J and I have been relaxing, eating blueberries, and hanging out with adorable three-year-olds. It’s everything I hoped and dreamed. While I have a moment, I thought I’d give a call-out to my favorite pieces of gear so far.
Favorite piece of gear #1:
My rainpants. I thought about leaving these at home – why would I need rainpants in Southern California? They’ve been a super wind layer. They’ve been the one extra piece of clothing when the puffy jacket just isn’t getting the job done. They’re my in-town pants when the rest of my clothes are in the laundry. Worth the weight.
From our creekside camp to the Mojave Siphon Power Plant (then Wrightwood)
We set two alarms last night – our first for the trip. One was for the middle of the night – there was supposed to be a meteor shower. The other was our wake-up call at the shockingly early hour of 6:30.
When the first alarm went off, J and I squinted through sleep up at the sky. In the minute and a half we could keep our eyes open, we didn’t see a single meteor. What kind of meteor shower is this??
The second alarm is going off now – what a terrible way to wake up. I’d usually rather get a late start, but we’re meeting J’s cousin on the side of the road at ten and we still have some miles to do.
From Deep Creek to 8 miles from Deep Creek
Hot spring soak in the morning, what a life. Most of the thru-hikers are on the trail before I’ve even had breakfast, but Sylvia and Billy have the same plans as us: rest day at deep creek.
It’s warm and sunny, which means J can dry out his stuff. I managed to keep my clothes and bag dry yesterday, but J didn’t. He tucked his plastic trash bag around his stuff instead of putting his stuff inside – looks like I won’t be adopting his method.
From holcombe creek to deep creek hot springs
In Ray Jardine’s book on tarp camping, he harps endlessly on how ventilation is the point of a tarp. Supposedly, this is to prevent condensation inside your tent. I’ve had a sneaking feeling that maybe Ray’s wife just got tired of being hotboxed with rehydrated bean farts.
Last night, though, J and I chose not to follow Ray’s instructions on keeping the tarp ventilated, and we closed off both of the tarp’s open ends, one end with the insert (the batwing), and the other with our umbrellas. We were so cold. I woke up in the middle of the night with condensation raining down on me. Whoops. Should have gone with the ventilation after all. It got cold enough that the condensation froze for a while – it was a chilly night.
From Big Bear to Holcombe creek
May 21, 2014
When J and I made it to breakfast at 7am we were the last up. Papa Smurf had already made eggs and sausage, biscuits, gravy, and potatoes. Everyone was eating companionably while the dogs looked hopeful.
No one else was heading out in the morning so Papa Smurf dropped just the two of us back at the trail. Before we left he asked if he could leave us with a prayer. “Of course,” I reply. After his blessing on our journey he bids us off. He puts his hand out to shake but I hug him instead. I find it almost strange, to find someone so generous. It’s like when someone is too happy – you try and figure what’s really behind it. I wonder again what it is about tired, dirty thru-hikers that inspires his concern. We’re so often wrapped up in our own stories, our sufferings, or happinesses, this saga we are building for ourselves. Life goes on without us.
Arrastre Trail camp to Big Bear
There were ice crystals on the bottom corners of our tarp last night instead of dew, although they’ve melted by the time we get up. It’s dark and cold in our narrow little valley, but we only have ten miles to go to get to town. I’m not always that excited about town, but we’re out of food. J and I split a larabar for breakfast, and that’s it. We have some cold, leftover TVP chili in a ziploc bag, but that’s for desperate times. We’re hungry but not fainting yet.
Creekside camp to Arrastre Trail camp
We have big plans to go big miles today – I still don’t want to get up. My infected blisters from last night don’t look better but they don’t look worse. “What are you going to do about them,”asks J.
“Walk twenty-one miles on them, I guess,” I say glumly.
By the time we pack up camp it’s almost nine. Jacques walks through while we’re packing up. He made it! I wasn’t sure we were going to see him. Our commiseration session must have been as therapeutic for him as it was for me. Sometimes the affirmation that things are hard keeps them from being impossible.
From whitewater preserve to a creekside camp on the north fork of mission creek
“You don’t have to hike at all today if you don’t want to,” I tell myself. That’s so I get out of bed. Getting out of the tarp is bizarre – where have I ended up? We stumbled here in the dark, so I look around now. Apparently this place used to be a little trout farm for kids. The trout ponds are still here, filled with trout the size of my leg. There’s a fake waterfall and a big grass park, where we’re camped. Flush toilets. Huge sandstone cliffs straight out of Afghanistan rise above us, and beyond the grass is the vast, braided river channel – a scene straight from the Yukon. The morning is breezy with a cool film of clouds, a gentle break from yesterday.
From lower san jacinto (mile 201) to whitewater preserve
The tarp stood up to the wind all night, but we were sand- blasted anyway. I kept pulling my sleeping bag over my head, to keep out the sand, but then I’d wake up a little later drenched in sweat. I’d wake up after that to wipe the sand off my face, and pull my bag over my head. Repeat. “I don’t think I slept all night,” moans J.
“Shoulda tried earplugs,” I commiserate. I’ve got an entire sandbox in my ear crevices and nose. Despite the sand, we’ve overslept. Time to walk. My feet hate me.
We limp up to the spigot at the base of the mountain and collapse in relief. We’ve been thirsty since last night and hot for a lot longer. While we’re filling up and soaking our shirts to cool off, up trots an incredibly cheerful woman. “Where you coming from this morning?” I ask.
“Idyllwild!” She replies brightly.
Idyllwild?? It’s ten in the morning! That’s 24 miles away! She has magnificent thighs, fabulous calves, and then I see her shoes. They look like regular trail runners except for the two and a half inch thick foam soles.
San Jacinto peak to camp near base at mile 201
Didn’t sleep that well, but when I walk outside for the first time this morning, the view stops me in my tracks. “Wow!” My early morning brain forgot to remind me that I was at nearly 11,000 ft.
I’m starting off the day feeling new and optimistic. I’ve got a brand new name. Taking a trail name is a thru-hiker rite of passage and it feels so serious. You have to be careful with what you call yourself. Buckeye gave me a name a few days back, if I wanted it, but I had to let it settle a bit. Gizmo. Pretty good name for an engineer with pack full of gadgets and thingamabobs. I signed the trail register with it this morning, finally put it in ink. Gizmo. Gizmo’s walking all the way thru.