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David's Journal

Hi everybody,

Here is David's latest journal entry.

David's Dad

[21 May 2000 cont]
Today is Sunday, so I will have to wait until tomorrow at 6 AM to get my
packages at the Post Office. I head to the State Park and get my $3
admission to the "Hike and Bike" section which essentially is
a few sandy spots between manzanita bushes - just like the PCT except
that the PCT spots ten to be more level. But the PCT doesn't have hot
showers, sit-down toilets, or a pay phone. I see "Turtle", a low-key
24-ish rock climber from Portland. He was at the Hikers' Oasis, suffering
from forefoot pain, the same kind of pain that was my primary downfall in
'94. He recovered enough to continue to Idyllwild, but isn't convinced
that he's done with it yet.  Too tired for the movie, Turtle and I go to
a local grill, where we see "the train". Ryan and Fish are enjoying their
time off in AT fashion, and the four of us end up telling stories and
having a good time. Turtle and I plan to hike out together tomorrow.

[22 May 00]
Up early, I stretch, do my crunches and pushups, then head to Jan's Red
Kettle for another good breakfast and work on my journal and email. Still
feeling a bit rundown.  Better to eat before going to the Post Office,
then up the trail. I remember the fellow behind the desk at the PO
because of his deep, resonant radio announcer's voice.  He eventually
comes up with 3 boxes - my drift box from Warner Springs, my resupply box
from Dad in CT, and my ice axe. I don't know the Kennedy Meadows address
because my list is in the never-arrived box I forwarded to Big Bear, and
Dad's line is busy, so I forward it to Agua Dulce - no charge because it
went 1st class mail (a good deal for this trip). The scoop is that there
is no more snow on Fuller Ridge, which proved to be true.

Getting everything combined and prepared for the next leg takes some
time. Turtle shows up at the PO and says that he thinks he should go to
the doctor about his feet. Fine, I'll wait. The doctor and his retired
local colleague, apparently a word-renowned foot surgeon, take about an
hour, then eventually give Turtle a shot of combined cortisone and novo
cane in each foot. Turtle has to wait until tomorrow and I volunteer to
wait with him. After puttering around a bit, I end up back at the State
Park and get a nap on a wooden picnic table bench -- getting pretty
comfortable by now!

That night, at a local Mexican restaurant with $1 tacos, Turtle and I see
Larry Myers come in, exhausted, bewhiskered, and focused on calling his
wife. She is traveling with him; he is hiking and she driving the car and
camper. _That's_ the way to hike this trail. Anyway, Larry has just hiked
the ~37 miles from Pines-to-Palms to Idyllwild! Even though he didn't
have to carry much of the stuff we do, it is a long ways. He has a
life-long background in cross-country ski racing and the biathlon.

[23 May 2000]
Having prepared our packs yesterday, Turtle and I are ready early -
breakfast at Jan's Red Kettle at 0700 and buy denatured alcohol at the
hardware store at 0800. At the hardware store, a slim, elderly woman asks
me if we want a ride up to the trailhead. Of course, we accept and trail
magic strikes again!

We hump it up Devil's Slide to the PCT and then continue to ascend the
side slopes of Mt. San Jacinto. Turtle works full-time at a climbing shop
and we have lots to talk about concerning climbing and backpacking gear,
different manufacturers' reputations and return policies, and so on. 
When we start to get to altitude, say 7000+, Turtle outpaces me easily
and I adopt the temporary nickname of "Turtler".  His feet are feeling
very fine. Three beautiful cascades of snow melt cross our path.  We
cross Fuller Ridge (clean of snow, you remember), then ditch our packs
and walk 1.3m down to Black Mountain campground for 7 liters of water and
long drops. A long walk back, tie them on our packs, then stagger another
mile to a very breezy campsite on a sandy saddle.

[24 May 2000]
The long descent to I-10 appears on paper to be an easy slight decline,
though switch-backy.  In practice, however, the trail is steep enough to
wear inexorably on knees and feet, and the sun beats on our heads.  Our
water disappears rapidly, but doesn't compensate for the environmental
stress.  Larry, the 37-miler, passes me but is very kind and stops to
talk for a while. We both pass Turtle, hiding from the sun for a while
between a large boulder and a thicket of shrubs. Hours later I'm napping
in the shade of another huge boulder and Turtle, also suffering from the
heat and long descent, joins me. My nap position proves to be tough on my
left knee, and as I leave, Turtle still dozing, it feels strange.

My second rattler refuses to leave the trail until I actually lift part
of his body downhill with a branch; he gets the hint and slides off
slowly, watching and warning me.

Down on the deep sandy valley floor, the wind is constantly strong and
blustery. At first the trail is at an angle, and the gusts push me off
the trail; later when the trail turns and the wind is even stronger, the
blasts of wind and sand sting my legs straight on. My face is protected
by lowered hat, but four miles are like eight. Finally under I-10,
Section B is done.

A mile or two and some scrounging later, I'm at the Middleton's "Pink
Hotel". The Middletons are also Trail Angels. When I went through in '94,
they offered me fruit, water, and a sheltered place to sleep in this dry
valley wind tunnel, full of squawking wind machines. Although I pressed
on then, this time I stay overnight and watch coffee-sipping through the
large plate glass window for Turtle's arrival.

[25 May 00]
The next morning Don Middleton shows up in his pickup with dog Sissy,
bustles in to light the wood stove, and promptly makes up a batch of
biscuits. A construction contractor, he built the "Pink Hotel" out of the
scraps of various projects; the kitchen is a trailer that he sawed in
half and the plate glass window came free from some remodeling work. Don
had helped Peter Haskell with trip-ending logistics and we discuss Pete's
trip at length.

Turtle is fighting painful chafing between his legs, so I leave before he
does. Just down the trail Larry Myers catches up with me, having spent
the night with his wife in their camper. We hike together for many miles,
past rows of wind turbines, past the stony wide Whitewater River with
brook's worth of water, over a long hot ridge, down to Mission Creek, now
a large trickle. Larry slows his normal pace and I speed mine, panting,
and by the end of the day I've done somewhere near 25 miles.  My mind
wants to extend this, and soon mentally I'm passing the other hikers day
after day, moving to the beginning of the hiker bubble, taking time off
the trail to avoid getting to the Washington Cascades too early.  The
next day, though, as sixty-something Larry leaves quickly to be able to
meet his wife 31 miles down the trail, I am beat from my 25 miler and the
climb becomes a plod.

[26 May 00]
Larry has gone, I've "tanked up", and started off towards Arrastre Trail
Camp.  I see a fellow hiker, and he comes up asking for help.  He is
nervous, wide-eyed, and sweaty although he hasn't walked yet today. Ray
has been sick for three days and has only covered the distance Larry and
I took a day to walk. He has had a nasty tick bite on his ribs, and we go
over various possibilities. He seems to relax a bit when I tell him we'll
get out together. It is only a six mile climb to a public road. He's a
fast walker, but can't sustain it. He becomes exhausted easily. I plod
on, kind of psychologically pushing him up the hill until finally we
arrive at Mission Creek Trail Camp. I set up to make a meal and we hang
out, resting, until about an hour and a half later when a small pickup
drives through. Ray jumps up and flags down two 30-somethings out for a
backpack. As they climb out to talk to Ray, the driver notices that the
truck's right front tire has a flat! The spare is hidden hardware-wise
behind the trailer hitch, and they have no tools other than a tire iron.
Eventually I go back to my Spanish Rice and a nap. By about noon the tire
has been changed, Ray is on his way to the hospital in Big Bear, and I am
sluggishly winding the baking hills towards Canada.
I have 16 miles to go and eight hours of daylight in which to do it, but
my body doesn't have the resources for the push.  Despite the good meal,
the altitude, heat, and yesterday's long day conspire with the morning's
delay and my worsening left knee to make progress slow.  Turtle passes me
during a rest stop. Some equestrians give me handfuls of ice at Coon
Creek Jumpoff.

Finally, at about 1730, I decide that the push won't help my knee and
head down the short dirt road at Cienaga Creek to Highway 38. Two fairly
quick hitches and I'm at the Big Bear City Fire Station.

[27 May 00]
Like the Hiker's Oasis in Anza and Don Middleton's Pink Hotel, the Big
Bear City Fire Station is another of those unbelievably magical places on
the PCT. I don't yet know how their relationship with the PCT hikers
started, but it has been going for more than few years now. The firemen
have a beautifully cushy grass lawn and two immaculate bathrooms,
including two roomy showers with plenty of hot water. They also have a
PCT Register and a spot for"hiker boxes" -- cardboard boxes where hikers
can place extra food and gear for other hikers to take. The firemen don't
seem to mind no matter what kinds of tailoring or surgical operations go
on in their palisade, but "No fires, please - it makes us nervous." They
don't charge at all, but if hikers get a pizza... well, apparently
firemen really like pizza.  

Christopher Cox shows up (How did you pass me?) and somehow we break
through the ice and shake hands.  By this time I am limping significantly
and I'm able to get Chris's help to pick up my packages from the Post
Office during the one Saturday hour that it's open.

[28 May 00 -- 01 June 00]
On Sunday (28) I head to the Big Bear Lake emergency room. They take
X-rays and find nothing, so diagnose "overuse". The doctor prescribes
elevation and ibuprofin and a couple of days rest followed by a light
build-up until I can get back on the trail. I leave chafing internally,
expecting about 4 days off. 

It's now the following Thursday and my knee is apparently no better.
Unloaded, I can walk short distances with a basically painful limp. It's
out of the question to get back on the trail until this heals.

During this period, I meet many new hikers and  a couple of familiar
faces. Turtle shows up, hangs around a couple of days regrouping, then
heads out. Christopher Cox heads out (the 27th, I believe, Ruth) in good
shape, having come to know that the PCT is harder than it looks.  I
shuttle Matt and his friend Kevin in Kevin's car up to Coon Creek Jumpoff
and then wait about four hours for them at Onyx Summit so that they can
slack-pack the section. I purchase 10 Sci-Fi books at a local used book
store and work my way through 4 1/2 of them.  Gene, who thru-hiked the AT
in 1990, told me about having  to take 2 weeks off during his hike for a
medical problem and how difficult it was.

As time wears on, I begin learning that this enforced delay is part of
hiking the trail.  When I'm hiking, I'm too busy to notice that this is
my life, that I'm living here, spending 5 months essentially alone on the
West Coast. Without all the chores to do, my existence comes to the
forefront. Do I belong here in Big Bear City only because I am waiting
for something else? I do my best to settle in and live, make friends,
relax, but the stream of hikers rushes on and I am swirling in an eddy
like a burnt-orange leaf in an Adirondack fall stream.

My patience with diagnosis and healing has sunk beneath the sand of a dry
creek. Although my unpaid, untimed lease with the fire station is not up,
it is time to move on.  Tomorrow my plan is to bus down to San
Bernardino, and then, if necessary, to San Diego or Los Angeles to try to
find a specialist in sports medicine or orthopedics. It is a long trail,
and five months is a long time.

-- Dave
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