We started the day with a brief 15 mile hike to highway 18 over gentle terrain. My legs had made a miraculous recovery, unless I went uphill too much, in which case they were crappy as ever. A bizarre thing happened on the way to the highway. I first became aware of it when Sarah said “Ok, guess the song I’m going to sing”. then walked on silently for two minutes. Later, it became more obvious when we stopped for a brief break on a hill. She asked for help getting up. Sarah had gotten trail weary! I slowed my pace for her the rest of the way to the highway. Truly one for the books.
At highway 18 we got a hitch halfway to our destination from a second grade girl. “Where are you guys going?” she inquired after trotting up to us with her German shepherd mix dog. “Well Canada eventually, but for today Big Bear Lake” I replied. “We can take you to Big Bear City” she said. I looked behind her 20 or so feet and asked the young man standing next to the Suburban. “Is that true?” He nodded slowly. I could not discern if this was his idea or hers , but it didn’t much matter to me. From big bear we got another ride from an older woman named Hilte. She moved some protest signs out of the back of her SUV to make room for our packs and we sat on her newish leather seats thinking we were perhaps to dirty for such a nice interior. She was kind enough to go out of her way to drop us right at our destination, a hostel made of a strange outbuilding in the back of someone’s yard. It was a nice place to stay though. There were plenty of showers and we had a private room. We saw some people we had met along the trail including Young Gun and Butcher. They had been joined by Ropeburn and Boots who had somehow finally caught them. There was also free food in the fridge which was great, because we had rolled into town with a grand total of half a bag of peanuts and were starving. I ate an absurd portion of Reisers potato salad, which is objectively awful, but tasted like heaven. We went out for Mexican after that. I ordered more than I could eat, which was really just one item of the menu. I guess my hiker hunger hasn’t kicked in yet. We slept soon after and had to leave the hostel at 9am as it was booked for the next day for a private event. Considering there was not a great deal of open space and it was estentially a bunch of bedrooms and showers, I wondered what sort of event this was to be. We spent the next few hours shopping for replacement hiking pants for the ones I had torn the crotch out of. Our first stop was the Kmart of sporting goods: Big 5. The lighting is bad, the goods are worse, the children running the register have little interest in helping you and you wonder how the hell this chain survives. I found some pants that I was sure would be awful but decided to try them on nonetheless. I asked one of the little brats if I could have the code to the dressing room door. “No.” She said after a long pause “I can open it for you if you want.” Such a little shit. The pants fit horribly , of course, and were cheaply made.
Having no success, we next visited the Kmart of superstores: Kmart. There are not a lot of options in Big Bear. I had no luck finding hiking pants there either, nor did they stock my backup plan: running shorts. In the althletic section there were two men on a poster laughing while running on a beach, which anyone who runs knows is totally absurd, wearing sweat pants. Which was all they had. I guess everyone runs in sweat pants in California. How stupid.
We then checked into our hotel. We were going to stay in another hostel but they, after having lost one of our packages, claimed they were closed for the weekend then , when we had made other plans, decided they weren’t. What a shitshow. This worked out great for me though. We booked a room at the best western and to me it was like the Ritz Carlton. I loved every bit of it, the oil paintings of English setters, the overly done chandeliers, the substandard Eggs Benedict. All of it. I couldn’t have been happier. The next morning we took an Uber to the point in the highway where we had exited the trail and walked 16 uneventful miles to camp. My legs were feeling great, but Sarah had some shooting pain in her stomach for half of the day so we did not make as many miles as we hoped. That evening in the tent, as I was remarking how there was not much to write about, I noticed that my hip was touching the ground through my air mattress. My rejuvenated legs, it seemed, were going to be put tongue test with a night of sleeping on the bare ground thanks to my fragile as can be Exped airmat. Never ever ever Ever buy an Exped airmat. The are like camping with a pool toy you got an Fred Meyer. Sure they are very light, but that matters very little when even the zipper on your sleeping bag can tear a four inch gash in it and leave you waking every hour with aching hips and ribs. I want to leave the trail, drive to Exped headquarters, kidnap the CEO, force him to walk 20 miles with a 25lb pack, then make him to sleep on the ground. Then maybe pee on his shoes for good measure and then make him find his own way home. Anyway goodnight all.