My first stop after Wrightwood is the peak of Baden Powell, named after the founder of the Boy Scouts. At the base of the mountain, I eat lunch, take my shoes and socks off, and stretch out on top of a picnic table. After half an hour of this, I’m ready to climb the endless switchbacks.
At the summit (elevation 9,383 feet), I’m given a pear by someone who must have boy scout training and is clearly prepared for every situation – including the one where I really want a piece of fresh fruit at the top of a mountain.
At the summit, I also meet a group that includes an ultra-marathoner going by the name “Tour Guide.” She previously hiked the trail south bound and remembers what’s around every bend, in reverse; hence the name. I hike with her and the group 8 miles to a campground filled with boy scouts camping over the Memorial Day weekend.
The excited young scouts have no idea about hiker midnight, so their giggles and “whispers” keep us awake into the morning. This is kind of OK because one of Tour Guide’s ultra-marathoner friends is doing special morning magic for us in a parking lot at a trailhead a few miles away.
We pack up, practically run up the other side of the mountain, and are greeted by Howard and his truck. On the truck’s tail gate, Howard is busy assembling omelets, brewing espresso, cutting up watermelon and cantaloupe, and handing out chips, guacamole, cured salmon, and breakfast beers. We’re ecstatic as we eat all of it. Some other ultra-marathoners stop by. They lift our packs in disbelief. All they carry as they run are small water bottles.
After crushing breakfast, we thank Howard and set off again. The pace set by the group is fast and they take short, 10 minute breaks. Because I’m bringing up the rear, I only get 2 minutes of their break before they’re off again. I know my ankle does not like this pace, but the group is fun to hang out with, so I try to hang in. Plus, this section of the PCT diverts around a recent burn area forcing us to do miles of road walking. If I lag too far behind, I’ll have to do this super boring road section by myself.
After the road nonsense is over, however, I let myself fall behind, taking longer breaks. Eventually, I’m alone again. I pull out my phone and hike, listening to Shabazz Palaces.
I eventually join back up with the group in time for a dinner break and sausage party (not like that – Howard gave us a big “to go” summer sausage to share). We spread our pads on the ground of the trail head parking lot and dig into our food bags. Most of us have stoves and we boil water for our dehydrated meals. Others just eat candy.
As we finish dinner, a car drives up. A very excited man named Lewis is thrilled to have encountered us. “You’re thru-hikers right?” he asks us over and over again. His enthusiasm is wonderful and makes me feel like we’re rare and exotic creatures. Lewis has loads of trail magic in his car and really wants to give it to us. He pulls out buckets of ice cream, soda, chips, and fruit.
I’m so full of super magic it’s hard to hike the next four miles to camp. We finally make it and the sun sets as we get settled. We have loads of space, but crowd together and laugh that we’re pitching inside each other’s tents. We wash our filthy legs with bandanas dipped in water and change into sleeping clothes (except for Jason who transforms into a human pickle).