So there we were, in a dirty, junky wasteland near I-10. We crossed under the highway and started looking for someplace that was a little hidden. Yip and I were walking together when a pickup truck pulled up along side us. The man in the pickup asked where we were planning to camp that night. “Oh, I don’t know, just a bit up the trail somewhere”. We started to wonder why this guy was taking such an interest in us. Then he went on… “Well, I’m what you call a trail angel, and I have a cabin up ahead that you’re welcome to stay at”. We were dumbfounded and giddy at the same time. He gave us directions, described the cabin and pulled away. We quickly told the rest of our group about our sudden good fortune and proceeded to search for the cabin. It was a little pink house that looked pretty unimpressive from the outside. But when we went in the door, we found 6 comfy couches (exactly enough), a fireplace, food, lamps, PCT-related articles & magazines – you name it! We spread our wet stuff all over, lit a fire and settled in for a warm welcome night’s rest.
The next morning, we hiked out into more dry desert. San Gorgonio Pass is a narrow notch between the San Jacinto Mtns. to the south and the San Gorgonio Mtns. to the north. A lot of wind gets funneled through the pass and there are windmills all over to take advantage of it. We didn’t get too close to the windmills, but close enough to hear them whirring away. The climb up the San Gorgonio Mtns. was a lot more gradual than the descent from the San Jacintos. The trail went up and down over desert hills, and eventually down to the Mission Creek basin. Along Mission Creek, we were startled to find a number of dead warblers (small colorful songbirds) along the trail. We came to the conclusion that they got caught in the recent storm and died of either cold or hunger. It’s a cruel world. We found a flat clear spot near Mission Creek and settled down for the night.
The next day it was time for a big climb up the Mission Creek Drainage. As we got higher, the desert once again gave way to a shady conifer forest. When I got up to the top of the climb, I startled a coyote who quickly floated away from me. Coyotes have an elegant bouncing trot which makes them look like they’re rolling along the ground. The climb took a lot out of me. After I had hiked a few miles along the ridge of the mountains at about 7000 feet, I was just wiped out. My back was sore and I was continuously out of breath. I laid down with my back flat on the trail for about 20 minutes and made some adjustments to my pack. I also tried to control my breathing more – especially later when I resumed hiking. All this made an amazing difference. I found that if I hiked a little slower and took deep regular breaths, I never really got exhausted. My feet still got sore, but that was another matter!
A little later in the day, I looked up and was surprised to see an african lion just off the trail. It was in a cage, but still seemed out of place. I looked a little closer and noticed a tiger, a grizzly bear, a mountain lion and other similar animals. I later found out that these animals were trained to perform in hollywood movies. After watching the mountain lion stalk me for a little while, I was glad they were all in cages.
I finally made it to Arrastre Trail Camp (another flat area on the trail) just after dark. I kept myself busy by preaching to god to keep the sun up a little longer, and making up silly songs. I’ll never forget one that I made up :
“I can’t wait till I get to 2N01,
One more mile of downhill hiking – I’ll be done!
I think Charlotte’s waiting there
But I hope there is no bear
Cuz I’d be scared, and have to run to 2N01”
2N01 is a road that the PCT crossed. The strange things that walking all day will cause!
We were within spitting distance of Big Bear City… well, 20 miles anyway. I was already looking forward to a nice tasty pizza that evening. The trail was relatively flat around the mountain ridges outside of Big Bear City. I saw my first Joshua trees and walked over some particularly annoying sections of trail that consisted of loose fist sized rocks. I grew to hate this type of trail tread. Over the next ~2000 miles, I’d walk over dirt, mud, snow, volcanic ash, gravel, solid rock… you name it. But my least favorite tread was always large loose rocks. Every step was a chore. I finally made it to a dirt road that went 3 miles into Big Bear City. There was no traffic on the road, so I just started walking. After a couple miles, a white Ford Bronco appeared and some hikers already inside waved at me to get in. I was happy to get a ride, but something wasn’t quite right. The right wheel was virtually gone – completely deflated and just barely hanging on the rim. The owner of the truck didn’t seem to care though. So, we bumped along for another mile or so, caught another ride and wound up at the Big Bear City Fire Department.
The Fire Department let PCT hikers camp out on the lawn behind the firehouse. They also let us use their shower and were generally very hospitable hosts. I headed out to get my pizza… which turned out to be pretty crappy pizza. While I was at the pizza place, I discovered that I had a tick embedded in my back. Yikes! It was pretty disgusting. To make matters worse, I had accidentally squished it in my effort to figure out what it was (I couldn’t see it without a mirror). Squishing a tick is not a good thing since it can squirt all that nasty “tick juice” inside you and cause infections. Thankfully, Charlotte had some experience in removing ticks (slow and gently is the key, so the tick’s head doesn’t come off). So, I became the evening’s entertainment as everyone watched her pull a tick out of my back. Fun! Luckily, it was a larger tick, not the kind that commonly spreads lyme disease. Still, I kept a close watch on my wound to make sure it didn’t get infected – it didn’t.
I spent most of the next day doing chores (getting my mail, doing laundry). Then, a group of us decided to move over to a time-share that another hiker had reserved in our name. Although it was Donna’s time share, she hadn’t arrived yet. We didn’t know when she’d get there, so we just checked-in and had a great time without her. Cable TV, hot tub, pool… yup, trail life at its roughest! I spent much of the next day trying to figure out a way to fix my hiking pole tips. They had worn out somewhere just before Big Bear City. I called up Leki, the company that made my poles, and they offered to replace the tips for free. That was great, but I wouldn’t be able to pick the new tips up until my next stop. So, I improvised with some plumbing pipe caps for the next section – the pipe caps screwed into the plastic around the pole tips and worked remarkably well – they didn’t fall off once all the way to Agua Dulce.
Later that day, it was time to get back on the trail. I was with 3 other hikers, Jason & Lara & Yip. We only made it a few miles before calling it a night. We camped at a nice flat area covered in pine needles.
The next day was fairly uneventful. The trail wound through the forested mountains NW of Big Bear City and eventually dropped down to follow Deep Creek. The tall grass near the trail was swarming with ticks, so we camped on a sand bank next to the creek. The trail continued to follow Deep Creek Canyon downstream.
About 6 miles past our camp, we passed Deep Creek Hot Springs. The hot springs were nice, but it was hot outside already and there were a bunch of fat naked old men there… not really inviting. Finally, we came out of Deep Creek Canyon at the Mojave Forks Reservoir Dam, probably the world’s most worthless dam. There was a little puddle of water on the Mojave side – it didn’t even reach the bottom of the dam wall. Apparently, this dam has never been filled – just a stupid example of government spending gone nuts. We then proceeded to my personal least favorite section of the entire 2650 mile long trail. The overgrown, tick-infested, dry scrubby hills on the way to Silverwood Lake. We camped in these hills a mile or so above a small store on the road below.
The next morning, Yip and I went down to the store to get some snacks. The owner of the store took poloroids of us, asked us a bunch of questions, and told us there was a McDonalds at Cajon Pass (about 25 miles away). Now, we had a goal for that night! I felt a bit silly getting excited about McDonalds when I was supposed to be out in the wilderness, but there was plenty of time for wilderness… I wanted a hot greasy meal. So, we trudged through the next 25 miles, getting great views of LA smog in the distance. Near Cajon Pass, the landscape changed to one of steep eroded cliff sides. The San Andreas fault was nearby, and I deduced that this was somehow related to the unusual cliff formations in the area (I don’t know if that’s true though). Finally, at about 6 PM Yip and I made it to Cajon Pass & the golden arches. Yip had already decided that he was going to get off the trail at the next stop. After dinner, we noticed a hotel across the road. We decided to stay at the hotel, partly because Yip needed to make a bunch of phone calls, and partly because “it was there”.