Chapter 7: PCT Week 5: “Golden Arches and a Haunted Car Crash”

Chapter 7: Week 5: “Golden Arches and a Haunted Car Crash”
Days 29-35: 4/3-4/9/22
Total Trail Miles: 91.50
Total GPS Recorded Miles: 106.80
Cumulative Trail Miles: 430.40
From: Silverwood Lake to Messenger Flats Campground


Day 29 // April 3, 2022 // Trail Miles: 18.30 / GPS Recorded Miles: 18.65 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 341.90

~Destination // Cajon Pass~

The power plant was not the best campsite, and sleep came sparingly. We hiked by the nearby lake that morning and ran into Dan as he was packing up his tent. We hiked with for a few hours and ran into Decades in the process.

When we saw him around a corner ridge, he looked shocked and said, “Why hello! I have something for you!”

He handed me a tube of Skippy Peanut Butter. It was a trade he’d promised for a pack of Trail Butter. That moment made my day. Heading towards Cajon Pass (and McDonald’s) the trail ran along windswept ridges and powerline fields. We trekked on and off with both Permafrost and Romeo.

The terrain was beautiful, but also harsh with precipitous drops and harsh winds. The path dragged on for hours until a canyon opened to a Route 66 marker, and the sign to McDonald’s. At last…the golden arches. McDonald’s was first and foremost our main mission- to eat and sit on our posteriors. Cuppa and Jedi were there and had been for a while. When we walked up, we greeted the hikers sitting outside on the patio and went in to order a few McNugget meals. By the time we’d gotten our food and walked back outside, Cuppa had physically passed out in a food coma on the concrete patio, without any pads or mats, just there with face to concrete. It was one of the best sights we’d seen.

That night Basecamp and I booked a hotel to clean up and ate on and off for hours. Del Taco, Subway, food from the gas station, and whatever else we had in our packs. It all went in our mouths. We were ravenous. Permafrost, Decades, Achilles and Anna all had the same idea and booked rooms there as well washing clothes with the outside washing unit. Where did Achilles and Anna come from though? We hadn’t seen them in a while! They always popped up. It’s crazy how the trail brings people back together.


The morning view at Silverwood Lake

The morning view at Silverwood Lake


Day 30 // April 4, 2022 // Trail Miles: 19.80 / GPS Recorded Miles: 20.10 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 361.70

~Destination // Campsite at MM 361.70 Before Wrightwood~

As tempting as a zero day was, we wanted to hike. We were hungry for food, but also for more trail; to see what was next. We left our hotel with Subway sandwiches packed for lunch. While we’d probably have them in the back of our packs for more than four hours prior to eating, I honestly didn’t care. Everything I’d learned as a health inspector was quickly going down the drain.

We had a 20 mile climb ahead of us to a campsite just a few miles before Wrightwood. We started out with Gup, but parted ways early. The trail passed straight through the San Andreas Fault and a water cache. Thank God for trail angels stocking water in places that were/are bone dry. It was there we met Snot Rocket and Long John for the first time, who shared Liquid IV packets with us. The trail provided good vibes and flavored water just when we needed it. Bless you two!

We saw them on and off for the rest of the day as we climbed, and then climbed some more. I was over it. Normally I’m great on climbs, but the same repetitive switchback and ridge was wearing me down. We finally reached camp that night with Jedi behind us in the distance. With his huge pack, black Hawaiian shirt, and hat, he looked a bit like a big beetle on the horizon. It also just happened to be both Deuces’ and Optimist’s birthday! At camp that night, we saw a few familiar tents. One of them was Optimist! He greeted us and we re-hashed the past few days while setting up our tent. Decades and ROY G were also there, already cozy in their tents protected from the wind.

Optimist had a birthday cupcake that ROY G had given him, and some chocolate. Our tent was technically a 3-person, but Basecamp and I fit in there comfortably. A third person could have fit in there with us, snugly. And so, they did. Optimist wanted to join us in the comfort of our tent and have his birthday cupcake. It was a snug fit for sure, but we all managed and had a great time. The next day we’d be in Wrightwood and we wanted to know what his birthday plans were. When it was all said and done, we were stoked to be heading into Wrightwood, but not stoked at the chocolate he’d left on our tent floor. C’est la vie!


A few miles from the top of the 20-mile climb and my legs were done

A few miles from the top of the 20-mile climb and my legs were done


Day 31 // April 5, 2022 // Trail Miles: 7.60 / GPS Recorded Miles: 7.68 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 369.30

~Destination // Wrightwood, CA~

Town day. Decades woke up early with us so we could start at dawn and have as much time in town as possible. There were only 7.5 miles between us and all the food our stomachs could hold in Wrightwood. The crimson gold sunrise greeted us while we tiptoed out of camp trying not to wake the others still there. We’d gotten in contact with a trail angel (who knew the host of the AirBnB we’d booked) and she offered to pick us up and take us straight to our lodging in town. It was a lovely studio-style unit with a huge shower that we were looking forward to abusing.

The distance to the trailhead wasn’t long, but it wasn’t without its challenges that dragged out the process. Snow speckled the trail in inconvenient bends with straight drops below, but nothing like in San Jacinto. At one point a group of three hikers came up behind us. Basecamp took the lead, Decades pulled in the rear, and I was sandwiched in the middle. One of the three hikers that had just approached, passed Decades on a snow-covered ridge, sloshy from heat, and then attempted to pass me as well. They were plowing through without regard for the safety of other hikers, and not even a quick courtesy shout from behind like, “Do you mind if we pass at a safe spot?” I spread my arms wide and covered any possible route they could try and pass on. This continued for several minutes, without a word from them, before I decided to let them pass on a snow-free ledge. Some people.

We hiked through and out with Decades just in time to see our angel pull up just before noon. Thank goodness nothing had happened to any of us on the way, and that this sweet woman was willing to give us a ride. We made it to Wrightwood by noon and checked into our unit before, you guessed it, heading to a local brewery. It was a bit of a walk into town and all the shops, but a half mile wasn’t an impossible challenge at this point. We met several people we knew there including Deuces, Optimist, Snot Rocket, Long John, ROY G BIV, and a few others. A zero day awaited us, and we planned to take full advantage of it.


The view hiking down towards Wrightwood

The view hiking down towards Wrightwood


Day 32 // April 6, 2022 // Trail Miles: 0.00 / GPS Recorded Miles: 0.00 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 369.30

~Destination // Zero in Wrightwood, CA~

We woke up in our AirBnB to the sound of horses in the field beside us. Groggily, I woke up and made us coffee to drink in a warm, bleached-white collection of sheets and comforters. It was such a treat to our normal grimy sleeping bag and liner. Our host had agreed to wash and hang our clothes out for us so we gathered everything with a funky smell and bagged it up. Otherwise, we’d have had to find a laundromat somewhere and get there with a hitch (there wasn’t one in town).

After walking into town to grab breakfast (pancakes, of course) we bought our food resupply and grabbed a few pieces of gear we needed from the general store (very hiker friendly). The town was packed with hikers we knew: Optimist prime, Deuces, ROY G BIV, Decades, Anna and Achilles, Razor, Cougar Zero, Tumbleweed, Permafrost, Cuppa, and Jedi to list just a few. While we wanted to spend time with everyone, we also wanted to take advantage of the wonderfully cozy AirBnB we had.

After chores, we went to the brewery as we always did. While there, we came across hikers in a staggered fashion. Optimist was there, and then ROY G, followed by Deuces who’d planned to hike back out but who we’d convinced otherwise. Even Achilles and Anna showed up to exchange beers we’d been promising one another for weeks. While there, I gave Optimist his official knighting ceremony that he hadn’t received during his ‘naming’ the first week on trail. In place of a sword, I used a sun umbrella. At one point I walked with Optimist back to our AirBnB to grab and mail off my Hyperlite backpack for repair. When we got to the unit, our sweet host had already washed and hung all of our clothes in the sun. She was a gift.

That night we all went to Mexican and took up most of the upper story of seating. Almost every table there was full of tanned, fit hikers. Most we knew, some we didn’t. Jedi was there and he was kind enough to take a bag of blue hot Takis off my hands. I’d thought I would give em’ a go, but they were simply too spicy for me to enjoy.

We drank and ate ourselves into a deep sleep that night.


The horses we woke up to outside our AirBnB in Wrightwood

The horses we woke up to outside our AirBnB in Wrightwood


Day 33 // April 7, 2022 // Trail Miles: 14.60 / GPS Recorded Miles: 13.83 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 383.90

~Destination // Mt. Baden-Powell and Little Jimmy Campground~

With a quick hitch out of Wrightwood and back on trail with Decades, we were ready to immerse ourselves in nature. It was such a cycle. We couldn’t wait to make it to town, but no sooner were we there than we started to dream about the trail again. Mount Baden (not Balden) Powell was on the menu, and we’d heard it was quite a challenge.

The climb started clear by the parking lot, but quickly slick patches of melting snow began to appear on the ridge switchbacks. It slowed down our progress significantly. Decades trailed behind us slowly. Having suffered a bit of a fall in the snow previously (and bent his trekking pole) he was in no rush to experience another episode of the same. By the time we were half-way up Baden the snow was to our knees. The boot pack was all over the place; not in a nice, structured line. With our shoes, socks, and feet soaked, we made our way through poorly packed, sporadic, snow-covered trail that looked like a pack of hounds had been let loose in. After hours of slogging, we reached the top. Not the top of Baden-Powell, but the top of the climb on the PCT that took us close to the top of Baden. Again, you rarely summit anything on the PCT even if you can practically spit its summit.

The views were rewarding so we took a few minutes to warm up in the sunshine behind a juniper and snag photos with Decades. We still had several more hours of knee-deep snow on paths that we assumed to be trail, but often lead to dead ends. It was near impossible to stay on the actual PCT trail, not only because we couldn’t physically see it or a boot pack on it, but because our FarOut app kept going haywire, and some of the paths already taken didn’t look safe. It was literally every man and woman for themself.

Depleted, we finally walked into the Little Jimmy Campground just before dusk where Permafrost and Gup had already pitched. While there was snow everywhere, we were grateful for the unfrozen pipe spring just before the camp and for a few slivers of dry dirt to pitch our tent on. Decades walked in a half hour later as the sun was setting. Optimist rolled in just at dark, tired but optimistic. He’d taken a few bad trails as well that set him back for miles. We were all wiped, but we’d made it. Cold and spent, we stowed all our food in the provided bear lockers at camp and closed that chapter of the day shut along with our eyes.


Decades on of the snow-covered switchbacks climbing Baden-Powell

Decades on of the snow-covered switchbacks climbing Baden-Powell


Day 34 // April 8, 2022 // Trail Miles: 15.60 / GPS Recorded Miles: 15.79 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 399.50

~Destination // Haunted Creekside Campsite at MM 399.50~

We woke up early (go figure) at Little Jimmy Campground so we could have consolidated snow to walk on in case the ridges had any on them. We had hiking crampons so harder-packed snow was preferable to loose slosh where we had little control over our footing. There was a bit, but nothing too intimidating. We probably could have slept in a bit more. Heading down towards the Mount Williamson trailhead and parking lot, we sighted our first Poodle Dog Bushes (which stank). There would undoubtedly be more to come. Permafrost was there, and so was Gup. Basecamp and I stopped at a bench for a short snack and restroom break since there were pit privies there. You never pass up such an opportunity on trail.

In that moment Basecamp said something along the lines of, “I’d like to be packed back up and ready to leave in 10 minutes.”

I took immediate offense to it since I was actively walking towards the bathroom when she said it.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, I can’t even go to the bathroom because of her schedule.”

She’d really been pushing to pick up our daily mileage and take less zero days in town since we’d had an average pace around 2 to 2.5 miles an hour most days. When I say “daily mileage”, I mean the number of miles hiked, not how fast we hiked them, because our pace was pretty consistent with her leading. I knew I could hike faster than that pace, at least 3-3.5 at the time, and the way I saw it was that a faster pace meant more miles quicker, allowing for more rest days. It had been a big point of contention between us since the first week of hiking and we still hadn’t resolved it. But, I didn’t speak a word and held my thoughts to myself for the time being. We needed to climb Williamson and I didn’t want to have that conversation while doing it.

The day was relatively short at just over 15 miles, but the small climbs spiked up here and there adding up to over 3,200 vertical feet in gain for the day. The terrain was dry forest. Not very appealing, but it beat another day in the office! We ran into Renee a few times and also met some new faces including one guy named Robby. We stopped for a quick lunch at a massive creekside campsite where Renee, Permafrost, and Gup joined. We’d seen Renee first in Idyllwild after coming down from the Jacintos with Gazelle, and then we’d hiked with her briefly up Baden-Powell the day prior Gup hiked to a spot past us and didn’t say anything. He appeared to be in a good bit of pain. Renee and Permafrost came over to where we were sitting. Apparently Gup had injured his leg, and he was certainly in a lot of pain. He and Permafrost were going to camp there for the night. It was a pretty tempting site. Renee was going to keep going and camp at the same spot we already had in mind, the next water source. Before heading out, Permafrost tossed us a Pro Meal Bar and it changed our lives forever. Why hadn’t we been buying them?

As we approached the campsite icon on our app, a man in an SUV drove by, turned around, and drove back to us. He ran the nearby ski resort and asked if we needed anything.

Of course we replied with, “Well, if you have any beer or food?”

“As a matter of fact, I just bought a few packs of Coors Light if you’d like one?” he replied.

He opened his trunk to reveal several 24 pks of Coors Light. He handed Basecamp and me one a piece and then asked if we wanted to carry a second. We absolutely did. Heaven had answered our unspoken prayers! A mile later toting our Coors prizes, we met with Renee at the site we’d decided on for camp. On the path down there’d been car pieces scattered all around. The trail was right below the road, and it was obvious a severe crash had happened. We just hoped that there hadn’t been a fatality.

There was a small creek at camp large enough for me to stick our beers in to cool them off. We shared one with Renee and talked to our newfound friend. Her eyes were almost glacial blue. As the sun began to set, Decades, Optimist, Deuces, and another hiker (Patricia) rolled up at camp. We sat around that night enjoying dinner and having laughs- something much needed after the exhausting day we’d had.


Mount Williamson

Mount Williamson


Day 35 // April 9, 2022 // Trail Miles: 30.90 / GPS Recorded Miles: 31.01 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 430.40

~Destination // Messenger Flats Campground~

That night had been weird. At around 2:00AM I’d woken up to a piercing sound. It sounded like tires screeching on the asphalt of the road above, just like someone had slammed on brakes. My mind immediately went to the pieces of car we’d seen on trail the day before. That crash. Was I hearing that same accident…happening again? I never heard a crashing sound, but nudged Basecamp to see if she’d heard anything. She did, sort of, but was half asleep and had no idea what it was. From that point on I couldn’t find sleep, so I suggested to her that we wake up and get a start on the day. In just around a mile we’d hit the 400 mile marker in the pitch black morning, so that was early morning motivation. Little moonlight greeted us when we left camp.

Sunrise trail magic set a standard. Two women in a parking lot with their dogs at sunrise where sitting in camp chairs. They were kind of in the middle of nowhere just enjoying the moment. When we struck up a conversation the topic of food was brought up, and before we knew it, they’d offered us something we didn’t expect, dehydrated vegetables. They are difficult to find at resupplies on trail, and veggies are a must when all you’ve been eating is ramen and junk food. I believe Basecamp gave them hugs of gratitude before we left. What a treat!

The sun blazed. The trail was overgrown. Trees and shrubs slapped at my face. As if it would do any good, I cursed at one of the limbs that popped me right in the cheek and hit it with a trekking pole. Nothing happened, but I felt better.

We climbed up and around Pacifico Mountain not expecting anything special after a sweaty climb, but at the bottom we saw a caution cone with a sign that read “Trail Magic”. We couldn’t believe it, more trail magic! Hot dogs, chips, beers, sodas, potato salad, and bins full of medical and trail supplies where there under a tent and in the back of a pickup truck. It was hosted by a married couple and their daughter. The wife hoped to hike the PCT in a few years and only asked for a bit of time to talk to us. We happily chatted and stuffed our faces for 2 hours.

With a food coma quickly setting in, we decided to hike on before falling asleep. Robby, Cherub, Crush, Mach 5, and others were there with us, and they left the trail magic one by one. Sodas and carbs fueled us uphill along desert ridges. On one side we had a sheer mountain, on the other side of our 2′ wide trail clearance, was a sheer drop covered with shrubs. Hiking along another ordinary ridge, Basecamp stops, yelps, and jumps backwards into me. A rattlesnake was right there, likely aggravated from dozens of other hikers bothering it the same day. She said she could see its fangs. Luckily a few minutes of soft talking calmed it down as it slithered downhill.

We hiked on and off with the same crew that shared trail magic with us. Going straight through sunset, we had a campsite in mind that would put us at a 31-mile day, our biggest yet. The body ached and groaned, but we reached the top of our last climb for the day leaving us just 1 mile to camp. On the way down Basecamp somehow got a tree limb jammed in the sole of her trail runner. She took it off and put a Croc on just to save time to get to camp. She then managed to get a Manzanita limb stuck in her Croc that poked through, so she limped into the Messenger Flats Camp by our new friends, and Achilles and Anna who’d somehow showed up there (they always just appeared, and it was wonderful).

Robby and his group mentioned to us that they’d heard a mountain lion growling at them from the thickets of our last climb, something Basecamp and I never heard, or were oblivious to from exhaustion. Our jaws dropped at the news, but we were grateful to have made it to camp safely. It took a while to find an available, level spot, but we did. I went on a 2-minute rant about all the broken glass shards we had to kick out of the plot before pitching our tent, but soon enough I was too tired to care anymore.


That oh-so-magical trail magic

That oh-so-magical trail magic


To see more photos, videos, reels, and podcast, check out our  Linktree  where you can find our Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Podcast links!

Podcast Name: “Yeti Walks Into Basecamp”, found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

We look forward to sharing more with you!


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Sir Lostalot : Apr 2nd

    Loved the line about how everything you learned as a health inspector was going down the drain. Made me laugh. Thanks.

    • Wesley Black : Apr 2nd

      There were some dark days in the dirt for sure haha. Thanks for reading!


What Do You Think?