Day: Friday, 27th May 2016
Miles: 341.9 – 353.9
Cajon Pass – Remote Camp 353.9
The simple joy of taking a shower after a tough days work is something we all know well, and there is no denying that there is something innately satisfying about putting off the self-fulfillment or payoff for something for a little longer sometimes. Hunger makes a great sauce as we say in Ireland. Well, In my case, the knowledge that it was 4 days of “hard work” since my last shower, a week since I washed my clothes in a bucket, and even longer (2 weeks) since I slept in a bed, did lead to a certain enthusiastic embrace of the Best Western’s facilities. Never before has a moderately priced tourist class two star hotel provided such hope to a human (whose personal hygiene and general cleanliness standards have been steadily deteriorating for over 2 weeks now).
My $65 PCT-hiker-special came with some fringe-benefits. Between arrival last night and departure at 11am today, I enjoyed 5 showers (or part thereof), enjoyed an intensely satisfying laundry session and completed a devastating dawn run on the breakfast buffet. Add in a hot-tub session, full de-griming of my camping cook wear and water system as well as a nights sleep, and this was supremely good value for this value-minded geographical experience-migrant.
The sheer amount of grime that the desert throws at you is simply staggering. True to the theme of the day, I scrubbed body, I scrubbed clothes and to some extent I would like to think I tried to scrub my mediocre nutritional intake of late by expanding my food repertoire to include novel items such as fruit and vegetables at breakfast. The laundry facilities were spartan, if under high levels of contention as everyone had the same idea. You could identify the thru-hikers in the hotel as they could be seen walking around wearing their raingear at a time of year singularly mentionable for its lack of any form of precipitation whatsoever. This is because our raingear was the only “clean” clothing we had left. I pinched the check-out time to 11:30 and sat in the reception for a while getting some final recharging-time in and spoke to a veteran thru-hiker named Robocop who’d come to rest up for a while. A stern gentleman, he provided some advice on every drinks and we exchanged thru-hiker pleasantries pertaining to heat and the haul-ahead.
I eventually made my move around 2pm and ventured out. The walk to the trail from the Best Western is more treacherous than any ridge or summit, with no footpath and a busy highway with interstate on ramps – certainly an unceremonious end to a thru-hike if you times things incorrectly. I visited McDonalds for a sneaky McFlurry and spoke to some more thru-hikers – Freight-Train and Legs as well as Devilfish who was passing by on his way to trail-angel up north. Most conversation was about the haul ahead out of Cajon Pass and how far people might hope to get that evening. I had decided it was time to roll and at 3PM hit the trail.
Starting later in the day is unusual, you feel fresh but the day feels tired. The heat in the canyons surrounding Cajon Pass was dead and still. Progress was slow and even industrial in character for the first few miles as the PCT takes a contorted route around roads, highways, pipelines and rail-tracks.
The rail traffic through the pass is astounding. Every few minutes another mile-long double-decker train would snake up and down the valley, it’s distant horns waning even whilst the clickity-clack of the rail cars continued unabated for minutes. The increase in elevation highlights the incredible feat of engineering at work – trains capable of handling so much weight up and down the valley, some engines pulling, others pushing. I stopped and just watched the trains go by for some time.
Once the trail established itself above the valley, the upward inclination of the next few days was obvious. I had a few thousand feet ahead, and the PCT took its usual leisurely wandering pace into the hills above, destination Wrightwood.
Building up some momentum, I passed one senior hiker and then the welcome energy of Goal-tech and Toothfairy, two Southbounder section-hikers who offered some trail magic and seemed like two guys that were very excited to get down to McDonalds after a week on the trail. I decided to make up for some lost time (given my leisurely morning) by night-hiking a little into the evening given it was still and beautiful. After a short period of finding my way in the brightness of the moon, I pulled my head-lamp out and shone the light ahead. To my surprise there was hundreds of tiny glinting green eyes staring right back at me. I lean closer at one, guessing they might be tiny frogs but alas no. Spiders!!! Hundreds of them along the trail with bright little emerald eyes. Not historically being a fan of arachnids in general, I took it to be an omen and pulled aside for the night. I set up my tent overlooking Cajon and across to Victorville, CA and celebrated the day with some gummy bears (I’m a cheap date).