Day 24: Winter is Coming

PCT mile  384.0  , 15 miles , 5-5-17

A small retraction before I start. I had previously bashed Exped a little. I feel a little bad about that now because they are not a large company and their customer service was very good. They are sending me a more expensive, more durable type of mat at no charge, with no reciept,  to Acton. I will give the new mat a chance. I will say that their least expensive ultra light version is probably not suited to the rigors of a trip such as this, unless one is extremely careful and weighs little. I no longer wish to kidnap anyone or piss on anybody’s shoes. Anyways…….

The weather forecast for the San Gabriel Mountains had us in hurry up mode. There would be wind and rain Saturday night and then the snow would fall.  The snowline was to drop to 4,000 ft. It would be accompanied by thunderstorms. We had planned to spend the afternoon in Wrightwood but the impending storm changed our minds.  In order to get below the snow and away from mountain lightning, we would have to reach Acton, a town 75 miles away, before Sunday afternoon. 

We had breakfast at the Daily Grind, a coffee shop that Mike had mentioned he frequented. Mike was there when we arrived and the shop treated us to a coffee on the house. As we stepped onto the patio, I saw Rubin, the man who driven to the trail to transport us to town, exiting the psychiatrist’s office next door. His name was etched on the glass. “I have to confess” Rubin said “I’m a shrink”. After breakfast, Mike offered to shuttle us back up to the highway where Rubin had picked us up. Let me say this about trail towns: they are the best. I have never experienced such hospitality from strangers anywhere, ever. Even my own family can be less accommodating than these people who know nothing about me except that I am a PCT hiker. It is really amazing. They treat you like a celebrity and everywhere you go there are free treats and rides and occasionally even free lodging. If you ever find yourself in Idyllwild or Julian or Wrightwood in the spring, forgoe a shower for a couple days, put on some hiking pants,  then roll in dirt and donn a puffy jacket. You will be blown away.

The first part of our day we went up and over a relatively small hill past a Visitors center. We stopped in briefly to ask where water could be found, but the ranger was busy teaching a group of elementary students about animal saftey. “And one of the boys kept a candybar in his tent with him, even though he was told he shouldn’t and can you guess what happened next?” She asked. As we were walking back out the door I thought he ate the candy bar? I knew where she was going with this though. How far was she going to push this scared straight routine, I wondered as I searched for a spigot. Was this to have some sort of Grizzly Man ending?  Would there be horrific audio accompaniment? I guess I’ll never know. 

On a tangentially related subject (hysteria I guess?) what ever happened to killer bees? Did they do their time, find Jesus and work at Baskin Robins now? Why are we not still afraid of them? Hive collapse? Does Baskin Robins still exist? So many questions. Anywhoo…….
We next walked downhill for several thousand feet to the base of Mt. Baden Powell, named for Lord Robert Bayden-Powell ,a British Lieutenant General and founder of the world scouting movement. The trail climbed to 9300 feet in four miles. I was feeling slow and trailed behind Sarah. The gap that accessed the trail to the summit was next to Highway 2. Usually with accessibility comes the idiots. This place was no exception. We encountered the first gaggle of them halfway to the summit. They were coming back down and one of them, a college aged kid, was making his own path straight down the mountain. He slid down to where we were, kicking up soil and leaving a nice little erosion ready path behind him. “It’s easier over there” Sarah said in her best teacher voice pointing to the actual trail. “Well easy is uh….” the little shit replied galloping down the trail.  It was posted everywhere to stay on the trail and Sarah was not being very subtle. But idiots are not into subtlety, or reading, or complete sentences. “I’m not just hiking, I’m out here lesson teaching. And no one appreciates it” Sarah mused. “Yeah” I said “Kids just don’t like to be scolded by middle aged strangers like they used to, go figure.” Soon after, we heared someone shouting at the top of their lungs. They seemed panicked. The shouting continued sporadically, more desperate each time. There was snow near the summit and I imagined someone had slid off  a ridge and was in danger. I quickened my pace despite my hamstrings and calfs’ protest. In a quarter mile,  a young dayhiker came towards us. “Is everything ok?” Sarah asked. “My boyfriend likes to take shortcuts. We are fine.” She replied calmly, although she had been screaming like she had a broken limb moments ago. There was a good deal of snow patches obscuring the trail from then on, but nothing unmanageable. The view was spectacular. 

The descent was steep and slow. We made camp at the only large campground around. We had only traveled 15 miles. We would have to make up the miles tomorrow. The weather was still good and maybe we could outrun the snow. I slept on Sarah’s old airmat (she had picked up a new one in Wrightwood). It was the best sleep I had in weeks. 
 

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