Wherein I Ride with an Alligator Head

I eat caffeinated gummies and sip water from a blue tube. I hike up and down and around trying to deal with the pinched nerve in my left shoulder. The pain starts in the front of the shoulder and shoots down my arm. I take my left shoulder out of the pack and wear it sling-style over my right side. The sting and tingling subside.

Sunshine catches up to me and we make it to Highway 72. Because of a fire on this section of the PCT last year, the trail to Idyllwild has been rerouted. One could do 17 miles of road walking, but it’s suggested that you just hitch a ride instead. Sunshine and I decide to hitch.

A car pulls over. The window rolls down. The driver is a shirtless guy with crazy white hair, a long white beard, and greenish tattoos that are smeared and faded. He’s wearing a plaid skirt and has a stuffed (taxidermy) alligator head on the passenger seat.

He asks us if we are crazy or dangerous. I smile and say that I was just about to ask him the same thing. We hop inside and get our packs settled. He is playing some kind of sexual healing self-help CD. I look at him and ask what’s up with the CD. He seems like maybe he forgot that he wasn’t alone for a second. He shuts it off and puts on a mix, a play on Class of 99 and drives like a bat out of hell along the windy roads. He tells us he lives in Hemet and almost never travels as far as he went today (about 15 minutes from his home). He sings along with the CD and is, basically, a sweetheart. When he gets us safely to Idyllwild, he asks if he can take a picture¬†with us. We insist on including the alligator head.


Sunshine, Bob, me, Bob’s alligator head.

Idyllwild is a great little town. Really nice vibe and just about everything a hiker could want. The Red Kettle serves an amazing breakfast, Nomad offers gear and good conversation, and Idyllwild Pizza Company makes gluten-free crust! And the wonderful Silver Pines Lodge lets hikers do a load of laundry for free as part of their stay. There are hikers everywhere. We’re easy to spot.

After dinner there is a dance party in the street with Boom Box, Glitter Bug, Lost and Found, and Sunshine. The walk muscles are sore, but the dance muscles feel great.

When I return to my room, I learn there is a strong wind/no hiking warning until 5pm the next day. If I have to zero anywhere, Idyllwild’s not a bad spot.