From the Mojave Siphon Power Plant to a couple miles past Cajon Pass
J’s Aunt Amy makes us a breakfast of veggie omelets, strawberries and toast. Back to trail food after this… J’s cousin Dan loads us up and whisks us back to the ugly power plant where he picked us up. “Are you sure you don’t to just start back up from Wrightwood?” he asks us, one more time. We’re sure. It seems kind of silly to go backwards just so we can walk back into Wrightwood two days from now, but being committed to walking the entire trail makes all of our other decisions less complicated. “Are we really doing this?” we ask ourselves. Yes. The answer is always yes. Forward-ho.
The trail almost immediately takes us up and over a ridge so we can see across Silverwood Lake. It’s aquamarine and cool looking. It’s not even ten in the morning and it’s almost 90, and humid as a swamp – that lake sure looks good. “I feel like I’m sweating excessively,” I tell J. “Is it just me?”
“Nah, I’m already drenched.”
“Let’s get down to the lake.”
Ten minutes later, I get so absorbed in my thoughts and in walking again that I cruise both of us up the trail onto the hillside – far away from that sweet blue water. “I passed the lake!” I exclaim in dismay.
“Uh, yeah,” says J.
Luckily we pass a picnic area a little further on. The crowds are in for Memorial Day and we watch sadly as family after family troops by, big coolers, barbeques. We fill up our water bottles at the faucet and move on. No bbq for us; time to walk.
It should be nice to be walking again, but I feel out of practice. Rest days can really throw you off – you remember that you don’t have to be doing this, that your feet don’t have to hurt all the time, that you don’t always have to be out in the sun, that you could just be sitting at the coffee shop drinking italian sodas in the shade… “I think I need to get my walking legs back underneath me,” I say.
“You’re not the only one,” shoots back J.
It’s so hot. The hillsides are all abloom and the air is heavy and fragrant – it’s still and humid – I feel like Dorothy in the field of poisoned poppies, wandering in sultry soporific sweetness, so tired… J and I both have our sunbrellas popped open, sad little islands of shade, and we walk.
For a long time, the lengthening of shadows across the trail has been the only indication of the passing of time or place. It’s late afternoon when we walk up over a ridge and everything changes. Mt Baldy and Mt Baden-Powell and the rest of the misty mountains rise in big blue silhouettes beyond us. The ridge we’re standing on is a soft sandstone hill, eroded into fins and turrets. We walk out on a long winding ridge that takes us out of the repetitive hills, below the high-voltage lines, towards the highway. We hear there’s a Mickey D’s there. I don’t know that a burger sounds all that appealing, but I could sure go for an ice cream cone!
A sweet little canyon pops us suddenly out into the developed world. Highways, cars, trains, asphalt – this place is gross. J and I are both limping hard – something about big miles and big heat just destroys our feet. As soon as I think I have my little hoofers figured out, the blisters return. It’s like I’ve been possessed by a demon, an aches and pains demon. I might be able to banish the demon from my knee, or my left heel blister, but it turns back up in my right big toe or my hip flexor. I’m not sure I’ll be able to exorcise it completely before I make it to Canada.
We walk into the McD’s parking lot and spot the herd – Avodado and Sara, Cat Stealins, Medicine Man, Monique, Dune – they were all with us at Papa Smurfs. We’ve found our people. Inside the McD’s are Jolly Llama, Saint, Rocky IV, and Lil Ripper. Here are the rest! I’m a bit thrown by all the people. J and I didn’t see anyone all day and suddenly we’re embroiled in jokes and stories and plans. It’s a bit overwhelming. It’s also time for some decisions.
After this, there’s no water for another 22.5 miles. (As soon as I think we’ve finished the last of the long water-hauls, there’s another.) Cajon Pass, where the McD’s is, is the nexus of a highway interchange and the two busiest railway lines in the US. In other words, it’s loud, developed, and ugly. If we stay here tonight, we’ll be listening to hobo lullabies till we drag ourselves out of our sleeping bags – but we’ll be able to get back on our way with a fresh load of water and an egg mcmuffin. If we move on it will be quieter, but we’ll have to walk 3-4 miles to really get past the trains and we’ve only got maybe 1 and a half left in us. Or we could stay at the Best Western… hot tubs…
J and I fill up our water bottles and move out. I can’t stay here. “Let’s get up early tomorrow and beat the heat,” I suggest.
“Sounds like a plan,” agrees J. We limp out under the overpasses, through the creepy culverts, across the tracks, and lay ourselves down in the sand. It’s still hot at 9 at night and we can still hear the trains, but a day is a day. Goodnight.