mile 342.5-369.5 (Wrightwood)
An alarm in the room next to mine began blaring at 4am. Too early for me! I got up sometime after 5, packed up the last few things, and headed to the continental breakfast in the lobby, where I found the three older men already eating. Chip was enjoying a bowl of raisin bran and every time he had finished, he would get up and refill it again. (He later said that this was the first sugar he had allowed himself on this journey and it seemed like his body couldn’t get enough!). We had a little extra walking to do to get back to the McDonald’s and then a little more to get back to the trail.
Chip and Mark were going to fill up their water bottles at the McDonald’s, so I decided to do the same, although I kept worrying that they wouldn’t let me if I didn’t buy something! The road to McDonald’s was a historical site from the days of wagon travel, and we stopped to take photos at the monument.
Mark was telling a story about being overtaken by four girls on the climb the day before and how it really hurt his ego. I suggested he let that one go…
I filled up 4 liters of water from the machine and used the restroom. Chip and Mark had found a woman who was interested in their journey and they were showing off their lightweight backpacks. They were each carrying only one liter of water!
We headed back to the trail together, through a tunnel, and then across some train tracks.
I let them know that I had to stop often to relieve my shoulders from the weight of my pack, and that I didn’t want to hold them back. They seemed to agree that they would go on ahead of me, but every time I needed to take my pack off, they said it was a good time for them to take a break as well!
These two had begun their hikes separately, but decided to hike together after discovering that they had similar paces and were of a similar age. Their dynamics were interesting to witness. Chip had clearly claimed the role of leader and dictated where they would stop for resupplies and harped on the pace they were moving. He was extremely proud of his resupply strategy and rattled off how many 2, 3, 4, and 5 (his maximum) stops he had. (I didn’t find this so fascinating to listen to, myself…). Mark was afraid of hitchhiking and hoped to hike the entire trail without ever hitching (I’m not sure how…), so Chip had his work cut out for him in convincing Mark to follow along with his plan. Mark was tracking his progress on his GPS and always knew what pace they were hiking. If the pace seemed slow, Chip would call out with a frustrated voice, “Are we only hiking 2 miles per hour right now?” and Mark would look at the numbers and tell him that it was actually 2.83 miles per hour. Chip quickly drank his one liter of water, so I offered him some of mine at one of our break spots. He drank right out of my bottle!
Mark dropped behind and Chip decided to tell me lots of stories about his dysfunctional family, which I really didn’t need to hear. I gave him some sympathy, but it was very clear that he was choosing to stay in a situation that he could have very easily removed himself from. When he asked about my family and I told him I really didn’t have one, he asked what was it that I had done. What had I done??? I explained as best I could, knowing that he wouldn’t understand, and that it didn’t matter anyway. I was proud of myself for creating a barrier around myself so as not to let his dysfunctional stories penetrate my energy field too much.
We reached a water cache where four other hikers were hanging out, smoking marijuana. I took a bit of this water as Chip talked to the hikers and then told Mark I was taking off. I wanted a bit of space. However, Mark said, “I’m coming, too!” and jumped right up.
He called out to Chip, “We’re leaving!” and Chip said he would be right behind us! That plan didn’t work so well… Both Chip and Mark had downed between one and two liters of water at the cache so they didn’t have to carry any water. The day was hot and we had 5,000 feet of climbing to do, but I felt pretty good.
We reached a second water cache and found several other hikers resting there. I ate some lunch, collected some more water, and got back on the trail. This time, Mark and Chip remained where they were! I finally had some space to myself! As I walked along, I could see the smoke of a wildfire in the distance.
Postholer and his friend were a little ways behind me. All of a sudden, I heard a loud hissing to my left. Another rattlesnake! I talked to it for awhile, trying to calm it down, and telling it to go one way while I went the other. It worked!
A little later on, I came across another startling sight- a man lying face down in the middle of the trail, with his head towards me! What on earth! He lifted his head up when he heard me, revealing a bloody cut on his forehead. I asked him if he was all right. He said he was fine, just tired, and apologized for being in the way. I would expect to come across such a scene on a city street, but not on the trail!
Pine cones blanketed the trail around a bend and I returned to a more peaceful mindset.
I had one more piece of the climb and then I would have to figure out where I would get my water. The only water source in the area was a distance off the trail and only seemed to be trickling according to the water reports. I decided to bypass that side trip and make it to the top of the climb and the campground up there. A man greeted me on the return from his day hike and asked me if I needed some water. How amazing! I followed him to his trailer, where he introduced me to his wife and dogs. His wife was running low on water, herself, so I told her I was fine- that I didn’t want to take their water. She thought about how much water she needed for washing the dishes and said she could spare a liter. I was so thankful, as she confirmed that the water source was barely trickling and that it had taken two thru-hikers an hour to fill up six liters! I happily went on my way. At one point, I was confused as to which way the trail went and turned on my GPS to help me. I discovered that I had a voicemail and learned that my sister had called (for the first time on this hike) telling me that she had some information that I would want to hear and to call her back. The wind had picked up strongly, so I made my way over to a patch of trees and called her back. She did a lot of stalling and I wondered what had happened and to who… Was my father sick and did I need to go home? Or was it our older sister? I wished she would just tell me! Finally, she said that our mother had passed away a week ago and that our older sister had just informed our father, who then told her. I felt relieved in many ways- relieved that I didn’t have to do anything, that I could continue on with my hike, and relieved for the many people who were abused by her that she has finally left this earth. I felt no sadness and really no emotion at all. It was a piece of news that was delivered to me and one that had more of a freeing feeling than anything. Now, I really had no excuse to be held down by her in any way. She had no ability to exert any control over me. It was time to fully live my own life. My sister said she felt similarly. I told her that I had to get going as I was getting very cold from the wind and because darkness was coming and I still had several miles to hike. As I walked, I reflected on the timing of my mother’s passing. This journey was already a significant one.
At some point, I began wondering if I should try to make it into town that evening where I knew Muk Muk was already. I texted her and told her that I didn’t know what to do- sleep in the woods or try to make it all the way. I hadn’t planned on spending money to stay in town again. She said that I should stay with them. The room was already full because UB and Lion King were there, but I was still welcome. So, I moved as fast as I could. I still had three more miles to hike and the sun was setting.
As I emerged from the woods, the sky revealed clouds of pink and blue.
I knew I had to make it to the road before darkness fell in order for it to be possible to get a ride. Eventually, I could see the road ahead of me. As I got closer, I saw a car drive ahead. I needed to flag it down but I was steps too late! I walked down the road and saw that it had pulled into an overlook. I still had a chance! I made my way towards it, but then saw the people get into the car and drive off! Nooo! I knew no one would be coming up here in the dark. Then, I saw the car heading towards me on the other side of the road! I crossed the road and waved to the driver. She stopped and I asked if she was going to Wrightwood. She was! She opened her trunk for me and I got in, so thankful that the timing worked out perfectly. She and her daughter were very nice people and we had pleasant conversation about the trail. I asked if she could drop me off at the Pines Motel and she pulled up to one of the cabins. I didn’t know which one Muk Muk was in, but in the window of the one we had pulled up to, I could see UB’s signature red hat! She took me right to them! I excitedly got out and tapped on the window. UB jumped up, came outside, and gave me a big hug, and told the woman that she was awesome for giving me a ride. I took my things in and reunited with Muk Muk. It was so good to be around my friends again! The three of them were in the middle of resupply organizing and the floor was covered with food and gear! I looked down at my legs and couldn’t believe how dirty I was!
Still, I didn’t feel like I NEEDED to take a shower because I hadn’t planned on taking one there. I was able to get one, though, which was really nice. We all took turns taking an epsom salt footbath and Muk Muk popped some of UBs blisters.
We laughed and laughed when they talked about the lingering smell of Muk Muk’s cooked rice from the trail that she had dumped in the toilet, and finally, we got ready for bed. The guys said the girls could have the bed while they slept on the floor. UB said he needed to practice his set up. Lion King showed us some of his videos and Muk Muk did some blogging and then it was time for a little sleep after a very long day!