PCT 2019: Day 33, Cooper Canyon Campground to Tentsite at Mile 411.7

Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

Pacific Crest Trail marker

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.

DateThursday, April 25, 2019
WeatherSunny and warm, with a high temperature in the mid 80s
Trail ConditionsA long descent bookended by two climbs, some rough sections on an old roadbed and a section of poodle dog bush
Today's Miles16.5
Trip Miles412.9

Yesterday had been a difficult day. It included a long climb under a hot sun. A few treacherous sections of trail thrown in didn’t make it any better.

But it wasn’t the most difficult day I’ve spent on the trail, and when I arrived in camp I didn’t feel especially tired.

I didn’t recognize a lack of energy when first woke up, but I soon noticed it. My legs had no energy.

I had felt this before. These situations were usually caused by a calorie deficiency and went away after I ate a snack bar or two.

Today felt different.

California Highway 2 at Cloudburst Summit

All of the tramily members left camp before I did, so I walked alone. After about 90 minutes I arrived where the trail crossed California Highway 2 at a small parking area called Cloudburst Summit.

This section of the highway is always closed from late fall through late spring. It felt odd to walk across the highway knowing there was no chance of a car or truck driving by.

The 66-mile highway is also called Angeles Crest Scenic Byway. Local officials conceived the idea of a scenic highway and firefighting route through the San Gabriel Mountains in 1912, but construction didn’t begin until 1929.

Homeless men were hired to perform much of the labor during the Depression. Convicts from San Quentin and ChinoIt prisons were later used, and were even allowed to handle dynamite for opening passages throughout the mountains.

The highway wasn’t completed until 1956.

PCT on old roadbed

The trail crossed the highway a second time eight-tenths of a mile farther, then followed what appeared to be an old roadbed. I wondered if it was a former route of Highway 2, though more likely it was an abandoned logging road.

Either way, the old roadbed didn’t make the best footpath. Tree blowdowns, rockfalls, and small washouts were frequent obstacles on this section. It was in need of maintenance.

400 miles

While on the old roadbed I passed a marker made of stones to indicate I had walked 400 miles from the border. That meant I now had a little more than 300 miles to finish the desert section of the PCT and enter the Sierra.

Or to skip the Sierra because of snow. Or to go home because of more snow north of the Sierra.

Seeing the mile marker made me feel a little melancholy. Because of the snow conditions north of here, I was uncertain if it would be possible to safely continue my hike after finishing the desert.

“You’ll figure it out when the time comes,” I told myself. “For now, just stay focused on the next few days. Better still, stay focused on the next few feet of trail in front of you.”

Camp Glenwood cabin

Less than a mile farther I passed a cabin with a sign identifying it as Camp Glenwood. It was well-maintained but unoccupied.

The cabin is operated by an organization called Glenwood Dad’s Club, formed by parents of Glenwood Elementary School in Sun Valley, California. They use it to give urban youth an outdoor experience and teach them values of environmental conservation.

The cabin opened in 1956. It was originally an abandoned schoolhouse that was about to be demolished during the construction of the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway. The dad’s club negotiated a long-term lease for the location with the National Forest Service, then worked a deal with the road construction crew to move the building here.

Desert lizard

As I plodded along on this section of trail I saw many lizards. I was envious of their energy.

I didn’t think I was going fast enough to catch up with the tramily. Surprisingly, though, when I rounded a corner and looked down from a ridge I could see them gathered at a picnic table where the trail crossed Highway 2 again.

Not wanting to fall too far behind, I pushed myself to hike faster, but by the time I arrived at the picnic table, they had all left.

I decided to stop here and eat my lunch, rather than continue trying to catch them. I was still feeling tired and I hoped some food would revive me.

It only helped a little.

Falls, Captain and Rainbow Sherbet

I eventually caught the tramily. I found them just before 1:30 p.m. when they stopped at a stream.

They were hot and tired too.

Trail warning signs

About an hour later we entered a section of trail where warning signs had been posted. They warned of potential dangers because the area had been damaged by a wildfire. The dangers included the possibility of dead trees falling down and trail erosion.

What the signs didn’t warn of was a more likely and acute danger: poodle dog bush.

Poodle dog bush

The woody shrub is one of the first plants to grow after a wildfire. It is dangerous to hikers because touching it can cause severe skin irritation.

The reaction can be similar or even worse than poison oak, Depending on the contact, it can cause reactions from a mild rash and blistering to severe respiratory distress.

Poodle dog bush

Though poodle dog bush can grow tall, young shrubs are short and easy to miss. I tried to be especially alert where I walked.

View of valley

The terrain became more rolling. Meanwhile, the heat continued to sap my strength.

We stopped for water at a spring. I gulped down some water before carrying the rest about eight-tenths of a mile to our campsite. I arrived there at 5 p.m., not far behind the others.

I was worn out and went to bed early. There wasn’t enough energy left in me to stay up with the tramily. They were reading aloud from the romance novel they bought in Wrightwood.

From my tent I could hear them jump ahead in the story to find the sexy parts, but I don’t think they were successful in finding many.

Along with being tired, I have lately started to develop a cough. I’m presuming it is caused by desert dust and pollen. Maybe this was why I was feeling more tired than usual.

Whatever was going on, I don’t think it was caused by poodle dog bush.

Go out yonder, peace in the valley
Come downtown, have to rumble in the alley
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

Has anybody seen my lady
This living alone will drive me crazy
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in


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