Friday, May 18, 2012

18 May - Day 28 - Into the start of the San Gabriels

From a chaparral camp at 5600 ft in the San Gabriel mountains (Mile 354) to Highway 2 (Mile 369.5) at 7374 ft elevation.

Total trail miles: 15.5

Charles here. This is what we call a "nearo" - or near zero day: a day when we hike some miles then get into town to resupply. The town this time is Wrightwood - not far from Mt Baldy and Mt Baden-Powell in the San Gabriels.

Sean here. This entry is sponsored by Gold Bond powders. Helping thru-hikers not scratch themselves in public for decades now.

We made camp yesterday on hardscrabble ground among high chaparral after climbing out of the hot San Andreas Rift. Tough hike and we were wiped out. We threw down our two ground cloths to cowboy camp and were unconscious within minutes. But the hot, dry day had a trick to play. We woke at some midnight point with our sleeping bags and gear surprisingly wet. The condensation from the valley had come rolling up and put a mist on everything. We recently shipped our tents forward for when they might prove more useful against wetter and buggier places. All we had were rainflies so we grudgingly crawled out of our warm if wet sleeping bags – buck-naked, mind you – to rig rainflies up among the spiny scrub oak and the unforgiving manzanita. As unpleasant as it was to set them up under those conditions, the rainflies really made a positive diff in how wet we were when dawn came ...and we woke to a landscape of clouds below us nestled between the dry peaks.

Sunrise and the waning moon. Mist down below filling the valley.

Sean and Dionysus (Chris) looking back toward the San Bernadinos.
Low clouds from the coast pushing into the El Cajon junction. San Bernadinos in the distance. 
The 15 miles we had before us into Wrightwood ran across and over a rolling montane landscape of pines, cedars, and firs. At times the ups got quite steep which is not the rule on the PCT. The overall design of the trail uses modulated switchbacks so few slopes contain genuine grunts. But this section was something of an exception. At one very steep climb I actually paused and wondered if I'd gotten off the main trail. Not this time.

We got a hitch into town almost immediately; giving lifts to hikers is very much part of the culture along the trail. The fellow had a bike on the back of his car -- but stopped immediately. Apparently there was going to be a bike race that would close off the road into Wrightwood -- but we'd get to see the race. So we rode in, then piled out of the car to clap for the bike riders. Ben (later named "Jubal") was with us.

Dionysus, Pan, and Jubal.

It must be rather amusing to witness thru-hikers stumble into town. Servers in restaurants treat us well despite our appearances and earthy scents. We arrive hungry and grateful and show it in our tips (at least we Caballeros do).

Thru-hikers also produce conversations that must seem absurd to bystanders. At the grocery store, Chris and I got into a discussion with Last Minute about the relative merits of Inca corn nuts and the more commercially popular brands. All in all, I think thru-hikers seem a little goofy and addled when we roll into town. We're beat, punchy, and a little overwhelmed by the "real world," but also immensely grateful for its comforts.

Dinner at a Mexican restaurant -- and a crowd of thru-hikers chowed down. We sang for the gang, too - and others at the restaurant seemed to enjoy that.

From left: Chrstine, Jubal, Pace, Seano, Russ (who became "Morrissey"), Dirty Brown, and 3Bears. Fajitas and strawberry margaritas.

But you can't ask us to hold the photo smiles long when food's in front of us. This is Rapunzel to the right.

A special shout-out to Jay who runs Pine Creek Hotel who did our laundry gratis even though he did not have a room for us. The kindness and generosity we encounter along the way has not ceased to amaze us!

And remember, Gold Bond Powders keeps the armpits and underbits dry, comfortable, and smelling a little like menthol cigarettes!


PS. Charles back. We had a challenging time in the morning threading our way gingerly past and around Poodle Dog Bush - a toxic plant I haven't encountered anywhere else in the world but that carries a world of hurt in its leaves. Like poison oak but reportedly worse. Quite a bit of it this morning on the trail. We got thru fine.

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