The rest of the Woohoo Crew had not arrived in camp by the time I went to bed last night, so I figured I could sleep in a little extra this morning. I wasn’t even sure they’d be here yet when I woke up. I woke up at 6 a.m., then faded in and out of sleep for the next hour.
When I woke up this morning shortly after 2:00, I decided to pack up and walk with MJ, who planned to leave at 3:00. I never felt comfortable in the camper. It wasn’t filthy, but it also wasn’t clean. It wasn’t a wreck, but it was definitely dysfunctional. Perhaps I should have camped last night in my tent, but at least I didn’t have to take it down before leaving.
I was trying to keep an open mind about our destination as we walked there today. We were heading to Hiker Town, a hostel with a somewhat questionable reputation. Though some hikers have made upbeat, positive comments about the place, others were extremely negative about it. Reading the comments, I had a hard time sorting out who was right, who was wrong, and who had an axe to grind. The best I could do was hope for the best. If things went badly, I’d figure out another plan.
Though I had been backpacking since I was 11 years old, I had never walked a long-distance trail until I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. With that hike came several new experiences. Until then, I had never walked into a town to resupply. I had also never stayed in a hostel. After the first time, those experiences became second nature. No big deal. Passing by a major mile marker is something different. No matter how many times I've done it, it still feels like an achievement. The feeling I got passing mile 2,000 of the AT was just as special as reaching Albert Mountain, which marked the first 100 miles.
It should be obvious to regular readers that my blog posts are usually written around a line from the lyrics of a song. I also sometimes use dialogue from a movie or a quote from a poem. Admittedly, these words are often taken out of context. Sometimes the connection I’ve made to the quote is obscure. My intent is to capture what I felt that day or highlight something that happened. It doesn’t happen always, but there are times I suddenly hear a song playing in my head. It's unexpected, triggered by something I’m seeing or a conversation I’m having with another person. This happens despite my poor memory for lyrics. I can’t accurately sing or recite all the words of any song, except for maybe the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Somehow, though, a fragment of a song surfaces to my consciousness when I’m not expecting to hear it. For the days I’m writing about when I don’t hear a song in my head, I will search for a song that might fit. I do this because the words help me express what I don’t know how to say on my own.
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.