Hiked 1 | at 370.3
This was the nero of all neros. I met Nicholas and Milkshake in downtown Wrightwood after spending the previous day holed up in a 30-dollar hiker room special. I had finally gained back my appetite and gorged on a huge sandwich while they feasted on massive breakfast burritos.
We dropped our packs at the Mountain Hardware and went to Jenson’s Grocery to grab snacks. There was a crowd of hikers out front, among them, the Breaker Boys! Ken had been ahead of the other two for days, but at last they were reunited. My stomach did not appreciate the sandwich I ate earlier. I hustled to the bathroom to discover I entered phase two of the sickness: diarrhea. Perfect.
We found the local ice cream shop and I found yet another bathroom. It was a hard pass on the ice cream.
We grabbed pizza. I went to the bathroom. Then we headed for the trail to hike a grand total of one mile.
Though, the one mile was a tricky stretch for me. I was pretty sure I was going to shit myself, but luckily made it to a pine tree. Let’s just say the tree has seen better days.
Hiked 13.6 | at 383.9
The next day brought a beast of a climb up Mount Baden-Powell. The climb was only four miles, but it felt like eight. A day hiker gave me a clementine, which I decided to savor at the summit.
Fruit never tasted so juicy and sweet as it did on trail, or summits for that matter. While I ate my morsel, I dreamed of ice cold watermelon, biting into giant wedges glutinously so that I formed a pink beard of sticky juice.
The downhill was just as grueling as the ascent. As the day grew late, I smelled my a familiar smell, my favorite smell—campfire.
We arrived at the Little Jimmy Campground. Two women stoked a campfire. I was drawn to it like a light-drunk moth.
The night resulted in crashing the sisters’ fire and inviting to Breaker Boys to join as they rolled into camp after dark. First fire on trail left its smokey scent on me the following day, the best, most comforting smell.
Hiked 16.7 | at 400.6
The following day we were greeted by trail magic. The YouTube vlogger Nick Goes Hiking, who thru-hiked the PCT in 2017, was one of the hikers Nicholas watched intently. I called him the “douche bag” because he swore constantly and smoked copious amounts of weed on camera; he was a major bro. Funny enough he was the one whipping up breakfast burritos from his converted travel van. I felt guilty for drinking his soda knowing I had deemed him the douche bag. He seemed nice and swore a lot less in person.
The hiking was hard and included many ups and downs. At one point we had to do a road walk because part of the trail was closed for the rehabilitation of an endangered frog habitat.
The road was narrow and cars were going fast. Milkshake, Giancarlo and I decided to hitch the three miles of road walking to forgo getting squashed. We took Nicholas’s pack so he could jog the section; I know, he’s hardcore. We accidentally hitched too far and found we had skipped four miles of trail. We contemplated what to do and decided to leave Nicholas’s pack on trail with a note and hitch back so we could get the all the open miles of trail.
Nicholas eventually found his pack. All was well.
Hiked 18 | at 418.6
Nicholas asked if he could hike solo so that he could “kill it.” In other words go crazy fast. I agreed. We decided to meet in 18 miles at the next water source, a fire station.
The day brought easy hiking. Just what I needed after two hard days and sore knees. I got lost in my thoughts for the first half of the day and listened to my Game of Thrones audio book for the second. I dodged poodle dog bush and trudged on only stopping twice the whole 18 miles.
At last I arrived at the fire station. Nicholas had arrived an hour prior. I was confused. How could he have only beat me by one hour? Turns out Nicholas got lost and wasn’t on trail for most of the day and bushwhacked through poodle dog bush—a very nasty plant that supposedly gives you a rash worse than poison ivy and oak.
Comments on Guthooks said hikers got pizza delivered to the station. Nicholas was intent on pizza and collaborated with the Breaker Boys. They placed a massive order and Nicholas even ordered me a gluten free pizza!
When the pizza arrived we struck like savages. A spread of pizza boxes lay around us like buffet stations. They ordered salad, fried chicken, and beer. It was a pizza feast directly next to the pit toilet, the only speck of shade and we didn’t care. We had pizza.
Other hikers arrived and swooned at our spread. They too followed suit. The pizza delivery guy made three rounds to the fire station, happily taping menus to the pit toilet walls, and taking our pictures for their Facebook.
It was a pit toilet pizza party. Hikers drank beer and ate until nightfall.
Hiked 26 | at 444.3
The goal was 18 to 20 miles. That was the goal. After another day hiking solo, I met up with Nicholas at mile 18. He had his pack on, eager to jump back on trail when I arrived at the ranger station. “I think we should push to the KOA,” he said intent on leaving there and now. The KOA campground was eight more miles. Eight more miles! I shot down the prospect immediately. It was 3:00 p.m. and was keen on only hiking four more miles.
Nicholas rebutted that he had plowed through poison oak along the last stretch. He didn’t know what it looked like and ignorantly stampeded, typical. He also reminded me of his bushwhacking incident, poodle dog bush galore. I agreed to let him hike on to the KOA under the stipulation that he shower and use soap. He agreed. I took the tent and planned to hike four more and camp solo.
By mile four it was 5:30 p.m. and my legs were feeling strong. Game of Thrones was getting juicy so I continued on.
I imagined belly flopping fully clothed into the pool. The thought of cold water engulfing my salty, sweaty body made me step faster, with purpose.
Pool. Pool. Pool. Pool.
I bought Ben and Jerry’s, a Gatorade, and a snickers at the camp store and marched into the pool area. Nicholas, the Breaker Boys, and the others hollered in surprise at my arrival.
I slugged some Gatorade, took a spoon full of Cherry Garcia, and dunked into the pool. Yessssss.
Hiked 9.5 | at 453.8
A nero to Hiker Heaven seemed doable. Doable, yes, but miserable. We left the KOA late and regretted marching into the heat of the day.
The highlight was a going to be hiking through Vasquez Rocks, a state park that has been featured in many movies. However, we got lost. We had to follow our Guthook map back to trail. Then the heat hit me. I started to have a panic attack. I’ve had several panic attacks throughout my life, knew the feeling all too well, and then proceeded to melt into a puddle of tears. Nicholas helped me calm down, coaching my breath.
I struggled all the way to the road. My state of panic fluttering in my chest, periodically bubbling to my face in a flood of tears. A van was waiting for us at the road. A man said, “I’m here to rescue you! Glen sent me!” Salvation in the form of a white van! I quietly sobbed again grateful to be out of the heat.
We piled out of the van at Hiker Heaven. Numbers, a volunteer, gave us the orientation. The property was beautiful, a sprawling landscape with giant cacti, chicken, dogs, a VW bus, yurts, tents, and hikers. It was our residence for the night, one with showers, clean clothes, and good company.