I kept waking up throughout the night due to either the wind or being cold. I was too lazy to put on extra layers and I paid the price. I also didn’t clip my quilt down to my sleeping pad like I usually do. Could I have done any of these things during the night as I woke up? Sure. Did I feel like it? Not really. It’s a hard life I live, being lazy.
I flopped out of my tent and started getting everything together. I’d be rolling in to Wrightwood today! This has been a long stretch, a couple days off sounds kind of nice to be honest. I feel good today however, ready to tackle the last of the uphill. I ate breakfast and started going.
As I moved uphill I could see that I was almost to pine tree elevation. That’s something I suppose, it means I’m almost done going uphill before I have to go uphill some more! I passed some hikers and said hello and got nothing in response, just stares. That happens a lot out here, I found it really weird at first considering it never happens to me back home, but I just kinda shrug it off these days. I pressed on and passed some trail magic along the way. I just wanted to finish all this uphill no matter what was in that beautiful little cooler sitting in the bushes along the trail.
I worked my way along the ridge where I heard a ‘crack!’. Well that’s.. ‘crack crack crack!‘.. gunshots. In the distance however, just some people out doing target practice. The first shot however scared the shit out of me. I hiked passed and left the noise in the distance.
The trail went up, then kept going up. As I made my way up the first long uphill I passed a hiker sitting on a rock. I waved and kept going up my next set of hills which led me passed an amazing view of the forest floor below and the towering rocky peaks above them. Eventually I found myself in my first set of trees with a couple of blowdowns stretching across the trail. I made my way across and found myself sitting in front of an amazing view stretching out to the desert of Victorville and beyond.
I stood up and pressed on. The trail continued its upward dance around the mountains, and I eventually came to another viewpoint which would make for a great break spot for lunch. I sat down, pulled out my food, mindlessly ate and stared out at Victorville once again. As I did someone came by and said hi. Oh, it’s the guy from earlier.
“Hey man, how’s it goin?” I asked.
“Good! This elevation is killing me though. What’s your name?”
“Where’d you get that?”
He tapped his external frame pack. Ah, I see.
“Oh, nice!” I haven’t seen anyone using an external frame pack on the trail yet. You don’t see them very often in general anymore, they’re pretty old tech.
“A lot of people are surprised to see this as well” He tapped the bottom of his pack where a bear canister was strapped. The only portion of the PCT thru-hikers use bear cannisters are through portions of the Sierra where they’re required. They’re generally regarded as awful and awkward to haul around.
I thought back to Forest and his story of an animal stealing his food during the night. “That might not be a terrible idea, I know a guy who had his food stolen by an animal” I said. “I’ve been hanging my food as well where I can”. Hanging your food on the PCT is considered abnormal. It’s extremely rare to have any bad encounters with animals leading to stolen food outside of the Sierra, but you know.. it would really suck to wake up one morning to find it gone.
“Hey, you need a ride into Wrightwood? I’m meeting my dad at Inspiration Point” I offered.
“Yeah! I’ll try and keep up with you, that would be awesome” He said.
I stood up and started walking, Exo close behind. Eventually he started to fall behind, I kept walking. I’d take breaks here and there to let him catch up. On some switchbacks I heard him yell.
“You mind waiting for me at Inspiration Point?”
“No problem dude, I’ve got all the time in the world!” I yelled back with a laugh. It’s not like I need to be anywhere anytime soon.
I pressed on and made a point to stop every so often to let Exo keep up a little bit. Eventually the trail flattened out and offered us hikers an another awesome view. As I stood up there Exo came up, and behind him another hiker. I think they know each other? They start talking, I continued staring out.
“What’s your name man?” The other hiker asked.
“Diesel, nice to meet you. You need a ride to town dude?” I offered.
“Well.. not right now”.
I laughed. “Yeah I know, I mean at Inspiration Point”.
“I was just gonna stick out my thumb but if we get there at the same time that would be awesome”
He continued talking with Exo, offering a pack shakedown (helping hikers shed weight from their backpack) when they get to town, then moved on. I walked away from the two to go smoke somewhere before pressing on as well. Exo moved on as I did that knowing I’d catch up.
I left the viewpoint a few moments later and hit the trail. I eventually caught up with Exo and he asked when I was stopping for lunch. Erp. I already ate. I think he took this to mean I was gonna just push on without another break, but I had a five mile break coming up to rest my knee. It’s incredible how fast you get used to people out here, it wasn’t long before I was talking without any initial social barriers. We eventually got to a good spot to take a break. Exo had a treasure trove of snacks on hand, but that’s all he had the whole stretch, no actual food. He’s eager to get to town because he’s hungry. He started in Big Bear so the full effect of hiker hunger hasn’t taken effect just yet.
Day hikers passed by while we took our break. I got cold and put my rain jacket on. The temperature was dropping the higher we got up, eventually we’d be at cloud level and things would get really cold. Might as well have this on hand. But when we started going I became unbearably hot wearing it and went back to just wearing my shirt. You generate a crazy amount of body heat while hiking.
The trail continued up, up, and up. Exo was doing really well at staying caught up with me, he was eager to get to town. We were both pretty fed up with going uphill as well. Eventually things leveled out when we got to the top of the mountain near an awesome campsite, and we were led across some areas of a ski resort. I was looking at the elevation profile for the day, paranoid we’d have just one more massive climb before we got to the parking lot. And so there was. It wasn’t nearly as big as what we’d done previously, and when we got to the top we were rewarded with an awesome view of the mountain range.
Eventually we got to the parking lot which was packed with day hikers who asked us questions about our hike. To us the details about our hike aren’t really a huge deal. It’s normal, we do it every day. All we do is walk. But people’s reaction to it all is a bit of a shameless ego boost. The truth is, I think anyone can do this however as long as you keep your mind in the right place.
We opted to just follow the dirt road to the parking lot where I saw my dad’s truck parked. Truck! Wheels! Town! Food! We hopped in and made our way down to Wrightwood in search of food. We settled on a bar with promises of huge burgers, and huge they were. And absolutely awesome complete with the best waffle fries I’ve ever had in my life. When we finished eating we dropped Exo off at the hardware store to find somewhere to stay with a trail angel. The hotels were all booked up so my dad and I would go out to Victorville. It’s cheaper that way in any case, but of course I do miss out on all the fun of being in a trail town. Oh well. Exo found a place and said goodbye. My dad and I got on the highway and made our way to Victorville.
I’m at mile 370. Next stop is Agua Dulce. After that is Tehachapi. I’m getting closer to the Sierra. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far.