Water: from morning cache only
My sleeping bag is soaked with dew, right through the toe box where my sleep socks are damp. Big drops roll down when I move and pool on the scrap of tyvek I use as a groundsheet. Into my pack it all goes, no time to wait for the sun to dry things out. We have to gain some serious elevation, the kind that takes all day.
The mountains spiral upward, each turn reveals another hill, and I can never see more than a small slope ahead. It’s a giant uphill treadmill rotating as I walk, no way to turn it off. With all the twists, I feel I am looping around, that these mountains have more sides than mountains should have, more sides than I ever want to see.
Then there’s a half mile dense patch of noxious poodle dog bush. We do the poodle dodge, cursing each time the tiniest deadest branch brushes a pack or a shoe. We sit down for a break at the end of the worst of it. A hiker couple comes through, one with bare legs and we ask them about the PDB, wide-eyed when “there was poodle dog bush?” is the reply. I wish blistering itch-rash upon no one, and hope for the best.
Bad Camper is pushing hard. He explains that he wants to have lunch at the top. “But there is no top!” I reply. He keeps going. The rest of us stop for lunch in the shade of the first good trees. I sit right in the trail and eat most of the rest of my food. No longer willing to lug it a step further.
Only one more hour up, we tell ourselves and eventually, what we believe is the final push to the top. The trail relinquishes its relentless ascent, levels out, and even appears to head down. But then there are more inclines. Steep surprises up yet more tiny summits unseen.
We pop out among chair lifts and water reservoirs used for snow making at the top of local ski hill, and walk down beside the green offseason slopes. But still there is more uphill before the highway where we can finally hitch down to Wrightwood.
At least getting a ride is easy today. A woman dropping off hikers offers to take us back to town where we find Bad Camper and Nic standing in front of the Hardware Store. The store is open even on this holiday Monday, and I pick up my resupply box. Even more impressively, there is a whole page of locals trail angels who host hikers. Nic calls and the family can take all five of us, will pick us up soon, with apologies that they have already eaten. I constantly in awe of the generosity that makes this trail what it is.
We make mad dash around the grocery store, pulling ingredients for massive dinner salad. Our hosts Mike and Sue are incredibly welcoming and easy going. There are kids and a dog and cat. A real family home. There are also showers and towels and laundry. And a bed to sleep in. Bad Camper builds us salads, towering above our plates. And we consume every last bite.