From Big Bear Lake, I hiked out with my two hiking partners Rabbit and Backtrack. I met Rabbit at the San Diego Airport. He’s from North Carolina and I’ve been hiking with him since the first week on the trail. Backtrack is from Washington State and he’s been my hiking partner on and off since starting at the Mexican border. The three of us (Outback, Rabbit, and Backtrack) share a similar hiking pace and hiking style.
We hit the 300-mile mark which was exciting and saw some more great scenery as we progressed northward. Hiking into Deep Creek Hot Springs was one of the highlights of this stretch. The super-hot nature bath was like sitting in a hot tub in the middle of nowhere and was a great way to relax the muscles after a long day of hiking. There was also a slackline and a cooler water area to swim in.
Crystal Lake was another great place we hiked along. After eating dinner at a boat-in shelter, Rabbit and I decided to night-hike during the full moon. We even decided that we’d night-hike during every full moon for the remainder of our thru-hike.
As our hiker appetite increased, I was excited to arrive in the early morning hours to Cajon Pass. This busy interstate crossing had a hiker-friendly McDonalds and has become a tradition for PCT hikers to stop there and treat themselves to a generous helping of food.
Walking out of Cajon Pass, the elevation got incredibly steep really fast. On this day alone we had over 6,000 feet of elevation gain. There was also a lot Poodle Dog Bush in this section, which is a beautiful flowering bush that, upon contact, gives an itch and reaction much more serious than poison ivy or poison oak.
An exiting milestone was hitting the 350-mile mark because that meant I was halfway through the 700-mile desert section. Hiking to Inspiration Point, we hitched down to Wrightwood, CA where we dropped off our packs at Mountain Hardware, resupplied at the Jensen’s grocery mart, and ate at a local pub.
While in towns, I’ve made it a habit to shave my face. Since I don’t look like a barbarian, I tend not to look like the average male thru-hiker and pass off as a day or section hiker. I get a little grief from the others but it’s in jest!
After spending a few hours in Wrightwood, Rabbit and I along with another familiar group we have come to know well (Squirrel, Moose, Midge, and Blueberry) summited Mt Baden-Powell (9,407 ft). This amazing mountain in the San Gabriels is named after Robert Baden-Powell, the father of the scouting movement.
We received trail magic two more times north of Baden-Powell, once by a woman from L.A. named Jenelle who drove out to a road crossing and prepared a spread of food including cold cuts and fresh fruits and vegetables. Another instance of trail magic came from Ranger Ron who gave incoming thru-hikers a frozen Klondike bar and a cold Coke.
Rabbit and myself (“Outback”) along with the other hiking group hiked 10 miles into a hiker-friendly KOA campground to take a shower, do coin laundry, and order in pizzas to get replenished. The next stretch went through Vasquez Rocks County Park which was used as a backdrop for many westerns including Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, and Gunsmoke. That evening we arrived at the much-talked-about Hiker Heaven to retire for the evening. After pitching a tent and eating Mexican food at Maria Bonita, I was spent and ready for a good night’s rest.
As of this writing, I am on Day 21 and have completed 454 miles of the trail. I’m averaging 23 miles a day and intend to reach Kennedy Meadows on June 14th for a June 15th (Ray Day) departure into the Sierras.
Back on the trail…