April 21, 2018
I staggered away from Cajon Pass with nine pounds of liquid in my backpack – four liters of water and a pint of sweet tea! According to the map, the next reliable water was 28 miles away, at Grassy Hollow Visitors Center, just past the turn off for the town of Wrightwood, CA.
Usually, a liter of water will last me five to six miles. But today, the sun beat upon our heads as the trail followed ridge after ridge without a smidgen of shade. I drank two liters in the first five miles.
Fortunately, at Swarthout Canyon, trail angels kept a water cache filled with gallon jugs of water. Jay and I gratefully filled our empty liters, then sat in the shade of a California sycamore tree for an hour as the heat of the day passed. We talked with another PCT hiker named Papa Bear. The three of us were amazed to learn that our homes in Nevada are only ten miles apart!
One thousand feet higher and several miles later we set up camp on the shoulder of a mountain. The sun glowed orange fire, spreading its glory across the evening sky. I knew I was blessed to be out here at such a time.
April 22, 2018
Golden beams of light woke us as the sun lingered on the horizon, scattering colors across the landscape.
A spotted towhee sat on a branch, his feathers glowing in the sunlight. His head tilted towards the sky, and he let out a call, “tweeeeeeee!”
Later, as we were hiking, a northern flicker took wing from the top of a giant pine, gliding across a cleft between two mountain sides. The red shafts of its wing feathers glowed orange in the morning light.
At lunch, I shared my pint of sweet tea with Jay. Such a treat on a hot day! Our packs were getting lighter as we drank the pounds of water we’d been carrying.
We hiked for much of the day through an old burn. Burned pineapples dotted the landscape. Wait, what??? No, these were the bodies of yucca plants, with leaves singed off, only a tuft poking from each top.
In one cleft, many large trees had been burned from trunk to tree top. New growth was sprouting along the branches, giving each limb a slight fuzzy green covering.
Jay and I were curious, what kind of tree were these? We examined the new pine needles, but were no wiser.
“If only we could see a cone, that would tell us!” I exclaimed in frustration. With charred ground underfoot, a pine cone seemed unlikely.
We kept hiking, and came around another corner, finding more of the same trees, slightly less burned. Eagerly I scanned the ground, and felt as if I had won the lottery when I spied an unburned cone! Jay and I looked at it, seeing the distinctive feature of exserted trident-shaped bracts, or “mouse tails”, disappearing into each cone scale. “Douglas fir!” Jay exclaimed. He looked it up, and found that this area grows a variety called bigcone Douglas-fir. We were amazed and delighted to have the mystery solved.
April 23, 2018
Today was a town day. We reached Hwy 2 at 7:30 a.m. The first car to pass stopped to give us a ride! Kyle, an enthusiastic hiker, kindly dropped us at the grocery store in downtown Wrightwood, CA. After repeatedly thanking him, we eagerly went inside to buy breakfast.
The town of Wrightwood was one of the best organized hiker towns I’d ever seen. The grocery store had umbrella-shaded tables at which hikers could eat and organize their resupplies. Next to the tables were charging stations for phones and other electronics. Just down the street, the hardware store was a cross between an outdoor equipment store and a place to buy tools, paint, etc. Behind the store was a back deck where hikers could sit and chat. The checkout counter had a list of a dozen locals who would host hikers for a night. We talked to a few hikers and some locals. We considered trying to stay the night with a host family, but finally decided to keep hiking.
Next to the hardware store was the post office. Jay and I picked up new shoes we had ordered on line, then headed back to the grocery store.
We bought food for the next section of our hike, then bought lunch from the deli inside the store. Many people stopped to talk, and it was quite a while before we were ready to leave.
Just as we were saying goodbye and heading towards the street, two men who had been quietly eating lunch called out, “Heading back to the trail? If you have 15 minutes to spare, we can take you when we finish eating.”
Jay and I didn’t need a second invitation! We happily sat down again, and got to know our new trail angels. Brad and Steve were very friendly, and kept us laughing with jokes about hiking. When Jay told them that we were such slow hikers, we had been passed by a worm while hiking the Appalachian Trail, Brad responded thoughtfully, “It’s all in your perspective. You know what the snail said when he boarded the turtle’s back?”
“I don’t have a clue!” I confessed.
“Wheeeee!” Brad grinned. And, still laughing, we climbed into their car for a ride back to the PCT.
Thank you so very much, Brad and Steve!