PCT 2019: 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.

DateSunday, April 21, 2019
WeatherFoggy, then partly cloudy; wind gusts of more than 30 mph on some ridges; high temperature in the low 60s
Trail ConditionsMostly moderate but long ups and downs, poorly marked at one road crossing
Today's Miles11.6
Trip Miles347.2

We only needed to walk a little more than six miles from our campsite to reach the restaurant. I knew once again I could take my time to get going.

The others did the same, though some were especially anxious to get there. Captain and Falls, in particular, have been planning for the last couple of days the meals they wanted to purchase.

Yes, I said meals. As they saw it, McDonald’s was a resupply opportunity. They calculated the number of hamburgers and Chicken McNuggets they needed to get them to Wrightwood, which was 27.4 miles away.

They assumed their food wouldn’t spoil in that time. I figured they would get tired of their food long before it spoiled.

We didn’t begin walking until after 8 a.m. The sky was misty as clouds hung low over the ridges above our campsite.

The trail made a gradual climb into the clouds, ascending about 400 feet in 3.2 miles.

The high point of this section was at 4,000 feet in elevation. As I got closer to the top, the visibility decreased to only a couple hundred yards ahead.

The trail traversed over a narrow ridge. As bad as the visibility was, it was good enough that there wasn’t a risk of walking off the side. That was a good thing because the ridge was narrow and the sides dropped steeply down into a canyon.

As I walked along this ridge I met some other hikers. One was named Baked and we hiked together for most of the way down the other side of the ridge.

From the top of the ridge and down, the wind picked up. It was gusty, and without any sunshine, the temperature was chilly.

That soon changed, however. As the descent continued and the trail dropped below the clouds and into the protection of the ridge, the wind gusts diminished. Eventually, the sun began to warm the air, though the sky remained mostly cloudy.

I stopped to chat with a trail maintenance crew. I thanked them for taking time out on their Saturday to make the trail better.

As the trail entered a narrow canyon I began to hear a low roaring sound. It was traffic noise coming from Interstate 15.

By the time the highway came into view, the sound was deafening. It was like a slap in the face to say, “Welcome back to civilization.”

Though the trail went under the highway, a sign nearby pointed to a path that led to McDonald’s. I turned and headed that way.

A short distance away was a large concrete marker, which had been placed there long before the interstate highway was constructed.

The marker commemorated the Santa Fe and Salt Lake trails, which intersected here at Cajon Pass. From 1847 to 1855, the Santa Fe Trail was also called the Mormon Road.

Once the pass was discovered, it became the preferred route for travelers coming to California after word spread about the fate of the Donner party in snowy northern California.

The monument was erected in 1917, two years after the road was paved and nine years before it was designated as U.S. Highway 66.

The interstate through Cajon Pass was completed in 1972.

When I arrived at McDonald's, I found that half of the customers were interstate highway travelers and the other half were hikers. The hikers were all clustered in the back.

Falls and Captain were loading up on various fried foods, but they hadn’t yet purchased their resupply.

While we were eating, a hiking celebrity of sorts walked in. His name was Cory “Second Chance Hiker” McDonald and he was gaining fame through his YouTube channel. In his videos he talked about his attempt to lose 200 lbs. while struggling to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

He was a novice when he began hiking on January 30. Initially, he was only able to walk a few miles a day. By now he was making good progress in his weight loss and he was hiking many more miles a day.

As soon as Second Chance walked in, several hikers wanted to say hello and have a picture taken with him.

As Falls and Captain began stocking up on their resupply of burgers and nuggets, I wanted to get something different.

I had already eaten two meals at McDonald’s and that was enough. For one thing, I still hadn't reached peak hiker hunger. If it were fully developed, I would have felt I could eat a limitless supply of food.

When I learned a Subway restaurant was located in a gas station on the other side of the interstate highway, I decided to walk there and buy a sandwich to go. This would be my dinner for tonight.

I wasn’t going to do a full resupply of fast food because I had plenty for the next couple days of walking to Wrightwood.

The next 25 miles or so were said to be completely dry, except for a couple possible caches of water. I didn’t want to assume water would be available, so I also bought two quart bottles of Gatorade to go with the two liters of water I intended to carry.

Following through on what she talked about yesterday, Gilligan called and made arrangements for a ride to Wrightwood. We were sorry to see her go, but it wouldn’t be long before we saw her again.

Gilligan said she would look for a place for us to stay when we reached town. It was like we had an advance team.

We finally left McDonald’s at 3:45 p.m. Once we returned to the trail, we had to walk through a drainage ditch and duck under an overpass of the interstate that was only four feet above the ground.

The trail then went through a drainage pipe under railroad tracks.

Even after leaving the highway and tracks, it took a while to get clear of the noise. I then stopped to turn on an audiobook to help the next few miles go faster.

My friends kept going when I stopped, but we were only planning to hike about five more miles, so I didn’t try to catch up.

The quiet of the desert didn’t last long, however. As the trail passed a wide curve of railroad tracks, a train rumbled by. It rattled and swayed as it made the turn.

The train was so noisy I had to turn off the audiobook.

The trail continued along a ridge and before long I could see the wide expanse of Swarthout Canyon. Our campsite was in the middle of that.

While on the ridge I met some day hikers who said, “Hello, Gravity!” My friends had obviously tipped them off that I wasn’t far behind.

A gusty wind blew as I walked along the top of the ridge, but died down as the trail began to descend toward the canyon.

In the distance I could see a lot of dust being kicked up by a car driving along a road there. I hoped that our campsite wasn’t near the road.

Swarthout Canyon was named for Nathan and Truman Swarthout, two Mormon brothers who settled here after moving from San Bernardino in the 1850s.

When I arrived at the campsite at 6:15 p.m., the others were mostly finished with setting up their tents.

It didn’t take me long to join them. There was no need to get water or set up my stove because I was already carrying the water I needed and my dinner.

I confess to feeling just a little smug as I began to eat my fresh Subway sandwich while the rest were eating cold burgers and nuggets.

Nevertheless, they seemed happy with their choices. I was too.

Big Mac, 
a Quarter-Pounder with some cheese,
a hamburger, 
a cheeseburger, 
a Happy Meal,
tasty golden french fries, regular or larger size,
salads: chef or garden, 
or a chicken salad oriental.
Big Big Breakfast, 
Egg McMuffin, 
hot hot cakes, 
and sausage.
Maybe biscuits, 
bacon, egg and cheese, 
a sausage, 
hash browns too.
And for dessert hot apple pies, 
and sundaes three varieties,
a soft-serve cone, 
three kinds of shakes, 
and chocolatey chip cookies.
And to drink a Coca-Cola, 
Diet Coke, 
and orange drink, 
a Sprite
and coffee, decaf too, 
a lowfat milk, 
also an orange juice.
I love McDonald’s, good time, great taste,
and I get this all at one place.

From “McDonald’s Menu Song” (1988 commercial jingle)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.