Smoke On The Mountain

Day 14

Mileage: 31.2

Total distance: 400.6
Tonight I am at Glenwood Camp and climbed up the ridge a ways to watch the sunset. There are four other hikers down by the cabin, which makes me feel great about choosing this spot for the night. There’s are streaks of gold sinking behind the range in front of me and directly behind me are stars beginning to shine above the mountains. Mosquitos are eating me alive. 

Today kicked my ass!! So many climbs and some serious elevation change in the past thirty miles. Right off the bat this morning there was a 4 mile, 3,500 feet climb and for some reason I had a ton of energy to blast up it. Perhaps it was the coffee and donuts this morning on the way back up the hill. 

As soon as I was dropped off by my incredible host family, I realized I left my wallet in their car. Shit. No service. I began wandering around trying to find some and started trying to hitch, but nothing was working. Finally, I got one bar and sent my message quickly and thankfully it went through. About fifteen minutes later they showed up with my wallet and I thanked them endlessly for helping me with my carelessness. I felt like a fool!! Right after this I started hiking and immediately crossed a rattlesnake. That’s number 5? 

The views today were jaw dropping. It’s so cool to look back and see where you’ve come from and where you’re going next when you stand on a mountain. At one point you could look down and see LA nestled in a pocket and on a really clear say you could seethe ocean, but it was too hazy for that. 

I really enjoyed being alone today and got to do things at my own pace without feeling bad for holding someone else up. The trail took me in and out of pine forests and zig zagged up and down the ridges that stretched west. 

Around mile 15 I summited a mountain and before me I could see smoke ascending off a peak not too far away. Sounds of helicopters filled the air and soon I saw them coming and going spraying water around the fire in attempts to control its burn. I sat for a long time and watched this and began hiking again and was still able to see it off and on. I began getting closer to the fire and started worrying the trail was going straight into it and at the last minute it dipped down to highway 2 and is at the perfect time for another reroute. The section the fire was in was a protected area for a species of frog, but unfortunately now was on fire. Poor little guys. The reroute included three miles of road walking and 1.4 miles of a side trail to connect you back to the pct. The side trail was breath taking! It follows a canyon and massive cedar and pine trees fill up the forest and greenery swept the floor. It was so lush and perfect with my timing going through it. The golden hour had begun and I was on cloud nine. So. Damn. Pretty. Also, I reached mile 400 today! Wahoo!!

  • Side trail of wonder. 

The last five miles were slow going, but the grade was low and the sky was colored beautifully. Now that I am sitting up on this hill I can hear owls hooting in the distance, mixed with a low hum of the helicopters working hard to maintain the fire. There is an owl so close by it scared me when I first heard it. I wonder what he’s gonna do tonight? 

Thought of the day:

Who won game 2?!?!

For the Middle-Aged

Day 13

Mileage: 24.8

Total distance: 369.3
Tonight I am sleeping on a cozy couch in Wrightwood, CA that belongs to some very generous trail Angels in town. I am showered, my laundry is done, I ate a huge dinner and some cheese cake and now ready to pass out. 

I woke up this morning at 4:30 and saw the subtle glow from the east and forced myself up to get started on the 15 mile climb up the 8,000 foot mountain. There were no water sources between here and 25 miles away so I was going to need to stay out of the sun as much as possible. I popped an excedrin because of my left foot acting up and for the caffeine and I was off by 5 am. 

Not even 4 miles in I come to a water cache and fill up and rest for a minute to make sure I’m hydrated. I also poop and after my time with McDonald’s yesterday m, this was no quick, ritual morning poo. It was a huge pain in the ass. Heh heh. 

  • Saw this last night a little while before bed. 

The climb was gradual and slow moving, but every time I had exposure to the sun the temperature shot up 20 degrees. I loved those moments in the back side of the ridge where the sun hadn’t reached yet. I passed a few hikers on the way that I met yesterday and got to share water with some and feel like a hero before entering poodle dog bush territory to boost my karma points. It’s true that you can smell it before you see it, but all of it was dead today and folding back to the earth until the little demon bushes decide to rise again. 

  • Dead poodle dog bush. 

At mile 13 I came up to a jeep road and hear classic rock playing out of a grey Toyota Tundra where there was a blue tarp and two middle aged men sitting around waiting for hikers. They both greeted me and were incredibly nice. I got two snickers and a Gatorade and sat in the shade while we discussed the trail and gear, a classic favorite amongst middle aged men. I can dig it. Two other hikers showed up and after a while I decided to get back on the road to finish the climb. Before I left one of the men told me to enjoy my hike and that I’m a hero. I brushed it off as a strange compliment, but then he said, “I wish I would have done something like this when I was younger, but now I’ve got a career and family. So do it for us man.”  I felt a sense of pride and validation in thru hiking from his sentiment and realized that there are probably tons of people who feel stuck in careers or life and see adventures like this and think, “damn, I wish I did that”.  Well, I wish that I could do it for those people, but the truth is its all an illusion until you get out and free yourself from whatever chains you feel locked down in. Maybe I can inspire, but beyond that is just a head game. Anyways… Cool dudes. They both had some real love for nature and flowers. Especially flowers. 

  • Magic. 

Almost immediately after leaving the trail became breathtaking with views of the summit down to the desert floor and the terrain became slate rock and low grade. It. Was. Beautiful. After about three hours I found myself walking through pines and stumbled upon yet another trail magic location and laughed at today supposedly being one of the most difficult days to stay hydrated and in 20 miles I had three different Angels provide water and rest for hikers. Humans are unbelievable. Generosity is infectious and just getting to sit in the kindness of the people who did these things for me today made me feel like being a better and more kind person. 

  • My hand swelling from altitude? 

I got to highway 2 around three pm and got a hitch almost immediately into Wroghtwood. This nice man from Garlinburg who was on a work trip to test new plane innovation picked me up and took me to the hard wear store to get a list of angels who might get me a shower and some laundry. This guy was willing to wait around and take me wherever I needed to go and was really into discussing gear in the hard wear store and so was I. Some older gentleman at one point as I was walking out the door motioned me over and whispered, “you want some pot?” I chuckled and said, “nah, but thank you so much for the offer”. He grinned and and nodded as he walked away.  Finally I got a hold of a woman and drove to her house to say by to my new middle aged pilot friend. On the tour of her home I felt uncomfortable with the state of her space, but was willing to overlook it for the kindness she was showing. However, she was leaving soon to drink wine with a friend and when she left I grabbed my things and dipped. Quick. I called another angel and her husband came to get me. Whewwwwww. 

When I got in his car I saw MercyMe CDs and knew I’d be in the home of some good, kind Christian folk. I got to their house and was greeted by this incredibly sweet motherly woman and was instructed to make myself at home asap. I fell into a great rhythm with the family quickly and began joking and laughing with them about hiker stories they’ve heard or Ive experienced. The husband was really into connect the dots, adult version, and sat for log periods of time before completing a sheet and then would come over and show his wife his work. It was very cute. There were two babies in the house that belonged to the daughter in law and they were very thrown off by everything about me. They only ever called me “hiker”. When they went to sleep they both said, “good night, hiker”. I love them. 

  • Posing in my borrowed clothing. 

I got to shower and do my laundry and by that time dinner was ready. At one point the woman was telling me about a man she housed who was a hiker and as she was describing him she says, “and he was a Christian so I really like him for that” and I started to get the sense that she was very particular about her religious beliefs. Not in a spiritual sense of finding significance in a creator, but in a religious way where morality and appearance validates worth. After that I began looking around and seeing things in that lens and just felt like I was in a movie with people who play a role because they are told to and not because it is real to them. Or maybe it is, but only because they are terrified to mess up and experience the consequence they have come to believe would happen to them. This didn’t ruin my evening and I ended up having a wonderful time with the family, it just made me realize that Christianity isn’t always just faith, but now it’s a culture and those are two majorly different things. It’s scary to think that people may get lost in a fear based structure to keep peace and morality, while giving up their individuality and truth. Maybe I’m speculating too hard or being too harsh on the culture because I’m jaded, but really there are some jacked up things about Christian culture in America and a lot of it makes me skeptical. 

All that to say, I really am thankful for this place to stay and these people and I have had a wonderful time enjoying their company in this home tonight. I wasn’t planning on staying long, but I felt so comfortable in this space I felt like I could just lay back and rest and take some time to relax. So that is what I have done. 

Thought of the day:

I love today. 

The Guilty Arches 

Day 12
Mileage: 25.9

Total Distance: 344.5

Camp tonight is on a ridge over looking I-15 with an occasional train passing by. I am under the bright stars once again and imagining different shapes while wondering if any of them are real constellations. I wish I knew more about stars. Mars is bright and I can find north. That’s pretty dope. 

I woke up this morning to the sound of John packing his bag. Either I hop up quickly and get my things together, or have my ritual slow morning with a poop and a chill breakfast and catch up to him later. I couldn’t bring myself to get up so I laid there while he packed. We agreed to meet at the lake 10 miles away where I would clean his bag from the chocolate explosion last night. 

  • Trail magic!!

Eventually I crawled out of my stink sac and got my things together. It was an incredibly slow morning and I didn’t get started until 6:45. The second the sun rose above the ridge I could feel it’s heat. It was going to be a hot day. I felt really low first thing this morning and perhaps it was me having to deal again with feeling lonely and sad. I got some podcasts on after spending some time in my head trying to stabilize myself on my own accord. Going inward and asking yourself the real questions and being honest with who you know yourself to be is something that comes so naturally to me and getting to spend days like today feeling pressed to figure some things out was a great opportunity. 

My quad on my left leg started bothering me pretty quickly, but it just felt sore so I ignored it all day. My sickness seems to have dropped so that was really exciting. My shoes have absolutely turned to shit and there are holes on both of them allowing rocks and sand to go underneath the soles of my feet and cause incredible discomfort every mile or so. 

After a couple of hours winding the ridges and hoping over to the other side to wrap around a gorgeous lake, I made it to where I would meet John. He had been there for about an hour so I washed his things quickly and then tended to my own chocolate disaster in my food bag. Everything. Smelled. Like. Chocolate. The worst. I’ll never be able to eat Hershey again. (As I sip a chocolate milkshake.)

  • The view leaving the lake. 

John left and I talked to an older woman for a while who told me to put tuna packets in my shoes to help with the rocks. Of course I listened and fashioned some aluminum soles from my empty tuna packet and stuffed it down my shoe. It works pretty well actually. Mountain lion gonna love my feet tonight!

I got back on the trail and climbed some ridges to begin my final decent into Cajon Pass. The mountains to come are gorgeous, but water is scarce. It was so hot today with a head index of 116 and tomorrow is the same with a 27 mile space without water. Bummmmmmmeeerrrr. I started feeling the dehydration weakness and chugged the water I had to feel better and booked it into town. 

I knew I’d be hitting up a McDonald’s and I didn’t want to think about it. I felt guilty the second I saw those arches, but was literally running to it for water and a milkshake. I also got a burger. And two Big Macs. And a large fry. Dammit. I’m the worst. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I hate this company and today I blew a solid 15 bucks on it. 

  • Getting into Cajon Pass. 

I got to McDonald’s and found John who had probably been here for a while and I found my seat to relax. John got his things together and took off back down the trail. Not sure if I’ll see the dude again, but it was nice to get to know him. Quiet guy, but artistic and smart. I have a lot of respect for him and I wish my legs could have kept up because he had a good way of hiking with people. He had the right amount of dependence and also a desire to communicate and have good conversation about something real and not superficial. This is just kind of the way things happen sometimes. Pace can change and my legs today just can’t do another 30. Maybe one day I’ll have the stamina and strength to bust 40’s like a boss, but today I’m getting fat on McDonald’s. Woohoo!!! 

  • Kind of encouraging. Still longer than the AT…

I sat in McDonald’s for a depressing amount of time to relax and charge my phone and spent an hour talking to Molly before getting things together to head out. I stopped by the gas station and grabbed a few bags of chips and on my way to the trail I pass the one and only Roadhouse! He’s thinking of zeroing tomorrow which is a bummer, but hopefully will catch up next week when Molly comes to visit. 

I was able to talk with Molly for a long time and feel that connection I’ve been longing for from so far away while I made my way about 2 miles north on the trail before finding my camp spot. I just saw a shooting star and the hum of the interstate is soothing as I turn in for the night. Every so often a subtle rumble from the train vibrates the earth beneath me and makes me feel nestled in the hills for another night in the desert. 
Thought of the day:

Do I pack out McDonald’s or not? The guilt will follow either way. Might as well. 

Can Yawn

Day 11Mileage: 34.7

Total distance: 318.6
Camp tonight is right off the trail amongst some aggressive bushes and rocky surfaces. Half a mile back was a campsite, but the bugs were horrible so we opted to keep moving in search of a better spot higher up. I’m with John Z again tonight and as of now there is no sign of Roadhouse, which makes me sad. However, we do have plans to meet for milkshakes tomorrow in the afternoon. I hope to see him there. About three miles ago my legs started giving out after my biggest hiking day yet, and I’m hoping this deep sleep tonight restored them for tomorrow. 

When I woke up this morning, I rolled over to check my phone to see that the time was 5:15 am and I was in no way ready to be hiking. I had already planned at starting at six and the stress of the day kept me from drifting back to sleep. The moment I sat up I felt sick. Not nauseous, but a sinus infection kind of sick and blew my nose to see the greens have arrived. Bummer. On my biggest day. Really? I felt weak and wanted to just sleep the day away, but I also wanted to push myself so I downed a clove of garlic and got on the road. I was using John’s pack today and it took me a minute to get everything together while getting used to a new pack. It’s interesting how my pack contains everything I need and how attached I get to those small features it has that make me love it so deeply. John’s pack was sweet though and I was excited to be the first person to I’ve it a test run. 

The trail today was spectacular with incredible views that were nonstop. We followed a path throughout the canyon and would scale the ridges throughout the day. At one point I heard a loud buzzing from the left and knew there was a rattler in the bushes and it made John jump off the trail in a split second. Not even an hour after this another rattler slithered under a bush right next to his foot and once again made him leap into the air. Poor guy.

There were tons of hawks and the views of the creek were glorious with the mountains as backdrops. My body felt great coming off a 30+ day and I wanted to do another one today. We stopped for a while at a hot springs where clothing was optional and of course only dudes were naked. Why is it always the men who get naked and whip their jimmys around in everyone’s face? It’s always older men too. Freakin pervs. I was secretly jealous. I’ll probably be a naked old man one day that makes everyone uncomfortable. 

Around 3 the sun really began to heat up the ground and my feet where on fire and my head started to pound. I was so tired and my sickness wasn’t letting up. Inwas told that a hiker had been rescued today by helicopter because of dehydration. He had a history of heart attacks and cancer and felt achy with a head ache and had a mass on his liver. This made me insanely nervous because I’ve been falling asleep half the nights feeling this way. And I’ve had this lump on my back that I keep forgetting to get checked out and I always start to panic when people talk of masses and cancer. I’m sure I’m fine. That is the third I’ve heard of in the past week, however, who had to be air evacuated. There was a heat advisory and I wasn’t surprised to find that out. 

  • Staged once again. Inspired by the naked men I saw today. 

Around 3:30 we came to a stream and took a nap for about an hour before finishing our 35 mile day. With nine miles to go my body felt rested and energized and we crushed the final 3 hours of hiking. Our pace today was a solid 3 mph walk and even with the breaks were able to finish 35 miles before the sun set. 

Once we found our spot I got the things out of Johns bag that he let me use for the day and once I reached my food at the bottom I came to find that my Hershey bar had exploded all over the inside of his pack. I felt like shit and was so exhausted and having to deal with cleaning out a pack with chocolate caked all in it was not at all what I hoped to be doing. Luckily enough it came off rather quickly and I gave him my pack liner for tomorrow until I could wash it in the lake we will be coming up on. 

  • The culprit. 

Now I am sitting on my pad and enjoying the sounds of crickets surrounding me and not allowing my mind to play tricks that they are actually rattlers. My biggest fear is sharing my bag with one for the night. The stars are bright and there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it is finally time for me to get that sweet, sweet sleep that I’ve waited for all day. 

  • Rainbow bridge!

Thought of the day:

How many cloves of garlic can I eat before I cause a bigger issue?

A Season of Thirties 

Day 10 Mileage: 31.8

Total distance: 283.9
Camp tonight is 1.5 miles up a ridge from little bear spring and it has been a long day. I am cowboy camping and watching the stars slowly get brighter and brighter like a candle when the wax starts to melt. 

I woke up this morning to sounds in the kitchen and Papa Smurf cooking breakfast for all fifteen hikers. He had eggs and toast and potatoes and coffee and all the good stuff you would never expect to wake up to when hiking for so long. Everyone helped out and showed thanks for the wonderful breakfast and we all began to feast. 

Around 9 the shuttles began and we said goodbye to hikers we may or may not see again like Kitchen Sink, who has been carrying almost a hundred pounds in his pack. Hiking is always a surprise and you never know who will pick up pace or slow down. I could be hiking alone next week for all I know. I hope not. I’m really enjoying the company and being pushed to do big miles and having conversations and laughs along the way. 

  • Papa Smurf in the red. Mountain momma on the left. 

We began trail at 9:30 and the hiking was beautiful. Smooth terrain with tons of pines and a subtle wind consistently brushing past to cool off any effort. This was my first day hiking with John Z. so we set a high pace and moved smoothly throughout the big bear range. 

The trail goes through the trees for a long time and finally opens up with tons of exposure and views of various ranges surrounding us. The sun seemed dim so the colors on the ridges wereamazing and at one point there was a view all the way to the desert floor that made me so thankful for being at 7,000 feet instead. 

We hiked for a long time and eventually got to a water pump with some picnic tables and had lunch. Roadhouse was thinking about having a shorter day so when we left it possibly could have been goodbye. John Z and I took off and completed another 16 miles to make it to our spot tonight. We spent some time discussing the next day and that I would be using his pack tomorrow on a 30+ mile day. Looking out over the canyon and watching the sunset, John says, “not so bad, huh? This is home”. It was a nice moment for me to stop and realize that this isn’t just a weekend back pack trip, but is the next 80 days of my life. Waking up to walk and spending all day figuring out new things or fixing problems or seeing incredible things like three juncos today who were fighting so aggressively I almost thought one was going to die. Not super uplifting, but cool. Thru-hiking is an insane shift from one lifestyle to the next and everyday I find myself becoming more and more comfortable existing in the way I do out here. It is home. As we were getting things together to fall asleep roadhouse came walking down the mountain and joined our slumber party. Yes. Yes.  

The sunset tonight was spectacular with views of far away ranges being silhouetted by the falling sun and contrasted with deep oranges that whipped up into bright pink rays where clouds were expanding. My legs are exhausted and my rash is back to cause more hot pain and torment, but thankfully I have cortisone and didn’t bush whack to get more cut up. Today was my first 30+ day and I felt great. Hopefully there will be many more to come since I’ve got my sweet vitamin b juice I can add to water that makes me feel like a machine with endless energy. Laying under stars feels so surreal. Like its a dream you are hoping never ends, but they just sit and twinkle until your eyes slowly close and you drift into peace. 

  • My lovely rashes just can’t resist me. 

Thought of the day:

Can I pee and walk at the same time? 

Angels In the Desert 

Day 9

Mileage: 9.7

Total distance: 252.1

Camp tonight is on a gorgeous love seat under a roof with four walls and a tv displaying America ninja warrior. I’ve enjoyed a couple beers and good company with about 15 other hikers at a Papa Smurf and Mountain Mamas house in big bear. I feel pampered and treated like this is paradise in the midst of chaos. 

This morning I woke up because of the heat in the desert around 6:30 and felt like I just hiked a thirty mile day. I felt sick and my legs still had a small burn to them from my allergic reaction and getting myself motivated to move came from a desire to get out of the sun. I finally got things together and began the nine miles to Ziggy and the Bears home right at the end of a brutal desert walk. The sand was deep so that every step seemed to put you further back than where you started and for three straight miles you are just getting dominated by the open sun and the heat was almost unbearable. 

The heat from the sun was immediately scorching me from the minute it rose above the peaks. By the time I made it to my first water source I was hiding behind a rock to dry in the shade and get some relief from the heat. The trail took me down a road and dropped me into a sandy path across the desert floor to go under a pass at I-10. I slowly slogged through the sand with hot winds bowing making my umbrella useless and allowing the sun to bake me for three straight miles. Breathing in felt like inhaling air from an oven and my water wasn’t doing anything to allow relief. 

  •  Totally staged. But for real heck out my new gaitors. Mmmm…

After an hour I made it under the overpass and shredded my lack and clothes and collapsed to the floor and starred like a dead man at the concrete structure above me. After some chocolate snacks and a couple liters of water I made my way the final mile and a half to Ziggy and the Bears home. 

  • Hiding from the sun. 

They were super anal about us washing our hands so I immediately did that and got my picture taken after signing in their 1500+ hiker register for the year. I got to shower and wash my clothes again and spent some time talking to a new hiker friend whose a triple crowner with some helpful insight to hiking and a breath of fresh air in honest conversation and expression. After a while we were told about the fire and the reroute of the trail. Supposedly our only options were to spend four days finding an alternate path trough 110 degree road walks or spend 20 dollars on a shuttle up Big Bear so we opted for the latter. 

After spending too much time in San Berdino waiting for our bus we got on the road and spent an hour driving through beautiful mountains and arriving in Big Bear at a grocery store to be picked up by the one and only Mountain Momma. Her and her husband, Papa Smurf, have fully opened their homes and allow hikers to shower, watch tv, eat, do laundry, all of the essential things you could want when thru hiking. The joy and rest they give to hikers is a beautiful thing and they are shown and huge amount of appreciation through hikers working on things in their house, helping them clean, run errands or just a couple of dollars. 

I am now surrounded by other stinky humans who love living outside and pizza has arrived and the laughs are loud from all directions. After a brutal few days in the desert heat it’s nice to get some rest in good company and comfort. 
Thought of the day:

I mean I could zero and still be on schedule. 

It’s Like Maieaiiiinnnneeee On A Summery Day!!!

Day 8Mileage: 21.7

Total Distance: 201.1

Camp tonight is at a random spot off the trail on the way down San Jacinto. I’ve been night hiking for 2 hours and for the last thirty minutes felt like a zombie moving slowly in the night. I am beyond exhausted and having another night feeling weak and broken trying to fall asleep in the desert heat. Five minutes before crawling into bed I killed a massive spider in my bag with two huge front legs that looked like scissors. 

  • A great view of San Jaconto to close the day. 

I woke up begrudgingly again this morning at the state park and tried to shake the sleep off before a day of confusion. I got my things together and went for coffee at the red kettle before heading up the 2.5 mile road walk to a side trail that connects to the PCT. the heat was off my back 6,000 feet up so my spirit was high when I start the next 2 miles on Devil Slide Trail. The trail runs through a gorgeous pine forest and overlooks a rock face with amazing climbs on it and a place where trad climbing really got its start in the 30’s. 

Eventually the trail meets the PCT and there is still more climbing to be done. The junction was around 7,000 feet and after 3 miles it took me up to 9,000 where it peaked out. The views off the ridges were gorgeous with amazing scenery of the valley below and the small town of Idyllwild nestled in the notch of the mountain. It felt good to hike in pine trees so high up without the sun on my back, but it took forever to make the six miles before the trail descends off the mountain and rushes right back down into the desert. 

Around 2 pm I was hiking uphill in search of the last water source before the 20 mile section down the mountain and found myself on the wrong trail 2 trail miles from the water source I was hoping to find. When I made it to a stream I thought I had found the water source and spotted snow so I began prancing around taking pictures and making snow balls to throw at roadhouse when he caught up to me. Finally he did and I pegged him with a snowball and he showed no reaction of approval. He was really bummed about something and dropped the news that we were off trail. He wanted to turn back, but I knew the stream we were at would eventually hit the pct 500 feet below us so I proposed we river walk and see what happens. After some convincing he agreed. 

  • So many beautiful bouldering opportunities. 

River walking is an amazing experience that I wish I did more of like I used to in Missouri. Every section of the river has something new to get excited about and I feel like it gets more and more beautiful as it goes on. My legs got all cut up by some spiky plant on the way down, but it didn’t even phase me as I jumped from rock to rock laughing while roadhouse stomped down the trail griping and moping as he walked. Finally we hit the trail and sat to drink water for an hour before starting up again. 

  • Playing in snow. No idea we were of trail. Until:

  • Damn…

  • Back to the PCT and celebrating water. 

Descending down the mountain was my favorite part of the day. The pine forest was so magical and the terrain reminded me so much of Maine, which felt romantic and nostalgic altogether. Once we got some exposure we could see the mountain behind us towering over us with pockets of snow wedged in the crevices and hiding from the sun. The trail was smooth and winds around the inner pockets of the mountain as you slowly but surely descend off the cliffs.  I took a million pictures on the walk and finally stopped around 8 to make dinner with an incredible view of the desert floor and the sun setting behind the ridge we just came down. San Jacinto stood with flavors of purple dressing its makeup. 

I got started hiking again just as it was getting dark and got my head lamp to begin the 7 miles of night hiking. Almost immediately the entire trail changed. Brush came up everywhere with tight wedges to pass through and scratching my legs up from top to bottom. Trail became slanted with pockets of dirt the caused you to slip a foot or two down the hill and causing you to pull yourself back up on the trail. My legs began to burn like they had been hit by the sun directly for hours. I tried to dismiss it but it kept getting worse and worse and finally when I pulled into camp I looked down and my legs had almost doubled in size. There were swollen areas and puffed up regions that all connected to make a massive swell on both of my inner thighs down to the back of my calves and they were both tomato red. I freaked out. I smeared cortisone all over my legs immediately and sat for five minutes while my legs burned and debated on just laying in the sand and passing out without getting anything out. Finally I got my stuff out and made my way inside my bag to find a spider and a couple other bugs trying to cuddle up for the night. I killed a lot of insects tonight.

  • Hitting mile 200!

My legs have started to cool off, but the mosquitos have turned on for the night. The difference from my morning to now is insanity, but a wonderful thing to experience. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

Thought of the day:

Am I gonna die???

Burn Zones and Beautiful Mountains

Day 7
Mileage: 14.9

Total distance: 179.4

Camp tonight is at a state campground in the San jacinto mountains. There are about ten other north blunders around and hundreds of tourists camping out to enjoy the mountain town of Idyllwild. 

  • Driving up to Idyllwild. 

Waking up this morning was a chore. Yesterday’s long mileage exhausted my body and getting motivated to do anything was like pulling teeth. 

  • Waking up with the sun. 

As soon as we began hiking the trail started its gradual slope and my body was just not having it. I felt sluggish and lazy and it frustrates me to no end. I was accompanied by Roadhouse and I would see him off and on. It was nice to know he was having a hard time as well. 

  • Magical water caches. 

The trail slowly climbed for a long time over a ridge and then settled us back down into the valley where we came across some water caches and a trail angel with an extensive set up on her magic. She had water and drinks and books and shade and snacks and HAND SOAP!!! She was a gem. We met a couple of other hikers along the way and found out that everyone was having to skip a section of the trail due to a recent fire and we were bummed to have to rearrange our plans. We decided we would do what everyone else was doing rather than hiking through the burn zone and do a fifteen mile day to a cafe and hitch up to Idyllwild. 

  • Some pups at the tent. 

After devising a plan we got back on trail, sluggishly, and made our way up a ridge and down into a canyon and back over another ridge and out into an open valley. The climbs today were more significant than they have been this far and I felt spoiled by the early trail and angry at the present one. The AT still would laugh at these inclines. 

Once we got to the cafe we got a perfect hitch all the way to Idyllwild, which was about thirty miles away. The drive was gorgeous and as we gained elevation pine trees began to surround us. After doing some research I found out they were ponderosa pines. Not to be mistaken with Jeffery pines. Resin in pine trees can be used to make turpentine, but there are two species of pines that would not be a good idea to use for this and Jeffery pine is one of those trees. Jeffery pine has heptane in its resin, which is a highly explosive chemical. The tree only lives above 5,200 feet and ponderosa only grows beneath that so there is an easy distinction. Also, they’re cones are different in size. Jeffery carries a larger come. 

  • You can see where poles are being used. 

The mountain town of Idyllwild is gorgeous and a major tourist trap, but full of some amazing people. Roadhouse and I spent a solid hour talking with a man who owns a gear shop in town and then ate delicious bbq before finding a cheap place to camp in the state park. We took showers and did laundry along with doing some small item shopping like needles for sewing and Gatorade powder to fight dehydration even further. 

  • The town monument of Idyllwild. 

The San jacinto mountains stand at 10,000 feet at its peak and our trail tomorrow will skirt the base of the summit at around 8,000. There are a few burn zones ahead and as much as missing sections of the trail sucks, it’s nice to gain a few miles into the trail without burning a calorie. Preferably we would have been able to hike up to Idyllwild especially since our friend at the outdoor shop maintains the trail and is very proud of its beauty, but due to a non existent reroute and a no shoulder, busy, windy road to the summit, only 5 percent of hikers this year have gotten to see the section we were forced to skip. I’ll take this as an excuse to make it back to these glorious mountains to do some hiking and climbing. Supposedly the granite rock faces of the range are where some of the first climbs were ever led and where trad climbing began to be a real sport in the 30’s. This area is rich with beauty in the people and the environment. I’ll definitely be back some day. 

  • I thought I was a joke too, but it’s real. 

Thought of the day:

Five dollars for a 25 min shower or two dollars for a 10 min shower?

A Day Of Gold

Day 6

Mileage: 27.4
Total distance: 136.9

  • Last few miles of the day. 

Camp tonight is at a random campsite where there are water caches that some lovely human has left for hikers. There is not a cloud in the sky and the stars are twinkling like embers of a smoldering fire.

I finally figured out how to do this desert thing. You start at 5 am, drink ten liters of water by noon, chill until 5 pm, chute ten more liters of water and things feel pretty good. I left camp this morning around 6 and said bye to Neil Bob without knowing the next time I’d see him and headed out to ascend the 5,000 foot mountain ahead of me. The way the sun rose about the peaks to the east and the shadows receded to speaks under the trees made for a beautiful start. The ascent was smooth sailing and my body felt great. I did the first five miles in a little under an hour and a half and had been chugging water the entire way. When I got to the next water source I filled up and sat for a while listening to the most gorgeous bird I’ve ever heard. The small creek was gurgling and things were perfect. Before I left I walked a resonable distance away and dig my hole to poop and saw that my poop was the most insane green color I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s true what they say about Gatorade.

  • Crazy lizard that looked like this other species called the East African Lizard. 

  • Cloud coverage. 

The trail begins the climb by entering another oak forest and curling in and out of hills as it staircases further and further up. There were little pockets of clouds that would cover the sun for a minute or two and every time I would look up and verbally thank them for their support. About 8 miles in I stumbled across a rattle snake and froze to see what it would do. I had my umbrella strapped to me and it hindered my vision so I didn’t see it until I was only five feet away. The dude just sat there and chilled but it was right on the trail do something had to be done. I poked it with my pole and immediately it started rattling and curled up in its terrifying striking pose. I rolled a couple of rocks at it and finally the snake retreated off the side of the trail and I think it fell off a little five foot cliff because there was a loud thud after I watched it leave. I chuckled.

Around ten I walked up on an older man who was resting in the shade and greeted me before I even saw him. He had soft, gentle eyes and a short, scruffy, grey beard accompanied by a subtle southern draw. He told me that he would be getting off the trail today because his body just couldn’t make it any further. I asked him what was going on and he pulled his pant leg up and his left leg looked like it had been mauled by a bear. He didn’t tell me what happened he just showed me his leg as if that were enough of an answer and it definitely was. He asked me my name and I told him it was Harbor and he says, “Oh, like a safe Harbor?” And I responded, “exactly”. He told me his name was freeballer and I laughed and asked him if it was because he doesn’t wear underwear, but he held his head up high and said, “no. It’s because the people at camp in Warner springs found out I haven’t worn a pair of underwear in 30 years and gave me the name”. The man deserves that name.

  • The most gorgeous mountains east ever seen. 

After a few more miles the trail winds up the mountain and spits you out into a high altitude valley and the most glorious mountain comes into view. It is covered in green and little pockets of pines are placed throughout it’s expanse. The trail goes through a massive rock bed and right when you are about to ascend the highest peak the trail cuts off and turns you onto a road where you can take a break at a man named Mikes house.
I got to Mikes around 12:30 and had done 18 miles so I was in no mood to be social, but there’s were two other hikers who were talking to the caretaker about their alcoholic endeavors and the best “booty” they’ve ever got. I had no problem resting on the front porch and drinking a beer alone for a few minutes. A strange girl came out the front door whose name is Alexandria. Alexandria is a very shy, quiet girl whose voice sounds like it belongs to a three year old princess. She wore a grey stained tank top, puffy pants and cowboy boots. She was walking around with her tiny, scruffy dogs and smoking a spliff. She asked me my name and I hers and told me that she was here to get another horse. We talked about horses for a minute and then she just stared at me for the longest time without saying a word until I got too uncomfortable and asked her the dogs name. She didn’t respond!! I thought she was broken so I just said screw it and sat there in the silence with her. Obviously she was in another planet and not uncomfortable with the quiet space. We sat on the front porch for a minute and then she said, “I think I’m gonna make noodles” and walked away. Alexandria is a sweet girl. Her dog stayed and sat in my lap for a short while then followed her back into the house.

  • Enjoying a beer. 

  • Mike’s backyard. 

  • Hiker’s room. The roof is missing in the back section. 

  • The view out Mike’s front yard. 

I sat for a while on the front porch enjoying the view and appreciating the different characters that exist in our world. It’s crazy how we get so used to a certain group of people that we live around whether that be in a city or a small community or a work place, but if you decide at some point to open up to others that you wouldn’t usually associate with you can find some real gems out there. Everyone I’ve met so far intrigues me to no end. Alexandria obviously takes the cake, but even the caretaker has a deep personality.

  • The rock field up to Mike’s place. 

I went to join everyone else and the two hikers were going to head out but first we’re going to try the caretakers very expensive vaporizer. They were very, very excited about this and already been smoking since the second I was there. I just can’t hike 30 miles and do that. Not in this heat. Once the jabronies left the caretaker and I talked about guns and hunting and Texas and beer and football and hoora. It was actually really nice. He’s a sweet man with a scraggly goatee and constantly has a cigarette in his right hand and a beer in the other. There was a tank full of cans in front of us where we sat and we just relaxed for a long time. He taught me about the yucca plant I’ve been seeing everywhere and how if you are in a pinch you can take off all the flowers and squeeze out a cup of water from them. You can also use the dried up ones for perfect kindling and get this!: their roots are like potatoes and whether dead or alive you can eat them!! Their fruit is edible. The flowers are edible. AND…they’re native! And their freaking gorgeous. Other hikers came and eventually roadhouse showed up and the two of us decided to head out to do another ten miles around 5:30. After saying goodbye to everyone, including freeballer who barely showed up at the end of the day, we packed our things and headed out.

  • Spiky Yucca 

The last ten miles of the day were stunning. We had a 2 mile steady climb to get over the ridge that cupped us in the high desert and then once again scaled the east side of the ridge in and out until it poured out into the desert floor. The sun was blocked by our mountain and the ranges to the east were splattered with hughes of pink and purple while the clouds had a faint gold mixed with their pinks as they migrated east.

  • The view down to Mike’s once on top of the ridge. 

Once on the desert floor the sun began to slip behind a mountain way off in the distance and the color of the bushes were breathtaking. The golden hour had come and was now leaving, but in its final farewell blasted the plants with sparkling rays and the shadows they created contrasted with the shine made for an epic view.

  • The view to the north over the ridge. 

Things got dark quickly so I picked up the pace and did 2.5 miles in a little over thirty minutes to meet roadhouse at our camping spot. Nightly chores were done quickly while coyotes howled in the distance.
Thought of the day:

Why does something new have to start hurting everyday?


Day 5

Mileage: 18.3

Total Distance: 109.5

Camp tonight is in Warner Springs with about ten other hikers. Everyone has passed out early and taking advantage of a place to relax and repair gear and our bodies. 

I woke up feeling great this morning around 3 am and was tempted to start hiking, but lazily fell back asleep. I woke up again with a strange sensation in my left ear and realized something was crawling inside. Without thinking I slapped my ear and killed whatever it was, but now the guts and skin of the insect were inside my ear so informs a small stick on the ground and scraped it all out. It was a small centipede looking thing. Ive never seen something like it, but was horrified and took about fifteen minutes to relax back into sleep. I ended up sleeping until 7 which is the time I wanted to be hiking then so I quickly got my things together, pooped and stretched and took off. The trail today was the chillest. I began by descending from the range I was on as the stretch of mountains from the west converged with mine and threw my trail over to the east side of the ridge. My calves were burning with every step and I had a single liter of water to make it ten miles to a spring. My pace was fast, but interrupted by a need to constantly shade my calves with my umbrella. This slowed my pace dramatically until I decided to put my thermal leggings on and accept the heat.

By the time I got to the springs that were swarming with tadpoles, I was feeling woozy and my head had a deep ache and finding where it was coming from was for some reason impossible. I downed two liters of water and filled up three more and was surprised to see my friend Neil Bob show up to spend some time with me venting about the sun. We both were planning on stopping at Warner Springs so I said goodbye and darted back to the trail.

The last 9 miles were just brutal. The sun was relentless and sucked every drop of moisture out of me. I could feel my body roasting under my umbrella and the wind only silenced the heat momentarily. There were beautiful golden hills surrounding me on all sides with beautiful mountains in the backdrop. When I reached the valley and began the long and exposed walk to the community center crickets were flying a million different directions. Every step I took seemed to set them off as if a million mouse traps were set in a small room and someone threw an orange in. They exploded from every direction and reminded me of cornels of popcorn popping as they bounced around. A couple smacked me in the face and one was lucky enough to find his, or her, way into my mouth for a deep, but short lived, make out session. I laughed at the ridiculousness of how many there were and this went on for miles. I recorded so many videos in hopes to show the reality of it, but I don’t think any of them do it justice. 

I finally made it to the community center and was greeted by a large man named Ox who wore a biker jacket and had a huge beard with a single dread extending the length of the others dropping below his wiry hairs. I liked him the moment I laid eyes on him, but wasn’t expecting his personality. He was addicted to this game called Empire and spent about 7 hours on the computer while his boss handled all the hikers who came in after me. 

I had to pick up a box from the post office a mile away and was told that it would be a cold day in hell before I got a hitch from anyone around here so I took a side trail and spent the time talking to Molly, which was perfect and so good for me to vent and relax and laugh and feel connection from so far away. As I passed the golf course I saw a coyote relaxing in the sun and as soon as it saw me it darted away. During the walk back my exhaustion really set in and I sadly had to say goodbye to the only person I felt like talking to. 

When I got back to the community center, the kind lady who ran the place, don’t remember her name, gave me a bucket for water and a bar of soap and showed me out the back door to take my shower. Pouring water over your head and watching the dirt shed from your skin is so exciting. I was very dirty. I cleaned myself the best I could and then washed my clothes in the same bucket and went inside to put my feet in another bucket with warm water and Epsom salt. Heaven. I sat for a long time doing blogging shit when out of no where Ox went off on the olympics and how people shouldn’t allow transgenders to participate because it’s, “just not fair”. Ox is hard of hearing and speaks very loudly so having a civilized conversation with him quickly turns into a yelling match. I wasn’t sure if he just wanted to yell about something or if he wanted to actually talk so I gave up with my opinions and just nodded my head as he went on and on about how “a 280 pound MAN who has trained his whole life to be the biggest and most powerful human can’t just get his balls cut and play with the girls”. They way he said the word “or” will forever shake me to the core. Scary dude. Loves to yell. Not sure where his head is. If he wasn’t talking to me or Neil Bob he was talking to himself in a mumble or cussing out the computer for taking his resources. I tried to tell him he should use them while he had them , but he wouldn’t listen. It’s his own damn fault. 

After ordering a pizza with Neil Bob and catching up with Roadhouse about his weird interview he had with an Asian broadcast team in Julian, CA, I am now spent for the day and excited for the next few to come. It feels good to be a hundred in, but there is still so much more to go. 
Thought of the day:
This is definitely aloe Vera. Right?