Hitchhikers – Pay It Forward

May 23, 2016

This weekend I spent two days in Wrightwood on the PCT.  The trail is still full of PCT thru-hikers which is always a treat.


Hiking in the Clouds.

Friday I hiked with Patty and a friend of hers from the I.E.  The weather was super cool, in the 40’s with the wind blowing about 15 mph.  We headed off on the PCT from Grassy Hollow Visitors center North toward Vincent Gap which is about a 3.5 mile hike one-way with a mere 715 elevation change. We walked in and out of the clouds and had some beautiful views.


Patty, Betsy and the purple Lupine.

We took a break at Vincent Gap and we chatted with a PCT hiker from Scottsdale.  He told us about his first 375 miles on the trail.  I was able to imagine his journey as he talked. I have been following hikers over the last few years and I knew the places of which he spoke.  It was such a thrill for me to talk to an actual hiker from the trail.  I know it sounds silly.  I told Patty the the hikers were like movie stars to me.  Silly, right?

We headed back to Grassy Hollow and made good time. We jumped in the car and headed back to Wrightwood for lunch. After a mile or so on the road we saw some thru-hikers hitchhiking with hopes for a ride back to town.  I, of course,  had to pull over to give them a ride to town. They would be taking Saturday off as a NERO ( 0 miles hiked) day.  I was excited to meet them and hear more stories of the trail and my chance to pay it forward.  You might remember my experience on the Camino de Santiago and accepting a ride from a stranger.  We were able to fit 3 hikers and their huge backpacks in the car.  One of them was glad to get in the back with the backpacks so as not to be left behind.  We found out that the 3 of them had met on the AT (Appalachian Trail) which is a similar trail on the east coast. Two of them ended up as a couple and were now hiking the PCT.  I am guessing there must be several love stories a year on the PCT.


Maureen, Joe, Susie, David and Raquel

Sunday, Mountain Communities Hiking Adventures group and I started out at Vincent Gap and headed up to Baden-Powell, another 4 mile hike.  However, this hike had an elevation gain of about 2,,800 ft. one way.  I had hiked Baden-Powell in 2013 so I knew what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised that this time the hike seemed more like a moderate hike rather than the strenuous hike that it was 3 years ago.  My stamina and strength has greatly improved.  We took a nice break at the top.  I, of course had to stay away from the edges as we were at 9,399 ft and it was a long way down in every direction.  My fear of heights gets better the more I hike, but I still get a queasy stomach in certain situations.


So, we begin our descent back to the parking lot.  The trail had some snow in the last mile to the top so we had to make our way through the same snow.  It was slippery so we took our time.  This group is so great about helping each other and offering a helping hand or moral support as needed.  I am lucky to be part of the group.


MK, Susie, Bamboo, and Mash

As we headed back down the trail, I hear “Are you the one that gave us a ride to town on Friday?”  It was the three hikers we had given a ride on Friday.  What a nice surprise to see them again.  We chatted for a few minutes and they told us what a great time they had in Wrightwood. Raquel offered to take the photo above and I am glad she did.  It was another great day on the trail and we had cool weather which is always nice when you are hiking.


Bench Camp off the PCT

May 14 and 15, 2016

This weekend I backpacked a previously hiked portion of the PCT near Lake Arrowhead.  The weather was expected to be in the 60’s during the day and 40 something at night.  It was a little warmer than that but still not to warm.  It was a short 4.3 mile hike and the 7 of us made it in 2 hours and 25 minutes.  We saw plenty of PCT thru-hikers heading for Canada and we were able to talk to a few of them.  I am so in awe of these fellow hikers that are able to make this huge commitment to hike 2600 miles in about 5 months. Give up jobs, leave their loved ones, etc.  More later.


Taking a break at Holcomb Creek.

After we set up our tents and ate our lunch we took a nice long break and then we headed out for late afternoon 5 mile hike.  We were told the trail we were about to take was up and down for 2 miles. It wasn’t a lie. It was 833 in elevation change.  We made it to the top of the trail and then headed toward Lake Arrowhead on a jeep trail.  It was such a good time.  Only 5 of the 7 of us decided to take the afternoon hike.  It was so cool to be out for a nice relaxed hike telling stories, joking around, etc.  It felt like we were a bunch of young teenagers out goofing around.  Something out of a movie, maybe “Stand by Me” minus the dead guy.


My teenage friends (haha).

A little bit further and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Arrowhead that was captured by one of the girls.


The rest of the hike was down hill and we made pretty quick tracks back down to the PCT and then back to camp.  But not before one of the guys decided to take a short cut over a fallen tree that was high above a gulley.  As for me, I took the safer trail.


Perfect balance.


A new hiking buddy.

I am still in search of the right formula to sleep out in the wilderness.  I recently purchased a wider lightweight air mattress and a warmer sleeping bag liner to help with the perfect formula.  I was much warmer but still having trouble falling asleep. We discussed several over the counter aids that I will be taking on my next overnight adventure.  After a long night of not much sleep we ate breakfast, packed up and headed back to town around 9:30 am and straight to a nice cafe for a burger and fries.

SIDE NOTE:  We had a PCT thru-hiker stay in camp with us on Saturday evening.  So we were able to ask her tons of questions. Here are my favorites.  It was a thrill to get a first hand perspective.  She was treated to a campfire, marshmallows, and Pinot Noir.  We wished her well as she left on Sunday morning at 7:30 am.

Question #1 What are the top 3 reasons you are hiking the PCT? Answer: For the physical challenge, mental challenge and for the spiritual journey.

Question #2  How were you able to do hike the PCT at this time of your life? Answer: She was able to quit her job.  Her boyfriend was staying home to take care of their home and the dog. Lucky girl.

Question #3: What does a hike away from home for about 5 months cost? Answer: She estimated about $5,000 to $6,000.

Another great weekend.  One step closer to a two day hike.