Day 30: No, Tent, You Are Still Not Allowed to Fly Away
Thursday, April 19, 2018 8:37 pm
Location: Campsite 357.2 (357.2 miles)

It was cold and windy when I got out of bed a little after 7. With a really long uphill coming up, I was not terribly excited about getting started today. But, the trail’s not going to hike itself, so, I made my way down to the motel lobby for their continental breakfast.

While eating breakfast, I saw a weather report for Wrightwood (the next trail town, two days hike away), calling for 20-30 degree temperatures and an inch of snow. The weather report was also not helpful towards getting started.

Quoi and I finally left the Best Western a bit after 9:30, and made our way back to the trailhead. One we got to the trail crossing via an underpass under I-15, Quoi noted that she didn’t see Dylan’s footprints on the sandy ground there, and we then assumed he hitched to Wrightwood.

Shortly after crossing under the interstate, we passed a fenced off area with numerous “Stay Out” and “No Tresspassing” signs, one of which was spray-painted on a tank of some kind that was leaning against a rusty old car. Inside the area, there also appeared to be a shrine of some sort; a short monolith was inside of a square area. Nearby, huge flat-leafed cactus grew, the largest of that particular type of cactus I’ve ever seen.

After that, the trail headed uphill, winding around the mountains and heading generally westward to Wrightwood. A short jaunt across the Swarthout Canyon brought us past a reasonably well-stocked water cache. After that the trail began climbing mountains in earnest.

Although not especially steep, it was an uphill hike almost all of the 15 miles Quoi and I did today. That said, there were a lot of great views during the climb, and once we got a bit away from Cajon Pass, the one persistent feature in the distance was the Lone Pine Canyon Road, which was essentially a straight line between Wrightwood and Cajon Pass.

Swarthout Canyon
Swarthout CanyonThe Lone Pine Canyon Road cuts through Swarthout Canyon.

Also persistent throughout the day were train horns. I’d expected to hear them for a while after crossing under the train tracks shortly after the I-15 crossing, but it was surprising to me that their horns could still be heard well into the afternoon.

I also came across, for the first time, Poodle Dog Bush, which occasionally lined the trail for a good portion of the day. Touching Poodle Dog Bush can cause skin irritation similar to Poison Ivy, but its oil can be more persistent. The plant is more common in burn areas, so we’ve been lucky to have not run into it previously. Fortunately, it’s pretty distinctive, so it’s relatively easy to avoid.

Around 2 pm, I stopped on the side of the trail to cook half of my dinner. This turned out to be a very fortuitous choice. Although the immediate benefit was to lower pack weight and use up a liter of water, by the time I got to camp, the thought of actually cooking dinner was non-existent. Not long after I started cooking, Quoi caught up and joined me, and while we were waiting, she arranged for a place for us to stay in Wrightwood tomorrow with a trail angel.

We also ran into a group of trail maintainers who had been widening part of the trail and clearing some brush.

For most of the day, there were clouds in the sky. As the afternoon grew later, we could see a fog slowly working its way up Swarthout canyon, from Cajon Pass, moving towards Wrightwood. Fortunately for us, the clouds stayed far enough away from us that we still had clear hiking conditions, even as it got windier later in the day.

By the time we got to an open campsite, it was after 6, and it was cold and windy. Very windy. And there wasn’t much choice in sites. Quoi set up in a small, semi-protected site just beyond a series of giant holes dug in the ground for no apparent reason. I had to choose between a site protected by trees on one side, but with glass shards on the ground, and another site closer to the giant holes, unprotected with no glass. Between the wind causing the tent to kite at every opportunity, and the very hard ground, it probably took me a good half hour at least to get my tent set up, and would likely have been longer; Quoi saved me a lot of time by finding large rocks I could use to hold down my tent stakes.

Somewhere in all of that, my tent’s sack fell out of my pocket and blew away. I’m not terribly broken up about it, since on top of being difficult to get the tent into, the sack was itself starting to fray. I’m not terribly keen on having to just stuff my tent in my pack tomorrow, but that’s what I’ll have to do until I can get a new sack for it, hopefully in Wrightwood.

I finally got into my sleeping bag close to 7 pm, at which point the wind died down for awhile. By that point, it was too cold, and I was too tired, to cook dinner, so I’m glad I had a good portion of it around lunch time.

Tomorrow: more uphill, and then go into Wrightwood to reuspply.