May 21, Day 17
16.2 miles [282.3]
Leaving our host's house was quite challenging. A few hikers still needed to do some errands which felt like it took forever. Adam and I got dropped off at Von's for a few supplies, then waited patiently for our ride to show up. While standing at an intersection, a braceleted arm shot out of a '01 Toyota Camry, waiving a $20 bill. Two girls, their Coachella sticker prominently displayed on the rear window, iced Starbucks in hand, were looking right at us. I yelled back “Hiking!”, then immediately realized I wasn't above accepting free money while I watched them speed off. Oh well. Finally, around noon, we arrived back at Highway 18, resupplied, showered, and rested. I felt amazing. Did 16 miles before setting up camp on top of a small mountain Mitchy insisted we check out. He wasn't wrong, the view was completely worthwhile. Crushed a tuna taco—I could get used to these.
May 22, Day 18
27.8 miles [310.1]
New longest day at 27.8 miles in addition to crossing the 300 mile-marker! Got decent sleep, started hiking by 7 a.m. Didn't talk much with the group, knees felt good so I just kept moving. At one of the Deep Creek Canyon crossings there was a collapsible ice-chest with fresh apples and caramel which was quite refreshing in the afternoon heat. Most of the day just went by until Adam and I arrived a the Deep Creek Hot Springs. I soaked my feet and cleaned off the past few days of dust and sweat in the soothing, warm water. We waited for an hour but our group didn't show up. With daylight left and camping at the hot springs illegal, we did a few more miles while dusk settled in. Finished the day with tuna taco and avoided mosquitoes. I guess they exist in the desert too. Bastards.
May 23, Day 19
25.5 miles [335.6]
Another 25-plus mile day. Had a Snickers and washed my feet on the last crossing of Deep Creek. Made great time and managed 18 miles to Silverwood Lake where we stopped for lunch. I'd noticed over the past few days Adam has been quieter than usual, his playful snarky demeanor replaced with quiet somberness. It was bumming me out. I inquired and he told me he wants more independence, something I'm shocked I didn't realize sooner. We left the lunch spot, not saying another word. I guess I could do this hike alone—I just don't want to that badly. Bad thoughts. It was hard to think about anything else for the remainder of the day. Only the hope of tomorrow's McDonald's was enough to keep my legs moving. We set up camp, distant train horns filled the still air every 20 minutes. While eating dinner, we met “Kickstand” who mentioned he's working on a calendar year triple crown. It took me a few moments to realize the extent of his plans. “Mind if I crash your campsite?” he asks, taking off his pack and pulling out dinner. We both nod, tired from the days efforts. “Man, it's so cool that you guys are doing this. My brother would bitch and moan about Tuna Creations or filtering water.” Nervously laughing, I found myself holding back tears. It had been an exceptionally hard day.
May 24, Day 20
26.1 miles [361.7]
Today hurt the most since it was our third day in a row doing over 25 miles—but I'm still stoked. Woke up covered in dew which made me nervous about packing away my quilt. Made it to McDonald's like it was the last mile of the Boston Marathon. When we arrived we saw “Kickstand” impatiently waiting, he begrudgingly mentioned it was closed due to a power-outage. Also waiting were two other hikers, Will and “Two for Two”. With all layers on we waited in the damp clouds watching tourists and commuters get out, throw a small fit their Micky-D's was closed, and drive off. I wanted to inform them this was our only water source for another 21 miles. After an hour, they finally opened. I ordered a McMuffin, two hash browns, two sausage burritos, and a coffee, devouring it quicker than it took to make. Will, wracked with hiker-hunger, had some trouble understanding exactly what was included in the combo meal, taking several laps with the cashier. I made sure to call him “Combo” for the rest of the day. A quick stop at the gas station for a beer to smash and one to pack out and we were back on trail. The clouds burned off and we were left hiking up a huge hill, hot, exposed, and buzzed. Had another tuna taco and the other Steel Reserve.
May 25, Day 21
14.5 miles [376.2]
Woke up to an island in the sky—a huge bank of clouds covered the valley floor—and saw where we were five days ago. Took a relaxing snack break on the Discovery chair lift at Mountain High. Hitched into Wrightwood and got a free hot dog with fixin's at the market. Resupplied at Jensen's, then celebrated our hard work with a BBQ chicken pizza from Mile High splurging for cinnamon twists, what the heck. Got a ride out from Ed in his BMW 328i and tried to levitate over his leather seats. Neglected to fill up water and found myself needing more only a few miles after starting. Made a naive call to filter water at Jackson Flat which was off trail and probably not necessary. Adam wasn't thrilled. Aimed to get as close to Mount Baden-Powell as possible; the cool evening air made the ascent far more enjoyable. Cloud cover which had hung out all day suddenly began to glow with the setting sun. Rich cotton-candy hues filled the fog around me. It's going to be a cold night.