This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
We bus to Big Bear around the fire closure. We go through San Bernardino, the roughest looking city I have ever been through, then up a long, winding road to Big Bear that makes us all sick to our stomachs. I sit next to Legend, a guy who is planning on triple crowning in one year. He’s already done the AT this year and is hiking thirty miles a day. Some members of our group are a little star struck, but I am firmly on the smiles, not miles train.
We stay with Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama in Big Bear. They make us dinner and drive us to the end of the fire closure in the morning. I am so itchy to hike after just a few hours in San Bernardino. We drop down from Onyx summit, back in the pines and the clean air. We camp by a spring- wet camping is a luxury. In the morning, I am slow. My hip feels like it needs to pop, but it won’t, and it hurts more and more as I hike on. I lose my friends and I can’t catch them. There’s a down tree and it takes me five minutes to hobble over. I finally catch Chips, Guac and Mama Bear and sit down to siesta with them. I stretch and hear a pop. Finally! I take some vitamin I, and suddenly I am on fire. I fly down the trail, catch the rest of my siestaing friends and blow past them. Then I am walking alone through a burn area and dropping down, down, down, through the sad scorched forest towards the Creek. I wait there for my family. We fill up on water, and head down the trail to camp high on a ridge and watch the sunset. I just did my second twenty and it felt like nothing. In the morning, it is hot and I am so nauseated I can barely pack up camp. I drank three litres the day before, but it was not enough for the heat. I sip another litre and slowly feel better. It’s another hot day. We drop down towards Deep Creek, siestaing by the river. We leave while it is still warm. It doesn’t take long until Mama Bear is fighting heat exhaustion. We shade hop, soaking bandanas as cold compresses and feeding her electrolytes. The desert heat is no joke, and we are all a little more scared of it now. We reach Deep Creek hot springs at dusk. A naked man greets us, going the other way on the trail. Guess they weren’t kidding about it being clothing optional. We set up camp and head down to the moonlit pools. I soak my feet and cramping quads, then head to bed. It’s one of the warmest nights on the trail so far and I watch the stars while listening to the locals chat across the field. It’s so hard to get up in the morning. We’ve been warned by friends ahead that the next section is hot. We debate- stay and night hike out, or leave now and siesta? Only a few of us have stronger opinions and I get my way. We beat the heat to the next river crossing, where we find more friends and a trail angel with nail polish. She suggests black polish with glitter on the top. I’ve never painted my nails before, but I do it. What is wrong with my feet? Everything- they are swollen, I have blisters and deep foot pain in both balls and heels, but I finally am accepting my gross hiker feet. We head out as the day cools and are met by Coppertone, a famous trail angel. He gives us bananas and root beer floats and sends us on our way. We hike through the sunset. In the morning, I’m the first out of camp. A Lara bar and coffee give me wings and I fly. My hiker legs come and go, same as my hiker hunger, but they are strongest in the morning, when it is cool. We skirt Silverwood lake, stopping to swim. A huge group of college kids comes the opposite way and we stand off the trail to let them pass. A cloud of soap and shampoo scent follows them. It smells like someone wearing too much perfume. Do normal people really smell like that? And what do we smell like to them? There is a campground by the lake and a restaurant will deliver pizza there. We ask if they deliver beer too. No, but the driver can stop by 7/11 and get us some. Sweet! Even beer can’t keep us there for long though, and we head out for the final seven miles to camp. In the morning, our bags are soaked. We wait until they are half dry and then we are running for the interstate with its McDonalds, where we will wait out the heat. Then we are in a 25 mile dry stretch and the trail just goes up. If the PCT can climb a mountain or send you over a ridge, it will. I eat half a bag of melted gummies, put in my headphones and select my soundtrack, then get down to the serious business of climbing. After a mile, I have a serious runners high and I ride the endorphins all the way up, until we stop for dinner in the clouds. As it gets dark, we rise above the clouds, just in time for sunset. None of us are excited for night hiking, but we stand transfixed. Then, it’s headlamps out. We’ve only been hiking for half an hour when I see it- spiky green leaves rising out of an ashy grey stem that someone has obviously tried to kill. Poodle Dog Bush! Poodle Dog has been our bogey man for a long time. We’ve been told we’ll know it when we see it, but having never seen it before, we jump at every spikey leaved plant with purple flowers. It is worth being scared of- worse than poison oak, it leaves you with puss filled blisters and can put you in the hospital. We have no idea how much we have walked through before I spotted it. Oh well. Nothing we can do about it now. We camp on Gobblers Knob. The sunrise wakes us. A friend with a stove makes coffee and melts a snickers into it. He passes it around. Hot coffee has become even more of a treat since I am stoveless. We hobble out of camp. We hiked 22 miles yesterday, with close to 5000 feet of elevation gain and we feel every step. It’s a long 12 miles to Wrightwood, where we will take our first real zero. Even through the pain, the view amazes as always.