Little Jimmy Campground to Sulphur Springs Trail Camp, “22.8” miles
A chilly morning indeed. Due to peak laziness of not wanting to get out of my tent, grab my food bag from the bear box, and then return to my tent, I opt for a ProBar for breakfast as I’m hiking. I descend the 2 or so miles to Islip Saddle a little slowly – once again easing into the day. It’s a bit of a hike down memory lane, as I remember hiking from the saddle to Mt. Islip 5 years ago when I lived in Azusa. Five years ago…it’s funny how much changes in that amount of time. I didn’t foresee myself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, nor guiding at Beyond Malibu for two summers. Five years ago I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave the LA area or not, but I definitely didn’t want to move back to Port Angeles. But I did. It wasn’t planned, the same as my recent 6 month stint in Mazama wasn’t planned, but I am oh so thankful for how the dots have connected the past five years – in challenging, unexpected, and beautiful ways.
I spend two miles thinking of that, then we are immediately climbing again and I don’t really have any thoughts at all. My legs feel heavy after all the elevation and snow yesterday, so I seem to move slowly. Up and down, crossing highway 2 constantly. I cook an actual breakfast 6 miles in. The benefit to continually crossing the highway is that we hit bathroom after bathroom and picnic table after picnic table, two things I appreciate.
Following breakfast there’s a road walk around a closure for endangered frogs. I’m not particularly looking forward to road walking but it ends up being pleasant. It’s nice to not have to think about each step. I put in some podcasts and can actually zone out, look around, not pay attention. This feels like my training walks down Lost River in Mazama. An added benefit of the road walk is that we come across a sign for trail magic.
It’s a little tiny ski lodge, opening it’s doors for hikers on the weekend. Drinks, a fire, a soft dog to pet. Bonus: axe throwing! I would like to note I threw only one axe and it actually stuck into the wood target on the first try. Hidden talent? More road walking, then rejoining the PCT and hiking along by myself.
I cross the 400 mile marker around 2 this afternoon. As I stop to take pictures, I feel a moment of pride. Regardless of what the rest of this adventure does or doesn’t bring, I’ll always have this. These sunburnt, dirty, scratched up legs have walked 400 miles and that is something to feel good about. And so I do. I try not to take any of this for granted, for many reasons, but especially because I know that physical health is a gift.
Then, more podcasts, incoming clouds, and cooling temps. I hit 22.8 miles (less, really, because of the road walk) and it’s another campground complete with Boy Scouts on a weekend trip. We’re in some sort of big bubble here, what with the mass exodus from Wrightwood after the worst of the weather passed. We all eat at a picnic table, until the first drops of rain start to fall. Everyone packs up their food remarkably fast, and now it’s 7pm, the Boy Scouts seemingly the only ones still out of their tents. As for me I’m more than happy to be in my tent, my little home, eating snacks (duh) and wrapping up my day.
Sulphur Springs Campground to Mill Creek Fire Station, 11.8 miles
New words to live by: when weather gets bad, you never know where you’ll be at the end of the day. It poured rain last night, and I found myself hoping that like the other times it rained, it would clear by morning. I was able to pack up my tent while the rain had stopped for a bit, but upon hiking out just past 6:45am the sky opened up again. Instantly soaking wet, forever thankful that I brought a legit gore tex raincoat. Our morning brought some elevation gain, and as we climbed, the rain turned to a snow mix, and then as we got even higher up, the trail turned to a snowy, slush covered path. We passed a few tents still set up, and I don’t blame them. If I had camped up there and woke up to snow surrounding me, I wouldn’t be getting out early either.
With the snow, blowing wind, and general chilled body, I went the 11.8 miles without stopping, just chomping on a bar as I walked and not drinking water because I was too cold. Oops. Once at the Fire Station, we crammed into the pit toilet building because that’s how cold we were. Just trying to outdo myself from the day I ate on the steps of a trailhead pit toilet, you know? Once I stopped moving, the chill really set in, and the group I’ve been hiking with made the decision to get a ride into town for the night. Wet gear and clothes, snow, rain, wind. I’d rather not.
So, into town we go. It takes a Lyft to get to town one, where we grab coffee (mostly because it’s hot) and then an Uber to the bigger town close by, where we get a cheap hotel conveniently located by In N Out. Packing six hikers into a room feels a little like a middle school sleepover – junk food, tv, ordering pizza late at night. Gear is drying and our room smells like a wet dog but we are dry and out of the wind/snow, so I can’t complain (even though I can smell our room from the hallway with the door closed). Tomorrow it’s back on trail and I find myself desperately wanting some nicer weather.