Taking a (sort of unplanned) zero in Cajon Pass. The Best Western is okay but there is basically nothing else here. A McDonalds, a couple of gas stations (with associated convienence stores), a Subway and a Taco Bell. The McDonalds is the nicest place to hang out in “town”. Plus it’s fun to watch the hikers straggle in. Most hang around for a few hours, charge their phones, eat a burger, get water and head back out. Us leisure hikers take advantage of all amenities.
So, after 24 days and 340 odd miles here are my thoughts so far…
What I like about the PCT:
- Every day I am somewhere I have never been before. Every morning I am excited about where the trail will take me. It’s fun. I know I will see something new and be somewhere I have never been before.
- The views are stunning. And there are lots of them. It is unusual to go more than a few hours without a view. Pictures (especially phone picures) do not do them justice.
- The other hikers. They are great. I have learned a lot from them. Tin Man, Kathryn, Tweaky, Nuke Boy, Garfield, 73, Rose and all the rest.
- Trail angels. Met CopperTone two days ago – with a smile and root beer float! Ziggy and the Bear – in their 80’s and hosting hikers for 20 years. Scout and Frodo – crazy nice people. (Editorial – how come all the people I meet that are actually living the “Christian” ethic – giving of themselves, helping others, are all Democrats?)
- Simplicity. Everything you own, everything you need, you are carrying. And it all weighs less than 30 lbs. Sometimes less than 25 lbs. Sometimes, rarely, less than 20 lbs. All the clothes I have needed for the past three weeks fit in a bag the size of a soccer ball.
- Hiker towns. Julian, Idllewild, Big Bear Lake. These are great little towns full of friendly people and, usually, pretty good restaurants. And beer.
- Hitching – it confirms my belief that people are basically good.
What I don’t like about the PCT:
- Being away from family for weeks. Months. It’s hard.
- Being away from friends.
- Being away from my dog.
- Foot pain. Blisters. BLISTERS!!! FUCKING BLISTERS!
- The tyranny of the miles. This is tough to explain. But you HAVE to do miles. If you see a pretty camp site 5 miles into your day, you can’t just stop and camp. You have so much food (and usually water) so you have to keep moving. You have to hike.Sometimes it just feels like a job. And I’m retired!
- Water. Worrying about water. For the first 700 miles or so it is relentless. You go through sections (last 70 miles for instance) where it is not a problem. But then you hit a 25 or 30 mile stretch with no water. 6L of water turns your light 24lb pack into a 36 lb monster.
- The trail….sometimes. You gotta wonder. Coming down from San Jacinto, you could see I-10 about 3 miles away. But the trail wandered, seemingly aimlessly, seemingly just to add miles (the trail goes to Canada boys, I don’t think you need to add miles!), turning a 5 mile hike into an interminable 15 mile descent. I know I’m probably missing something but it makes me much more sympathetic with hikers who bushwhack to avoid extra trail miles.
- The food. Freeze-dried stuff and junk food. But you have to eat – walking for 8 hours a day burns up serious calories.
- When hitching, you have a much better chance getting a ride from someone driving a klunker that someone in a Lexus SUV. I think this is because poor people can empathise with hitchhikers. I don’t think the Lexus drivers even see us. Put another way you have MUCH better chance getting picked up by someone with an Obama sticker than a Trump sticker.
- The old adage about it never rainning in southern California is basically true. In 24 days the most I have seen is a light drizzle a few times. Course one of those was accompanied by 50 mph winds so not very nice.
- And speaking of wind, it is WINDY in southern California. There is a reason there are a ton of wind generators here.
- Riding in a car after walking for a couple of weeks is scary. I had my foot on the imaginary passenger brake the whole 12 miles of my last hitch.
And….More shots from the trail…