Today marks the end of my first month on the Pacific Crest Trail, and easily the longest time I’ve ever been in California. It may also be the longest stretch of hiking I’ve ever done without getting rained on. And I’ve seen way more views in the last month than I could ever have expected. It’s not been without its difficulties, but I’m greatly enjoying myself — and the people I’ve hiked with so far.
Unsurprisingly, it was cold in the morning, though much less windy, and since we Quoi and I were planing a relatively short 12-mile day to the intersection with CA 2, which would take us into Wrightwood, we were in no hurry to get out of our sleeping bags. We left camp sometime around 8 am, and continued to wind around the mountains, heading generally westward.
The valley containing Cajon Pass was engulfed in clouds, which flowed around the various mountain ridges not unlike a lake. I was quite glad that we were many miles away (and far above the clouds), or we’d have been walking through a fog.
The trail continued climbing another 2000 feet over five miles, before a dip and a shorter climb, followed by a bit of a roller coaster down to meet with CA 2. Along the way, the trail passed the Acorn Trail, which provides a direct route to Wrightwood, provided one is willing to hike a very steep trail: 2300 feet down over 2.3 miles. The trail also passed by a few ski slopes and water ponds presumably used for snowmaking.
Quoi fell behind a bit, but caught up with me when I stopped at a campground with pit toilets to use the facilities. (And, after I waited a very long time at the bench at the Acorn trailhead.) Apparently, she had been delayed by seeing her first deer on the trail, and then a coyote. (Lucky her, all I get are lizards and rattlesnakes!)
We got to the trailhead at CA 2 at 2:20, and we were able to immediately get a ride into town, cramming into the back seat of a pickup truck that had already stopped to pick up another hiker, Smiley. (Thanks again for the ride, Gary!) We got dropped off at the hardware store in Wrightwood, which is a sort of base-of-operations for hikers in town. There’s a hiker registry there, and you get a free PCT pin if you sign the log. They also hold packages, and have an area outside with a picnic table and several porta-potties that hikers can use. Finally, they have a list of trail angels who are potentially available to put up hikers for the night. (Wrightwood takes good care of PCT hikers.) Quoi had contacted trail angels in town a few days ago, so we already had that taken care of.
The hardware store also has a very limited selection of hiker food and gear. I looked around, on the off chance they’d have a sack I could use for my tent, though it didn’t surprise me that they didn’t. They did give me a plastic bag, though, so I at least have something now.
The next trail town is Agua Dulce, and based on my pre-hike planner, I got enough food for seven days to get there. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account changes to my original hike plan. Up ahead is the Endanged Species Detour, meant to protect the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog. I had originally decided to take a 20-mile on-trail detour, rather than the much shorter “official” roadwalk alongside CA 2, so I bought a day more food than I really needed. Normally, that’d be fine, except the next couple of days are going to have some steep uphills, so the extra weight is really going to slow me down there. Unfortunately, Quoi bought food using my numbers as well. Not only did she have too much food, she couldn’t even fit all of it into her food sack! (She was generous enough, though, to buy a carton of strawberries and share them with the rest of the hikers at the hardware store. They were pretty awesome strawberries.)
Also at the hardware store were there were Sparky, Ghost Hiker, Trooper, and Jay, and a section hiker, Tater, who was out for a short 5-day section from Cajon Pass to wherever he could hike to past that. Tater is planning on thru-hiking a trail, most likely the PCT next year, and we wound up having a discussion about the Appalachian Trail, which he was considering as well.
At one point, I wondered at what time the hardware store closed, to see if it made sense to go get dinner and leave my pack there until I was done. I didn’t have to wonder too long: one of the employees gave us a five minute warning that they were closing, and we needed to get our stuff outside the gate before they shut it. Quoi was still packing her food, so I helped her with that (and also with eating the strawberries, which weren’t able to eat themselves).
Tater nearly got himself into a bad bind: he left his pack at the charging station in the hardware store while he went to get dinner. None of us still there really knew him, so we weren’t willing to take responsibility for his pack, since we didn’t know where he was, when he’d be back, or how to contact him. But, one of the closing employees was willing to wait around a little while longer after closing, just in case he came back.
Quoi and I went for dinner at the Grizzly Cafe, and got a seat at the bar since that was 15 minutes faster than waiting for a table. It’s a nice little place, half-knickknacks store, half-restaurant. They also have a giant animatronic moose head hanging on the wall. I suggested to Quoi, who carries a small plush moose (a gift from her boyfriend and a reminder of home, Canada), that she should get a picture of her little moose with the big moose on the wall.
While we were waiting to be seated, Sue and Mike, the trail angels Quoi had contacted, and who would be hosting us tonight, showed up at the restaurant — they saw that there were no hikers at the hardware store, and guessed that maybe we would be at the cafe. So, we wound up eating dinner with them. This is their fourth year hosting hikers. During dinner, we discovered that Sue and I share a favorite color (purple). Afterwards, they gave us a ride to their place, and we got showers, before dozing off to sleep in beds with purple sheets and blankets.