Day 24: Take a pass

Cajon Pass, mile 342

So! Dudes! Turns out I wasn’t just whining! It’s been 97 degrees the last 2 days! OK, I was still whining. But I feel really validated! 🙂 Yes, I bonked yesterday. But… 97! It explains why I didn’t see many other hikers on the trail. Because they weren’t idiots.

On the other hand, here at the Best Western in Cajon, there are many hikers! I was just chatting with a guy named Thor, who started the 15th. Sherpa and Dolittle from Trail Angel Mike’s are here. I don’t recognize people after they’ve showered and are sitting around in their rain gear while their clothes are washed! Some of the Ziggybear people are here, and Pantry. There are a LOT of AT hikers. And it’s a weird feeling to still be seeing people I know. (Aside: I just bumped into Kelly [now Love-Giver] and Heather [now Little Buddha] from Mt. Laguna!)

Last night in my sweet little stealth site, hikers kept going by until 9 PM. They couldn’t see me. (In fact, somebody peed nearly on my front doorstep.) I got to hear some interesting things. One guy said he rarely stops before 9:30 or 10; he’s probably one of the ones who takes a siesta. They were all headed to Silverwood Lake to camp, but I’d stopped 3 miles short, completely spent (97 degrees!) Somebody hiked past at 4:30 in the morning. Night hiking. And my sleepy little brain started to turn over possibilities–and realized that for my fiendish plan to work, I had to do 17 miles and get to Cajon Pass today, not early tomorrow. If I’d known it was 97 degrees, I wouldn’t have bothered trying. But I didn’t know! So I tried!

(97 degrees also explains why I’m suddenly sunburned after 3
weeks. My ears are sunburned! My face is like a beet! And this is after sunscreen, which I’m clearly not applying enough. I got super hot the last couple of days. Lesson learned. Sometimes you’re not really a wuss; sometimes conditions actually are that bad.)

So here was the plan. I changed the meaning of ’10 x 10.’ Usually it means ‘get 10 miles by 10 in the morning.’ But you know, that was killing my morale because it’s kind of really hard to do if you have midget legs. So I turned it around–set the mileage goal, and by 10 try to have only 10 miles left. So I needed to have 7 done by 10 to make the goal. Which meant I HAD to be on the trail at 6 AM, no dithering. None!

I made it by 6:05. It was considerably faster without the rainfly, so I’ll be leaving that off more, when possible. I’ll never be a fan of cowboy camping though–too many crazy ants, and too much history with ticks.

And I set out like I was shot out of a gun.

The first thing I did was waste 15 of my minutes by getting on the wrong trail. D’oh! Halfmile fixed me.

My issue has been this: I haven’t really been able to eat enough. It makes me literally nauseous. I get a harpoon of hunger every hour, but when I think about my food I want to throw up. Of course, it’s been 97 degrees! (I have a plan worked out to deal with that situation.) So I wasn’t sure if I’d bonk again. I literally forced myself to chew something and swallow it every hour or so.

I made it to Silverlake in great time. The trail was the dirt ribbon, but with a lot of up. (Thank gods I didn’t know what was coming in the afternoon.) There was plenty of greenery around the lake–which meant plenty of tiny eye gnats and plenty of bees, sucking on the flowers that are suddenly in bloom everywhere.

At Silverlake, there was supposed to be water and a privy. But guess what? There was a flush toilet! With a sink! Halleluia! I brushed my teeth and tossed my trash and peed on a real toilet! (That is, I disn’t actually pee ON the toilet.) I also picked up 4 liters of water, which I thought was overkill for a 13-mile stretch–because I didn’t know it was 97 degrees!

The trail stayed ugly for a while after that–swampy bits, junkyard vibe, trash land that doesn’t get love. But the ribbon persisted! At times the trail was completely grown over, which made me nervous because today’s stretch was where that stealth rattlesnake bite had happened.

I didn’t get 10 x 10 (my version). But I got close!

It was blast heat from 8 AM on–and the trail started to climb. And climb. And climb. The climbs out here are pretty gradual, but they can go on for a full day. A full day, going uphill! The umbrella got some good use today. And when I passed two other hikers–Half Moon and Hurdy-Gurdy, they remembered they had umbrellas, too. And on it went, uphill in the blazing sun and heat. I stopped for a drink and a few minutes’ rest at every shady spot, like I do, and I went up the steeper hills slowly… but progress was being made!

At 2, I pulled the plug and committed. I called the hotel and booked a room. Four miles to go, I was beat to death, and all I could think about was a quarter pounder and large fries and a HUGE lemonade at the McDonald’s at mile 142.

Up and up the trail climbed, and then–BOOM! I got to the top of the pass and the world stretched out enormous before me. It was stunning. Green hills crisscrossed with a web of sandy lines. Those can’t all be trail, I thought! But a lot of them were. ‘So that’s a pass,’ I thought.

Then it was a race down the hills–ridgewalks, hard descents, all
with a wind so fierce that I had to tie my bandanna on top of my ballcap to keep the cap from blowing away.

And the sun!

And don’t you know, eventually–beaten, burned, and exhausted, I hit mile 142 and did the 4/10 roadwalk to McDonald’s.

Seventeen miles, plus!

The worst part was walking from McDonald’s to the Best Western. I had to cross a bunch of on-ramps, then walk the shoulder of a 6-lane bridge spanning a 10-lane superhighway. My acrophobia
was kicked into high gear… and a sleezy guy asked me if I wanted to go to Vegas with him. He even looked me up and down in that particular way. And I wanted to say, Jesus, dude, do you have any idea how old I am?! But he went away and I wasn’t pancaked, and tomorrow is Saturday so hopefully the traffic will be a little less.

I’m doing what I guess is a reverse nero. I got in at the end of the day. Checkout is at 11. I’ll eat breakfast here, do my creative gas station resupply, check out, eat lunch at McDonald’s (and grab an extra burger for dinner), then just hike 5 miles or so up out of the pass.

I won’t even look at the maps tonight. I’m too busy sucking down Gatorades. 🙂

One day’s filth: