May 17, Day 13
17.3 miles [229.0]
It wasn't a bad dream, our shelter blew down before dawn—it sounded like a tornado. Capitalized on the misfortune and got an earlier start. Once again, “Mio” lead the charge while the rest of us tried to keep up. Entered Section C and was blown away by the views. Angular piles of rusted rock among dozens of agave species surrounded me. At the Whitewater Preserve junction, we found a note from “Mio”. He has always been trying to catch his friends; it was only a matter of time before he split. I sincerely hope I see him again. We celebrated in his honor by taking a long siesta at Whitewater River to beat the midday heat. Everyone dropped down to their skivvies and took a refreshing dip. We played spades and passed around Adam's small flask of vodka. I won by going nil on the last hand—a real dirty move! Left and busted out another nine miles before dinner. Knee hurt, but not nearly in the same way it has the past few days. Improvement.
May 18, Day 14
19.7 miles [248.7]
Gang wanted to wake at 4 a.m., but when my alarm went off no one was moving. Dozed for another hour then got moving. Followed Mission Creek up a canyon for 10 miles. Tons of elevation but a few clouds made it tolerable. Took another 4-hour lunch break to avoid the heat, hydrate, and play more spades. Darby shared her kippers with me at lunch; I might have discovered a new item I can pack out. It paired well with a dollar lemon pie and several spoonfuls of peanut butter. Lots of laughs with Ryan and Mitchy; I'm still amazed we get to hike with another pair of brothers. Stoked for Big Bear tomorrow. Stinky, grimy, sore feet, but my knee's feeling good.
May 19, Day 15
17.4 miles [266.1]
Managed 17 miles to Highway 18 on very little food. Grandma's cookies, a packet of ramen, and a tortilla—I was running on fumes. At the Highway I met “Jitterbug”, a thru-hiker from '16 who cooked us tacos. Said our thanks and hitched into Big Bear where we all agreed on more Mexican food. Darby and Mitchy split a vegetarian “Big Juan”—a 7-pound burrito in less than 45 minutes for a free T-shirt. We were all a few pitchers of margaritas in and they had only made it halfway. The hostess kindly reminded everyone a man ate two in the allotted time. We digested and played spades covered by a small sliver of shade in the parking lot and waited for “Mountain Mama”. Her and “Papa Smurf” are trail angels who have opened up their house to hikers. I'm glad we had their contact info for a place to sleep. Otherwise, I had drawn the short straw to rent a U-Haul under my name for the next two days. Town is huge, I certainly don't remember it being this expansive on our family trips all those years ago.
May 20, Day 16
0 miles [266.1]
Got a decent night's sleep for being directly under a streetlight. It was a slow morning, we played cards to pass some time. Our parents arrived and showered us with love and food. I sent back a camera lens. We went to an authentic German deli for lunch, their potato salad was unreal. I spent about 45 minutes after lunch calling Sprint trying to unlock my cell phone from the previous owner. Jesus Christ, I'd rather be hiking. We regrouped with our hiking family and piled in our car for a resupply at the Dollar Tree. Back at the house, we said our love-you’s and thank-you’s and watched our folks drive off. I overheard someone say the toilet was “severely clogged”, a few hikers who had arrived that morning seemed uncomfortable about the situation and began to leave. I saw “Mountain Mama” high-tail it into through the front door with what I later confirmed to be a drain snake. With absolutely zero experience, Adam and I politely took over. Two YouTube videos later, we were trained experts in home plumbing. I luckily fished out a rogue Dixie cup from the wreckage. We cleaned up everything, going through an entire roll of paper towels in the process. It was stressful and exhilarating to say the least. “Papa Smurf” returned home and quickly relaxed. Zero days are weird; I can’t wait to get hiking again. Knees feel good!