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- Subject: David's Journal
- Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 07:27:21 -0400
David continues on his journey.
1) The Thelma's waitress's Hawaiian name is spelled "Kalelani".
2) It was _Scott_, _Tracy_, and Kelly at Arrastre.
3) The Big Bear Trail Angel's name is Frank, not Fred.
Qualifications, Caveats, Cravat-knots, and What-nots:
(Although all my feedback has been encouraging, my fevered brain thought
I should throw this in, especially in light of the above errata.)
This journal is being composed on-the-fly and emailed-out in the same
fashion. I have no opportunity or ability to cross-check facts, names, or
even places. I have essentially no access to maps other than that for the
section I am hiking. I do my best to be accurate, fair, honest, and
non-offensive. Moreover, this is not an attempt to be comprehensive or
universal in scope. I'm mostly trying to report, in an interesting way,
some of the things that happen to me, as they happen. But -- if anyone
finds errors, please let me know.
[13 June 00]
Scott, Tracy, and Kelly left last night before dark, to get back on the
trail and continue averaging 25 mpd. Their slimness, fitness, momentum,
and obvious competence, together with their friendliness, make them seem
ethereal, otherworldly. Their hard, bony, strong feet seem made for this
trail. They seem like the true inhabitants of this long, thin land. In
Liberia one summer, I began seeing the Africans differently about halfway
through. I noticed how strong the men were, and the attractiveness of
the women in their colorful lapas, and what a fine color their skin was.
Our mottled, pale skin and scrawny bodies seemed ugly in comparison. And
now on the PCT, again I am in a strange land, and my blubbery, mottled,
stretch-marked, knock-kneed, flat-footed body is that of a visitor.
Frank again picks me up, this time at 0700 after a last breakfast at
Thelma's (he wouldn't let me treat him). I know that his service to the
hikers is not easy, but he shows me only interest, and tells me about
some of the gold mining history of the Doble region.
The first part of today's 15 miles looks north over the fascinating dry
desert, although I can't name the area because it is way off the narrow
maps of the trail guide. The harder hills poking out of the smooth,
apparently sandy bottom look like the waves of hills in the Shenandoah
Valley in early morning poking out of the white mist.
The rabbitbush plants are in bloom, with their sparse, smooth, gayer
limbs covered in bright yellow flowers.
As I hike, I pull small pieces of sage and crush them in my hand for a
bit of uphill aromatherapy. I imagine that the smell of sage eventually
will evoke the PCT like Proust's Madeleine pastry. But preempting that,
the sourdough bread I snack on evokes my grandmother' gifts from
California. She would visit us in Connecticut, suitcase loaded with
artichokes, sourdough bread, dried apricots.
Despite my shady lunch site, my stomach objects to the orange honey (too
hot? too rich? too long in the pack?) and after metallic taste warnings.
I can get discreetly off the trail before my meal is launched violently
into space, together with at least a liter of carefully filtered water.
My first truly warm night is spent off-trail on a thick bed of pine
needles way above Big Bear, just before Little Bear Springs Trail Camp.
[14 June 00]
Met Jim "Stargazer" at the Little Bear Camp. He quit teaching to do a
thruhike and is wondering what he'll do when he gets back. We compare
schedules and he detects a flaw somewhere; a linear approach averaging
20mpd with no rest days would land me in Canada somewhere in the middle
of October, a risky
endpoint because of the possibility of snow. My mind spins endlessly all
day calculating schedules, hiking rates, rest days. Luckily my knee has
forced me to ramp up slowly and I can relax from the computations before
the day is out.
Down Holcomb Creek to the bridge across Deep Creek, where I spend a good
part of the night fighting mosquitos.
The Willow Fire from last summer was in evidence all day. Some parts of
the trail look like a nuclear wasteland except for occasional crown
sprouts clustered around blackened sticks.
[15 June 00]
Ten miles to the (unofficially?) clothing-optional Hot Springs, a unique
place in that it is on public land and completely free. Lori is a regular
local and is indulgent to let me tag along for parts of the day, shifting
from hot pool to cold stream and back. She is talkative and a great
"Friend For a Day". The ground squirrels chew on my ground pad and wreak
havoc in my food bag. A group of friendly hot-tubbing equestrians share a
cold Pepsi and cold fried chicken. By the end of the day I realize how
much I miss water -- swimming, canoeing, sailing. There is a pipe in the
rock that pours out hot water at a rate that pummels my back and neck.
All kinds of stories float around about the local officials and their
treatment of the Hot Springs, local villages, and residents during the
Willow Fire. I hear of gold mining, the relationship of Native Americans
to the Hot Springs, horses and their riders falling down the
mountainsides, the latest chemical analysis of the one potable water
source. The sun sets, the full moon rises, and Kevin-Bacon-esque Eddie, a
retired veterinarian, tells us about his '87 thru-hike that "took eight
months" and changed his life. One of his buddies took a slide in the
Sierras and broke both legs and his collarbone; another fell off a log
into a stream, broke down crying from the accumulated stress, and got off
the trail in Tuolumne Meadows. At somewhere "'Round Midnight" I rouse
from sleep to see Eddie grab his feathered walking stick and head up the
moon-bright hills with his two dogs.
[16 June 00]
I get an early-for-the-late-night start (0600) and truck down the
remainder of Deep Creek. Two PCT-knowledgeable trail runners, Janet and
Pam, donate some water and ice to my water bottle at a road crossing, but
I am being too weight-conscious and still am about two quarts low.
The day heats up as I wind the monotonous hills before Silverwood Lake
and my pace slows until I am walking only from shade to shade. A bubbling
brook in '94 is now barely moving stagnant pools, but a little iodine and
a cool rock with deer fly accompaniment give me a boost for a time.
At about 1500 I see a tray attached somehow to a bush: "store ->".
Although this is about 3 contours too early according to the map, I
follow this welcome car- and hard trash-littered road down to Highway 173
and then road-walk to Larry Garland's Summit Valley Country Store. Larry,
an intelligent puttering-about fellow as garrulous as Eddie from the Hot
Springs had said he would be, is refreshing to talk to but has customers
to attend to and I have serious rehydration to do. I submerge into my
journal. About three hours, three Arizona Ice Teas (the ideal rehydration
drink), a microwave burrito, and a bag of Doritos later, I move much more
freely down the cooler road to meet the trail where it skirts around the
Silverwood Lake Dam, rather than backtrack to the "store->" sign; this is
consistent with my goal of "hiking a continuous line from Mexico to
Canada, mostly on the PCT". I don't know if Larry will ever know how much
I enjoyed my visit to his store.
About three hours later, I've circum-walked most of Silverwood Lake. The
riffs on the evening surface make me think of sailing with my nephews;
their greatest joy is to flip the boat so that we tumble into the cool
It is too late, and I am too cheap to walk the 2-3 miles to the noisy,
close-quartered Silverwood Lake campground, so I find a
comfortable-looking thicket of trees for a stealth camp. The ground is
inches deep with the spiny leaves of what I believe are Holly-leaved
Cherry trees. At about 2330, I'm awakened by red and black ants crawling
all over my head. They're not attacking, just investigating, but I smash
and flick and wipe for a long time, then finally drag my ground sheet and
everything on it about ten feet away. Two hours of uneasy sleep later,
they are back, but in less force, and again I swipe, and this time I
dribble an alcohol scent barrier with my stove fuel. At 0500, they awaken
me again but they are confused by the barrier and it is time to get up.
It will take the shower at I-15 to get all the ant parts out of my hair.
Breakfast, stretch, and 15 miles' water at the Picnic Ground at
Silverwood Lake, then climb into the winding slopes of Little Horsethief
Canyon. Compared with '94, a torture trial, this stretch is tolerable
with lighter gear, better sun protection, and better hydration. Some
insects sound like a buzzing rattler, and start right by your ear. Others
make a snap like the popping rocks that dissolve in your mouth, or like
the snapping shrimp you hear when diving under the ocean's surface.
Towards the end of the section, before the huge eroded cliffs east of
Crowder Canyon, but after the tall electrical power lines have appeared,
I climb another burned canyon, a flat sandy wash at its bottom. The far
side of this desolate, dry canyon is sparse low shrubs, now black
charcoal. This side is burned short trees. I hear the wind whistling
through the lonely power lines and the snap of the snapping insects. I
hear a mournful Bach melody to the beat of my feet crunching in the sand.
The trees' bark is split and flaking off, and on many the various
branches have been warped by the fire so that they come together at the
top. They form a shape of a licking flame or of hands forming a last
desperate prayer for protection from the fire. Cicadas' buzz cuts through
the shimmering air. An occasional startled dove flushes from the trees.
Crowder Canyon has no water, only occasional patches of wet sand. This
short descent looks like the set of a movie co-starring Walter Brennan.
One more curve, and then I am at Cajon Pass, with multi-lane I-15,
MacDonald's, and the EconoInn, where they are holding my next resupply
I have made good time with this short 13-mile stretch, and sit at
MacDonald's, guzzling 64oz Cokes and two refills, then crunching ice.
Later, del Taco has great Big Fat Steak Tacos.
I am a bit rundown, and trying to be conservative with my knees, and
spend another day resting, reading "Dinosaur Planet Survivors", and
watching DieHardX on the television. Besides, its Father's Day and like
a glass of ice water in the San Felipe hills to talk to my daughter
Despite dragging out of bed at 0400, I'm a bit scattered and don't get to
the trail (after a del Taco burrito for breakfast) until about 0600. This
day's hike, with no water until the uncertain spring at Flume Canyon, 22
miles away, is described by the guidebook as "a long, hard, uphill day"
and with over 5000 feet of elevation gain, it is. I camp on a breezy
narrow trail between trees on a ridge above and downstream of the spring,
overlooking the nighttime lights in the valley below, and life is good.
They say,"weeping may last the night, but a shout of joy comes in the
morning", but this morning I am depressed and grumpy. The feeling that I
am posturing to be able go beyond my '94 attempt, which ended less than a
day's hike away, intensifies. I have already passed the Acorn Slide
Trail, which I used last time for resupply, and I must keep a careful eye
on my knee and on my spirit. I'm hoping that it will be just a
matter-of-course thing, that all the preparation and improvements will
make the crucial moment a surprise, like the gradual squeezing of a
rifle's trigger. I pass several places, campgrounds, road crossings, and
the indecision and backtracking of '94 make it difficult to pinpoint the
exact place where I haven't walked before. It's useful that I had decided
weeks before today that the Mt. Baden-Powell ascent would be a more
obvious mark. I am still learning about food consumption and available
energy. I begin to ascend MBP around 1100, and immediately find it
extremely tough. The trail consists of 20 back-and forth switchbacks, and
to make it to Lamel Spring, at #8, I must focus in on each
half-switchback, naming it, looking for it, talking myself to it,
celebrating when I reach it, forgetting all else. Finally I reach Lamel
Spring, rewater, and then the same excruciating moment-by-moment for the
remaining 12. I have the thought, "If this is this tough at 8000 feet,
what will the Sierras be like, where the passes are at 12 and 13000
Finally I am at the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell, and have reached Goal #2
of my trip, to go farther than I did in '94. This is what I wrote at the
It's 1456 and I'm sitting on the top of Mt. Baden-Powell. This is my
"official" spot to say that I have come farther than in '94. This
completes Goal 2 (Goal 1 - get to the trail). I guess the next goal is
Canada. I'll divide that one into sub-goals, though. Great 360 degree
view of where I've been, where I'm going, where I will be going, who I am
(apologies to Gaugin). Barely a breath of wind. Lots of ladybugs.
The remainder of the day is just as tough, descents hard on the knees,
hot, tired, depressed. Finally down to Little Jimmy Campground and its
I awake again depressed, sick of my inadequate body, tired of being
alone, weary of fighting the urge to quit. I am learning that caring for
your spirit on this trip is like caring for your feet -- early,
aggressive, continuous response to problems. I try to work on Tracy
Bahr's "PMA" -- Positive Mental Attitude -- with my now familiar mantra,
"This is great, this will be great, this has been great," but it isn't
working. "Well, I have gone farther now, perhaps I could quit now, and go
back to Wrightwood, then I could see my daughter." ... "No, I'm not going
to do that." But the intense dragging-down feelings continue. I try hard
to eat and drink more, to no avail. Finally, as I descend the loose
southwestern slope of Mt. Williamson, towards Cooper Canyon and the
Rattlesnake Trail, I experience a kind of insight or vision. I have the
thought that the troubles I am experiencing are not reality, but some
sort of psychic image impressed on me or even on the Wrightwood area. I
see in my imagination a disk-shaped crystal, overlayed on the present,
which contains my experience from last attempt, or maybe even other
hiker's experiences, through which I am seeing the present. And I lift
the crystal off of the present (or it lifts itself), like removing a CD,
cast it aside, and I have just the present, without the psychic image
overlay. Almost instantaneously, the fighting is over, the depression
lifts, I feel 15 pounds lighter. I do have the stuff it takes, like Scott
Sederstrom said. I will make it to Canada, barring accident. I can get to
the Sierras. There will be problems, but I will solve them. [These
explicit feelings have continued since]
Cooper Canyon has water, and trees, undergrowth, cacti, and lizards, a
blend of the Northeast and Southwest, and is absolutely gorgeous. At
Cloudburst Summit a fellow from the Waterman Mountain Ski Resort drives
up to make a cell phone call and offers to drive me to get water if I
need it. I decline because I'm OK. He says that a while ago, two women
thru-hikers (the Bolivia girls?) had come up while he was working below,
said they had lost the trail ("Water! Can we have some please!?"). The
trail diverges from the guidebook here, and shows up one of the stranger
rules of trail walking, "Whatever the map and guidebook say, the trail
and its markings have first priority" which is tough for me because I
like to know exactly where I am.
For the remainder of the day, this rule dominates me because I feel that
I'm walking at 2+ mph but the watch and guidebook disagree. I finally
arrive at Sulphur Spring campground and its water fountain, limping from
footsore, well after dark. The stars are bright again tonight.
12.3 miles to Mill Creek Summit Ranger Station, three liters of water
after a morning camel-up. By this time, I am smelly and dirty all over
despite wipedowns at the springs and streams. A Forest Service fellow at
the water fountain is interested in my trip and asks me lots of
questions. Down the hill a hundred yards to the Picnic Area for a lunch
of cold mashed potatoes and refried beans scooped up with Akmak crackers,
then a nap on a picnic table in the shade. The only one there, I'm
awakened by the sounds of rakes and men talking and a radio crackling.
There are several men with a fire truck. They are working on the picnic
area. As I leave in the heat I deposit my trash in the trash can and
thank them for the use of the area, but all I get are stares and silence.
I can't tell what they're thinking. Do they think I am a homeless
person? Do they think I am tougher than they are, or perhaps that I think
that I am tougher? Do they resent me taking a nap at lunchtime?
Most of the rest of the day's trail lies near and parallel to a local
road, and it is tempting to road walk to save time. Despite my freedom to
do so, I decide to do the PCT. I arrive at Messenger Flats campground
with water half an hour early, and wash my day clothes. At midnight I'm
awakened by a light truck and car raising dust and spewing exhaust in the
parking lot, a tree's width away. I see a white tent and wonder who and
when. The cars assume the talk position for a while then leave dustily.
The white tent turns out to be half of an animal-proof garbage container,
and I really was alone all night.
A short section above a dirt road feels like a New Zealand Track. There
is a fresh breeze, but no Pacific Ocean below.
After two miles the view from the trail opens up for a fascinating,
spectacular view down into expansive Soledad Canyon and several ranges of
hills and mountains. I think that I can see the day's end goal, the
Vasquez Rocks, but I'm still not sure if I was right.
Just another 3 miles along is the North Fork Saddle Ranger Station,
manned by Todd. Ponytailed Todd, taking a break from his construction
business, has volunteered his time at the remote station for the past 18
months in exchange for the use of the nice facilities. He maintains a
hiker registry and offers showers for a small donation. He's getting
tired of the isolation and peripheral existence, though, and expects to
go back to his business soon.
Finally in the heat of the day I take part of a descending dirt road
rather than the PCT, then road-walk over to the Cypress Park Resort.
These campgrounds have swimming pools that look like oases from 1000 feet
above and several miles away. Although the snack bar has been closed for
a couple of years, the generous folks scrounge up leftover pizza, salad,
and four root beers for $4. After a 30 minute nap I decline the tempting
offer of $5 for a campsite, use of the showers and pool, and $3.95 for a
meatloaf dinner, and head off through confusing trail across the Soledad
Canyon railroad tracks. The PCT inauguration monument (what a horrible
place to put it) has been vandalized and is little more than a vague
cement block with a benchmark-like inset in its top.
Eventually I'm winding through the landscape-striping Vasquez Rocks,
trying not to trip as I drink in the pink, red, and gray formations.
A half-mile road walk and I'm at Richard's Canyon Market, where the Post
Office is. There is a large professionally-made banner outside on the
railing with the PCT logo and text which reads something like "Welcome
Pacific Crest Trail Hikers!" - what a welcome. It makes me feel as though
I'm part of some huge event.
Chuck Richards has set aside a full grocery isle for hikers' boxes, but
now, at the tail end of the bubble, there are only a few left. The clerk,
unprompted, asks me if I want her to call Donna Saufley, who with her
husband Jeff are the local Trail Angels. I have just enough time to grab
some food to prepare dinner before attractive, suntanned Donna shows up,
and I can't move fast enough to help her carry my resupply boxes,
groceries, and pack to the Jeep.
Jim Stargazer, the teacher from Holcomb camp (about 8 days ago), is here,
and Prehistoric Tony. They are watching the movie "12 Monkeys", swapping
trail stories, planning the next section's hike, and deciding which Star
Trek episodes were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, all at once. A shower, some
potato soup, salad, and kept-hot chicken later, we're in beds or on
Tony, back on the trail after 2 weeks of Guard Duty and 2 weeks of
pneumonia, left at around 0200 to try to put in a 30-mile day. Jim left
at around 0500. I didn't see either one leave. I finish the night's food
and have a chance to see the Saufley's place. The Saufleys are a couple
that enjoy having a lot to do and take care of. Not only have they hosted
over 200 hikers this year, but they have birds, five fun dogs, a
beautiful fenceline of pink roses and cactus, and a vegetable garden. For
the PCTers, they've set up a separate trailer and camper, complete with
kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, living room, TV, VCR, stereo, laptop
with Internet connection, and telephone. Donna has a rack of clothes for
hikers to wear while their clothes are being washed. They even let hikers
drive their Jeep down to the market. I feel a bit inadequate, as though
I'm being spoiled, but soon realize that I am being spoiled, that that's
the idea, and can relax and enjoy the hospitality. I spend the rest of
the morning at Deanna's Chamomille Cafe, working on family paperwork.
Deeahna, besides being very good-looking, sweet, and a fabulous cook, is
also a Notary Public. By the afternoon, though, I'm back at the Saufley's
trailer, fighting a long stress headache on the couch for the rest of the
day. Fortunately, I'm the only one there. The Saufleys have had up to 35
hikers in one night this year. At the peak, about 2-3 weeks ago, they
were spending $55 a day for a truckload of water to handle all the hot
showers, laundry, and dishwashing.
Donna and Jeff have been out for the evening but Donna checks in to see
if I am leaving, and tells me I'm welcome to stay as long as I need to.
This kind of offer is where the Trail Angels shine because it is simply
too expensive over five unemployed months to recover from injury or
illness in a hotel.
By morning the dogs are fun again and I can work on my journal down at
Deeahna's Cafe. She is very accommodating, and six hours later (now) I'm
still working on my journal. Her customers, more than half of whom seem
to be regular locals, are very pleasant and interested in my trip. They
"mmmmmm" over Deeahna's cherry tarts. Two of them, Matt and Simona,
expecting a daughter in three weeks, buy my breakfast as they leave
without mentioning it to me.
Well, I'm finished with Section D. E is next, crossing the Mohave desert.
Some say that most hikers that make it to Agua Dulce make it to the
Canadian border. Tomorrow morning I should be ready to go.
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