When the PCT crosses a highway, it’s usually time for another climb up the mountains. That’s exactly what awaited us north of Cajon Pass. The PCT climbs from 3000 feet elevation to 8000 feet. Climbing up 5000 feet really isn’t too difficult or unheard of, but on a hot shadeless day with a pack on your back it can be a real chore. So, Yip and I began the tedious climb up toward the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The PCT never gets very steep, so big climbs mean lots of long winding trails. The only saving grace on this section was that somebody had recently maintained the trail – the bushes were all cut back a good five feet. Finally, we got to the top and I said good-bye to Yip. He was heading down to Wrightwood, where many of the hikers went to resupply. I wasn’t stopping at Wrightwood, so I camped alone on top of the mountains.
The next day was to be my first day all alone, no hiking partner & no schedules. It felt good, and by this time I felt fairly confident in my abilities. So, I headed out. My solo experience was short-lived though. Later that day I met up with another hiker I knew, Nathan, and we started hiking together. Soon after we headed out we came across a man named Frank, who was wielding some huge pruning shears. We found out that he was partially responsible for clearing the section of trail before Wrightwood. “This is all I do”, he told us. We thanked him and continued on. The next challenge we faced was hiking up the snowy slopes of Mt. Baden-Powell. The snow from the previous winter still hadn’t melted, so once we got high enough the trail was completely covered. We went straight up the snowy mountain. It was a little difficult, and I wasn’t sure that we wouldn’t get lost. But, the nice thing about climbing this mountain was – there was only one top. We just kept going up until we couldn’t anymore. The trail reappeared near the top and we took a short break to pat ourselves on the back. Mt. Baden-Powell is named for the founder of the Boy Scouts. There’s a well known boy-scout trail called the “Silver Moccasin Trail” which starts there and continues about 53 miles partially along the same route as the PCT. So, for a short while we were hiking the same tread that generations of boy scouts had. We did have a good laugh when we looked at the trail register on top and saw a note from someone who was there a week before us, “I’m a middle-aged, overweight woman who made it up here in the snow, so don’t feel so proud of yourself buster!”. Thus humbled and humored, we continued on down the snowy trail. We were blessed by a glorious sunset before we finally quit for the night at a flat spot called windy gap.
The next day was a lazy day. We only hiked about 15 miles. We knew some friends of ours were behind us, and thought they might catch up. But they never did, so we just had a good time taking it easy. We hiked around more pretty mountains , down and up a creek bed, and finally camped at Camp Glenwood. It was nothing more than an empty building. I guessed that it was often full of boy scouts during the summer.
The rest of the trail all the way to Agua Dulce wasn’t anything really spectacular. More winding trail through hot, dry brushy hills. The next day was what I’d call a work day. Sure, it was wonderful being out there, but our primary goal at this point was to get to Agua Dulce. We started building up Agua Dulce into a magnificent paradise beyond compare. That night, we camped near a place called Big Buck Trail Camp. I think we put in a good 25 miles that day. Camp that night was the last place we in the presence of coulter pines. The cone of the coulter pine is huge and heavy. It’s about the size of a small football, and covered with sharp spikes. I wouldn’t want to be around one when it fell from the tree! We had encountered them on and off since the San Jacintos. If I had known it was the last of them, I’d have taken a picture or something.
The next day was much the same as the last… except for a minor detour. We lost the trail temporarily and wandered into a remote prison complex. We asked one of the guards if we could cut through. “No”. So, we hiked around it, glad we weren’t staying. Apparently, nobody wanted this prison in their backyard, so they put it up in the mountains.
We finally made camp on the hills just south of Agua Dulce. At night, we thought we could see the glimmer of the gold paved streets shining in the distance.
We woke up that morning covered in dew. I was out of water, and Nathan was kind enough to give me some of his. We were just starting to hike out when some of our hiking friends caught up to us. Just before entering Agua Dulce, the PCT goes through Vasquez Rocks County Park. The area was filled with beautiful rock formations. A lot of them looked darn familiar… this place has often been used as a hollywood movie location. A lot of movies and TV shows (including a couple episodes of star trek) were filmed here. Sure enough, just a little farther down the trail we spotted a strange looking house – they were filming “Flintstones II”. No, I have no idea who decided that the first Flintstones movie was SOOO good that it begged for a sequel. (Some hikers who passed through Agua Dulce a week later told me that the Flintstone’s house was no longer there, perhaps the sequel got scrapped?… I can only hope so!!!)
Our first stop in Agua Dulce was the post office. The lady running the PO made a phone call “Donna, I have a few more hikers for you”. A few minutes later, Donna showed up and took the dirty smelly bunch of us to her house. Donna, along with her husband Jeff, were wonderful hosts. Of course, the needs of hikers tend to be pretty meager – a shower and laundry is paradise. Add to that a bed, a TV, a nice lawn and good company and we were in heaven. We spent the next day in Agua Dulce. Donna was nice enough to drive a bunch of us up to the local outdoor supply superstore where we went nuts re-outfitting ourselves. By this time, we had a pretty good idea of what equipment we REALLY needed (as opposed to earlier when we just THOUGHT we knew what we needed). Later, during our second day in Agua dulce, there was a small rally in town to get support to stop a proposed mining operation. Some company wanted to consume one of the nearby hills for gravel and aggregate. I don’t know what happened with the mine (If I find out, I’ll append this web site). Finally, it was time to head out of Agua Dulce… we weren’t too excited to leave though. Jason kept joking, “it’s not too late to go back…”, even when we were a couple hundred miles down the trail.