Nader and Bait got out of camp about an hour and a half before me. It's crazy how some people get up at like 4:30 in the morning. Crazy.
hiking was rough. My cell phone was dead and I know there were some people worried about me from my texts. I spent a lot of time resting in the shade and taking it easy. I think the amoxicillin actually messes with my cardio-vascular system too. I seem to be out of breath much more than usual and sweating more than usual too. I ran out of water about three or four miles before the campground but the hiking wasn't very tough. I passed the turnoff to the spring but I finally found it. It was a steep climb down and then back up but the water was amazing. I ate a ton of food and drank a ton of water. I had another six miles to get to CA RT 2 which was supposed to be an easy hitch in to Wrightwood.
I pushed on and found myself at the top of Mountain High Ski resort. Apparently it's at Wrightwood and I didn't know that. I've never skied there but I'll have to go this winter.
Right before I got to the highway, I ran in to a king snake, the kind that looks like a coral snake. It was cool, I got some footage and kept going. I really needed to get in to town.
I got a ride from the second car that come by, although that still took about 30 minutes. Rt 2 is not a very busy road.
Wrightwood is great, it has everything you need all within a block of everything else. I found Bandit and Sprinkles at the Yodeler Tavern and soon all my old pals were there. They had gotten a ride from Kevin and he and his wife Linda were hosting them, I asked if he had any room and he did so I ended up going with them back to their awesome house. They cooked us dinner and we watched the final night of American Idol. If you ask me, casey should have won, not that fake basso country douchebag but hey of course I'm going to be partial to a jazz guy.
ANyway, I feel much better and now we're trying to figure out whether or not I'm staying in Wrightwood for another day...
I started out by getting up really late. I didn't get out of camp until about 10:30. I had to deal with some uncomfortable bowel movement before I could even get my tent down. It had me worried that I might have been dealing with a mild version of Giardia or dysentery. I finally got moving and I knew that Bandit and Sprinkles would be a couple hours ahead of me so I was going to try to push to keep up. I realized I hhad stopped short of the actual campsite and I found a cool water cache that was being resupplied by Joanna. I left my name at the book and drank about a half a liter, I thought about filling up but I figured I would have an opportunity to get some water later. I would be wrong.
I was having a tough time climbing and although it wasn't hot, I was sweating like crazy. I wasn't really drinking much water or eating. I just couldn't seem to get my pace going. Every step seemed like a chore and I was trudging along, felling pretty bad. Eventually, after about six or seven miles I decided to take a break. My pack felt really heavy and I sat it down on a rock. The trail was very narrow here and the sides were steep going up and down on either side of the trail. there was nowhere to sit really, so I tried to find a rock or something. Normally I feel better as soon as I stop but I just couldn't get my breath. I sat on this rock but it wasn't really comfortable and then I heard the ringing in my ears start. I know that means I'm going to pass out so I tried to lay across the rock.
I came to with dirt, rocks and plants in my mouth and I was sliding down the hill to the trail. I was delirious but I was trying to get whatever was in my mouth out and spitting and dry-heaving. I was afraid I might fall off the side of the trail so I kind of sat down and laid back on the only flat spot: the trail. I don't know how long I lay there in and out of consciousness. I eventually tried to get up and got really dizzy again so I lay back down. At some point a couple of people came by and stepped over me, asking if I was alright. OIf course I said "Yeah man I'm fine!"
It took two hours until I was able to get my pack on and walk a little. I got about a half mile up and got woozy again so I pulled out my pad at a wider spot and plopped back down. I wasn't sure how much water I had but two angels came by, Spoonman and Cerveza. They insisted that I take some of their water and they sat with me for a bit. I thought I had giardia for sure. I tried some texting. I was so angry and beat down that all I could think about was getting off trail and going home. I texted some people and was planning to get off trail if I made it out of there. Nader and Mosquito Bait showed up and they told me they were camping at a spot about a mile ahead. I eventually got up and made it to that camping spot while they were setting up. We spoke for a while and Mosquito Bait told me some more about amoxicillin and how it wears you down, gives you diarrhea and makes you way more sensitive to the sun. I was so relieved! I thought I had Giardia but here it was probably just the antibiotics. I had some dinner and tried to hydrate slowly with what water I had. I knew I had to go another 7 miles in the morning until I could get a good water source. I had about a liter left and I was just hoping the trail wasn't too bad. Nader and Bait gave me some of their couscous and I lost my spark so I had to try and eat with my drumsticks as chopsticks.
I climbed into bed with a full stomach and some horrible gas that smelled like I was dying inside. I wonder if I'm going to have this gastrointestinal issue the whole time I'm taking my ABs
I feel better but I'm still a little sour on the trail. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.
The next day I drove out to The Saufley's and stayed there. I slept in one of their tents and the next morning I found a cool hiker named Blaze who was willing to do the shuttle thing with me. He and I drove out to the REI in Rancho Cucuamonga to see if they had a pair of shoes for him. Then we went to a Henry's and a Ralph's to pick up supplies. At Cajon Pass there is a MacDonalds and we had some burgers. I met a guy named Soft Walker who apparently hikes barefoot a lot. I bid my car and Blaze adieu and used the bathroom and then got on the trail, planning to hike a few miles in the dark. It was looking like rain and I was really not looking forward to a climb up in rain and possibly snow but I really needed to get back on the trail.
Soft Walker was ahead of me and I had to turn my headlamp on to go under the bridge of the I-15. it was a little strange doing that in the dark, wondering what was under here and there was some running water that turned into a regular stream. I had some difficulty not stepping in the water in the dark but once I was out from under the bridge and re-found the trail, I was able to hike with my headlamp off. I hadn't intended to get all the way to the first campsite at 5 miles but somehow I managed to get there... around midnight. I found a bunch of tents on the side of the trail and just pitched my tent in some low bushes because I thought it was the campsite I had been looking for. It wasn't. It was close though, just about a 1/4 mile away. I have been experiencing some gastrointestinal abnormalities lately and I'm hoping it's not Giardia which is one of the reasons why people treat water. It comes from Raccoon Feces and it's like Montezuma's revenge on steroids. It takes about 7 days to ferment in your body before symptoms show up and I had some untreated water about a week ago so... I just hope that it's not a problem. I guess we'll see.
I stopped at the trailhead on the way out and ran into Sprinkles and Bandit. They were getting a ride already so I just drove out to Vegas and found Laura's apartment and we went and ate but the tooth was killing me. It turned out I forgot to pack my sound system so I'm going to have to go to San Diego anyway. It turns o ut they don't have VA clinics there in Vegas so I will go to the VA in La Jolla. I have to get back on the trail but it's so tempting to just blow it off and enjoy the civilian world.
Check it out here:
Anyway, I lay there freezing, I think it went down to like 20 or 25 and I waited until the sun started to melt the frost on my tent before I roused myself. I started walking, I was hoping to get 27 miles to rt 18 by nighttime but when I get to this cabin I see Natural (a guy I met the other day on the trail) and he's there with his car. We start talking and he tells me it's supposed to snow tonight and maybe tomorrow. My car is in Big Bear and I'm thinking, "this would be a good time to hang out in Big Bear for a couple of days."
SO I caught a ride from Natural and it's a good thing I did because apparently i forgot to load my sound system in the car! I'm going to have to head back to SD and pick it up and then back up here. I have to figure out how I'm going to afford to buy a warm sleeping bag. Laura's in Vegas for the week and Vegas is about the same distance from Big bear as San Diego is...
Maybe it's a good time to hang out in Vegas for a day, head back to SD to pick up the gear and then head to Big Bear for the gig on Friday...
I think I hear a Hunter S. Thompson quote coming on...
It's interesting to not how the mind works. I knew from looking at other people's maps and elevation profiles that it was a 20 mile section of almost all climbing but once you get on the trail you're thinking, "I wonder what the trail has for me today?" Then it's almost like you're surprised when the maps are right. An all day climb is kind of unbelievable. when you're on mile 14 or 15 and you normally get 20 - 25 miles you get frustrated as the landmarks come by much more slowly. In your hiking head you're thinking that you have come 7 miles and then you come up to some hikers at a stream and find out you've only gone 4. Nearing the end of the day, the last few miles into camp are excruciating as you come around another turn and there's another stretch of uphill that turns toward a peak you couldn't see earlier.
I've heard that the climbing section into Big Bear is one of the hardest on the whole trail and that it's the reason that many people get off the trail permanently in Big Bear. Well, I can definitely see that. I thought I was lucky because it was an overcast day with a lot of wind when typically this part of the trail is extremely hot; however, in the afternoon the temperature began to drop very quickly. As a ski instructor and frequent traveler in the mountains I pride myself in being able to tell the temperature without a thermometer. I'm rarely off by more than three degrees in the 10 - 50 degree range, even with wind but as I climbed and the temperature dropped I was afraid to believe my guesses. It felt like 40 degrees at 4pm! It couldn't be! It felt like 35 degrees at 5pm as I pulled in to a campsite that had some water. There were a couple of packs sitting by a horse "burro" or "Hitching Rail" and a tall hiker there. In my kilt and thin shirt I was quickly shivering.
"How cold is it man?" I asked Pepe who was getting ready to go further up the trail
"Pretty cold, somebody had a thermometer on their pack and it said 39 about a half hour ago"
"Man I can't believe it!" It's gonna go below freezing tonight and yesterday I thought I was going to get heat stroke!"
"Yeah man I'm trying to get to 146 to some shelter they have there."
"Man I think I'm just gonna wrap up in everything I have and pass out. Is there water here?"
"Yeah, it's about a 1/4 mile past the campsite. Catch ya later"
There were a couple of people at the campsite and I started gathering raking up pine needles with my trekking poles to try and get better insulation to sleep on. It was going to suck tonight.
Seahorse and her boyfriend who doesn't have a trail name yet walked up, he was the one with the thermometer. He told me it was 35 and dropping quickly. Shit
I got a bunch of water and then collected wood and we all started a fire with pinecones. I stayed up late with the fire, not wanting to face the cold. I was guessing it was now about 28 degrees at 9Pm which meant it could go down to 20 or even lower by 3am. I got into my tent and put on everything I had and tried to go to sleep. I blew all the water back into my bladder so my drink tube wouldn't freeze and I was not looking forward to this night cause I only have a 40 degree bag and a Patagonia down sweater. Shit.
I climbed quickly the stiff and windblown flora and passed the defunct carcass of the Pink Motel, which was for a short while a hiker hostel and junkyard. The corroded corpses of cars and what looked like a former Hostess delivery truck stood out from the various flotsam of you-name-it and what-did-we-used-to-call-its. There was a hiker register there on a lonely post beside the trail and I stopped with a few other hikers to sign it, like Seahorse, Chili-dog and Bubbles, Das Boots was ahead and I ran into him at the wind farm office which was closed. The wind was dangerously close to blowing my sun helmet off and into the sky so I took an extra shoelace and lashed it to my pack strap. It saved the day on several occasions. The wind was relentless and I peeled a sour apple blowpop, wrapper fluttering violently, while I tried not to let it litter the hills and destroy my hiker karma.
After a goodish climb and the regular meander, I descended into a canyon where the wind was not so severe. When the winds blow strong, the perspiration is evaporated and my chafing is cured; however, in lesser winds, the rubbing and stinging sets in. I walked past a few civilians, out for the day with their rottweiler and doberman and they were surprised to hear about the enormity of the PCT. Shortly after that I saw a note, a glorious not in a ziplock bag laying in the center of the trail.
"Trail Magic Ahead at the Trout Farm.
Hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, sodas
There was a junction and a nice, new sign that said Whitewater Preserve 0.5 mi and under that it said, "Hiker's Welcome"
There would be more trail magic today! I didn't know how much though...
I hiked the half mile in to the preserve and there were a few others already there at a wading pool that you could do some stealth rinsing in. Ninja, Drop&Roll, K-Bomb, etc. they directed me to the pavilion where Buck-30 (a triple crowner) was grillin up burgers and other delectables and he had a book about he CDT. A triple crowner is someone who has hiked all three of the long trails in the US: The Appalachian Trail (AT), The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which goes up the middle and is the most remote of the three. Buck 30 lives in San Diego and decided to come up and do trail magic for a few days and he is the man! I'm starting to think about the CDT now... Ahh shoot. get back on the PCT!
There were a lot of day hikers and casual campers with lots of kids there and trout pools with HUGE trout in them. They were so docile I put my hand in there and they would actually rub up against you.
After that, just about a million people showed up at the magnificent preserve with our Ranger Jose who pulled out a scope and let us check out bighorn sheep on the hillside. Rain was looming and we still had a big climb ahead of us...
Just as we depleted Buck-30's trail magic, another trail angel dropped in with pesto tortellini, baked chicken, watermelon for days and pies of various flavors. It seems we are not going out to hike any more today... The moon was nearly full and the wind had the smell of rain on it...
The PCT is starting to irritate me with it's rambling, meandering route that unnecessarily winds back and forth and over and around ridges for seemingly no reason at all. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, it doesn't take you up to every peak and scenic view. Instead it takes you around every little canyon and hill so you can see everything from every different angle. In a word: UNNECESSARY. I would be much happier if we would just go to ur destination or go to something interesting. The AT might have been like this except you could never really see it because all the shrubs and trees were too high. Out here you can see where the trail goes and you're thinking, "Why the hell am I going all the way over there to come back here just a few feet below?" There's nothing wrong with switchbacks, just make them shorter, a LOT shorter.
I was right, this trail did in 15 miles what it could have easily done in 8 and I spent all day fighting heavy brush and descending into the hot valley below. It was so strange, yesterday I was hiking through five feet of snow and today it was 94 degrees at 10 AM. I cut a few switchbacks and bushwhacked a little. I'm not ashamed to say it. I cut up my legs and probably risked some Rattlesnake encounters but it was worth it. F the PCTA and their ridiculous switchbacks that go a half mile out and back to put you 50 feet lower on the same slope. Total BS!
By the time I got to the bottom I was waxed and chafed and pissed. I refilled my water at the fountain they have there at Snow Creek and I saw these crazy clouds coming over San Jacinto. I knew it was going to rain so I waited til the clouds were in the right spot and I headed across the steaming valley with cloud cover to cool me. It was a good idea and as I got to the bridge where the trains and the I-10 pass over a desert wash I saw some strange birds like owls or hawks burrowed into the desert bluffs along the RR tracks. I shot a picture but it turned out pretty bad.
The wind through that valley is extremely strong nearly 100 percent of the time (which is why there are all of those huge windmills there) and the old creek-bed wash I was walking in was hard to move against the wind while hiking in the deep, loose sand but eventually I got to the bridge where some awesome people had dropped off sodas and beers and other snacks for us PCT hikers. I was chillin there cause I had some cell service and then Bandit and Sprinkles walked up. Bandit and I decided we were going to hitch to the next exit down on the I-10 where we heard there was a Burger King: Cabazon. Some students from Redlands were filming a zombie movie nearby and after sticking our thumbs out on a deserted frontage road for an hour I decided to ask them if they would give us a lift. They did. There were cool and all bloodied up for the filming so we really made an interesting combination. Lots of other hikers had showed up at the bridge so Bandit and I decided to conjure up some of our own Trail Magic. We got in to Burger King in Cabazon (where those huge dinosaur replicas are) and ordered 25 cheeseburgers, 12 Chicken Sandwiches, 6 big orders of fries, 12 dutch apple pies and lots of condiments. We had no idea how we were getting back but we had our hands very full of food. Bandit got us a ride from this guy Jeff towing a sand rail and when we arrived back under the bridge, there was a cacophony of adulation that barely rose above the highway drone.
We feasted all night and fell asleep in the dirty sand under the bridge, about 20 of us, fat, warm and happy, with another day of climbing toward San Gorgonio ahead of us...
After fuller ridge we came into the Fuller Ridge campground and I was just too tired to keep going. I really wanted to because there was a lot more daylight left but the chafing was just to intense.
About a million people showed up and we had a great campfire with Seahorse, New Homes, Side Track, Sprinkles, Bandit, Ramblin Rose, Half Step, Roger, Bubbles, Murphy, Dump Truck, and a bunch more I can't remember.
I took some great video of me on top of a rock formation on Fuller Ridge and you can check it out here:
Rotary view of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio
The altitude climbs and the snow hiking made for a really tough day and I had to drop back down into Idyllwild to pick up enough food to make the next 130 miles to Big Bear. It's going to be rough because in two days I descend 8000 feet into the desert, only to have to climb it all again after I cross the I-10.
When I got into Idyllwild I was planning on resupplying and then going right back up but I had to hike an extra 5 miles just to get in to town and I decided to just take a break and tackle the re-entry (2.5 miles straight up) in the morning. I piggybacked in a cabin with 5 other guys and I hit the market to resupply. 6 days of food is heavy and I have a lot of altitude to cover both up and down. It'll be rough but the views are spectacular. You can follow my progress on my website at http://www.davidpatrone.com/PCT For some reason the GPS map isn't working in some browsers but if you give the page a minute to load it usually works.
Tomorrow also has a lot of snowy and icy spots that have a lot of hikers worried. I don't have crampons or micro-spikes but I figure enough people have gone over that the footprints will be easy to hike in. We'll see! If my GPS tracker loses a couple thousand feet of altitude in less than a minute, you better call the coroner to come pick up my body.
The night was REALLY cold, the coldest yet but I managed to stay alive.