It’s very important to take risks. I think that research is very important, but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless. – Anna Wintour
Again, it’s dreams all night of walking, then waking and seeing I haven’t gotten anywhere. Ruth and Dave and I share a long breakfast that begins healthy with eggs and toast, but soon the leftover chocolate birthday cake comes out and tastes so good with a second cup of coffee. We talk non-stop, exactly what I need, and continue all the way up the Angeles Crest Highway to the trailhead on another splendidly beautiful day. Dave is wowed by the big pine cones and big views. We hug and I set off, my fabulous gel toe separators working as advertised, the infection healing up.
I walk near the road for some time, up near huge trees. The gnats are out in full force and my buff is shoved up over my mouth and nose and under the sunglasses. I am all alone for hours and see only one motorcycle. The walking feels easy, my feet feel good. Claude Bolling’s first album with Rampal runs through my head, because it’s smooth up here. At 6000 feet+, forest and springs return. I pass by one as well as a water tank since I’m carrying two liters and will drink up at lunch.
The gnats are really getting to me, swarming my face as they look for a spot to land and crawl around. I’ll pick up Richard’s package tomorrow in Wrightwood and my bug net is in it. I won’t travel anywhere from here on out without it, not even Antarctica in winter. Bugs on the face is a surefire way to darken the mood. I try to be philosophical, patient and strong, undeterred – but all I want for Christmas, it seems, is wind to blow these nasties off me.
I begin to ascend out of this low, bushy and somewhat damp area. The wind picks up slightly so I can at least take bigger gulps of air sans buff and not risk swallowing gnat bodies. At the top, I have a view towards more mountains to climb, plus a peak to the desert. Meat, cheese and dehydrated mango go down fast.
Before the big climb of the day, I need to head down towards a creek in thicker forest. The gnats find me as I descend and the buff is back in position. I come to a junction where the PCT sign is crossed out by a sharpie. It turns out the trail is closed to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow Frog. Only northbound hikers are better alerted to this, but when I turn around, I see a trail sign pointing up.
It almost feels as if I’m going backwards as I head up steeply. A section hiker tells me I’ll hit a campground, then the road and walk on it for several miles. Perhaps it’s gnats, perhaps it’s this long detour, likely it’s both that make me feel a little crabby even on a lovely day as I climb up a narrow canyon towards a deserted campground. It looks like a nice one, but I walk on through hoping for a hitch on the longish road walk.
A car comes towards the exit and I ask if they’d help me avoid this detour on dangerous, narrow and winding road. They have me pile in the back with a baby seat and another adult with toilet paper crammed up his nose. The woman in the passenger seat asks me about the trail and the scariest thing I’ve encountered. It’s all very friendly, until we reach the road. The driver says “We’ve already gone that way” I tell him it’s under five miles, that it’s not really safe to walk and how much it would help me to drive me. He repeats what he said. I offer to pay him, but he simply won’t budge. “You’re going to make me walk this dangerous road.” “Yes,” he says, with a big toothy grin.
I pile back out and start walking, shocked he was so unhelpful. Now I really feel bad, pounding the pavement and wondering why someone couldn’t be bothered to help. A few trucks speed past without stopping and I feel worse. It was only fifteen minutes out of his way, and I even offered money.
As I near the little picnic area where the trail intersects, I start to feel less sorry for myself. He was a jerk, but so many others have been incredible. Ruth made me avocado toast and Dave drove all the way up the mountain road to bring me to their home. I’ve stayed with trail angels the last few days at Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna, hunters and hikers have shared drinks with me. I’m actually quite blessed. And besides, it’s Monday. The road is deserted and thus, much safer.
I leave my bad mood behind, feeling lighter as I ascend to the saddle under Mount Williamson, views stretching for miles to Los Angeles. I skip the summit as my views are plentiful right from the trail and head back down the other side towards the road again and another ascent to a campground and spring. Along the way, I meet a man holding a rifle who tells me he never shoots a thing, mainly because he never sees anything. All he gets is exercise. His voice is deep and melodious, I wonder if he works in Hollywood.
I continue on and find the camping with tables and bear boxes. Water is just beyond, so I head there first finding a beautifully piped spring with benches surrounding it. I finish my chore and somehow just can’t bring myself to go backwards – especially now as I get into 300+ miles left.
I march on uphill into the bright orange light of the sunset and views on both sides of a tight ridge. It looks a bit iffy up here, but I keep moving, my gut telling me I’ll find something. I come upon a wide, flat area and score! I see some spots. The only problem is the wind picking up. I attempt to set the alicoop, but she flaps and buckles. That’s when I decide it’s a cowboy camping night – or should that be cowgirl?
Little Legs nabbed a ground sheet for me at Hiker Heaven and I secure it with rocks, my mattress and bag on top. Dinner is quick as the sun sets and now I’m cuddled into Big Greenie, my pillow tucked inside and gear close by. The wind is raucous, but (mostly) above me. The stars are twinkling along with lights in the valley. I feel so completely at one with my surroundings laying here outside on the ground. The huge pines and vast sky are my ceiling, the wind is a bedtime story, my tiny self stretched out near a pile of logs, simply allowing the world to be what it is tonight – all mine.