The Nitty Gritty

Monday April 18th, 12:39pm at The Fresh Grind Coffee Shop and Wine Bar in Wrightwood, CA, PCT mile 369.9.

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Today is my second real zero day, meaning that I walk zero PCT miles, and take a whole entire day to eat, be lazy and get my “trail chores” done. Trail chores might consist of: laundry, cleaning out garbage from my food bag, shopping for needed items like sunproof chapstick, tortillas and cheese, or perhaps washing my hair for the first time in a month, chatting with locals, friends or family, and of course, eating. At this early hour of the day I have already consumed a triple latte with a chocolate croissant, another cup of regular coffee with an everything bagel sandwich complete with egg, cheese, mustard and sriaracha while chatting with a local named Mike (former Fire Fighter) who told stories about the early Spanish settlers of California, the Indians and Wyat Earp. Following that I ate many handfulls of salty tortilla chips and a piece of last night’s pizza. Now I’m wondering what’s for lunch!

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Including today, it has been 25 days since I began this journey. My longest solo hiking experience was this past Summer when I traversed the French Alps along the GR 5 (also known as the Grand Randonee Cinq), where I hiked from Chamonix to the Mediterranean over the course of 30 days, so I am ticking off the days until I surpass that record, and enter into unknown territory. What that means for me, is that getting into a rhythm of hiking every day and putting in the miles is not a new experience. In fact, it is much like riding a bike. Even after not doing it for a while, you pick right back up on it. I have adjusted to the rhythms of day and night now, where I follow the sun and moon. Not being a morning person (for my entire life) I now naturally wake daily abbout 6:00am, usually tucked way down deep into my sleeping bag. There have been some cold nights as low as 30 degrees, and some as warm as 40. Either way, the wee hours of the morning, as I look through my tent screen on the floor, I check for signs of sunlight. Often, there are none, the sky may be still a pale black, gray or even just white, not due to clouds, but due to the absence of sunlight. This does not motivate me to get up. I tuck back in and try to sleep some more, but thoughts of the trail beckon, the excitement of the day gets my mind working and next thing I know I need to pee, real bad. This gets me out of my tent. It’s never as bad as you think its going to be (ok, sometimes it’s worse, but not that often), and most of the time I am surprised how good I feel and how quickly alert I am. This alertness does not, however, stop me from making my super magical coffee. I always start my day with coffee, and sometimes I just carry my cup, with my favorite warm Peruvian hat (a gift from dear friends) and my down jacket, and I just meander around the area, getting the lay of the land.

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Being that I am not so much of a morning person,  I often see or hear other hikers padding along the trail as early as 7:00am, which makes me calculate they must have started walking at 6:00 or so. I can’t comprehend starting this early unless my safety or life depended on it! That’s why we say “HYOH” hike your own hike. I love to just be quiet and absorb the sounds and stillness of mornings. Lately, this past week, I have been hiking with a new trail mate, trail name MP3 (which I helped name, for his ability to sing virtually any song at anytime), and we hike quite similarly and happily together.

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However, just having a trail and camping companion does influence me and my routine, its different than hiking alone. I have to say that I push myself more to get going when he is there than if I were alone, because I don’t want to make him wait for me, and just seeing another hiker packing up, can make you feel a little fire under your ass. We’ve been sharing trail life, meals, camp sites and lots of great songs together since leaving Big Bear and I’ve quite enjoyed the companionship, despite my determination to hike alone. So, I motivate to get myself going in the mornings. Morning tasks on trail eventually fall into a pattern of efficiency, like when to eat, to pack your sleeping bag first and then to get your stinky (often damp/sweaty) hiking clothes on followed by your shoes, and finally packing your backpack in a very specific order. When it’s all said and done,  I am usually on the trail by 8:30 or 9:00am. For me, that is great

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Last Monday, leaving Big Bear in a snow storm, my Dad dropped me and two friends: Tim (before being named MP3) and Coyote and Wylie (her cute little dog) back on te trail at Onyx Summit. Only about 30 minutes into our snowy walk, Coyote suddenly exclaimed through laughter “you two look like the Incredible Hulk and Mary Poppins!” Well, that name stuck with me.

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I immediately started thinking about her carpet bag, and all the great things she pulled out of it: a hat, a pair of shoes, medicine bottle, a tiffany lamp! Then it just kept going, I started thinking about all the adventures from the movie, especially how they jumped into the chalk drawings on the sidewalk and entered into a magical new land, or the time they had the tea party on the ceiling! Well, the name just fit, and now I am “Mary Poppins” and loving it! -Thanks Coyote!

Soon after that when rounding a bend we ran into some trail majik in the forest whereupon we discovered a dumpster painted beautifully with the word “magic” on it and along side of that was a couch covered in fresh snow. It was a fun discovery to look inside like a kid on  Christmas morning eager to see what is in your stocking. This dumpster was no Christmas stocking, it was an Easter Basket! Filled to the brim with Easter candy and other treats, even hiker supplies like TP, hand sanitizer, pens, just random things a hiker may need, and a trail journal, where I signed my official trail name for the first time 🙂

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It took 6.5 days to walk from Onyx Summit to Hwy 2 in Wrightwood, covering about 120 miles, and Coyote and Wylie split off on that first day at Onyx, since Wylie can’t do human quantities of mileage, but MP3 and I have been averaging 18 miles each day.

The section this week was interesting, as I figured on lots of steep climing and potentially snow and ice in Big Bear, but this was not the case. The trail followed the perimeter on the outskirts of Big Bear Lake for two hiking days and I found myself thinking often enough “when are we going to be out of Big Bear?” Finally we traversed a few ridges and left the pine forest behind, only to discover we were back in chapparal, high grasses and  scattered oak trees.

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The trail undulated and meandered along the sculpted mountains, with the Deep Creek gorge well below. I was surprised to discover how much water flowed down in the gorge, despite our massive drought. It was stunning, giant pools of fresh water crashing over gargantuan rocks creating rapids and waterfalls. Well into that section of trail also lies Deep Creek Hot Springs, where natural thermal pools form perfect bath tubs have formed. Unfortunately, this special place is close enough for a one day walk to get to the pools, and there is a lot of garbage and clear evidence of over use. Passing through there in the middle of a quite warm day, it was easy to bypass, but it must have been a fantastic discovery back in the day.

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After a couple days walk high above this river gorge, we got spat out onto a hot, dry, windy section of trail that eventually intersected with the Mojave Siphon Power Plant and Spillway. The river bottom was reported by Forest Rangers to have quick sand! Well, the trail goes right through the river bottom, and we needed water, so we took our chances, and without being sucked in to the Earth, we found a lovely spot to lay in the beachy wash, with cold rushing water for our feet and heads and shade for a rest and eating break. Or maybe it was an eating and rest break 🙂

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