Cajon Pass to Hiker Heaven was a stretch that challenged us both physically but showed us that we are into the mental rhythm of thru-hiking. For most of this section we did 20+ mile days, due mainly due to the logistics of camp sites and water.
Food and Water
In Cajon Pass we woke up after sharing an 8 person room with other hikers. What this made us realise is that we sleep better in our tent now than a cramped hotel room. After a brilliant breakfast at the hotel ,which included eggs, bacon, waffles, muffins and bagels (yes we ate all that) we hit the road.
In order to get back on trail we walked across an overpass back to McDonald’s. This was probably the most dangerous place on trail so far as the road was busy and the cars and trucks in America are huge. At McDonald’s Joal filled up to do the next 30 miles on only McDonald’s, but he could only use the breakfast menu which was a slight error in planning.
Then we headed back to trail to do the 23 mile uphill section to Wrightwood. As we were both carrying 5 litres of water out packs must have weighed over 15 kilos. The day was tough but had some great views. The McDonald’s challenge meant that Joal was pretty thirsty due to the salt, but the plus side was we didn’t have to cook.
We then headed to the road the next morning to hitch 8 miles into Wrightwood to resupply our food. It’s about 6 days to Hiker Heaven so this adds an additional 1kg per person per day for food.
After a short walk we hitched into town with a lovely elderly couple called Pete and Mother Teresa who were coming back from a morning walk. They brought us to the town centre of Wrightwood. Wrightwood is a skiing town so it isn’t too busy at this time of year. As a result the hostels and businesses are very hiker friendly to keep things going. Here we resupplied and had a coffee and a pastry from the bakery in town. In terms of what we eat, this is the food we packed out for 5 days walking.
For breakfast our staple is oatmeal (1 flavoured package and one normal) sometimes flavoured with nuts, raisins or chocolate. Lunch is two tuna, meat or cheese wraps and dinner is ramen, instant mash potatoes or an instant pasta. Overall the food is pretty basic and on paper doesn’t look too healthy. The aim is to try and get food that is light yet calorifically dense, hence why a lot of these are mixed with water. The result is a load of junk food. Now that we’ve got the staples sorted we’re going to try and add veg back into our diet. We trialled using tinned olives and red peppers but next time will also try and pack out foods like an avocado so that we are eating a bit healthier.
Mount Baden Powell
After 4 hours in town we dusted off the thumbs and got a hitch back to the trail to start the climb up Mount Baden Powell. This mountain was named after the founder of the Boy Scouts and as it was the weekend we passed about 10 troops making the assent/decent. This meant we spent a lot of time precariously balanced on the side of the mountain letting 20-30 people pass. Halfway up we pitched for the night in a beautiful spot. As it wasn’t too windy we cowboy camped again. Less creepy crawlers to worry about this time, but instead bears and mountain lions. Therefore we hung our food bag about 100 feet from our camp spot.
In the morning we summited the mountain to some awesome views. We were above the clouds at 9400 feet and had panoramic views the whole way down. After descending, passing yet more tired looking boy scout groups, we followed the ridge down. Unfortunately some of the trail was closed off as they were trying to get a rare toad to mate which meant 2.7 miles of road walking which hurt the knees and was pretty boring. We ended the day at a large campsite where we were joined by 3 more boy scout troops.
A milestone we hit in this stretch was mile 400! The day we hit this was also one of the longest days at 23.5 miles. The hundred mile markers are now starting to come quicker than before as we rack up our pace, and each one raises the moral of the group.
Reasons for Hiking
One thing we’ve started to ask hikers is why they are hiking. The answers we get are always different. Some want to spend time in nature, others, like Charlotte who we’ve been hiking with, want to use the walk to start a new chapter as she goes from work back to uni and others are doing it for a greater cause. An example of this is Joel who is hiking for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. One of his best friends and his cousin are both affected so Joel is using the walk as an outlet, but also a way to raise some money, so far raising over 5300 dollars. His goal is to raise $2 for every mile he walks, $1 of this for his friend Katie who lost her life battling Cystic Fibrosis and the other $1 to support his cousin Nina who is still fighting to breathe every day. You can find out more about his story at Pcthikeforthecure.com.
Between Mount Baden Powell and Hiker Heaven
The following few days we walked along a mountain ridge that skirts the Mojave. Unfortunately a few years ago this area was hit badly by a fire so the scenery looked a bit spooky, especially as we were back in the clouds. The areas hit by fire can be quite dangerous as trees and debris can fall as there is nothing cementing in the soil.
There is also a bush called poodle dog that if brushed up against gives you a terrible rash that is worse than poison ivy. If any of the oils touch your clothes it can also transfer which makes avoiding this stuff critical, even when it is hanging over the trail. That being said we saw some of the prettiest flowers in these areas.
Another Trail Angel
On our final day before we hit Hiker Heaven we also met an amazing trail angel called Ron. Ron has hiked the PCT 4 times, the Appalachian trail half a dozen times and the Continental Divide trail 3 times as well. If you do these three long distance walks in the USA you are called a triple crowner, an esteemed title in the hiking community – and he has done this 3 times over! His stories were great as he has trail angeled in so many places, including setting up a hostel on the Appalachian trail. With a free hotdog and an ice cream sandwich we got a fist bump and were wished well for our final stretch.
Getting into Hiker Heaven was a beautiful day. The scenery was amazing as we crossed the San Andreas fault. We went through a section called Vasquez Rocks where several movies have been filmed, like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Power Rangers along with many many more. The reason for this is it is conveniently located 29 miles from Los Angeles and therefore actors and crew only get paid from the time they get there as it counts as the boundary of Los Angeles. Tom Scott does a good YouTube video explaining this https://youtu.be/yy16KFzM4XU.
We then arrived in Hiker Heaven which is an awesome place. Like Scout and Frodo the owner of the place lets hikers stay at their place on their 2 acres of land. They have 20 chickens who have free rein of the land, 3 horses and 6 dogs. It’s an amazing place to relax and let our knees rest up before we head into the desert.
Here Joal also got his first hobo haircut which proved hairdressing doesn’t run in the family. As a result Joal now has a buzz cut.