An Impressive Road Walk

Day 28

Light hit our campsite almost directly after sunrise. Karin headed out first and was soon back to report trail magic up the next hill. I hurriedly packed when I heard there were bananas.

Patrick, from Palmdale, was our kind and generous trail magic host. He had hot dogs, fresh fruit, chips, and ice cream. Even though I had breakfast while packing, I quickly made a second breakfast of chips and fresh fruit. NoBo’s who stopped for food updated us on trail conditions ahead. Apparently many hikers are road-walking around Mt. Williamson and Mt. Baden-Powell.

A short ways into my hike, I encountered two volunteers using a chainsaw to clear thorny brush from the trail. There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining a trail so that I and others can travel along it! I plan to give back next year.

Over the following couple hours, the trail rose steadily and I was back amidst tall pine trees and green grass. While chatting with Martina and Karin during a water break, I noticed two ticks on my backpack, eew! I killed one and knocked the other off (though I meant to kill it).

Shortly before our campsite Karin & I passed the 400 mile marker, which is accurate to our total mileage so far. Woohoo! Martina was not at the spot we agreed on in advance, perhaps she pressed onward? Karin found hammock trees for the first time in over a week.

Day 29

For perhaps the first time, I beat Karin out of camp. She caught up while I filtered water and we walked 4.5 miles on the PCT before turning onto the Buckhorn Trail.  (The PCT was closed for the next four trail miles to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow Frog.) We crossed a creek twice, doing so on gigantic tree trunks that had fallen across it. The trail switchbacked across a steep hillside and at one point there was a waterfall coming out of a tree. We ate lunch at a picnic table in the Buckhorn Campground.

Karin and I encountered our first snow drifts as we made our way from the campground to Highway 2. We stayed on the highway around the endangered species area and then around Mt. Williamson. The only traffic was two large snowplows. I enjoyed looking around and walking through a couple tunnels.

Our original plan was to camp at Islip Saddle then start the closed portion of Highway 2 around Mt. Baden-Powell. It was only 3 pm when we arrived so we decided to continue. On our second or third snow drift crossing, Martina caught up. She had camped in the same area as us – somehow we missed one another – then slept in until 10 am. I was happy to have our tramily back together!

Walking Highway 2 was a unique experience. A mixture of snow drifts, rock slides, shattered trees and dry pavement. Multiple times small rocks came down as we hiked by. There was a section of guard rail wiped out by a tree and another suspended when the roadside gave way. It felt post-apocalyptic! We walked as far as Dawson Saddle TH and erected two tents & one hammock in the shelter of a maintenance building.

Day 30

Early morning found Karin & I continuing our Highway 2 road walk while Martina had not yet emerged from her tent. This portion had more dry pavement and less snow, though still a fair amount of rock slides. It will take a lot of work to open the road. I’m glad we did the road walk. As one hiker told us, you can always climb the mountain, seeing the road carnage is a rare occurrence.

Shortly past 9 am, we reached Vincent Gap. Karin & I examined options for going into Wrightwood. I wanted to maintain a continuous path and walking the Highway into town would cut a large trail section. We each had 1-2 days food and battery power. I proposed that we continue onward another 32 miles to Cajon Pass and get a ride into town from there. Karin agreed with the idea and sent a text update to Martina.

It felt good to be back on trail, my legs powered up the hill. After a mile or so, the trail became a patchwork of dry dirt and steeply sloped snow drifts. Karin was not a fan. I’ve done more snow hiking and enjoyed the increased mental focus, though it took greater effort to kick steps in spots where the hiker trail was melted over. When we found a view we took a lunch break.

After 4-5 miles of patchy snow, we abandoned the trail in favor of the Blue Ridge Road. The two generally followed the same path and the road was easier to walk. There was a point where we had cell service and discovered that Martina had hiked into Wrightwood. Continuing on, we ascended to over 8,200 feet, encountering ever larger patches of snow and a fierce wind. I enjoyed the impressive views of snow cloaked Mt. San Antonio along with neighboring Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak.

Twelve miles of climbing brought us to a dry, windy campsite. Eager to get to a warmer environment, we began a speedy snow-free descent. A sheltered nook appeared 3.5 miles later and I set up my tent, ate dinner, and was in bed before darkness fell.

Day 31

I didn’t sleep well, various lower body parts ached and I kept rotating between my sides and back. Karin had a similar experience. We ate breakfast in the tent where it was warmer. Once on trail, I sped along the mostly downhill terrain, listening to tunes. The valley was filled with clouds and soon I dropped amongst them.  I enjoyed the mystique it lent the surroundings.

At the base of the descent, the fog dissipated. The trail rose over rocky hills, crossed a train track, and took a tunnel under a second track. We encountered Glamazon, Smiles & Leilah headed north; hiker friends! Another long tunnel took us under I-15. Cajon Pass has a McDonald’s and it is hiker tradition to stop for food. I got a large vanilla shake and Karin got two large orders of fries. We celebrated one month and 460 trail miles!

A trail angel named Hawk gave us and two other hikers a ride into Wrightwood. Following a quick town tour, he dropped us at the post office. I looked forward to seeing Martina again. However, she slipped on ice hiking into town and hurt, not fractured thankfully, her wrist. She left for Portland a couple days early, will be back on trail in early June. We keep losing tramily members!

Mountain Hardware gave us PCT pins. We sat outside on the asphalt, Karin going through her box while I inventoried my food prior to grocery shopping. I called Arlene and found us lodging for the night. She manages 15 cabins and put us in the Mountain Pines Lodge along with six other hikers. There were loaner PJs while we did laundry, a cozy living room & deck, plus the best shower I have had on trail.

Day 32

Our cabin lodging was so lovely that we decided to spend a zero day in Wrightwood. Must rest to build strength! I enjoyed coffee and chatted with fellow hiker Annie. I enjoy discussing past trails and learning about new ones. Also, having a rest day gave me time to call family and friends, pay my credit cards, and update my blog. The necessities of life.

Karin and I discussed plans post Idyllwild. She called the PCTA about changing our permits. There are a limited number of flip flop permits and the lady warned that they could disappear within a week. A flip flop requires that travel segments be greater than 500 miles. The PCTA lady suggested that we jump north to Chester, where we will encounter 20 miles of non-sketchy snow then the Hat Creek Rim section. We went with her suggestion. Our new permits have 3 segments: Campo to Walker Pass, Chester to the Canadian border, Chester to Walker Pass.

In the late afternoon we got new cabin mates, familiar faces included Glamazon, Smiles, Leilah, and Spaceman (Paul from Mt Laguna). It was fun to chat and hang out with their tramily, especially as we haven’t encountered other SoBo’s so connections are mostly transitory. Perhaps that will change when we return to northbound travel.

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