It was a bit cooler this morning so harder to get up. Nonetheless, the motivation was there to get going, and I was on the trail and going before sunrise.
The first few miles were along a road through the Pyramid Ranch. Even when the sun was just barely getting up, I dunked my arms in a tire trough once the cows cleared out enough to let me do so.
I stopped in the shade of a tree for my first morning snack and to apply sunscreen, then climbed up to the second Pyramid corral and watering hole. The cows seemed a bit more nervous and protective of this one, so I walked on.
At the electric Pyramid Well, I soaked my shirt and head, and from there it was just a couple more miles down to the fifth water cache box, now leaving the road and following a barbed wire fence.
I stopped for another snack break at the water cache, filled up on Starburst and water. The trail went back through the barbed wire fence (via turnstiles this time) and set out straight across the middle of the expanse between there and the road into town. There were a few key road walks, but a lot more hills to climb and washes to traverse. It was only 4 miles to town and I didn’t want to stop.
And I didn’t, except to occasionally spit water onto my sunward sleeve. The sun was getting high and hot but not as bad as previous days and the breeze was cool and continuous. Even when I lost the trail I didn’t lose much time and caught it again further down.
I made it to the Econolodge before noon and they already had a room clean and available, so I moved in immediately and got straight in the shower. After that, I brought my dirty clothes to the lobby and got everything cleaned for 5 bucks.
An hour later, I could put my going out clothes back on and cross the street to the Kranberry’s restaurant. I had some jalapeño bottle caps with ranch dip, a big beefy taco salad, and at least 3 glasses of root beer, plus a peach cobbler to go to have after dinner.
Back in the room, I started making preparations for the coming section, then went to the convenience store next door to get some supper for later. I realized I was low on Starburst in the resupply I had left at the hotel, so I bought a few bags at the Family Dollar.
The rest of the night, aside from eating dinner (with the family disappointing peach cobbler), was tied up in phone calls and other trivialities. I got most of the way packed, but it got very late and some would have to wait until morning.
The next day looked to be a scorcher. With a heavy full pack, it was not going to be a big hiking day.
I overslept and didn’t start walking until well after sunrise.
The first destination was the fourth water cache only 6 miles away. I had plenty of water still, and a large size breakfast smoothie. But the first part of the trail involved climbing steep hills in direct sunlight, so I stopped for a snack in the shade of a tree as soon as I made it over the saddle.
Coming up on the road where the cache was, I crossed the old railroad bed. The blackness of the rocks stood out from the surrounding desert, even in comparison to the road. Jeffrey had told me the berm was piled with high grade ore from the smelters, that this very railroad route was the reason for the Gadsden Purchase, and that the silver mines here were the cause of the inflation that brought about the end of the silver standard.
Anyway, the water cache was right past that, so I filled up everything and more, and used some of the provided sunscreen as well. I have to keep my knees well coated because I am hiking in shorts.
Less than four miles later, I came upon a water trough filled with cold water. I took off my Buff, dipped it, and squeezed it out over my head and shoulders. Then I dunked each elbow up to my wrists and shoulders so that when I extended my arms into the air, the water ran down the sleeves and down my sides. Very refreshing, though the shirt dried within 15 minutes. I kept dousing my sleeves by spitting water from my bag. The continuous breeze all day combined with the water kept me mostly cool.
I should note that this day involved more instances of the trail going directly through a barbed wire fence with no gate or turnstile than I’ve seen before. I get the impression someone doesn’t like hikers much.
Right after the trough, I found myself getting very hungry. I stopped under a shady bush and had the first half of lunch. It was too early for the full lunch siesta, and there was word of an even better shade tree 1.5 miles further on, so I kept walking.
The next shade tree was everything it was promised to be. A huge patch of shade. I ate the other half of lunch and then napped for an hour with a towel over my knees and my headnet on to discourage the flies.
The next section of trail was flat and boring, with only the occasional barbed wire fence or washed out ditch to liven things up. But I just kept walking, trying to track the scarce markers, looking forward to the next trough coming up in five miles.
This one was a big tractor tire full of cold water. So I sat on the edge and laid back, submerging my head and shoulders. I drank most of a quart of water, ate some Starburst, took another dip, then walked on.
It was only a couple more miles to the oasis where I would stop for dinner. A giant tank of water that provided plenty of shade from the evening sun. I ate and lounged a bit, refilled my water bag from the tank, and walked on.
I stopped randomly beside the trail at 8pm, set up camp, crawled in bed, and finished blogging before civil twilight had even ended. Lordsburg and shower tomorrow!
I started out the morning routine hours before sunup, and was already on the trail just before sunrise. The only water I had left was in my half portion breakfast mix. Yet I had a 7 mile trek to the next reliable water source. As such, I wanted to get there as quickly as possible before the sun got high and started sapping me.
Yet still I couldn’t resist lying in a cool wash under a shady embankment for half an hour after a steep climb. I ate a few dozen Starburst and a chewy bar to fuel up for the remaining march.
It was mostly boring road walk, but now completely out of water except what my remaining limes contained, I was motivated to speed across the humpy flats.
A sea of cows flowed away from the water tank as I approached. A shady, cow pie free bit of ground next to the tank and near infinite amounts of fresh well water coming out of the hose on the other side. I was tempted to jump into the little pond down the hill, but I was able to cool off enough just lying in the shade for an hour and snacking some more. I went back for several refills and even ran the hose over my head before hiking out again through the herd.
The next water cache box was only 6 miles further on, so I could be totally profligate with the water I was carrying. Every time it dried, I poured water on my shirt and my head again. The latter seems to have permanently muted my “water resistant” headphones. Thanks a lot Sony.
The trail remained easy to follow and not usually too sandy, so I was moving out. Just before noon, I found a nice tree and stopped for lunch, then just laid underneath it for an hour. Then I packed up and put the speed back on.
I reached the water cache box before 3 and nearly walked right by it, distracted by an enormous dust devil in the distance. When I opened it up there was a phone number for the Hachita Store. I filled up on water, but then I turned my phone off airplane mode–3G signal available.
I was so far ahead on time, I decided to call. Jeffrey came out with a truck and carried me to the store. On the way, he informed me that he had picked up the Gayhearts at the second water box the day before. Jess seemed in high spirits but her dad was complaining of heat exhaustion and making excuses for giving up. They were on their way to Silver City already. An hour and two root beers, a Gatorade, a burrito, an ice cream, and a real toilet later, Jeffrey brought me back to the trail.
It was a little after 4 and still pretty hot, but the wind was stronger than ever, trying to tear my hat off my head. Also, the flats were the most boring to walk on yet. But 3 hours of flat desert and road walking later, I was at the Vista Rim Tank and oasis. I threw my Tyvek down on the humpy grassy ground and made supper. What I had eaten at the store had only given me enough energy to go five miles or so. But lying in the shade waiting for supper to cook, I was ready to pass out and give up for the day.
Nonetheless, after dinner, I refilled my bottle from the tank, packed up, and hiked on down the road into the sunset. It was all roadwalk and mostly downhill, so even though I was out of energy, I got one more mile done. When the sun was gone, I found a nice area to camp in, and forced myself to get the tent set up.
Overall, it was a nice day, hot but easy walking, and the trail being so much easier meant I could get more miles in before my legs gave out.
I don’t have the trail stamina I had five months ago. Even with hours long breaks in the middle of the day, I’m cruising in late with my legs and glutes totally shot and my energy spent.
I woke up well before dawn, slept in, and finally dragged myself awake an hour later. I got started hiking a bit after sunrise.
The first bit of trail was slow going, trying to spot posts from a distance, many of which had fallen. I lost the trail frequently and had to use the GPS to figure out whether I was above or below.
I came out onto the flats and passed the Gayhearts just before noon. They had taken the road walk instead of the trail and so had it a bit easier. But they were already curled up under two umbrellas. I hid behind a bush and made lunch. I kept going, passed Whitewater doing his umbrella thing, then continued to the second water cache. I filled up and continued across the road.
Here there was a CDT info sign casting a sizeable shadow. I laid in it for 2.5 hours. Near the end, a man my age parked his truck to come look at the trail. His oversized Philmont belt buckle gave him away as a Boy Scout. We chatted, he took some pictures, did not offer any cold beverages, and left.
The shade was running away under a barbed wire fence and done clouds were rolling in, so I started packing up soon after that. I set off across the flats again just before 4.
An hour later, I stopped in the shade of a bush for a snack and a drink, and accidentally lost a pint or two of water when the hose popped out of my bag again. I had already passed another water tank and it was another ten miles to the next water source. I seemed to have a couple liters still, so I crossed my fingers and hiked on.
I stopped again around 6. I was feeling a bit sick and weak, so it was clearly time to refuel with supper. While I was cooking, a big cloud came by with five minutes of rain. I wished it had poured hard enough to collect some.
Even after supper, I wasn’t feeling super energetic, but I walked on a couple more miles as the sun set and didn’t stop until I was well into civil twilight. The trail was easy to find here since it followed a rocky road.
The wind wasn’t as bad as the previous evening when I went to set up, but I was all out of energy. Even so, I managed to crawl into bed before nine. Energy gone, feet all ripped up. I wanted to leave the vestibule open to cool off in the breeze but it started raining again and I closed it up. Not much water left and seven miles to the next source. But a definite repair plan in mind for the troublesome hose. Hopes the trail would stay easy so I could get to the water before it got hot.
This was not enough miles. Siestas might need to be shorter. Snack breaks more frequent.
I didn’t manage to get to sleep until after 1am, but I still managed to jump out of bed and get the coffee started at 5:30. Bathroom time and my last shower for 5 days wasn’t done until 6:10. And despite having to fill my water bag, wolf down “breakfast,” and panic briefly over where my wallet was (already in my pack), I made it down to the lobby well before the shuttle was leaving.
The later part of the Gayheart family was already there, so I met Doug and his daughter Jess who were starting their first long distance trail that day and therefore had no trail names.
The trip was 2.5 hours long to the monument, including a brief stop at the Hachita Store and at the first water box to leave another six gallon can. The road was in surprisingly good shape for being a dirt road to a wire fence with the border in the middle of nowhere. We were able to go 25 mph or better for much of it. But the only other vehicles were Border Patrol trucks and the van of Jerry from Biker Ranch coming back from a drop-off.
At the Crazy Cook Monument, there was a flurry of activity from all of us: taking pictures in every combination, stepping across the border to be able to say we really started from Mexico, and I had to reorganize my pack and dress and sunscreen for hiking. I was also starving and mixed up a proper breakfast smoothie to give me the energy to get started.
The Gayhearts and I started out together for the first three or four miles, just chatting. The trail was basically a flat plain and, aside from the beautiful flowering Ocotillos we occasionally passed, not too exciting. The weather was great though.
We saw a jack rabbit next to the trail and walked through an old run down corral straight out of a Western. Jess collected four rocks in the first three miles. They found messages left by the half of the family that had come through earlier. But then it got hot and we split up. Soon I passed another guy out hiking as he was crawling under a bush. But I had read in the Guthook comments about a big tree a half mile ahead and kept walking.
I found the tree at noon, down from the trail in a dry wash. I ate lunch and then just laid down and napped until 2:30, moving when necessary to escape direct sunlight. It was only ever a light doze, but it helped with the lack of sleep I was suffering from and beat hiking in the hottest part of the day.
When I started again, I stayed in the wash and the trail came down to join me. It wasn’t long before I came to trees offering far better shade than the one I’d been under. Under one of them was the same man from before, who Jerry had dropped. He was from my neck of the woods in GA and working on finishing up his triple crown as well.
It was still hot, but there was a good bit of leapfrogging of him, me, and the Gayhearts throughout the afternoon. I would stop in a shady spot and Whitewater would join me and we’d leave together, or he’d go ahead and then stop and I’d pass him.
In the end, I reached the first water cache about 15 minutes before him. He decided to camp there while I decided to cook my Pad Thai and keep hiking. While I cooked and he made camp, eventually the Gayhearts arrived, intending to camp there as well. I started packing up.
Soon I noticed the hose had popped off my water bag and my pack was full of water. I had to refill the bag and dump all the water out before I could hike out into the sunset, and still the water dripped down my legs for the next mile.
I stopped when it was clear that I would need to pitch a tent under head lamp light if I went further and there happened to be a clear spot next to the trail. The wind was picking up as the sun set and setting up in the wind is hell, but there were plenty of rocks around to secure things.
I finally crawled inside the tent and laid down on top of the sleeping bag (still too hot to get inside) around 9pm. The wind vibrated the tent guy lines all night long but I was dead tired and hardly noticed.
And we’re back after a brief 5 month break. Work has been done. Shots have been received. In 4 days, I begin the final and most difficult of the three Triple Crown long distance trails: the Continental Divide Trail.
This time I’m starting at the Mexican border. North of that, there are around 3000 trail miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to the Canadian border. It’s longer and not as well-traveled as the PCT.
On top of it being longer and wilder, I’m going to finish up northern California on the PCT once I get through the majority of New Mexico, go back home for a wedding at the end of July, then probably come back for another leg before going back for my sister’s wedding in November. With this late start and all the time off, I will not be finishing the CDT this year. Not a chance.
(I won’t be finishing the PCT either for that matter. The Lionshead fire closure and the Bobcat fire closure are still in effect. Maybe next year.)
Anyway, the story kicks off this time with goodbye hugs with Dad at the lakehouse preceding a 2 hour Mother’s Day drive to the airport with Mom.
The airport was pretty crowded for a Sunday. The last time I flew out of Atlanta was to go to California last year, and no one was flying, so it was easy to enforce social distancing. They didn’t even bother this time. Security took an hour, and I arrived at my gate just a few minutes before boarding.
It wasn’t an hour into my flight before breakfast was wearing off. I devoured the snacks they handed out. It was a four hour flight–long enough to watch two movies and a TV episode–and everything went well. My backpack was one of the first bags onto the carousel and 3 minutes later I was on my way to my hotel.
I realized that I had forgotten my phone charger and wall plug somewhere on the way, and when I found out it was too early to check in, I asked about chargers. They let me have a leftover cable from behind the desk, but I had to walk a mile to buy the part that plugs into the wall. Which was fine because I wanted to check out the city anyway and the weather was beautiful.
I was starting to feel quite peckish on the way. It had already been 3 hours since the cookies and small bag of almonds on the plane. So I stopped in a brewpub for a chicken sandwich, fries, and a sampler of their beers, all of which were quite good. I slowly ate until it was time to check in, then returned to the hotel.
I took an hour nap at this point, did a bit of hike planning, then did a movie watch party with some Atlanta friends. By the time we finished the movie, the food truck that had opened downstairs was closed, so if I didn’t want to be dying of starvation by morning, I had to go for a walk.
It’s kind of crazy how many things Atlanta and Tucson have in common. They both have an old Fox Theater. They both have Insomnia Cookies. And the very building I’m staying in would not be out of place downtown. Anyway, I found a little Mediterranean restaurant and got a great meal of shawarma, hummus, gyro meat, dolmades, Greek salad, and pistachio baklava.
I was already in bed by 10PM and sleepy. But that’s the same as 1AM back home.
Woke up at 6 am and went to the bathroom, got a shower, and then went down for breakfast, only to find that the cafe did not open until 8am. So I got a cup of coffee and went back to the room to Google nearby breakfast places. None opened before 8. Tucson in general hardly opens before 8. So I drank my coffee, laid in bed and starved for half an hour.
Shortly after 8, I went down to the cafe and got an omelet with avocado, goat cheese, and ham, a combination made up on the spot, and it is literally the best idea I’ve ever had for an omelet. It came with toast and jelly and potatoes and I had a fresh-squeezed orange juice too. Kanpeki!
After a little time back in my room chilling and calculating how much food I would need to buy, I took a walk down the Safeway to do some shopping. It was about a mile and a half away but I wanted to walk it just for the sake of seeing more of the city. Along the way, I talked to a man who told me all the busses were free, and it turned out there was a bus stop right in front of the Safeway, so I wouldn’t have to walk my 360 dollars worth of groceries all the way back to my hotel.
An hour or so later, I was on the bus with my bags. After one of the bags started to spill out onto the wheel well, a man came up and told me he was going to reach over me to get something. I reached back and found that one of my sleeves of Gatorade chews had slid out of the box. But the guy didn’t seem to believe I was telling the truth that it was mine. Very strange. He really wanted it, I guess. But they’re very expensive so really I’m glad he noticed it.
After dropping the food in my room. I went out again to the grocery store deli to get a Cuban sandwich and some other stuff for lunch (and something to eat when I woke up the next morning so I wouldn’t have to starve before the city opened) and then the post office to get some boxes. Then back to the room again.
I ate my lunch and then hung out for a couple hours watching videos and talking to Mom on the phone before deciding to catch a bus uptown to do the other part of my shopping at REI. It was a 45 minute trip there. 30 minutes to spend a hundred bucks on fuel and food and nuun immunity. 45 minutes back.
Then I dropped my stuff in my hotel before leaving again immediately. I walked south to Barrio Brewing for dinner. When I was in sight of it, I had to wait another ten minutes for a train to go by, but finally I got to go inside and try some nice beers. I also tried an official Sonoran Hot Dog with the beans and spices. After my big lunch, it was all I had room for, and also I meant to take a picture but I forgot.
After that, I walked back to the hotel the same way I went and that was it for the night. I turned in and blogged and got too sleepy to think straight.
Having gone to sleep later, I woke up a bit later, but I could skip breakfast because of the snacks I had bought. I went out after 8 which meant the cafe was open and the free coffee was gone. I had to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee to give me enough energy to get my box packing done. I borrowed a tape dispenser from the front desk and got started.
After packing one box, I realized I had forgotten to buy Apple Cider mix, so I walked over to the nearby Johnny Gibson’s and found some. I also got a Gatorade to rehydrate and some pop tarts for the next morning’s breakfast.
Halfway through packing the second and final box, I realized I had been right to be confused about there only being 3 grocery bags in the seat to my left when I thought there had been four on the bus back. That guy who confronted me about the Gatorade chews must have stolen one of my bags, because I had 23 fewer lunch tunas than I had bought. I would need them, so I had to go back to the store and buy them. I only needed 19 though.
The Johnny Gibson’s had no tuna, so I head for the bus station. Instead of going straight for the Safeway, I took a different bus to the Yoshimatsu Eatery for lunch. It was voted best Japanese restaurant in Tucson, and reviews raved about their okonomiyaki. It was every bit as good as promised. I had a lovely green tea daifuku for dessert and a Japanese craft IPA throughout. I wanted to try their curry but I was full. I went out and caught the bus south to the Safeway.
Along the way, I got to take a passing glance at the University of Arizona. I got off at the Safeway and bought the tuna and got on another bus back to the hotel. Finally I could finish packing my boxes and my pack.
It took some time still, though. There was a lot to pack in four different places. I wanted to leave some of the food in Lordsburg while I hiked by to it, so I bought a tote bag from the front desk since the plastic bags from the grocery store weren’t tough enough and kept ripping.
By 6:30 I had the food and snack situation for the hike sorted. All that remained was shipping the boxes, and that would have to wait until morning when the post office opened. So I left and caught a bus uptown to check out Dillinger’s Brewery.
On the bus, I hopped on Grubhub and ordered that curry I was wanting to the brewery. (The brewery did not serve food.) I got to the brewery a little after 7, and my food arrived some 20 minutes later, halfway through my first flight.
The curry was amazing, and most of the beers were as well. In fact, Dillinger had the best beers I tried in Tucson (and the only sours!) I may try to finagle getting some of them shipped to Georgia in questionably legal fashion.
A Dillinger founder, Aaron told me all about what normally goes on around Tucson, about the beer scene, about how the hotel I was staying in normally hosted an annual reenactment of the shoot-out in high John Dillinger was finally captured (as that was where it originally took place), about the difference in types of hops and how they are used.
After trying 10 different beers and keeping Aaron past closing time, I caught the bus back downtown, but I wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. I headed over to Insomnia Cookies on the way back and got some warm double chocolate mint cookies. There was an unreasonably good guitarist busking and singing against a wall on the corner and I stopped on the way back to listen to his new material, dropped a tenner in his case. He gave me a sticker for his old band, but his new material is not on Spotify yet.
Then it was time for hotel and bed and blogging. And sleep. One last half day in Tucson, then Lordsburg, then, finally, the trail!
I woke up in time for the free coffee this time, and after doing the morning routine, I headed out at 9 to mail my boxes. I got back just in time to receive a call from Mom. I was inspired by the call to check what time that afternoon my bus was leaving. I had misread or misremembered the time. It was leaving at 9:35am. It was 9:36am. I had missed it.
No ticket exchanges possible day of, so I dropped another 40 bucks on the night bus, leaving at 8:05pm and arriving at midnight. I called the hotel in Lordsburg and they made sure I could check in then. Upshot: I would have an entire extra day in Tucson. Downside: I still had to be in the lobby at 6:15 am the next morning to catch my shuttle to the terminus, so I would only be getting some 5-6 hours of sleep plus whatever I could get on the 2.5 hour bus ride. Ah well, hiking isn’t hard even when you’re sleepy.
But I didn’t need to be out of the hotel room until 11am, so I finished packing and then laid down to relax for a while. I turned in my key at 11am promptly, and left my pack at the front desk before heading out to see a bit more of the city.
I walked down Historic 4th Avenue to Sky Bar, which seemed like a nice place to have a drink and pass the time until the good restaurants opened for lunch.
At noon exactly, I went over to BOCA Tacos and Tequila, a famous restaurant whose head chef Maria is competing on the current season of Top Chef. I had 4 tacos and a nice fruity beer from one of the locals. Included were 5 fresh housemade salsas. I put some on the tacos, then ordered a bag of chips to dip in the remainder.
After that I walked to a nearby park to sit under a shade tree and watch a show with Sushi that we’ve been watching every Wednesday.
After that, I found my way, with some effort, to the beautiful beer garden at Borderlands Brewing, the second oldest (I think) brewery in Tucson (after Barrio). It was a hot day, but the beer garden has awnings and spray misters strung overhead. I sampled a nice flight of IPAs and sours.
Then it was almost 4, when the front desk guy’s shift ended. I needed to get my bag from him in case his replacement didn’t know me. I got back just before 4, claimed my bag, and sat down with my stuff in the lobby, plugging my phone into an adjacent outlet. I got a peach ale from the bar from one last local brewery, then fired up Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix.
About a third of the way into the movie, the new front desk guy (the same one who had checked me in and I had a fine experience with) came over to L me the owner didn’t like anyone using that outlet. I told him I needed my phone charged for the bus. He said he’d charge it at the front desk and did. That left me with nothing to do but stew while I waited.
Eventually I got up to ask him for a deck of cards. He didn’t have one, but he said I could go upstairs and use the lounge while I waited. So I carried everything back up and sat in the lounge and worked on a jigsaw puzzle until after 6pm when I could finally check in to my bus. I took my stuff back downstairs, reclaimed my phone, then walked (directly through a parade for Palestine and Colombia, who knows) to the bus station.
It turned out there were power outlets inside, so I kept watching the movie. I finally finished the movie about an hour into the bus trip. I highly recommend if you are a fan of A Goofy Movie or The Amazing World of Gumball or maybe Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs.
I tried to nap a bit in the last hour of the trip but couldn’t get comfortable and never fell asleep. I arrived at the Lordsburg Greyhound stop early, and toted my bag to the Econo Lodge. I got the owner up in his socks to check me in, asked for a 5:30 wakeup call, and was in bed by 12:16, but still not particularly sleepy somehow.
Well, since it involved no hiking whatsoever, I have given you an extra long first post to get things started, dear reader. The schedule will be once a day from here out, though the posts will again be shorter, each covering only a day. Here we go!
It was an interesting little section of trail down across and along the road into Campo as I could see the border wall for the first time. I kept imagining what it would be like to be a northbounder starting out here seeing all this in the other direction. It was only 4 miles to Campo, but I didn’t get out of camp as quickly as I wanted to.
I had planned to meet Mama at the Campo Green Store at 9:30, but I didn’t actually roll up until just before 10. She had brought a lot of different food and beer and the lack, and I ate a pancake right then and there. I also bought a root beer in the store and drank it. Why not?
I pulled out my day pack and packed it for the the two miles to the border and then sunscreened up. It was a hot morning and the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been. Mama did a lot of getting ready too, redressing for the trail conditions. It was probably 10:30 before we finally started walking.
The trail continued up the road, occasionally wandering a few feet away for a moment, then coming back to cross it. We passed a small hiker campground just a mile from the border, presumably for hikers who start their northbound hike really late in the evening for whatever reason. The trail crossed and tracked some dirt roads at this point, and we were constantly passed by trucks spraying water to keep down the dust. Other construction vehicles were constantly running up to the wall as it was under repair and improvement.
We reached the monument by 11:30, and I immediately signed the register. Then, I climbed all over the monument while pictures and videos were taken, frequently interrupted by the sounds of earthmoving machines next to the wall. We ate a lime, I drank a beer, and then our ride back to the store arrived to pick us up at noon.
It was one of the store operators, and she drove down to bring us back in her SUV, telling about the wall on the way. Turns out it predates the Trump Administration, and it had greatly improved the crime situation in the city since it was erected. Border jumpers used to knock on her house at night as the crossed right through her yard. Even with the CBP office right there in town, only the wall had put a stop to it all.
My opinion of it as a nonresident of Campo was that it didn’t look very good in photos. It kind of ruined the landscape, where hills had been arbitrarily cut away to make room for it. I don’t particularly begrudge it, but I sure wish there was a more attractive way to keep them safe.
Anyway, at my request, we drove back to the Oak Shores Malt Shop for lunch. I got to try one of their burgers this time. It was quite good, but I didn’t rate it above the Paradise Valley BMW burger. I also had another fancy small batch root beer.
Next was a four-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. It wasn’t on the trail, so I hadn’t seen it. We got into the park just after sunset, and didn’t even see any Joshua trees until well after dark by the light of our headlights. But we did get to see a fox on the side of the road. And we stopped to see a bunch of scary-looking cacti.
Just north of the park exit was 29 Palms, where we stopped at a grocery store to buy things to eat for the rest of the week. I made all the decisions here about what I wanted to cook, and it ended up as quite a lot of food in a very eclectic assortment.
Another two hour drive into the mountains followed. We came into Big Bear Lake along the same route I had walked in, and I pointed out many of the places I had visited on my long walk. On the other side of town, we found our cabin and unpacked. Dinner was instant mashed potatoes and gravy and pre-prepared fried chicken. And Julian’s famous apple pie for dessert. Thank goodness it was quick to prepare, as it was very late.
A monster furnace in the floor kept us warm, although we still built a fire in the fireplace. We had free access to Disney+ on the TV. I got a shower and a change of clothes (including underwear for the first time in months!) and didn’t get to bed in the little attic until after midnight. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the world, but it was quite cozy. I got a full night’s sleep.
Total distance: 6 miles
After a nice early morning fixing a breakfast filled with buttery toast, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, and coffee, I happily wasted the morning doing nothing of consequence. Around midday, we went out for a drive through town to see what was happening. We continued around the lake, and then tried to take Delamar Mountain Road up to where it met the PCT. Stymied by ice on a steep hill, we had to turn around a beat a retreat just before the trail. We finished looping the lake, stopped in at the ski resort to see how popular it was, then returned to the cabin for a late lunch followed by sunset hot tubbing.
Dinner was steak, beans, and stuffing. I mixed my stuffing with leftover mashed potatoes. More beer and root beer was consumed. And of course more pie. We watched A Goofy Movie and Newsies at my request. We skipped the fire this time to save the rest of the wood for our last night. Went to bed well after midnight. My body was already adjusting to later nights, and…
…later mornings. I had zero interest to go anywhere at all this day. Cooking and grazing in a cozy cabin still felt like a treat compared to the constant motion of the trail. While Mama went to explore the town on her own, I spent a couple of hours just watching the first few episodes of Disney’s Gargoyles. (In case you don’t remember it, it was that high-budget action-adventure animated serial with more guns and gunfights than appeared in any other animation with Disney’s name on it.)
After lunch, we gathered some kindling for the night’s fire. I checked out the other houses below us near the lake. I got my things packed to go in advance of the next day’s departure. I skipped sunset this night for a shower, then went in for a several hour late night soak in the hot tub while writing more blog posts.
Dinner was late again and entirely leftovers, except for the canned beans and beets. (Speaking of cans, this cabin had every kitchen utensil you could want except a can opener. I severely dulled my knife blade just opening cans.) Also, we finished the pie!
I lit up the fire into a roaring blaze and kept it going while we watched Safety, the new Clemson University propaganda film about Ray McElrathbey. Then a preliminary bit of cleaning before getting to bed just after midnight. It couldn’t be too late because we needed to be…
…up early in the morning. Relatively early anyway. There was still a minor amount of cleaning and packing to be done, especially regarding the leftover food items. We’d done a pretty good job eating through most of it, packed out some, and gave the rest away to the neighbors. Finally, around 10am or so, we got on the road.
It was a two-hour trip, descending most of the time. We went down the mountain on the opposite side we came up from, and the views were spectacular with the clouds wafting across the hills below us, though they never remained visible long enough to get a good picture. Once we were down from the mountain, we stopped going west, and instead went south to meet the I-8 freeway east to Desert Springs.
We passed right by the casino I took so many photos of as I climbed San Jacinto, and I noted the underpass the PCT went through when we went over it. I could see many of the places I had gone that day from the road. After a brief detour to fill up the gas tank, we were dropping off the car at the airport and heading inside to check my backpack. We had done such a good job getting to the airport, the baggage check desk wasn’t even open yet. Once it was, we went painlessly through security, then explored the tiny little Desert Springs Airport for a few minutes before going to chill at our gate.
The flight for the first leg wasn’t crowded despite being a small jet. I got a blog post written on the way. During a three-hour layover at Sea-Tac, we sampled every food offering in the Delta lounge. I learned that Delta has their own branded IPA served only (and freely) in their lounges, though I have no idea who brews it.
The second flight was a good bit longer, of course, as it had to cross the entire country. Mama had a first class upgrade, and I had a comfort+ row to myself. I got several more blog posts written over the course of the flight.
We didn’t land at ATL until 11pm, and we caught a Lyft back home. It was the first time I had seen my home turf in six months. Not too much had changed overall. Many things had changed in my hometown. Most hadn’t. Our driver was a newbie to Atlanta. He had a lot of interesting thoughts along the way. I followed him on Insta.
My dad did not hear the doorbell when we arrived, so I fetched a spare key. He didn’t hear us come in or call to him. As such, I scared him half out of his socks just by walking into the kitchen to offer to take out the trash for him. I’m lucky he wasn’t holding a knife he was so startled.
Anyway, I was home. I am home. I’m done hiking for a while. Since June I lost a solid 80 pounds walking some 2400 trail miles and many more besides. I haven’t bothered to add it up exactly because all that matters now is the sections I had to skip.
And I will go back to finish up. There’s nothing like home for the holidays, but once the trail becomes passable again, I’m going to be out there again. I can have it all wrapped up in just a few short weeks. And when I do, you’ll read about it here. Arigatougozaimashita for reading this far, omedetou for getting caught up, jaa matane, oyasuminasai.
I slept in a little bit, spent a little time on the phone finishing up a podcast out loud while packing in the tent. I paused it when I heard two women walking by talking about tequila mixed drinks. I was closer to the trail than I thought, though they gave no sign of noticing my tent when passing, low as it was behind some bushes.
Although I still had to do a small amount of repacking and also clean the pan I’d used, I didn’t have to tear down a tent or roll up a mat, so it was still easy enough to get out and lock up by 9:30am. I even had enough time to finally make use of the razors I’d been carrying around since Idyllwild, and there was a LOT of excess facial hair to remove. It took a solid 15 minutes to mow it all down.
It was really quite cold when I got out of bed. I had on every last bit of clothing. I decided to take a walk to the Sunrise Trailhead (because of the privy there) and back before starting my pack-up in hopes that the sun would reach it by the time I started. The walk was about half a mile each way, and I got back around an hour later. I got on the trail by 9am.