Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 24 : Cold Winds to Wrightwood

28 miles today
2294 miles to go

All is silent except for the fan spinning slowly on the ceiling above my head. I lay in the semi-darkness of the room. My last room for awhile. Momentum, that's what's missing. Until five days ago I felt it, I had it. It was driving me forward mile after mile. I had a group of friends, we were all traveling about the same pace. Momentum pushing, or was it pulling? Inexorably drawing me closer to Canada, like a ship steaming across the ocean. Now there is nothing, I am still, the metaphorical waves tossing me to and fro. Motionless I wait, for what? I don't know. Without the trail there is a purposeless that haunts. I need the trail, stretching out before me giving me a sense of more, there is more, something new is just around the corner. Where are my friends? Will I know anyone on the trail when I return to it? Is there anyone still on it? So many questions I find it hard to sleep. It's too early yet. Hours before the ride to the trailhead. I am ready to leave. The phrase ‘in the fullness of time’ pops into my head. Time is not full yet. It's like I am starting all over again. I want to say it's time to move but not quite. I wait, the fan spins. Silence, as if the entire world has stopped. Except the fan, I am alone with my thoughts in the deep of the night. I wonder, how long will it be until the momentum returns? 

It is invigorating to live in the anticipation of the day's events. As in today is the day I hike to Guffy campground, twenty two miles up and along the San Andreas fault. There is purpose and meaning in accomplishment. I have lived too many of my days in meaningless, unmeasurable routine. One day blurring into the next. The past being an amorphous blob of undefinable days. Each day essentially the same as the last. I want to live days that have meaning and uniqueness all their own. Each day is like a snowflake. Different and unique filled with its own purposes and potentials. I want to live in the awareness of this truth. 

My alarm jolts me awake. It's time. The ride to the trailhead is under ominous skies. Overcast, with some rain splattering on the windshield. I wonder again, am I crazy? Its sixish I am left at the end of the road at the point where I exited the PCT six days ago. The drive past McDonald's reveals no Thru-hikers. I head down into the wash and into the dark hole under the freeway. I am alone. I can't see the other end because the underpass curves. I walk further into the dark. There is no one, nothing. A vacant hole under the freeway. The other side is a jumble of branches and trees washed through the hole during previous storms. I find the trail and follow it through the tangle. The air is cool. The overcast is somewhat broken to the east. Too bad for me, I'm heading west then north. The overcast bumps up against the slope above me as I begin my climb. Under some train tracks, then across some more. Alone. I see footprints in the dust. I have no idea how long since someone past this way. It feels like I am late. The snow has come to Canada, everybody made it except me. I'm alone in the back. The trail climbs and climbs. I lose track of time. My calves scream and protest. ‘We don't want to do this!’ They say. They ache, my hamstrings are pulled as tight as banjo strings. I could play dueling banjos on them. This is what it feels like to stop hiking then try to pick it up again. This is the price I must pay. The breeze is cool and laced with mist. It feels like it's coming right off the ocean. Cold and wet. I dread climbing to the point where the wind will hit me unobstructed by the ridge I'm climbing. 

I reach the top of the ridge and for the most part the trail slides down beneath the edge, keeping the wind at bay. The ridge is right beneath the ceiling. I instinctively duck, as if my head is going to hit the cloud cover above. I feel like I am walking on a display shelf right beneath the ceiling in a giant room. The trail climbs a bit more and I am absorbed into the cloud. Misty tendrils writhe and wrap themselves around my head. The cold vapor goes down my neck and I shiver and zip up my windbreaker. The mountains and bushes below disappear and I am alone in the cloud. No sense of direction just a gray bubble about one hundred feet in diameter. I can see nothing else. The trail goes somewhere. They only way I can tell which direction to go is that my footprints lead away from me on the trail I've already walked on. So I continue to walk in the direction without my footprints. Up and up and up. Nothing to see but the immediate trail and gray shadows. As I climb my gray bubble expands slowly until I can see about a quarter mile in every direction. I pass a tent, occupied. Then a few more. I feel less alone. I come to a water cache. I decide to donate a liter of water. I don't want to carry it. I don't need it. With this cool weather I won't be drinking as much. What is the time, anyway? I've been climbing forever. There is nothing but the climb. I know I'm not dreaming only because of the pain I feel in each calf as I take a step. I really should  stop and try stretching, I think. Then I do. My legs throb as I stretch. I keep at it stretching one then the other. Slowly, slowly the muscles release. Waves of relief. 

The transition from my yesterday to today is a shock that my legs are trying to cope with. The trail climbs until I find it hard to catch my breath. The elevation is up where the air is thinner. I've been walking on the side of hills all day. They no longer seem like hills. I imagine they are mountains. There are no views but gray shadows. I climb for hours until finally, at long last I reach the tops of the clouds. I am in a cloud canyon somewhere above the place I started. I stand on a steep slope. The clouds boil and roil in the wind. I have blue sky and vistas out above the clouds. I can see off into the Mojave desert where there are no clouds. The wind is stronger here. The bushes have given way to pine trees. The wind whooshes through the pines like a freight train. 

Mighty Mouse and I stand on a precipice overlooking the desert. Two miles from here is Guffy campground my planned destination. Mighty Mouse is back on the trail after a three week recovery period after being bitten by a rattlesnake. She had to be airlifted out. Her husband Tomcat is waiting at Guffy with trail magic. I snap I few photos of the desert and head to Guffy. It's windy, oh so windy, and cold. Even though there is sun, it's effect is minimal. The closer to the campground I get the colder I feel. 

Tomcat offers me a beer, a cinnamon roll, and a banana. I accept all three as I sit on a picnic table in the raging wind. I am not staying here tonight. In a few more hours I can be at highway two and perhaps hitch into Wrightwood. I down my gifts and get out my trekking poles. This is the time of day I like to use them. I'm tired, exhausted really. The last thing I want to do is strain something in my legs trying to descend a rocky trail. My hands are so cold I can no longer feel them. They are through the loops and wrapped around the tops of my poles. I traverse the ridge in the cold blowing wind. The colds to the west send fragments of vapor careening over the ridge. It's all quite loud and real. I walk on to survive. To stop is to freeze. Down the hill, past the vacant ski resort. My legs are buckling, I'm glad I have my poles. Six miles down is roughly two and a half hours. The trail leads me to the highway. I arrive just as a trail angel is dropping off a few hikers. He picks me pickup and drives me to the hardware store in Wrightwood.

Contrast abound. I am in a store. It's warmer even though I am chilled to the bone. I am able to collect my resupply box. Life, it seems, will go on. I complete the hiker register and take a picture of the PCT hiker hosts page. I arrive minutes before the store closes. Providence again. I sit in front of the store with my pack and my box. I meet Yoshin. She's from Taiwan. I call one of the hosts on the list. Voicemail. I try another. No room. Finally I reach someone. I ask if he has any availability for two hikers. He says sure. We wait, then ride in the back of a pickup back up the hill a ways, I am cold. Our accommodations are in a large log home converted to a holistic day spa. It's more in the process of being converted. We get the grand tour conducted by Kittie, an engaging hostess with a knack for stories and stories of what not to do. Such as poop in the upstairs toilet. It's for pee only. 

The water is hot! Hot! I stand under the stream from the shower head. Warmth slowly returns. I wash off the dust of the day and slowly warm. The shower is exactly what I was hoping for. After showering dress in my warm clothes and go down to the day spa and the couch I have commandeered for my bed. I open my swallowing bag and lay underneath it enjoying the warmth it provides. Eventually, I get up and cook dinner. I have a few bites of caramel corn the I bought in Redlands. I am so tired climb back on to my coach and immediately fall asleep.


  1. You are an amazing writer. I am feeling every step you take.
    God speed.
    Sue Batz

  2. Thank you for letting us know about MightyMouse. I had heard awhile back of that rescuing and am glad to hear she is back on the trail. I enjoy reading your posts. You have a way with words. Iove the different ways yoh described the clouds, winds, and fog/mist. Very magical. Happy Trails!