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!



3 thoughts on “Day 18: Freeboiling and Ziggybear

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