Water: tap at trail angel’s in Wrightwood; 4L from cool clear Jimmy Spring
Last night I had resolved to get an early start. To be up and packed and back out on the trail before eight am. Except I am just too gosh darn cozy. There is an unspoken consensus as we all roll over and sleep until after seven. So many thanks to Mike and Sue and family for making us feel so wonderfully welcome in their home.
Nic and Bad Camper are off to the post office, with us remaining three hitching directly back to trail. We walk the highway toward town, sticking thumbs out and smiling hopefully at passing cars until a woman stops and offers to take us the whole way. “I don’t pick up hitchhikers,” she says, “but I’ve never had trouble with hikers.” Full points to Wrigjtwood for the incredible welcome.
I take about ten steps down the trail and everything feels wrong. “How do we do this again?” Jokes Shenanigans. “Why do we do this, I reply,” killing the humor with The Question that Must Not Be Asked. Slowly, step by step, I find my stride, just in time to take an extended snack break at the bottom of today’s big challenge: Mount Baden Powell.
Others are taking the desert route, an official alternate that goes around the mountain. But we are going up and over, full packs and all, gaining three thousand feet in less than four miles. It is the last chance to summit something impressive until the Sierras, still hundreds of miles away.
Where two days ago we wound around in squiggles to a high point always unseen, today it is orderly switchbacks, up to a summit we’ve seen well in advance. I go slowly, easing back in, enjoying the lack of things hurting. The way up is just up. No illusions, No poison bushes. No snakes. My legs are strong after all these miles, and do not tire, though my lungs begin to miss oxygen somewhere around 8500 feet where I to stop and catch my breath before pushing on.
The trail breaks out into the open on a narrow ridge, just before the peak. The landscape unfolds in green-blue layers of jagged ridges on one side, flat desert, cut with grid of roads on the other. Wally the fifteen hundred year old tree, all gnarled and weathered, clings to the ridge as it erodes slowly away exposing thick twisting roots that make a cozy roost for hikers. Packs unneeded on the short jaunt to the summit are parked in tree nooks. At the top of Baden Powell, there is a flag there, and a tiny monument. And for reasons we cannot explain, many, many ladybugs. The way down to Little Jimmy Spring and campsite feels long. I go slow, trying to save my knees, even though it is one of our shortest days miles wise. There are many others gathered at camp. And the possibility that they are not all human. Rumors of bears reverberate around the picnic tables. But we are still sleeping with our food in our tents. All of us, as is PCT norm. I do have line for hanging, but it is in an incredible tangle. Grey’s only line is a spare shoelace. Of course I sent myself salmon jerky in this resupply. Shenanigans suggests that we rub it behind our ears like perfume.
To make things more exciting, my headlamp just died and I am three days from getting new batteries. Not sure if I will sleep soundly tonight, listening for sharp-clawed night visitors, but at least the moon is bright. Hikers are already snoring loud as bears.