Silverwood Lake to Swarthout Canyon, 20.8 miles
After a restless sleep last night I was out and hiking by 6:30 this morning. I wouldn’t say I was at my peak, in terms of how I felt physically, but considering I did just about 28 miles yesterday, I was surprisingly mobile. Even so, it took me a few miles to sort of work into the day of hiking. Get my pace down, let my feet settle back into walking, muscles loosening up. We had a bit of climbing this morning and it was already a warm day. The rain feels like a distant memory.
6 miles, refill water, then 9 more until McDonalds. I drank some electrolytes, turned on my workout playlist, and went into some sort of machine like zone. The miles passed pretty quickly, mostly up but then some steeper switchbacks down, until finally I surfaced near the interstate. And, more importantly, McDonalds. I can’t even remember the last time I ate at a McDonalds but I can confirm after this recent visit, they have it all. And I would know – I spent 4 hours there. Bathrooms? Check. AC? Check. Tables to sit at for an obscene amount of time? Check. Salty, fried, processed food? Duh. McFlurry? Yes yes and yes.
Mostly I waited out the heat, but the food was oddly satisfying too. This is the last stop before a 27 mile dry stretch into Wrightwood, so I didn’t want to hike out until early evening. Around 4, after loading up my pack with 5 liters of water and trying to pretend it didn’t feel too heavy, I headed out, closing this chapter of time at McDonalds. May I never have reason to stay for four hours in one again.
The evening miles had some steep bits, but with the weather slowly cooling and a beautiful golden hour, it all felt ok. Plus, since I did 15 before noon I was only planning to do 5 to a campsite. Flowers, ridge walks, glowing sunlight. Set up camp, dinner, snacks, laughter. A good and sweet day. Time to sleep before an early start tomorrow.
Swarthout Canyon to Wrightwood, 22.1 Miles
I’m awake by 4:30am, trying to give myself enough time to get ready and hiking by 5:20 this morning. The hope is to at least have a little bit of time without the sun glaring on me, as it is a dry, exposed, uphill stretch for the first 14 or so miles of the day.
There’s a ton of condensation on my tent, and it feels cool in this little valley. Sadly, the second I started to climb, I could already feel how warm the day would be. By 6, I have my sunglasses on and am sweating. Climbing upward, upward, upward. When I hike in the morning, I’m realizing I don’t necessarily hike any faster… with soft lighting and a rising sun, I’m more likely to stop and take pictures, or admire the views. After about an hour of hiking up, I stop to eat my egg McMuffin. It probably should concern me that this food packs out so well without refrigeration, but it doesn’t. It still tastes good (good being relative to life on trail, one of those things that would never classify as good if it weren’t for long days and hiker hunger).
More up. We hit 9 miles by 9am, and since we still aren’t done climbing, decide to take a long break on the side of the trail. Snacks, sunscreen, sitting. Three good things, but after almost an hour (unusual for Jet and I, unless it’s lunch) we start back up again. The next five miles are still full of elevation gain, but I like them more. Slowly, more trees begin to line the trail and the landscape moves quietly from desert floor to sub alpine-esque. The trail gets softer with all of the pine needles, which is needed relief for my feet, and trees are more frequent, adding some much appreciated shade.
After 14 or so miles, we hit the end of the majority of our climbing for the day and take lunch. This spot is prime – sunny and warm with a cool mountain breeze blowing through, enough shade to sit in comfortably, looking out over the desert floor we’d left just this morning. I filled myself up at lunch with strange sweet and savory wraps. You can put pretty much anything in a tortilla out here and call it lunch. A nice long break, but town was just 7 miles away so onward we go. The miles go by quickly at first, then slow the closer we get to the highway. My feet and knees begin to feel sore, especially as we leave the pine needle covered trail, and I am just ready to be at the highway crossing. Thankfully, I get there before I can feel too worn down physically or mentally, but I’m definitely ready for town.
A man named David has a van at the parking lot, and four of us pile into the back. He’s got a mattress back there, and says it’s fine as long we don’t get our dirty shoes on it. I’m not sure my clothes or pack is any better, but we pile in anyway, our backs on one side of the van and our feet propped up on the other. A little weird but it’s later in the day, and I doubt many cars were going to be up there to get a hitch from.
After getting dropped off in town, I pick up my resupply package, head to a trail angel’s house with some friends, and then find food. Five cent margaritas and a giant burrito – yes please. If I can continue the trend of hiking from margarita to margarita, I won’t be mad. Wrightwood is a cute little town that so far seems incredibly hiker friendly. Folks open up their homes, businesses offer free coffee or food, and best of all it’s small enough to walk everywhere. It’ll be good to take a zero here.