Obviously I didn’t prefer to spend three straight nights in Pasadena and two straight zero days off the trail, but I didn’t mind taking one day off if just for the sake of clean clothing. After all, I had been a long way and a lot of not clean places since the last time I had done laundry nearly a week before. So, following an early trip down the street to the grocery store, I booked another night in the motel.
I also asked for quarters for the motel coin laundromat, but they didn’t have any. National coin shortage was the excuse, but couldn’t they just empty the laundry machines for change? Not to mention I walked to the bank a couple of hours later after it opened and they happily handed me 10 dollars in quarters without any other prelude.
But in the meantime I cooked myself toaster waffles and breakfast burritos in the microwave for breakfast and worked on the problem of getting back to the trail. A solution was found in the person of Trail Angel Bill who would happily drive me to Wrightwood for free but couldn’t go until Monday. Well, one more night in the motel was as cheap as any other means of getting there, so I resigned myself to a second zero.
The next few hours were spent doing laundry, and once that was done, I set out for a long walk as the sun set. I went down E Colorado in the not-cool direction away from the city center until the sidewalks disappeared and I was walking through subdivisions or stepping off the curb of the busy road to get around overgrown trees. An hour later, I made it to the Pasadena REI. My only goal was to purchase another of the pocket knife I had lost. I couldn’t find it for sale, but I found something similar.
Then I went to the Mexican restaurant across the street for dinner. The menu claimed they had the best chili verde in town, but it was just alright. In fact, everything they served me was decidedly fine. It all technically qualified as Calimex cuisine. But I wasn’t disappointed to have coffee and churros con helado for dessert by any means. I took a Lyft home and went to bed.
I returned to the grocery store for more waffles and burritos for breakfast, along with a touch of resupply. As I returned to the hotel lobby to confirm the additional night I had booked, I noticed some drumming and chanting from the “spiritual center” next to the motel that could just as easily have issued from a stadium. I decided to use my new knife to do some repair work only to discover that the multitool I had purchased didn’t even have a knife on it.
So I called up the other REI in Burbank, the one I had visited a few days before, to find out if they had the knife I wanted. No, they didn’t sell it either. But I went through what they did have in stock with the clerk on the phone, and they set one aside for me at the front.
I took a nice Lyft ride out there, and the traffic was thick the whole way, from the lines at the car wash beside the church (still drumming and chanting) to lines to get into the shopping center at the other end. Black Friday was still more than a week away, but REI and probably many other businesses were already starting their sales. But despite the lines to get into REI, I was only picking up something at the front, so I could get right on the customer service line and skip the “I just want to browse” line. I called a Lyft back to the motel within a half-hour, now with an actual knife to hike with. Maybe not as good as the one I had before but definitely sharper.
The celebrants in the church were still drumming when I returned. They had great stamina.
The last thrill was to go to dinner with my LA streamer friends Beekyu, Moodapiller, and his pup Otter. They had a friend who was the manager at a hibachi restaurant in Pasadena, so we got all our drinks, including something tropical that came in a hollowed out pineapple, some sake, and some tastes of some incredibly smooth Japanese whiskeys, on the house. I took the innards of the pineapple back to my room for breakfast the next morning.
Bill had asked me to be ready to go by 11am, which happened to be check out time from the motel, so basically I had the entire morning to make sure I was packed. I was sitting on the curb by the lobby, belly full of pineapple and drinking a Coke, when he pulled up.
After confirming that I had voted correctly in the election, we turned onto the freeway toward Wrightwood, home of Mountain High, “Southern California’s closest snow.” Bill was a trail maintainer and told me a lot about the various trails in the area, pointing out landmarks as we drove, and relaying stories of other hikers he had shuttled.
We stopped in Wrightwood briefly so that I could stash my pack and check in to a lodging. I talked to a man who operated an inn that was full up for the night, but he let me drop my pack in a bin. So then, with only my day pack with sunscreen, water, and snacks, I got back into the car with Bill to head up to Vincent Gap to slackpack the 11 miles into town. (Vincent Gap was as far up highway 2 we could get before it was closed, and since it was still close enough to make it into Wrightwood by that night, it might as well be a slackpack.)
It wasn’t until I started hiking that I realized I wouldn’t get into Wrightwood until after dark and I hadn’t packed my headlamp.
The trail took me up onto the ridge above Mountain High, near several slopes that were already open and in use thanks to artificial snow machines. It also went right across some slopes that would probably be open later in winter once there was more natural snow.
On a random ridge that had cell service, I booked a cabin in Wrightwood for the night.
At sunset, I took a break in a mountaintop campground that had a privy before connecting up with the trail that led down into Wrightwood. That trail was a little bit nasty near the top, with patches of snow that had hardened into slippery ice, and I navigated it all with no light source. Actually, the snow made the trail easier to see. When I was halfway down, it was finally too dark to see the trail, so I used my phone as a flashlight for the last half mile or so until I reached the private paved road.
When I reached my cabin, which was right across the street from where I had stashed my pack, I checked my email for the cabin number and door code, but nothing was there. I tried calling the number on the office door but got no answer. Turns out my mom got an email that gave an extra online step of signing some document and adding a card for incidentals before the code could come. But the online form had no way to submit it even after all the information was filled in. The owner finally called me and tried to coach me through it, but the button she was telling me to click wasn’t there. Eventually, I managed to make it appear by changing the display language of the page to English/UK. 21st Century problems, amirite?
Anyway, an hour later, I finally was indoors with the heater cranked. The cabin was cute and quirky, like it was decorated from an antique store and a Spencer’s Gifts. There was a desk with an old-timey ramp next to a shelf with a refrigerated minibar. On one side of the bed was a salt lamp and on the other was a white noise generator, both turned on. I unplugged the latter to plug in my devices, put my coat back on, and went out for dinner.
The only restaurant open was the Mexican place next door, but they had an enclosed balcony upstairs, so I could be warm while I ate. It wasn’t the best Mexican in the world, but it was leagues better than the place from two nights before. They even had a decent flan. I left quite satisfied, returning to my cabin to do some work on this blog before conking out. A shower could wait till the morning.
Total distance: 14 miles
Trail progress: 11 miles