It’s that time again. I woke up in the hotel room and got everything together.
“You excited to get back to the trail?” Asked my dad.
I kinda just sat there. I don’t really know, I don’t feel excited over it anymore. It’s just my life at this point. I don’t know how to put it without sounding like I’m tired of hiking, I’m absolutely not tired of it at all. This is what I do.
“I dunno, it just feels normal to me” I replied.
I loaded up on sweet breakfast calories and we headed back to Wrightwood to go pick up Exo. As we drove through the desert I was brought back to Cajon Junction where we turned to drive back up the mountains I had just climbed days previously. As we drove we hit a thick wall of clouds stretching on for eternity.
“I sure picked a fine day to get back on trail” I said laughing. Here we go.
We pulled into Wrightwood, picked up Exo, and made our way back to Inspiration Point where Exo and I had gotten off trail. As we got out of the truck another hiker came up asking for a ride. Perfect timing! I watched him and my dad drive away, affirming that it’s time to hike again.
It took a moment for my legs to remember their job, but I got back into the swing of it soon enough. Yay hiking legs! We walked through the misty forest for a little ways and eventually found ourselves at a parking lot sitting below Mount Baden-Powell, our first obstacle of the stretch. Sitting at 9,406 feet with 47 switchbacks, it wasn’t exactly our standard up and over routine. But on the other hand it wasn’t exactly the hardest mountain I’ve ever done in theory either. We opted to take a short break before we started our ascent, and I took the opportunity to go sit on a bench and stare into the fog.
“Jackrabbit!” I heard Exo call.
I stood up and walked over, him meeting me halfway.
“Trail magic!” He said gesturing to a white SUV parked near the trail.
“Oh hell yeah!” I said excitedly. First time for me.
I grabbed a bag of Chex mix and a few pieces of candy complete with Gatorade. Our Trail Angel was adamant that we take as much as we wanted as he wasn’t sticking around for long. Suits me just fine! We talked with him for a while about the climb ahead of us as well as towns along the way. He eventually took off and left us to stare at the challenge ahead of us.
We started the push and Exo groaned a bit when he saw the hills. I wasn’t feeling too differently at the moment really. I stayed up late to update my trail journal and got virtually no sleep. I’m certainly not in my element today. Exo has a very heavy backpack and started his trek pretty recently so he’s still building up his hiker legs. Our ascent was slow with short breaks at every switchback. As we went up we worried about the clouds: would we even have a good view at the top? And it’s cold! I miss the sun. As we climbed we would occasionally break through the clouds to get some warmth from the sun, and we’d soon go up another switchback that led us back into the clouds.
We passed people heading down who assured us that the sun was shining up top and the views were clear. Well there’s that at least! We continued our slow climb up and eventually got to the saddle just before the summit. We were met by a tree standing defiantly against the wind, a sign informing us that it was 1,500 years old. I stood in awe before it. I suppose it’s no older than the mountain it sits on, but a lot of the trees around here weren’t so lucky and were either toppled over by the wind or were hit by lightning. Yet here’s this one tree clutched to either side of the saddle refusing to topple.
We made the final push up to the summit and just as we did a wall of clouds slammed into the side of the mountain obscuring every corner of the peak. No views. We opted to take a break here in either case. I ate some lunch, Exo talked with some of the other hikers, and we all signed the register.
Hikers trickled down one by one, and eventually Exo and I were forced off the top by the cold. We hopped back down off the summit and got back to the PCT which inexplicably went uphill. I don’t know how it managed that being that we just got off the highest peak in the area, but the PCT always finds a way. That ended shortly however and we started back downhill. We wrapped around trees and mountains and eventually found ourselves on another saddle where the wind really picked up, shooting more ice through my veins. As I expressed it in my notes: “Bdhdjejejdndndkee”.
We continued our descent and my fatigue hit a new low, I could barely croak out a sentence. When I could it was cracked and half-assed. Staying up late before I get back to the trail isn’t a good idea, I’m gonna have to avoid doing that again. As we neared our target campsite/water source, Exo asked:
“You wanna hit the water first or camp?”
The water source was maybe .3 miles away from the camp site. The last thing I want to do right now is filter water. I have enough to last me tonight and part of tomorrow, I’m not even going to bother with it.
“Camp” I managed to throw out.
We reached our destination: Little Jimmy Springs aka Hiker City. There were maybe 30 tents here. As we came up the last little hill we were greeted by a man who wandered to us from a fire.
“Set up your tents then come join us by the fire” he suggested.
“That sounds incredible” I said, still cold. Tired or not, I am sitting by a fire tonight.
My tent was set up within moments and I wandered over to the fire ignoring my last chore of making and eating dinner. I sat by the fire much longer than I had anticipated – well beyond ‘hiker midnight’ at 9:00. It was really great to listen to everyone’s trail stories and stories of their lives before the PCT, laughing hysterically at people’s trail incidents. I managed to work up the energy to talk back every so often but I mostly just had fun listening.
The sun had set a long time ago and I forgot to grab my headlamp before getting to the fire. At around 10:30 some hikers started making their way to their tents and I capitalized on the light of their headlamps to find my way back to my tent. It’s so cold out here. I unzipped the front of my tent, plopped in, and threw on every layer I had available and ducked under my quilt. The warmth was incredible. I passed out as soon as I stopped shivering.