Mile 342 to mile 369.8
Today was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The trail is about never giving up. It’s about crying alone on logs. It’s about cycling through every possible emotion in a twelve hour period to end up exactly where you started- hungry, sleepy, content for no specific reason. It’s about not quitting when you really want to, if only because you can’t think of where else you’d go or what you would do, when you got there.
I’m one of the last ones out of our hotel room at cajon pass- everyone else got up at 4:30 to tackle the 20 mile, 7 thousand foot climb in the cool. I sleep in to a leisurely 6 a.m. and then stuff myself with sausage and eggs at the continental breakfast. After breakfast I hit up del taco for seven crispy tacos, which I plan to pack out up the hill. Then I wander over the freeway and under, to the dark cool tunnel that dumps me back onto the trail- down where the hot desert folds in on itself and makes a wet jungle, vines over everything and a yellow stream running in the sand, rusted out cars in the weeds behind a “no tresspassing” sign. I climb up into the dry hills and there’s train tracks, BNSF and UP intermodals thundering east towards Texas. I watch one pass, units clicking and shaking, and then sit on a rock and eat four of my tacos. It’s 7:30 a.m. Gonna be a slow day today.
When I hit six thousand feet the elevation sickness hits me like a ton of bricks. My stomach turns over, aches, the cold hand of nausea. I’m dizzy and out of breath. I march forward in the heat, anxious at my slowness. I’m trying to make it to the highway on the other side of this mountain range by 7 pm. 27 miles. 20 of them are up. And I’m sick, so sick.
The desert turns to cool ponderosa forest as I climb and I sit on a log and cry. Why am I hiking the trail again. The trail is full of ghosts, the trail is full of suffering. The trail is a ribbon of dirt. The trail is a figment of my imagination. The trail doesn’t exist.
These things being as they may, I decide to keep walking. I reach the top after three seperate crying jags and find a flat forest swirling with cool mist and suddenly I feel fantastic. I walk faster and feel better and then, four miles before the highway, I start to run. The trail tips down, full of rocks, weather swirling all around me. I reach the highway right at sunset and catch a ride into town with a young couple in a shiny car. They drop me off in tiny wrightwood and I blink in the dark street and then wander into the bar to find it full of hikers- NotaChance, Guthrie, Hi-Tech, TikTok (who I incidentally shared a creative writing class with at PSU four years ago) and lots of other hikers I haven’t yet met- I order a massive burger and eat it very quickly, drink some ice water. I am happy.
The grocery store is open till 10 pm so I do my resupply- chips, salami, I’m feeling wild so mustard, mayo, postcards. The others have offered to cram me into their already crowded hotel room so I go there, wash my feet, stretch, spread my sleeping bag on the couch and then all the drunk hikers come home, can’t open the door, can’t turn on the lights, we push the furniture out of the way, there are nine hikers on the floor and much giggling and it smells like feet, it’s 11 pm aka hiker 2 a.m.
Photos on instagram