Thursday, May 17, 2012

17 May - Day 27 - Of beer & burgers, a fault & the start of the San Gabriels.

Cleghorn Ridge (Mile 332) to a chaparral camp at 5600 ft in the San Gabriel mountains (Mile 354)
Total Trail Miles: 22

Boy, were we glad to sleep the night high up on the last ridges of the San Bernadinos and not down in the valley where we sleep colder and where the bugs prowl.

The stars wheeled over us all night. We could hear the 1,001 trains heading through the Cajon gap down below.

I woke up first, as usual, in the dark when just a band of dusky mango color was smudging the horizon to the northeast, and I acted as reveille. I sang a morning wake up song my sister composed years ago for a Berlitz ESL songbook and CD: "Good Morning, World!" (Odd, they seemed unappreciative).

We were out of our bags, packed up and on the trail by 5:45 AM. A new record for us.
Today we had much to look forward to (though really, each day is packed with surprises, the unexpected pizzazz of the life we are living these days and, of course, challenges).

Today we were going down to where the PCT crosses under I-15, and nearby there is the famous McDonald's that thru-hikers aim for. Now, I'm afraid I'm no fan of the "Golden Arches" but somehow all the work of thru-hiking changes your taste buds - and your calorie needs. Chow time!
But before we got there we surprised a large Western Diamondback on the trail - it was stretched out for some first sunshine right across our way. Chris was at the front and jumped back, bumping into me, and I backed into Sean, knocking him back - all while a cranky rattler was curling and buzzing and stretching its open mouth toward us. We stumbled about like the 3 Stooges, then organized ourselves to pay attention to the rattler leaving the trail. Then we laughed at ourselves, and kinda apologized to one another for over-reacting, and then stepped forward shaking our heads at our antics. Two steps further on a second rattler - only this one gave no warning (we surprised it). Chris's foot was inches from its head when He glanced down and saw it. It reared back and Chris bodily lifted two feet into the air, backpack and all, and landed several feet away. The rest of us had no problem dealing w/ the snake; it was so nonplussed at Christo's apparent bodily ascension into heaven, it just kept staring up where it thought he should be.

Well! We discovered that a couple of rattlesnakes in the morning beats caffeine any day for feeling alert and an excess of energy. We also paid such close attention to every detail around our feet as we walked, we saw much more of the trail than usual.

Chris, Sean, and Charles at the PCT sign indicating McDonald's is 1/4 mile away. 
We arrived at the McDonald's too early (still doing breakfast) so we hightailed it over to the convenience store next door, and since it was so hot we bought Shock Top Hefeweizen ... and Blue Moon Wheat -- LOTS of it. We had liquid breakfast! Great carbs. Malt, wheat, barley, ~ multi-grain beverage, right?

This is the dazzling view from where we sat on the sidewalk in the shade with our backs against the side of the convenience store drinking beer from paper bags. Hiker Trash breakfast. YUMMMMM!

Then, once they got lunch going at McD's, we slipped over there where more and more thru-hikers were gathering.

When we got to McDonald's, no one could tell Dionysus had had two liters of beer for breakfast.

Hiking under I-15.

Then we headed off through the tunnel under I-15, and south, and then southwest across the desert scrub flats in 100° heat, and slogged over the San Andreas Fault to a water cache [trail angels keep these tiny oases restocked out of their own pockets].

We rested on lawn chairs (glorious softness) under the shade of a live oak soughing in the wind, us drinking fizzy water. And we dozed off (surely nothing to do with our liquid breakfast?) And it turned out we were napping right atop the San Andreas Fault. But if anything ever shook, we were too asleep to notice.

Sean captures the moment as Pan and Dionysus fade out.
Here we got to meet Heather and Monkey (formerly "Sierra"). Monkey is 8 yrs old and Heather is her awesome mother taking her on their attempt of a thru- hike of the PCT. [PS. They accomplish it, too!]

Afterwards, we marched high up along beautiful trail into the chaparral again, and hugged along just below a ridge line (that had a dirt road on it, little did we know) and eventually found a lovely spot for cowboy camping. Chris had smuggled a 12% potent watermelon flavored malt liquor up with him to share between us. Appalling flavor but after 22 miles in hefty heat, it tasted great (the PCT is ruining our taste buds).

We could see the low coastal clouds covering the west end of the LA basin, but south it was clear below and out toward the vast high desert plains around the communities near Palmdale it was clear. What views. And somehow lying down in difficulty and pain and groans and chuckling yelps makes everything more vividly beautiful and memorable.

Happy night among rustling manzanita, scrub oak, buckwheat, ceanothus, and wheeling stars. "Happy," at least, until the coastal clouds moved up the San Gabriels. I woke in the night and felt our sleeping bags. Wet from condensation and the stars were gone. Yikes! I roused Sean and Chris and we groggily set up our rain flies. **shiver** -- as hot as it had been, we were all stumbling about in the dark in the nude with headlamps on, and backing in our awkwardness inadvertently into VERY pointy dried manzanita branches then YELP, jumping forward to stumble on a tent peg and topple the tent. It was all too silly, and we were laughing even as we shivered. Nice getting back into the warm bags.

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