Summits, Toilets, and Pizza

Days 17-24
Miles 266.1 to 454.5

The easiest way to think of a thru-hike is as a bunch of section hikes tied together by town stops. With about 100 miles between towns in Southern California, it makes sense. The group I’m hiking with usually covers that mileage in about three to four days, so you don’t have to carry too much food at a time.


Plenty of life in the desert.

Leaving Big Bear

We took two nearos in Big Bear, with a stay in a humble Motel 6. A bottle of tequila landed in our possession from a failed hitch, so a small party of cards and laughter filled the room till late in the night.

The weather looked not ideal leaving, but we powered through the cold and rain to hike 19 miles (does that really count as a nearo?). We had full bellies from a breakfast in town, and the hitch back to the trail has gotten easily.


Campsite in Little Bear.

We hiked into Little Bear Camp, and with rain in the future we set up tents instead of cowboy camping. It was a good thing too, as I woke up to a thin layer of ice in the morning.

Hot Springs and Simple Things

The next day hot springs were on my mind. The ice on my tent spurred me forward the 22 miles to the springs. We left early, and with a phone call to my mom on the way the miles flew by.

I showed up to the springs around 2:30, and wove my way between naked bodies to the warm water. It seeped into my bones and warmed me to the core.


Rainbow bridge just after the hot springs.

Two hours of soaking, eating, and sipping from the many bottles and bidets (never used) of liquor later, and we were back on trail. McDonald’s called us onward. We cowboy camped at a stream crossing, making for a 27-mile day. We had enough energy and daylight to play some crazy eights as a beaver swam in the creek nearby.

Cajon Pass Hot Tub

We woke early to start the day with a cold creek crossing. It also happened to be my birthday, so I donned my TuTu and took a shot of Jack Daniel’s, and started the walk for the day.

Not 30 minutes into the hike, we saw Papa Bear waking up. He’s a trail angel who has been driving along the trail, and his offer of beer and soda was gladly accepted. A beautiful rendition of happy birthday was also sung to me on the phone from my parents not shortly after.


A birthday card and trail magic.

We hiked some more, coming to a lake that was unexpected. We stopped at a picnic area near there, where hikers could order pizza. I drank a beer, and skipped on pizza since I knew McDonald’s waited for me at the end of the day.

We pushed forward, and by 5 o’clock I was sitting in a McDonald’s, my stomach full of chicken nuggets, Big Macs, and ice cream.


A little road walking to liven things up.

Monk, who is a part of our little tramily, had hiked 50 miles the day before to see his sister and friend. He had gotten a hotel room, so we all piled in. After sitting in a hot tub drinking beer, we all climbed first into the bathtub to see if we could, then into the king-sized bed. Honestly, the best birthday I’ve ever had.

The next day was more of the same. Cajon Pass sits well below 4,000 feet, and the next section required us to climb up past 8,000 feet into some dicey weather. We collectively decided to take a zero to wait out the storm.


Mile 300!

The day was perfect, filled with laughter, beer, and about six hours in a hot tub.


We got a late start out of Cajon, mostly thanks to the real bed and beer the night before. With a quick stop at McDonald’s, we hit the trail before 8. And started the climb.

Luckily, the several thousand feet of elevation was spread out over many miles, so the day went fast. We crested the peak, and started the short downhill to the highway. It was very cold as we fell into the parking lot, where we met about 15 other hikers trying to get a hitch into Wrightwood.


Spooky ski lift in the cold.

Everyone in our group needed to resupply there, and after about 30 minutes all of us got a ride into town.

Wrightwood and the Kindness of Strangers

Wrightwood is a very small, very hiker friendly town. We arrived at the grocery store and after checking the weather on Mount Baden Powell, decided to stay in town. We called some trail angels, and after many failed attempts figured we would have to spend some money on a hotel.


Our trail magic and home for the night.

Then, a man named Jerry saw us and asked if we had a place to stay. We sheepishly said no, and he told us he’d call his wife and get back to us.

He exits the grocery store, and lets us know he has a free rental we can stay in. It was within walking distance, so we walk there and set up shop. He offered to order us pizza, but we graciously declined. We don’t deserve the kindness, but it is humbly received. We leave some money and a note on the counter, and hit the trail late next morning.


Nothing like a little indoor cowboy camping.

Before that, though, I traded my Patagonia hat for a hat that sang to me. It read “may the forest be with you” and it was perfect.


A fellow hiker warned us that Microspikes were pretty much required for this mountain. None of us had any, so we figured we would give it a shot without.

As we began the climb, things were looking OK. Then, with 1,000 feet of elevation to go, we hit snow. Nothing terrible, a few patches here and there. But as the air got thinner, the snow got deeper.


Me on the summit with the hat I owned for eight hours.

The last half mile was entirely covered in snow, and we slipped our way to the top. There is a quarter-mile side trail to the summit, and with a brave face we decided to make the windy climb. It was well worth it.

After a fairly easier decent on the south side, we called it a day in a parking lot off highway 2. We pitched our tents from the threat of rain and wind, and called it a night.

Pizza, Toilets, and Hiker Heaven

The next two days were fairly uneventful. We hiked on to another parking lot through rain, hail, and snow (thanks, Southern California). We discovered we could get pizza delivered there, so we called it in from another hiker’s phone and devoured the extra large and medium pizzas.


Feral creatures eating some ‘za.

With hopes of a dry night we started cowboy camping. At around 3 a.m. I heard, “Do you guys feel that?” The predicted rain had hit. So, we piled into the nearby vault toilet and tried to stay dry.

The next day we pushed out a quick 37 miles to Hiker Heaven, a house that hosts hikers on their journey.

It’s a magical place, and I’m currently drinking a beer and watching a movie. Life is good, and the next section will bring us through the LA Aqueduct, a notoriously hot section.

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Comments 2

  • Kevin : May 25th

    Thank you for your story. I’m living vicariously through yours, and others like you’re stories.

    • Kory : May 28th

      Hope to see you come through Etna at mile 1599.8!


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