Day 19: Chickens in cities

Big Bear City.

Logistics! Random town logistics! And also a bit of a come-to-Jesus look at the rest of the hike.

I was in the grocery store this morning, kind of laughing at my gimpery and wondering if anybody’s ever finished a long trail with a walker–or those canes with the four little feet. I’m willing to endure a lot of trail suffering–but I have to be able to walk at a normal, rolling gait, even if it’s a slow one. I see the young gazelle hikers just skip along, taking pain-free walking for granted in the same way we take our water abundance for granted back home, passing me, passing me, passing me, and gone around the next bend forever–I can’t help the little envious spider that whispers its strange bitter sadness in my ear–or a hint of it, anyway. I know I also had my skipping-gazelle time when I took walking for granted, when I wasted steps thoughtlessly like I waste water now, like I waste oxygen. And I know those gazelle skippers will come to their own painful lameness all too soon. So I’m not really feeling very negative about it. I’m grateful to be out here and very much aware of the blessings I have. But as a pragmatist and a realist, there are things that have to be reasoned and considered with open eyes.

I was talking to Huddles this morning, a 68-year-old female hiker who’s also moving slowly. She asked if I’d hurt my knee, and I said it was already bad from martial arts, and it’s just not holding up under the strain. And she immediately nodded her head and said that yup, her son had had all sorts of knee issues because of aikido. Hah! Same martial art. At this point, I wish I could trade in those two dusty black belts for two fresh knees. 🙂 Anyway, that was a nice coincidence, and a little validation.

Huddles is awesome. She’s a Californian who’s going to scatter her parents’ ashes in the Sierra.

If I can get to Tahoe, I might call it there. If I get my trail legs and the walking becomes easier, I’ll keep going. At Tahoe, I’ll know how many miles short I’ll be–or a good estimate, anyway. And rather than just going north until I’m out of time because of snow in Washington, I might jump ahead and do Washington. That would leave me with the flattest, easiest terrain to do later when I won’t have trail legs anymore. That is, if I’m going to be 500 miles short anyway, I may as well be strategic about which miles those are.

But we’ll see. I’m still playing with weights and measures and drugs and braces and stretching. I might still change out my pack, or even my shoes. There’s a lot of experimentation still to do, and in the meantime, I’m heading north as though Canada is still possible. I’m currently being passed by the 4/25ers, but even then, the prediction is that there’s going to be a huge bottleneck at Kennedy Meadows this year. We’re all still in the mix–even the lame goats.



There’s absolutely nothing in Big Bear City! It’s an intersection. 😀 All the action is a couple of miles away in Big Bear Lake. Luckily there’s a cheap bus that stops right at the Motel 6! So this morning I trundled down to the big Von’s supermarket for my resupply. I got a whole chicken and some potato salad for today and breakfast, and a Starbucks because it was there, and now I’m back here figuring stuff out in my hiker-crazy motel room. And eating chicken, which is yummy and cheap. Thank you, chicken!

Happy Mother’s Day, you mothers!

The next leg to Wrightwod is the first long leg. As Danger Muffin said, it’s been training wheels up to now. But that’s for first-time hikers. It may be a different trail, but I know how to handle a hundred-mile resupply, give or take. And there’s a legendary McDonald’s in a few days where I’ll load up on grease and calories. Fun times, when the McDonald’s at Wrightwood is a big highlight! 😀

I’ve got six days of food, and I’m trying to really trim weight there. I have to be willing to be a little hungrier and a little more bored. (Some of my snacking is from relentless boredom, and because of the snakes and the wind, I can’t really listen to music yet. And I’ve already thought all my thoughts, so I can’t wring anymore introspection out of walking. So I limp along and think Buddhist thoughts–like, the grass really isn’t greener anywhere else, so relax and just be with the grass that’s here, even if it feels like sucky grass. All the grass is just grass.)

I could save a pound if I bought new clothes that fit me. But I begrudge the cash, when I’ll only be fat again later! These are the dilemmas of a long-distance hiker.

There are two Bourbons on the trail. (Thru-hikers are notorious partiers. Sometimes all they talk about is beer. But I’ve been clean and sober one day at a time for 15 years, so I avoid the party talk and the actual partying like somebody with a peanut allergy avoids a Skippy factory. I sometimes really wish I could stumble on other sober people on the trail, but I only met one on the whole AT and none here yet. There are a few out there that I know of, but we’re scattered with days and days of walking between us. But that’s an aside!) So, one of the Bourbons let me try a couple of his ibuprofens for comparison with my Aleves. He was funny. He has his vitamin I prepackaged in little one-week baggies, just like actual vitamins. I don’t know whether to be amused or appalled. 😀 But I thought the ibuprofen helped a little more than the naproxen, so I got a little bottle of those to try on this next leg. I also got a 1-ounce tube of capsaicin, because that’s helped some before. We’ll see.

Other tweaks: I’m changing out three of my 1-liter bottles for two 1.5-liter bottles. It’ll make water treatment a little clumsier, but I’m hoping it’ll pack better.

What else? Nothing, I don’t think. I’m in the process of arranging a ride back to the trailhead–saving knee use where I can. Huddles and I might split a cab.

I had a nice chat with a guy at the bus stop who did the PCT 35 years ago. He’s lived here forever, but he was originally from Colorado. Is there anybody in California who didn’t come here from somewhere else?

I wasn’t going to bother with laundry, but I was here and the machine was here and my toxic socks were here, et voila. Did I mention that at the last minute I tossed my down booties into the pack, and that they’ve been fantastic? That was a good call.

Can the hiker news get any more mundane? 🙂 Just another reason they call it a zero.


Day 18: Freeboiling and Ziggybear

Big Bear City, mile 275

Quote of the day: “There are no purists on this bus!”

Weellll… the epic adventure continues! This morning was cold–30 degrees lower than normal. Two days ago, hikers were stumbling into Ziggy and the Bear’s in the blistering heat with heat exhaustion. Today? Jackets and pants.

That 5 miles across the canyon floor is no freaking joke, even in cool temps. Because… freeboiling!

New PCT terminology: Freeboiling! When you’re boiling from the sunbane but freezing from the windbane, all at the same time! It’s the most puzzling freakish thing. I think what happens is that the sun is so hot that you sweat instantly, and the wind is so fierce that it dries it instantly. You can’t put on more clothes. You can’t take off more clothes. You just have to suffer. And walk.

The winds this morning were so fierce that it was impossible to keep a ballcap on for more than three breaths.

Hey, I was talking to one of last year’s hikers. Danger Muffin! Danger Muffin was in that great batch of hikers whose hike was ended last year about 150 miles short, or something, because Washington had basically caught fire. Anyway, Danger Muffin said that this wind is the norm, that it will get much worse later (in the Mojave), and that it’s so relentless that it filled him with enormous despair. Yay! Despair. What can you do? At least I have tent stakes now.

Anyhoo. I was the first one up in the sea of boulders and tents. Hippie was up soon after, but I was on the road to Ziggybear’s by 7. The first mile was a downhill roadwalk that hurt my knee so bad I had tears in my eyes. But then came the faster but tougher part–basically 3 miles of beachwalking. I tried untying my shoelaces. That helped the feet a little. I have some other things to try with the knee… including vitamin I, which somebody let me try today. We’ll see. It’s definitely an injury, but the tightness is encouraging. Anyway… yeah. Sorry I keep devolving into discusion of that. It’s kind of on my mind!

MAD props to the hikers who do that Ziggy stretch on hot days. I was boiling even though it was relatively cool!

Ziggy and the Bear are trail angels extraordinaire who basically turn their home into a hostel for hikers for two months of the year. They have portapotties, a solar shower, a small resupply… and hikers! To the tune of 50 a day! I was hiker 868 for the year.

This year was particularly troublesome because of the big San Bernardino fire that closed a chunk of trail between Ziggybear’s and Big Bear. There was no easy way to get around the closure. The PCTA recommended taking a bus–6 hours. But Ziggy and the Bear ended up running shuttles–up to four trips per day, two cars each, so basically 35 to 50 hikers per day, with the help of Danger Muffin and their other hiker helper.

So limped into Ziggybear’s at about 10 AM. Ziggy checked me in and asked if I wanted to be on the 2 PM shuttle. This was very sudden! I’d figured on sitting there for the afternoon and looking at all my options. So I said… “Sure!”

There were anlot of hikers there that I knew: Hippie and Banshee and the two Bourbons, and Flaming Gaiters (who got his trail name last night when he accidentally set his gaiters on fire), and Rolf, and a lot of others. The young Australian is now Gladiator.

Two o’clock came, and five of us piled into amstation wagon for a 1-hour drive to San Bernardino. From there, we caught a bus that drove us to Big Bear. (Well, not the bus. The driver. Who was highly entertaining, and points to him for driving directly uphill for two hours in fog so thick it was a white out.)

We are HIGH. Eight thousand feet, I think. I actually started to get a little light-headed on the bus.

By the way–that bus ride was one of my greatest hiking memories. It was packed with hikers getting around the closure. Everybody was laughing and talking, and sharing strategies, and talking about the AT, and asking wach other about poodle dog bush. Very fun.

It’s 40 degrees here. It’s been snowing for the last two days. Back in Idyllwild, the snow on San Jacinto got so bad that they basically told hikers that the peak was off limits. One hiker just took buses directly from Idyllwild to Big Bear. This is not a purist kind of trail.

A 22-year-old girl from Shanghai and Canada called for a rescue yesterday on her satellite device and was airlifted out. Knee problems and dehydration. Two German girls had their hike end at Warner Springs–infected blisters (one of the girls was a type 1 diabetic, and can’t mess with foot injuries like that). Gladiator has some of the worst blisters I’ve seen–golf balls on his heels. And he managed his first 20 yesterday. Which is how he got the golf balls.

I was feeling people’s packs, and mine’s not the heaviest. I’m debating changing out my pack to save a pound. It’s the only thing I can think of to ease the strain on my knee. But that’s a big move, and one I’m loathe to take given that in about 200 miles, in the Mojave, there’s at least one 8-liter water carry (per Danger Muffin)–then the bear canister. I was going to send my microspikes home, but tomorrow’s Sunday and the PO is closed, so it looks like I’m carrying them to Wrightwood.

I could save a pound by going to a lighter baselayer… but I’ve worn all of it. Hrm.

Well, we’ll see. In the meantime, here we are. Big Bear City, where things get figured out.

According to the traditional formula, the correct day for entering the Sierra this year based on snow levels is now June 23. I’m already probably not going to be able to make Canada (which is fine, for an ‘as far as I get’ hike). June 23 wiuld make it impossible. It all hinges on this stupid knee getting better. We’ll see, rabbit. We’ll see.

Critters today: A cat (Ziggy’s) with a tail hanging out of its mouth!