass below the I-15. But it was worth it to sleep in a bed, eat a Del Mar burrito and drink a beer.

The next three days were uphill.  The first night we camped on a ridge in a burn area and listened to a yappy dog and traffic below.  But the sky was clear and the escarpment across the way glowed with lights as the quarter moon drifted above.  I enjoyed walking through the burn areas, the brush burned black with new green sprouting around the roots and the white sand, the views, the starkness. You could see the bones of the desert hills like the skulls of dead animals reveal the structure and foundation of living creatures.

I got whipped by willows struggling through a crossing made messy by beaver dams.  Walking up past a human made dam and then more uphill past Deep Creek HotSprings, an endless canyon.  We camped by the river below a bridge.  Last year’s spring frogs, or any frogs, absent.

More uphill the next day, picking up enough water to camp and make it to the Highway 78 trailhead 19 miles away.  A quiet and cold night,blissfully without cell service on election night.  The whole trail when asked, “When will you finish?” I’ve answered, “When’s the election? After that,” and people have laughed but I’m serious.  To hike the PCT I’ve given up watching the Olympics which was tough, but missing the media coverage of the Presidental race was truly healthy.  Remember when I posted Rick wearing a tee shirt that said, “I already hate our next President?”  In 2008 when Palin was on the ticket, I voted early and went to Ecuador.  Being someplace besides the US put politics in perspective, we think life hangs in the balance, that the results matter.  And they do but not to the extent we imagine.   It is hard not to get caught up in the media induced drama so, for me, avoidance of the hype is self preservation. My plan worked.  This too shall pass.  I’m all Dalai Lama with compassion and patience.  For now.  I marched in anti-war protests as a teen during the Vietnam war, we made a difference. I’m not afraid to rise up again.

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Hansard, November 11, 1947

Jim, Larry, Ken and Dan met us on the trail heading into Big Bear, and were perfectly rational and calm. LA wasn’t in flames, rioters stayed at home.  The people in Big Bear acted normal.  I ate food, talked with good friend Jim, and the only ranting I experienced was on Facebook.  The trail, dopamines, IPA, real food, a shower and clean clothes, this is real life.

2 thoughts on “Trail Closure: Pass Go, Collect 35 Miles

  1. Thank you for your perspective on the election and life in general Alison. Mason and I did a hike yesterday at the top of the tram in Palm Springs with a friend we hadn’t seen in years, it surely cleared the cobwebs out. It sounds like you were almost done with your journey on the PCT this year, looking forward to reading more of your posts as time goes on.


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