Day 36: Chilly with a chance of chili

Mile: I have no freaking clue. Somewhere in the middle of a detour around a fire closure.

This trail has a lot of detours!

I started this 13-mile detour at around noon. It’s an 11-mile roadwalk plus a couple of miles of other trail, to bypass about 15 miles of trail closed in a 2011 fire, I believe. Or 2015 or 2008 or some other year. But at mile 6, it passes through Lake Hughes, which has a biker hotel of sorts, and a little grocery store. I figured the hotel (which supposedly had three rooms) would be full, but I thought I’d see if they had a vacancy. Sleep in a bed, help the intestines. Plus, my two half-days left me a little short on food (you eat even when you don’t walk), and I was so goofy in Agua Dulce that I forgot to buy snacks. Snacks are critical!

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you… oh, shut up.

In the middle of the night, I heard more and more people arriving at my little campsite under the powerlines. Turns out, it was listed on the Guthook app. There are people out here who pretty much think they have to camp where Guthook tells them to. It’s weird; they seem to have no clue about dispersed camping, which is kind of the point. On the other hand, that stretch of trail was very dense and horizontally challenged, so we all probably just did the best we could. When I woke up, seven other tents had squeezed into the little area that Guthook designated as space for two or three. One of them was the biggest tent I’ve seen all trail. Huge! But worse, it was set up on an unfriendly piece of ground, jammed in among bushes, on top of my carefully dug, out-of-the-way cathole. Uh-oh.

I was out of there by 5:37 or so.

It was another foggy, cold morning–a real pea-souper today. I don’t know if we were in the clouds, but we weren’t in them when I set up, so I’m thinking it was actual fog–or a fog/cloud thing. All I know is that it was cold hiking again. I used my rain mittens for the first time; they made it a little more bearable. (It’s apparently been 30 degrees lower than normal, I found out a little while ago.)

And today–the last three days, really–was lather-rinse-repeat hiking. Honest to god, I was ready to scream. Wyle E. Coyote–same tree, same mountain, same bushes, same 25 feet of trail repeated over and over and over and over and over. So freaking repetitive! That’s one thing I loathe about this trail and its switchbacks. On the other hand, that probably changes entirely once we’re out of Southern California. This is really five separate hikes. A video game with five stages.

Eventually I got to the road. Turn left to go to Casa de Luna, home of the Andersons–another familous vortex–or right to start the 13-mile roadwalk detour around the Powerhouse Fire Closure. It was noon. And it was decision time.

I turned right. Yay! My gut was behaving itself (conditions trending toward improvement!), and I was thinking I could just churn out that roadwalk and hit my first 20+ day!


You know how long it takes to walk a mile? It takes me about a half-hour, even on the road. A long half-hour. A really, really, unending half-hour. Under the sun. Sometimes with no shoulder. With a 50-mph speed limit. With diarrhea.

Then 12 more of them!

I eventually took off my pants (I had shorts on!) and tarted myself up. I wouldn’t hitch, but if anybody offered me a ride, I’d take it. I left my purist card at the Paradise Cafe about 300 miles back.

Guess what? Sombody offered me a ride! A retired gentleman with a jeep. THANK YOU! I was his ninth passenger of the day. I ended up walking about half the roadwalk into Lake Hughes.

The fire damage up the hillside is incredible. So is Lake Elizabeth, dry as a bone–a dead sea, thanks to the drought.

The Rock Inn is a little like the Doyle in Duncannon–peeling paint, holes and scrapes, rings on the patched furniture. But without the exposed wiring or open gas flames or condemned upper porch floor. Or the bloodstains. (But also without the haunted feeling, like the ghosts of a Big Band at the Overlook.) And blissfully, the restaurant/bar downstairs has karaoke–but not tonight! There is a god!

SloMo and Extreme Photo are here, and another couple I met back at the ranger station the night after the wind, when I first got sick, and Rose from Hiker Heaven. There were a ton of other hikers downstairs eating when I got in, but all strangers. Sad. I fear my bellweathers have passed me by. They’re a hitching kind of people. In fact, even Sugar/Sato was here when I arrived. He and his two buddies were trying to get a hitch all the way to Hikertown (mile 515) today. That’s a substantial hitch! So I probably won’t see him again. (International hikers are usually here on a 6-month visa. Given that they usually have other stuff to see or do, they don’t mess around. The fact that I was keeping up with T. W. Horsewater for so long was comforting. But no more.)

So here we are. I got snacks. I had a Philly cheesesteak downstairs (because I like to test them), and now I’m in bed. I can’t leave here until 8 AM, and I might have breakfast at 8 and leave at 9. I’ve lost a lot of weight; maybe that’s figuring into my digestive issues. When I skip towns, I also skip town food–and town food is pretty critical on a long-distance hike. And the less body fat I have, the colder I get.

So, say I leave by 9, do the last 6 miles of the detour, then do a bunch of… oh, who the hell knows. Just gotta walk. One step at a time!

Oh, and the cold snap is supposed to turn into a heat wave next week–just in time for… the Mojave.


5 thoughts on “Day 36: Chilly with a chance of chili

  1. That place looks waaay better than the Doyle, but ain’t sayin’ much. Just returned to civilization from several days in the woods. Good to see you’re still with us.


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