Hiking with the Woohoo Crew has been like rolling on a party train. The tramily is a fun group of lively and intelligent people. We like to laugh and never quarrel. Still, they aren’t what I would call partiers. Many don’t drink. If any of them smoke marijuana, I haven’t seen it. They just enjoy each other and I’m glad they enjoy being with me. We expected the next stopover for our party train would be a big party itself. We were heading to Casa de Luna, the home of Terrie and Joe Anderson. Terrie affectionately calls it "hippy daycare."
The desert is usually hot and dry, but I’ve discovered that’s not always the case. Again this morning I woke up with a light drizzle hitting my tent. It continued until past 6 a.m., so I didn’t get up until then. Most hikers were slow to pack and leave, and the Woohoo Crew was no exception.
An unsettling feeling has followed me on the trail for several days and it has grown stronger each day. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I keep thinking about what lies ahead. The closer I get to the Sierra, the more I ponder what I will do when I get there, which should be in a little over two weeks. The mountains received about 200 percent more snow than normal this year and it’s not going away quickly.
I took my time packing and leaving camp this morning. Forgive me if it seems I have said that every day so far. Maybe I have, but the pace of this hike hasn’t changed a lot. At least lately we are hiking a few more miles on most days. Today’s mileage was a little short, but that was because we were headed to a commercial campground where we could shower and do laundry. Better still, it was an opportunity to eat pizza and drink beer, which in my mind are essential ingredients for a successful thru-hike.
Last night’s campsite was perched on a ledge overlooking a wide valley. It was located on a slope of Pacifico Mountain. The trail went around, not over the mountain, which was part of a large burn area. Some of the trees here were still standing and alive, though deeply charred. Others were little more than burnt stumps.
I was the first Woohoo Crew member to get up this morning, but the last to leave camp. A sluggish start to the day isn’t unusual for me, but this was different. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was an indication of what the whole day would be like.
Day 32, South Fork Campground to Cooper Canyon Campground
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Although we were intentionally taking a detour to avoid a risky climb over ice and snow on the summit of Mount Baden-Powell, there was another reason for our alternate route. A segment of trail was closed to protect an endangered species, the mountain yellow-legged frog. We were required to go around that. The other option would be to walk along California Highway 2. The road past Vincent Gap and Baden-Powell was closed, so there wouldn’t be any traffic on it, but that wasn't preferable to the trail. Or so I thought.
With only five miles of hiking, yesterday was definitely a "nero." Depending on how strictly you want to define the term, you might not say today was one. We hiked twice as many miles. Still, we didn’t begin walking until after noon, and the main reason for a nero is to spend as much time in town as possible. The time was needed this morning to figure out a plan.
Once I warmed up last night I was able to sleep well. Then this morning I let myself sleep a few extra minutes because I knew we would only be hiking five easy miles today. We were heading to the town of Wrightwood. This would be a nero (near-zero hiking miles) day. After Gilligan left us at Cajon Pass she went to Wrightwood and found an Airbnb for us to rent for tonight. It was big enough for all of us to stay there.
Day 29, Swarthout Canyon to Guffy Campground
Well, I wouldn't be here trying to sleep in this cold iron bed
The air overnight was damp and cold. This seemed out of place, considering I was camped in an arid desert valley. Nevertheless, the conditions were much like I felt yesterday morning. Clouds hung low over surrounding mountains, forcing cold, wet air close to the ground. This made my tent wet from condensation.
Day 28, Tentsite at Mile 335.6 to Swarthout Canyon
Good time, great taste, and I get this all at one place
I’m not a fan of fast food. I rarely eat it. In fact, the only time I’m likely to eat fast food is when I’m in a trail town and there aren’t better restaurant options. Nevertheless, I confess to looking forward to reaching a McDonald’s today. It was just four-tenths of a mile from the trail.
Day 27, Grass Valley Creek to Tentsite at Mile 335.6
Put it off until tomorrow, you've hurt me enough today
I fear I’m getting lazy again. It was sensible to maintain an easy pace the first couple weeks of this hike, but I still felt I should have been pushing myself. Then for a few days over the San Jacinto Mountains, the terrain gave me the challenge I expected. Now I feel I'm settling back into complacency. My miles per day have picked up, but I still don’t feel I’m pushing myself.
Today was a day several tramily members had anticipated. Just a few miles up the trail from where we camped last night were some thermal hot springs. This was a well-known spot on the trail, and perhaps a little infamous. My friends were looking forward to getting there. Some of the hot spring pools were clothing-optional, but that wasn’t why they wanted to go there. They just wanted to soak in the hot water
Day 25, Little Bear Springs Camp to Deep Creek
And then a man rode into town, some thought he was the law
There are many differences between the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, but most notable are the terrain and weather. These differences are not surprising. What I’ve found surprising is how our hiking pace on the PCT has been much more dictated by the availability of camping spots and water. We've had to adjust our pace nearly every day. We prefer to camp near water, rather than hike farther and camp in a dry area. The distances between suitable camping spots have sometimes made this a challenge.
I was up early this morning and began packing by 5:30. An early start was needed because I was assigned to the first group of hikers at the hostel who were returning to the trail today. So many hikers were returning, our shuttle driver would need to make two trips to the trailhead to drop off all of the hikers. Rainbow Sherbet, MJ, and Grommet were also assigned to the first group.