Day: Thursday, May 26th 2016
Miles: 314.6 – 341.9
Remote Camp 314.6 – Cajon Pass
“…And 4 cheeseburgers, and do you have apple pie? Oh one of those. And a large Dr.Pepper”. That was how the conversation went. Unashamedly. I had lusted after the idea of McDonalds since at least Big Bear. I rushed back onto the trail rather than finding a substantive and satiating meal in Big Bear with the result that the monsterous desire for a Big Mac had been growing for 3 days and 70 miles of trail. I was in Cajon Pass, an idle truck stop on Interstate 15 and home to a McDonalds that’s not only convenient to the Pacific Crest Trail, but overtly and officially signposted off the trail.
I woke up this morning feeling energized and still mindful of yesterday. The burn areas, the views of Big Creek and the beautiful sunset to name a few. I ate my oatmeal with raisins and looked through some pictures, confident that I had enough battery to make it to the end of the day and a recharge in Cajon Pass. Today was one of those days that didn’t seem to offer so much on the journey, but the destination was all to play for. McDonalds and a bed at the Best Western in Cajon Pass were 28 miles away.
I hit the ground running at 6:30am and filtered some water after a few miles at a stream. The water sources are so scarce in this area that within a few minutes of arriving, the birds, insects and animals tend to give in to their need for water and disregard your presence as a threat. I’ve witnessed squirrels, random small rodents, flies and yellow jackets, hummingbirds and all manner of wildlife come for a drink whilst I’m filtering. It’s probably the only benefit of my torturously slow Sawyer Mini water filter.
With a few liters and the morning all to play for, I gathered pace and leapfrogged one particularly sad hiker a few times. She seemed a bit dejected and mentioned her tent flipped in the night. Not such good luck, and I’m pretty sure her pack needed a major shakedown as it looked miserably heavy.
One observation on the trail that I have made, is regarding footprints. One more than one occasion I’ll find a footprint on the trail and realize that someone is ahead of me continually. This may seem like an unusual thought to dwell on, but a few hundred miles in and you start to notice off things. In this case a particular footprint has been ahead of me now for a day and a half, and the fact that I haven’t caught up is beginning to motivate (infuriate?) me.
The trail was quite uninteresting compared to yesterdays variety and the animated story of Deep Creek that spoiled me all day. I passed some more dams and a power plant, along with some trail magic (water, carrots and strawberries) along the trail.
The trail wound back up in the hills and I finally got a view of the lake marked on the map. This is the Silverwood Lake recreation area and obviously things were in prep-mode for the holiday weekend. The PCT meandered along the north shore providing great views over the entire lake.
A little further on, the trail wound under a highway and as I wearily ate a pack of skittles I heard a park ranger drive up close by and pull over. She shouted with arms waving, in that official tone you hear from any form of law enforcement in the US that is *never* a good thing, “STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE”. I was a little taken aback, not knowledgable of anything I might have done wrong (other than a likely offensive level of dirt and grime). She approached me, as I reminded myself where my permit was, and once again pondered what I’d done wrong. The ranger asked if I was eating some snacks, to which I hesitantly replied yes, before she stated that in the state of California it was required to eat 5 portions of fruit and veges per day, before she presented me with a fruit pot! I honestly don’t think I could possibly have been happier – trail magic! Twice in a day! That lil fruit pot boosted my spirits immeasurably.
I plodded on further and further, the heat became quite unrelenting again, obviously the lower elevation means that the temperature is not moderated in any way by the pleasant elevations of prior days. This is something that will likely only resolve itself when I get to Wrightwood in two days time. The trail provided some nice views back over the lake, but for the most part it was a hard grind on the elevated sections. My feet were a little sore and my backpack seemed heavy for no reason. My body is obviously in need of a rest.
The trail can surprise sometimes and this evening was a surprise, my presumption that the route must rise to Cajon Pass was actually the inverse of the actual alignment. Soon the distant train horns that I had heard for hours became closer and I could see that the Mojave on the north side is actually higher than Cajon Pass. The multi-engined locomotives were actually pushing up or gently braking-downward for the enormous circle route into the pass.
This is obviously a huge transit fulcrum with train lines, highways, powercables, underground lines and pipelines all converging at this small entry keyhole into the Los Angeles basin. A constant line of trains, trucks and cars and a general white-noise hum was noticeable for the first time since the beginning of the trail.
Now it was time for business. After a long hot day there was a McDonalds up the road and all I wanted was burgers, ice cream and fries! The Cajon Pass McDonalds even has a PCT sign marking out its distance from the trail!
Quite a few weary hikers were already there enjoying the spoils of the Golden Arches. It was a funny mix of filthy hikers, bemused friendly staff and curious onlookers. My order was simple, perfectly executed and consumer with fervor.
With a full belly, there was only one thing left for today. Around 20 miles back, I had booked a room at the Cajon Pass Best Western, just to be certain I had a room at the inn (so to speak). I arrived around 7:30pm to a clean room, hot shower, hot-tub and a base to recompose and re-energize!
After some laundry time and a quick trip to the gas station next door, I was clean and ready to go for the morning. After looking at the water report for the morning, I decided on my plan of attack for tomorrow’s heavy altitude gain up towards Wrightwood. A slow morning and a steady afternoon-pace will be the order of the day!