Day: Monday, May 30th 2016
Miles: 399.6 – 427.0
Remote Camp 399.6 -Poodle Dog Detour Midpoint 427.0
Living in a new country, for a self-migrating immigrant like myself, can be an amazing adventure. It often leads to certain levels of confusion however, particularly during local cultural holidays – ordinarily pertaining to cultural norms and expectations, think of things like Thanksgiving for a newbie, or Massachusetts own Bunker Hill Day. Do you give gifts? Do you expect cards? Is there traditions you don’t know about when someone generously invites you to their home for a holiday? I think Memorial Day is a unique and great holiday as its message is a simple as its name. A day to take time and think about those who have made sacrifices in service, to allow us to live our lives and do what we do every day. Whilst Memorial Day is ostensibly pertaining to remembering those who died in service, I’d like to think that my experience today allows me to expand that scope a little in my own personal interpretation.
I woke up with a hunger for mileage this morning, whether buoyed by the strong IPA nightcap I inadvertently polished off, or the fact that I was starting the day just shy of the 400 mark. My enthusiasm for getting boots on the ground was immediately tempered by the sight of 3 white scorpions who had decided to take refuge from the daylight in my tent alcove. My tent has one door so basically three small insects had imprisoned me in my tent and I’m not sure I had any clue how to deal with them. Scorpions will give you a sting and shouldn’t be too much of a problem but starting the day with scorpion stings might dampen my day. I ate my oatmeal and stared at my jail-wardens before figuring that if I opened my awning to the lights maybe these things might take the hint and feck (Irish non-offensive word) off. After another 30mins of staring at them they finally wandered off. Thusly my first hour of the day was spent in a staring contest with three insects I could perceivable have demolished with one shoe-smack. Needing all of the good universal karma I can get however I think that would likely catch up with me up the trail. I took down my tent with a gingerness and fragility of purpose befitting the handling of a fine lace wedding dress. No further visitors were found but I can assure you that my shoes were AMPLY emptied and emptied again before I used them. Without further ado, and 1hr 30mins after waking up, with 0.3 miles completed today, I promptly tripped over the 400mile marker. At this pace I’ll make Canada by April.
After a mile I arrived at Camp Glenwood, a private camp for visiting scouts and groups. The gang of visitors there gave me some filtered water and I spoke briefly with a thru-hiker named Cyclops who was prepping his daily pills, bandages and starter routines for the day ahead. Nate and Killer passed even earlier and lucked out with some breakfast Brats as a reward for an early start!
The trail was once again aiming for the Mojave with temperatures increasing, the terrain underfoot becoming sandy and water sources more spread out. My packweight seems to closely align to either being filled with food and low water or filled with water and lower food so my aggregate weight balanced over time seems to be about even. This has surprised me for sure. I caught up with Nate and Killer, along now with Agent Orange, Perch and some other thru-hikers at a good rest spot at the ten mile mark. The main water source after Camp Glenwood was a barely dribbling spring frequented by yellow jackets and honey bees, after a long water carry around mile 15. It was a long morning but the terrain changing underfoot, signs of another burn area and some interesting bird-life, afforded a pleasant trail and it flew by accordingly.
Eventually the trail dropped down into the hot it welcome valley housing Mill Creek Fire Station. This welcome respite has a rest area with toilets and spigot so a general wash-up and service of water and bathroom needs was enjoyed by all.
I spent some time with Nate and Killer and then with Zane from LA who was dropping off trail due for a few days due to a fever and general need for a recharge. We exchanged numbers for later on the trail after a good chat about his time at McGill University in Montreal as well as more general PCT trail-chat for a while. The sun was very hot in the valley so a respite was welcome. Eventually two passers by dropped in on their way from a golf and ski trip to Mammoth Mtn. They excitedly heard I was thru-hiking and opened their cooler to me – trail magic! Boiled eggs, cookies and chobani was very welcome!
Once the sun dropped it was time to head up the valley and into the much talked-about Poodle Dog Bush infested Station Fire area. The Poodle Dog Bush is one of the PCT thru-hikers biggest foes (aside from fires, blisters and the ever-presumption that an early Washington snow in September will kill our collective-efforts in their tracks). The Poodle Dog Bush is a voracious colonizer that opportunistically takes over recent-burn areas and effectively dominates the re-vegetation of the burn area for up to ten years after the fire. Human contact leads to sever irritation for most, and in this section of the trail, an official alternative is offered as it’s simply too difficult to miss it. This alternate follows and burned and charred roadway for many miles, up and over the hills devastated by the fire just 7 years ago.
This is where the Memorial Day poignancy comes into play for me and the importance of taking time to remember. This is one of many fire areas I have passed, but it is also the most recent major burn-zone that I have hiked in and the signs were all too clear of the impact it had. It was vicious and unmerciful in its scale and the visual charred remains of buildings and structures are left abandoned in its wake. The fire occurred from Aug-Oct 2009, likely started by an arsonist and leading to the destruction of 160k acres of forest lands, including the tragic deaths of two brave firefighters (Tedmund Hall and Arnie Quinones). On this beautiful Memorial Day evening as I hiked towards the main area affected by the Station Fire, I could not help but feel saddened by their loss and feel emotional about the efforts of those we may never know, who go to tireless efforts to protect others, sometimes not returning home to their own families as a result of their dedication. The sacrifice spreading far beyond simply time and energy, but emotion and years of memories for those who’ll never see their loved ones again. Life goes on for us, and it stands still for those holding their memory. Just some thoughts I pondered on this beautiful evening leading up to their memorial on a cool saddle looking down to the LA suburbs in the distance.
I wandered further until I came across a small group of thru-hikers nestled at the half-way Poodle Dog Detour junction. I had decided to rejoin the trail here and thus spend the night at this spot. After a long day I put up my tent and promptly fell asleep with a pleasant cool breeze to enjoy. Today was a day of emotions. Tomorrow I hoped would be a day for some new sights and new friends.