Today is goal day: Eat all of the food at Cajon Pass.
I wake up at five in the grey morning by the lake. Cowboy camping is awesome, though it got a little windy last night I stayed pretty warm. I’m going to have to do it again sometime, there’s nothing like waking up directly under the sky. I deflated my sleeping pad, stuffed my quilt and pillow in their stuff sack, folded my pad, all that good stuff. I wolfed down my breakfast, waved goodbye to all the other hikertrash, and hit the trail. Challenge for the day: Don’t eat anything else so I can gorge in town.
I can’t imagine a better way to start the day than a hike around Silverwood Lake, it’s so beautiful. Even at this hour there were boats out on the lake full of people hoping to catch a couple fish. I looked at the water remembering my days of wakeboarding and watersports as a teenager. The water is so calm, it’d be a perfect day for it. I was so preoccupied with the scenery and my thoughts that I missed my turnoff to hit a second picnic area to fill up my water bottles. Once I hit a paved road I realized my mistake. Grr. I followed the road back to the picnic area to fill my bottles. There’s nothing worse than backtracking while thru-hiking. Except maybe genocide. Genocide is probably worse. And a lot of other things… it sucks, that’s my point.
I walked back and met back up with the PCT that took me passed freeways and other roads, as I walked people in passing cars turned their heads to stare at me. I’m wondering if they think I’m homeless? Whatever crosses their minds, I’m proud to be it. Vagrant, drifter, thru-hiker, whatever. That’s me.
The trail got back to its happy typical dirt path and took me away from Lake Awesomeface. I kept looking back to give it a mental goodbye. I’m going to have to come back here someday. I’m not a huge lake kind of guy, but this lake in particular was so relaxing and peaceful. As I thought about what capacity I’d come back here in, the trail started going uphill into the mountains. It’s no use feeling awful about elevation changes, this is life on the PCT. It has its uphills and downhills in any way you want to take it. It will go out of its way to go uphill just to take you back down for no reason quantifiable to me.
As I worked my way uphill the sun started doing that thing where it gets hot, you know what I’m talking about. But then take that and multiply it by about 3. It’s not even 8:00 yet and I’m already hot. What is this place? I started taking small breaks just to get out of the sun for a few moments, but it’s no use. You still have to go back out and risk spontaneous combustion if you want to make any progress.
Unfortunately, things got really hot in-between this paragraph and the last. That means I don’t remember much. I didn’t take notes, I didn’t take pictures, I was feeling pretty miserable. What I do know is at some point I actually crawled under a bush to get at least half of my body shaded for a moment, I was that desperate. I’m going to have to start taking siestas.
After a while of dragging my feet and wishing I could live in a bucket of ice, I came to one of the early landmarks: powerlines. Out of context it seems odd that anyone would be excited to hike to a bunch of powerlines, but the same goes for windmills. I’m excited to see the windmills in the desert as well only because I’ve seen so many pictures of them and they’re part of the PCT experience. I stopped to take a few pictures and moved on. It didn’t overshadow how awful I felt however. It’s hot, and I’m very hungry. Or to put it as I wrote it down in my notes: “It’s really hot and I’m SO HUNGRY AAAASHRHDRHRDHRD”.
Then: More uphill. Yay. Uphill and no views I expect. There hasn’t really been any kind of expansive view all day ignoring this morning when I looked out at the lake. Those kinds of things keep me going on days like this where I’m just out of my element for whatever reason (IE heat). As I hit my apex of anxiety, I came over a hill and was knocked on my ass by the most amazing view, along with a nice gust of wind.
“OH. Well.. that’s… wow” I said out loud. I dropped my trekking poles and let the breeze flow around me for a while while I admired the view. You could see all the way out to what I felt was the Angeles National Forest range. In-between me and that was more desert, but not much.
I got my stuff together and pushed on. The trail continued uphill for a ways, reached its high-point, then it started back down. The only thing worse for me than uphill is downhill. My knee was acting up so I had to do my Jackrabbit thing and hop down, all the while gusts of wind kept pushing me around and threatening to steal my hat. In the distance I could make out the freeway and some train tracks. Somewhere out there is Cajon Pass with all of its food.
I hopped my way down to a dirt road, dropped my pack, and plopped down in the dirt to give my knee a break. Mostly though I was just done, if I didn’t have a goal for the day I would have just slept here. I sat in the dirt under the direct sunlight for a while. As I sat there I heard footsteps crunching to my left by the trail. A guy with a guitar.
“Almost there man! Maybe 25 minutes!” He yelled down the road at me.
“25 minutes to McSalvation” I replied. Most hikers go to McDonalds due to ease of access. I’m going a little further: I have Del Taco on my mind. “I’m going to eat so much food dude”.
“Ah man, I’m going to get a giant lemonade first. Then burgers. I’ll save some for you when I get there!” He said.
“Aw yeeeah! What’s your name?”
“G-String” he said, obviously there’s some kind of funny story here.
I thought about it for a moment. Oh my god that’s amazing.
“Oh, cause of your guitar!” I said, laughing. “That’s incredible”
He eventually walked on, we all have some kind of craving to satisfy and most people were just trying to get to Cajon. I just sat there for a moment: I only have one and a half miles to go. 25 minutes. It’s so hot, I’m just spent. Then I thought about Coke. Cold Coke. Fizzy Coke. I stood up, got my pack on, and realized the thought of it almost made me cry. What in the hell is that all about? I laughed it off and kept walking. That was weird.
The trail continued through the hilly desert for a while, then dipped into a canyon with its meager puddles of water. No time for worrying about water, I have to get to Cajon Pass. I charged through the canyon and found myself standing in front of a sign: “Canada: 2296 miles”. Well then! Beyond that: “Mcdonalds .4 –>”. Well then! I followed the sign and found myself on a paved road. I took my pack off and secured my trekking poles to it, no need to use these anymore.
I walked along the sidewalk and passed McDonalds, but I went into a gas station to get Coke and a cold bottle of tea. On my way to the register I picked up a blueberry strudel as well for good measure. I paid for it and sat in the grass with all the other hikers and chugged my tea and inhaled the strudel. That doesn’t even begin to cover my hunger, but it was so good. I put my pack on and looked at my map to find out how to get to Del Taco on the other side of the freeway. Looks like there’s a bridge, cool.
But as I neared the bridge, it wasn’t so cool at all. It was part of a busy highway with fast cars. But I mean… tacos.. I have to do this. The shoulder was big enough for me to walk on, but it was still intense as cars flew by. Most of them were nice enough to get in the farther lane, but some didn’t. I made it across and walked over to the place of amazing food. I ordered everything I craved and then some: Double cheeseburger, a giant chicken/ranch/avocado burrito, three chicken tacos, a large order of fries, and a large soda. I ate everything. And I was hungry two hours later.
It was late, I need to figure out where I’m going to sleep. I’ve done more miles today than usual, my knee is already bugging me, I don’t want to push it. I worked my way back to the trail and tried to figure out where to sleep. I found myself at the mouth of the tunnel going under the freeway. It wasn’t too noisy, but noisy enough that I probably wouldn’t sleep that night. I need to sleep. I got my things together and headed back across the bridge, I’m going to splurge and get a room at the hotel here. I took a shower and collapsed on the bed where I did nothing at all. Eventually I passed out.