Monthly Archives: October 2015

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 14-16

  
Day 119-121: Deep Creek to Onyx Summit
Miles hiked this section: 56
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 252
Miles hiked so far: 2350+ ish

119

Pro of the desert: so many towns and services to help you along the way. Con of the desert: as a sobo you are in good enough shape to hit vortex potential every damn day. 

From Deep Creek it is *only* 33 miles until a road that leads to the town of Big Bear Lakes. Also all uphill… Just 5000 feet gain. No problem. Seriously. Even with full packs and long water carries. We are super heros now. Also Groucho and Future Dad decide it’s “grouchy the Grouch’s SOBO sweep” – a challenge we issue to all SOBOs to do a turn at litter pick up. So in addition to packs we carry trash today. All in all they will carry out 10lbs of rubbish. I find a full can of Bud Lite, which Groucho shotguns it before breakfast. My shoes are the Bain of my existence and I feel pain all day. 

By 6pm we are in town and it is still light out. I told you… We are super heros. 

We are swept to motel 6 where $120 can procure you 2 immaculate, adjoining rooms with cable, showers and 4 Queensized beds. We also have excellent vegan food at the Himalayan restaurant. Heaven. Everyone orders vegetarian except Huck who eats a baby sheep. 

120

Groucho and I find excellent cheap breakfast across the street at Broadway Cafe. The group packs up and Future Dad hits the trail. We are close to a fire closure which he decides to bush whack thru to preserve his continuous footpath plan… We will skip some of these closed miles and can leave more leisurely. Twinless hits the bus terminal to get to LAX so she can attend a wedding in Minnesota. The group is splitting for a time. The rest of us blog at Starbucks until rain starts up. Perfect excuse to town vortex. So we do – Groucho’s parents have sent us a little loot which we use for a hotel room… Returning to the motel just as thunder and storms wreak havoc on the PCT spreading landslides and mudslides from Lake Hughes to Tehachipi. Cable features Harry Potter and we procure a bottle of Sparkling Wine. Thru hiking is feeling easy. 

121

This morning is rough. I wake at the customary hour of 6am but everyone else is snoring and off gassing. By 7:30 everyone shows signs of life but are still silently looking at their phones. I want to hike, so I pack up. At 8am, Huck asks “what are you doing? What time are you going?” And I reply… I’d like to go soon. That’s my preference. It fits the schedule to meet up with future dad And Twinless in a few days down in Idyllwild. I’m invested in that.  I ask the remaining three what they’d like to do. Bug says whatever everyone else likes to do. Huck looks at his phone. Groucho goes to the toilet. I am suddenly uncomfortable, realizing that the two other type-A planners of our group have deserted me and I am alone here with people who just want to hike but not necessarily plan it. 

I get it. It’s a huge mantra “hike your own hike.” But for over 600 miles we’ve been a team.  … Even longer with Huck. And suddenly their possible disinterest in group dynamics hangs in the air and I flail. “I’m feeling frustrated because I have stated my desires, and ask you all what you want and just feel ignored.” Huck explains “you like to plan… Sometimes weeks ahead. That makes me anxious. I am deciding right now what to do.”  Bug pipes up… “Oh… Can we get burritos?” I feel crestfallen. Groucho and I have already eaten. I am ready to walk. But we either wait for these guys and preserve this half of wrong way gang… Or we hike alone in the hopes of meeting the other half of the gang on schedule. I feel irrationally trapped by this dilemma. I excuse myself to the hotel lobby for coffee. 

As we return to the room, bug and Huck are leaving for Burritos. I’m going crazy with impatience and Groucho is moody so I should leave the room I go to brunch ordering $1 hash browns because I’m starting to go broke with all the town stops. 

But by 11am we are packed and headed back to trail. We trail run the first 9 miles to make up time. Huck gets lost immediately. Not exactly lost, since he finds a road to traverse that intersects with the PCT. His intuition and navigations always astound. But it rattles me a little because today the AT community mourns the discovery of the remains of hiker Inchworm… Who went missing 1 day after we met her on the AT two years ago. She somehow got a few miles off trail that rainy day and was lost forever on a mountain in Maine. RIP inch worm. 

The next 14 miles I hike with Bug. She says it’s like a long therapy session as she discusses life and love and thru hiking. It’s nice sharing some emotional time. 

We reach the road by Onyx Summit at dark and it is blustery and lighting but Huck has warm pizza from town. We pitch our tarp as rain falls. In the desert. 

Harpo’ PCT Journal: October 11-13

  
Wrightwood to Deep Creek

Miles hiked this section: 62

PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 308

Miles hiked so far: 2300+ ish
116
Perhaps because of the rattlesnake yesterday, or maybe because of all the camo-toting dudes lurking with rifles in the shadows of opening deer season weekend… This morning I feel creeped out walking in the dark. I somehow fall slightly behind the crew… They burst out of the gate at a strong 3mile per hour pace. In the trees I imagine sleepy mountain lions attracted to my sputtering headlamp. I start to sing an old spiritual and awaken a hunting dog next to two tent sillouttes. At sunrise I find Huck Groucho and Twinless eating snacks overlooking the valley before us. It’s all downhill from here. Well… At least the next 22 miles to Cajon Pass. Groucho says, “I think we should try to make it by 2:30pm”. He wants more physical challenge if we are going to slack pack. We agree. The morning flies by. Mile after mile we walk and jog and snack and chat. Around 11am I break away from Twinless who wants to go a bit slower and jog down the hill, singing and dodging little sprigs of poodle dog. Bug meets me at the bottom of the climb with a water refill… Before the last 5 miles. It is 1pm and I learn the fellas came thru 20 minutes ago. I ditch my pack and take only a wind jacket, snack, phone, water bottle and umbrella. I feel like a clown juggling these things and a hip belt which is now too small and slides down to my knees every 5 minutes. The sun scorches my calves and torso despite my seasoned umbrella maneuvers. 

A mile before Cajon pass The trail turns under a railroad trestle and I notice a human sitting inside… Maybe homeless, maybe adventuring. Who knows at this point? Then the trail dives into the earth in a concrete dark creepy tunnel under the freeway. I think this would be a perfect place for murder. 

At 2:45 I am at CajonPass bypassing the the McDondalds and heading straight to the Best Western where we have 2 rooms, cable and access to a hot tub and pool. It is a good night. 

117

I blog over continental breakfast at the best western. After 3 repetitions of the morning news, we secure the remote and watch “Coming to America”. We head out at noon, stopping by the Chevron to buy more unnecessary snacks and loiter in their shade. By 2pm we are still there and conversation begins to flirt with staying another night. Oh no. Town vortex. This is not the town you want to vortex in with only 3 gas station convenience stores and a McDonald’s. Groucho bravely gets up to go and everyone reluctantly follows. We only have 13 miles to get to camp and it passes quickly but my shoes are suddenly possessed by the devil. I calculate with horror I have worn them over 500 miles already and they have lost their will to live. I take them off and there are rocks embedded in the soles of my shoes… on the inside. We send an emergency text to Groucho’s mom to send new shoes. Also I develop a belly ache. I’ve eaten too much peanut. PBJ, PB pretzels, Nutz over chocolate Luna bar, Justin’s peanut butter cups, peanut butter packet, and a bag of lime flavored peanuts. 

Around dark we get to the dirt road where the car is waiting and Bug has brought pizzas!! We camp in a little sheltered area near trail. 

118
Groucho and I leave a few hours early today so we can spend QT with my California beauty/cousin Kelly this morning. She lives 10 minutes from trail and we meet her at a road crossing around 10:30. She brings snacks and we eat almost an entire loaf of bread while visiting in the back of her truck. It’s awesome to have these rare familial magic visits along the way. 

Around 1pm we get back in trail and hike up to the famed Deep Creek hot springs in the dead heat. It’s super hot. Blazing. And the trail is covered in trash. Groucho finally grows sick of it and starts collecting garbage. By the time we arrive at the hot springs his grocery sack is half full of empty water bottles. 

Deep creek is a magical, glorious place once you adjust to all the nude , gold chain-wearing, wrinkled men. We enjoy the hot spring and cold creek for several hours before finding camp up stream. 

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 9-10

  
Day 114-115 (sulphur springs to highway 2)

Miles hiked this section: 37
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 349
Miles hiked so far: 2262 ish

  
day 114

Happy Birthday Twinless!! She is still about 10 miles back, so we leave her an orange Gatorade and vodka airplane bottle at the intersection of a dirt road – trail screwdriver! She will probably get it 10 miles into her day and right in the middle of a waterless stretch. 

Bug really wants to hike today so we set up a relay. We are walking alongside paved road 2… For the next 20 miles or so. The PCT crosses this road every 2-6 miles… So we agree to take turns driving the car so Bug can walk. I take the first shift driving 15 minutes down from the dirt road to the first intersection with 2. It skips 4 miles of trail, so after blogging a bit in the car, I hike 20 minutes or so back up the trail to meet the gang and returning to the car for more snacks and water. 

We continue in this fashion all day, leaving magic for Twinless, and slack packing easy miles. 

We run into a trail closure for the endangered yellow legged frog. The detour intersects with the beautiful Cooper Canyon Creek. Our first cold, running water in days that didn’t come from a cache or spigot. We detour up to the Burkhart camp and then ride back about seven miles to wait for Twinless. We estimate she and future dad will emerge around 4pm but we get there early just in case. We are planning to kidnap her from the trail and get a hotel in the nearby town of Wrightwood tonight. We wait and nap and Groucho and I eat all our snacks. At 5pm she’s still not here. We use the trail magic to gauge where she is.  She must be less than 4 miles back because she’s already retrieved the magic left at the last crossing. We worry she will play it casual today and do fewer miles so Huck jogs back to make sure they aren’t camped early tonight. 
By 6pm they are back at the car having almost been abducted by overly generous men at a camp for dads bearing brownies and pomegranate seeds. 

We hop in the car and drive 20 miles down the forest road. On the way we pass a landslide that has partially seeped on the road. We get to the very bottom… Just 10 miles from wrightwood… and there is a closed and very locked gate. We cannot go further. And without maps or cell service we do not know another way to town. There is no sign giving detour info. We sadly pile back in the car and decide to head back to the camp we wandered thru earlier. There was a large shelter set up over a picnic table and a cooler that looked like it was old trail magic… Just containing hand sanitizer. This looks like a spot they sometimes stash thru hikers. We drive they the camp ground and all of the 30 spots are filled with holiday weekend campers… Except the site with the canvas shelter. So we explode our packs, and our friends share various snacks with us since we didn’t make it to the grocery and are totally out of food. We set up cowboy-style and are nearly snoozing when we are kicked out of camp at 9pm by a grumpy fellow who claims he has paid for this site. We apologize and explain we thought it was a PCT site since it had the look of a backpackers site. He just gets mad at our apologies and says “oh common!”  We silently pack up and are gone in 5 minutes. As we leave he shouts back “and take this tent and this other stuff with you” pulling at the shelter over the picnic table and the magic cooler. We explain it’s not ours and is precisely why we made the mistake thinking we could camp here. But he’s not having it… Clearly determined to think of us as jerky liar pantses. We try not to take it all personally and get out — camping a mile up the road in a spacious pull out. 
Day 115 

Today someone asks how long we’ve been dating and I realize it’s Groucho and my make-out-versary… We first kissed 4 years ago this day. It’s a sweet memory and we hike together … day dreaming about future adventures. 

We climb and summit Baden Powell around 1pm. There are a million day hikers on this holiday weekend. A bus full of Boy Scouts. It’s strange after having the trail mostly to ourselves the last couple weeks. 

Around 4pm we near the end and Future Dad wants a photo with epic clouds behind him. FD is all about the epic photos. He leaps over a rock and screams, leaping back immediately to avoid an immense Rattle snake. “This one eats rabbits or something” says FutureDad. 

Huck shuttles us to Mile High Pizza in Wrightwood by 6pm. We eat, charge, and go to the grocery. Twinless, who has lost 25 lbs on this trip and is endlessly hungry finally consults Bug on her resupply. Bug is a masters-trained dietitian, studying for her final certification exam. She also eats and advocates a plant-based diet, which makes our team even-steven—three carnivores and three vegans. Bug shakes down Twinless’ snack pack and encourages her to get plainwhole rolled oats and brown sugar instead of instant oats; peanut butter and jelly on sprouted whole wheat, multigrain bread instead of white bread bagels; And no snickers or rice crispie treats … Instead… energy bars; Also no ritz crackers…Instead wheat thins. Twinless reports tomorrow that she can now go 2.5 hours or more between snacks instead of just 2 hours. Maybe there’s something to this whole “nutrients” concept.  

As we all pack up, a local business owner offers to let us camp out on the porch but there are too many lights on. At 9pm we drive back up the hill to camp at another car pull out.

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 6-8

    Photo by FutureDad 
Day 111-113 (Anderson’s in Green Valley to sulphur spring camp trailhead)
Miles hiked this section: 71

PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 407

Miles hiked so far: 2225 ish

  
  Day 111

We wake at dawn and dawdle at the Anderson’s watching morning news. Terry makes us pancakes and coffee — she and Joe are such generous souls. It snowed in Wrightwood –  we’ll be there in several days. Fall is upon us, but in these lower elevations of the desert it’s still hot and sunny.

Today Is a challenge Groucho has been dreaming about since the Appalachian Trail. Today he attempts the 24/24/24. 24 miles +24 beers in 24 hours. It is 24 miles from The Anderson’s (and a convenience store) to Agua Dulce… another little town. Also Future Dad agrees to face the challenge with Groucho. They saddle up with a duct taped 12 pack in each hand, and walk the first few miles alone.

Twinless and I run into them an hour later and learn Future Dad is a chatty drunk. Groucho’s strategy, on the other hand, Is silence and smiles.

FD reveals their safe word…. A safe sentence, really. I ask “so what is the word” and first he doesn’t want to say in case it will break the spell. We urge him on “what if Groucho is passed out and you say the safe word but we, the sober ones, don’t know it?” Future Dad can’t remember it.  uh oh. Groucho reminds him “the safe word is ‘Andrea Dinsmore says you’re never going to make it.”

Soon FD says he needs a snack break at the next crest. He arrives pantsless… Or “Hucking it”… Our nominculture for this Huck-created technique. We all sit down and FD exclaims “ha! I can’t sit down because I’m not wearing any pants.”  I loan him my tyvek sit mat made from a priority mail envelope.

We get up to leave, FD’s pack exploded everywhere. He needs 10 seconds more and starts counting down on repeat. Each time he gets to 3 he says “wait wait” and starts again. This goes on until the pack is full and he needs to pee. On my sit mat. He asks if I want it back and I politely decline.

Future dad has maybe had 7 beers. This can only end in tears or death.

We go another couple miles and I stop to pee behind my umbrella for privacy. FD says ” it’s so funny that you’re peeing right now because I just peed down my leg.” Apparently “Hucking it” provides enough freedom for FD to attempt and fail the don’t-stop-to-pee technique of celebrity athlete Andrew Skurka.
Ok so then FD needs to take a serious break. Twinless hikes on and after 20 minutes I hike a little ahead of Groucho and FD, looking for their sillouttes on the horizon every so often. Eventually I just stop and wait. I have cell service and confirm the pizza joint is open until 9pm. I think this might provide incentive, so I lay down the plan when they arrive. They should try to sober up enough to get to town… 12 miles in 5 hours. Then finish their beers with pizzas. They are on board. I hike with them a few hours till we crest the hill. We have under 3 hours and 8 miles to go. Huck shoulders my pack and I take off jogging the last miles… Seeking cell service to order our pizzas and hoofing it to a place Bug left the car and driving it back to the trailhead where our Heros will emerge. The night falls on me and i grow creeped out hiking alone, especially as my headlamp dims and I use my also-dwindling phone as a flashlight the last hour. Hearing rustles in the bushes I imagine the family of mountain lions hungry for pizza in these very hills. The only thing I see, however, is a toad.

Meanwhile, a couple miles back FD and Groucho are nestled in a safe group of sober Wrong Way Gang members. Groucho has turned into Kung fu panda -making “ha yah” emmissions and running downhill in the dark without a headlamp. Huck reports he only fell once.

I re-arrange our luggage in the car and swoop up Bug and Twinless to get the pizzas with me. Huck, FD and Groucho walk 2 more miles of trail along the road into Agua Dulce to finish their 24 miles. The grocery closes at 9pm too, so I race around getting Groucho and my resupply. As I’m leaving, I am approached by Tom… a PCT alum and the son of the Saufley’s… Famous trail Angels who closed their home this year after 18 years of service to PCT hikers. Tom offers to put us up at his own house, just 2 blocks away. We gratefully agree. Out inebriated friends join us and we whisk them to a beautiful home with pizza and adorable puppies. We chat into the night with the lovely new friends and fall asleep in their living room. So thankful for hospitality. Groucho finishes his 24th or 26th beer with a shot of tequila and 2 joints. He is future Dad’s new hero. He is the only person anyone has met to finish the challenge. Even Tom has only heard tell of 2 people in the two decades his parents hosted hikers. Congrats Groucho.

    Photo by Twinless


day 112

The main problem with California is all the town vortex potential. When I’m on trail, thinking about an upcoming town visit, I imagine getting in and out as fast as possible… just grab my town food, do my laundry and get back on trail. But one shower, one beer and 2000 calories later, I hardly feel like I”ve ever even been on trail and I start to dawdle… And the town vortex begins. Peer pressure of Wrong Way Gang really hurts any effort at efficiency to get out.  Everyone promises to awake at 5am, and yet by 6:30 you’re still lying there as silent as death, hoping that everyone else will also have forgotten their alarms. Then someone secretly rouses, and heads to brunch or coffee. And everyone slowly wanders to join.  We all look at our phones for several hours. And then at some point people start to make mention of leaving. Once we spring to action, things move faster, but it can still take hours to get out.

So succeptible are we after Groucho’s 24/24/24 victory in Agua Dulce, that we end up caught in a mini vortex. We wake at Tom’s. We dawdle. We play with puppies. And pack up. And go to brunch. And go to the hardware store. And the grocery. And then do internet. And then the grocery again. And finally around NOON…. we head out. By then, we realize that we can’t pull a normal-mile day. So we look at the data and aim for the Acton KOA. A fancy campground that we will need to pay a little to stay out. It’s only 10 miles away. To get there we wander through beautiful Vazquez park – filled with epic rock structures and botanical interpritive signage. We pass through a tunnel under the freeway, and then it’s easy switch backs for the last several miles down to the KOA. The new owner is present and super nice, and the staff give us a spot on the lawn to cowboy camp for only $30 (6 people, a dog and a support vehicle). We can also swim in the pool and charge devices in the community room. It’s a pleasant afternoon. As dusk falls, Huck (who has a gear addiction) drives with Bug to LA to pick up a backpack prototype he just ordered online. It’s about an hour away. They get back super late… we are already sleeping.

   

 
Day 113

Late arriving hikers, bright KOA lights, and chatty caretakers make this night’s sleep super crappy. No matter. The alarm goes off at 4:30 and Groucho and I start to pack up. Huck joins in, as usual. But as soon as we’re done, we notice that Twinless, FutureDad and Bug are still down for the count. Bug whispers to me she’ll see me at the dirt road in 37 miles with the car. Motivation. We pack our stuff with us… just in case. Bug does her best on these country roads, but occasionally the precarious conditions make it difficult for her to reach us.

We hike out, assuming FutureDad and Twinless will be soon behind. It’s dark and steep,… a big climb today. I’m in the middle, but at some point Huck stops to wait. He explains he saw two wide eyes peering at him 10 meters away. Maybe a coyote. Maybe a cougar. Thrilling. We wait for Groucho and hike closely until light.  Around dawn we start to space apart again and I am alone as I watch the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen, humbly rise in the clouds to the East.

About an hour after dawn, I catch up to the boys and we start to watch lizards. The tan ones always run. The black ones pause and seem more intelligent somehow, peering unafraid at us from their perches. At some point Huck stops to take  a photo. I realize I have to pee so I duck a few yards down trail, telling Huck that I’m retreating to pee, as Groucho has already done before me. Huck… hard of hearing because of an accident during a training exercise in the Danish military involving gun discharge… doesn’t hear me. Caught up in his camera, he glances up to realize that I have taken a crouching position a few yards back and worries that he scared the lizard away. He stares at me. I am embarrassed but don’t know what to do as he stares and asks “did the lizard run away.” finally I stand and he states “Oh! you were peeing! I thought you were photo-ing the lizard.”  I don’t care anymore. We’ve thru hiked together, so basically Huck knows all my impropriety. Somehow he tolerates me anyway.

Eight miles into the day we reach the Ranger Station at the crest of the hill. We find an impeccable residnet ranger who has left us several gallons of water and also takes time to point out the imfamous Poodle Dog Bush… a new threat we’ve been awaiting for a long time. Poodle dog bush is a desert-dwelling plant that looks and smells vaguely like marijauna. Growing in burn areas and reeking havoc on anyone who comes into contact – poodle dog is similar to poison oak, creating blisters and rashes for most people who touch it… dead or alive.

  
Photo by Twinless

The next 10 miles are riddled with Poodle Dog. It’s like an obstacle course. If we even touch it to our clothes we need to remove the clothes and wash them separately. WE feel like we’re in a video game, dodging and breezing along poodle dog branches… hoping that we don’t use up our one life.

Then suddenly, we reach an area where the “trail gorillas” have cleaned up shop and there is no more poodle dog. The next few hours pass serenely. Time begins to morph… I’ll feel like 5 minutes have passed and it’s almost an hour. I am in the intense meditivave phase of this journey.

We pass a stoner marker for the 420th mile of the trail. Just then I see sprout the dog! and Bug! They’ve hiked up from the next road crossing to meet us. We hike with Bug a mile back to her car and find surprises. Guacamole and Beers! Slack packing is the best. We hang for awhile, cooling down after a hot afternoon.

Tomorrow is Twinlesses Birthday. Bug informs us that although we left camp at 4:30am… Twinless and Future Dad didn’t leave until 7:30 this morning. We are planning to hike 37 today but there is no way they will possibly catch up today or tomorrow if we don’t wait for them.

What is the best way to celebrate Twinless’s birthday? We decide to leave easter egg style treats for Twinless along the way tonight and tomorrow for her to get throughout her birthday — and then try to kidnap her tomorrow night and take her into town. Bug’s car can facilitate so much fun!

So we get to the Mill Creek Firehouse and leave twinless a vodka and several birthday cake flavored oreos in a ziplock right at the water source. She is sure to find it because this is the only water for almost 20 miles in either direction. This is probably where she will spend the night.

  
We hike on – about 12 more miles up a pass, and then downhill for many miles as it darkens. At this point we realize that Groucho forgot his flashlight in Bug’s car, and Huck’s headlamp is loosing battery. IN a rare moment of responsibility I have BOTH a headlamp and a flashlight. Therefore I become the beacon in front… letting my friends know about upcoming obstacles. Huck starts speaking German (he somehow knows Danish, English, Portuguese, and a bit of German and Spanish and well as several other languages.) He begins to call out “Poodle Hund Sheise” (i.e. Shitty Poodle Dog). I… also speaking poor German… start to respond by qualifying the poodle dog… Grosse (big) poodle dog sheise.  Eine kleine (a tiny) poodle dog Sheise. Etc. It amuses us much in our exhaustion.

Again, Bug – having driven ahead – hikes back to meet us a few miles from camp. It’s a relief to see her. I’m so tired and my feet are sore toward the end of the day. We camp in a dirt parking lot next to a meager trailhead.

 

24/24/24

  
It’s a curious challenge, not without danger and the possibility of failure (or at least half naked embarrassment) – to drink 24 beers in 24 hours while hiking 24 miles. The 24/24/24.

I had first heard about the 24/24/24 while Harpo and I were hiking the AT, but ran out of time. It’s also less fun to do solo, and Harpo was nauseated at the prospect of so much liquid. 

Needless to say, FutureDad was down when I mentioned it to him. We had a 24 mile stretch between the Anderson’s and Augua Dulce – so we duct taped a couple of 12 pack boxes together, he chose Keystone Light, and I Pabst Blue Ribbon. And we were off…

   
And we both survived – more or less. Pants were or were not worn, some kung fu happened and many beers were drunken. We ended the night being swooped by trail angel Tom nee JAG who fed us tequila shots and watched us stumble to bed.

  

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 3-5

  Day 108-110 (camp near cooper spring to the Anderson’s in Green Valley)

Miles hiked this section: 65
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 478
Miles hiked so far: 2150ish

 
108

At dawn we have already been walking 2 hours with tiny red dots blinking on the horizon. Shadows of windmills backlit by rising sun. After ten miles the boys break and I catch up. We walk the final six miles to the road together. It’s a major freeway. To hitch is to fail here. It’s also probably illegal. It is hot and bright. Thankfully the trailhead hosts a list of trail angels willing to help.  I get ahold of Jan who says she’ll be here in 20 minutes! She drops us at the bakery where Twinless and Bug have left us 4 days of food. A huge resupply we don’t even need to go to the store. We blog and charge and rest and eat. At 6pm Jan swoops us back to the trail. She is lovely. One of my favorite Angels yet. So loving and funny. We sing her our songs for hitching and thanks and she videos us. 

  
As the sun sets we walk 3 miles up the hill and camp in a windy flat spot near windmills. Twinless – a day ahead – sends us a text. Her parents have been worried sick the last 6 hours because   Her GPS tracker failed and sent an emergency signal. Thank God they didn’t send the police to look for her as she’s been hiking naked all day. 

    
Day 109

At 2am the breeze picks up and the windmills assume a sinister quality as they chew thee air. At 3:36am I wake to drops of water hitting my face. Huck soon exclaims “oh shit it’s raining” and three of us hurriedly pack up. future dad simply grumbles and rolls over. Huck shouts across the wind “tyler you need to pack up or your sleeping bag will be wet and you’ll be fucked ” future dad uses a down bag – which is lightweight and super warm (tho made by hosing down baby geese with a pressure washer) – until it gets wet and then it’s as useful as a soggy paper bag. He springs to life saying he couldn’t tell which was real life – the world of his dreams – or “a world where it rains in the desert and Twinless hikes naked.” 

The long dark morning is punctuated with cold whips of air in our faces. The windmills are having a heyday. Every so often the rain turns on for 5 minutes and then turns off as abruptly. It’s dramatic as the sun rises and we see layers on layers of storm clouds. Many of them settled on the peak we are about to climb. 

We hike up and up and up… Into damp fog. Some hunters donning cameo and guns are up here riding their ATVs on dirt roads and thru the PCT leaving huge ruts. This pisses off Groucho who waits for them to pass, then heaves huge stumps and partially burn trees in their return path. He also spies a wildlife hunting camera that he obstructs. At 2pm we have all of our climbing done for the day and have done more than 20 miles. We decide it’s a good day to attempt a double marathon. 

 Bug has been texting me all day. She was supposed to drive north to Seattle today from San Francisco. When she got in the car at 5am she cried at the prospect and then started driving south. She thinks she will be here by sundown. A fact I keep to myself so she can surprise everyone. 

We walk thru a huge windmill farm. And then the terrain flattens completely and by 4pm we are in the aquaduct. The 20 mile straight/flat stretch of trail which, covered in concrete, directs water for the mountains into the desert of LA. It’s very contentious subject among the resident angels we’ve been staying with. Their farms, lands, wells and streams are going dry to service city folk. 

The miles on the aquaduct go fast. By 7pm we have walked 38 miles and are headed into the sunset when we see a silloutte. It’s Bug. Everyone is hyped. We walk back to her car and she has Whiskey and avocados! The important things. We slack pack the next 6 miles along the aquaduct… Leaving everything but water with bug. At 46 miles the trail diverges back into the forest. Bug can meet us again in 6 miles at a road crossing but doesn’t want to do it alone. I volunteer to go. My feet are swollen, my tendons ache. I don’t need to do a double marathon. I have already beat my personal record, set during the 4 state challenge on the AT, by hiking 45.8 miles. We drive around to the camp and arrive at 11:15pm. We cuddle up with Sprout the dog and doze off. At 1:30 am the double marathoner Heros join us happy and exhausted. We all sleep. 

  
Day 110

It’s snowing around lone pine/horseshoe meadows. We were there 8 days ago when Jon said the halo around the moon meant snow might come… In 8 days. Eerie. 

We are safely in the comfort of town. The trail is closed in the next section because of fire damage from several years ago. Normally people road walk or hitch around. We have Bug. 

Everyone but Future Dad hops in the car at 8:30am. Future Dad is a purist and has hiked a continual footpath up to this point. This is an example of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) – We all have our own personal rules to follow out here and future dad’s mandate is to hike as much if the trail as he can and find a way to walk thru or around any closure. No matter how far, or hard. My mandates so far are 1) to hike as much of the trail as possible 2) except if there is a cool alternate trail that intersects; 2) except when the trail closure detour involves excessive road walking; 3) except when continuing on might damage my body enough to permanently take me off trail. Future dad packs up to go and Bug chauffeurs the rest of us to Lake Hughes where we meet with Twinless at the excellent Rock Inn for brunch. After hash browns and coffee we drive 4 more miles to the home of The Andersons. Famously generous trail angels who allow hikers to camp in their manzanita grove of a backyard. We dry our gear our, shower, do laundry and take naps before taking Terry and Joe out for dinner. 

On our way back we intercept future dad doing a road walk in the dark. (I don’t like road walks because walking on pavement is so hard on your knee and ankle joints but also because I don’t trust cars. In the history of the PCT there have been very few deaths but #2, ironically, is death by car. ) FD regales us with tales of washed out trail and poodle dog bush infestations. pDB is a major problem in this section. Similar to poison oak, brushing up against it can cause severe rashes and blisters lasting weeks. The plant thrives in burn areas and the hills here are covered. fD never saw a trail closure sign until he got so fed up he bushwhacked his way down to a trailhead. There he finally saw a warning and closure notice posted. (Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs.) 

We pass out quickly under the manzanitas.