May 26, Day 22
19.7 miles [395.9]
Slept in until 7:15 a.m. fully aware we had to climb the remaining 1,000 vertical feet of Mount Baden-Powell. Met some nice people at the summit and took a relaxing breakfast stop. More gorgeous clouds today but my knees and feet are shot from the sheer amount of ups and downs. Passed by what felt like 100 Scouts headed towards Little Jimmy campground; I remember camping there as a young boy with my Troop. Crossed back and forth over Highway 2, eventually taking Buckhorn detour and roadwalking for nearly three miles. It was completely overcast. Occasionally a patch of clear would appear, quickly gobbled up by the moving mist. Heavy clouds filled the foothills below and trees above. I wore my puffy for most of the afternoon. Found some magic at Islip Saddle; Doritos, brownies, and some lavender-flavored after-dinner mints whose flavor had me contemplating if there was any food I wouldn’t eat. We walked through a very full Cooper Canyon, a popular campground for local Angelenos. A family enjoying their campfire saw us quietly walking by. “What you got in those bags?” asked the mother pointing at our backpacks Corona in hand. Adam and I smiled at each other. “Everything” doesn’t mean the same thing to weekend warriors.
May 27, Day 23
25 miles [420.9]
It’s hard to believe we got trail magic on four separate occasions today alone. First was at Camp Glenwood where we met Maxx, who welcomed us inside with chocolate chip pancakes and fresh strawberries. Adam let me steal a spoonful of peanut butter. Maxx spied my Philmont ball cap, which I had switched out in Big Bear, and asked if I had been to the Ranch. I smiled big. We talked about his trek, the flood, and amazing staff. Next, we made it to Three Points junction and met JT, a thru-hiker from 2014, who tossed us both a PBR. Didn’t even make it three miles before magic spot number three; a stash of craft beers in the shade of a magnificent Douglas fir. Miles melted by. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, we were graciously provided with dinner by a couple who are planning on hiking next season. They had an easy-up at Mill Creek Fire station and all the sandwich accoutrements. I made a chicken-avocado-cheddar and washed it down with a Coke. To top it off, they even knew about Philmont—their kid went on trek. We thanked them until it became borderline uncomfortable. Did two more miles and set up camp under a nearly full moon. Maybe it’s all the beer I drank, but it was hard not to think about the Ranch.
May 28, Day 24
24.1 miles [445.0]
Greeted by another stellar desert sunrise upon waking. Temperature hovered in the high 90's all day which made for tough hiking. Pushed 15 miles to the North Fork Ranger Station where I refilled water, bought a Coke, and did extensive feet-maintenance. I could have sat there in the shade all afternoon. Another eight miles to the Acton KOA which offered $10 showers and frozen treats. Couldn't wrangle a deal with the attendant so I settled for a chocolate Dove bar and decided another spigot foot wash was all I needed—the 'off-limits' pool called my name the entire time. Marginally refreshed we began to hike out, only to be stopped by a pair of couples dining alfresco in the RV section. “You guys hungry?” they yelled as we walked by. We smiled, I still feel awkward accepting such benevolent charity. We sat and ate kebabs and pasta salad, everyone shared camping mishap stories. They insisted we take a bottle of wine and Perrier and beamed when I called them “Trail Angels”. My outlook on the day has changed; fellowship is more renewing than a hot shower.
May 29, Day 25
17.6 miles [462.6]
Up at 5 a.m. and to no surprise it got hot almost immediately. Luckily the terrain was fairly easy into Agua Dulce. Vasquez Rocks was worth a return trip. Bought a strawberry Arizona iced tea and hitched in a truck bed over to Hiker Heaven to wait out the midday heat. “Numbers” gave us the run-down, I signed up for a shower and laundry immediately—it had been over two weeks. I lazed around in the shade with other hikers, sipping on the bottle of white wine we got yesterday, and talked about surviving for nearly 500 miles. Got drunk pretty quickly since I had only eaten a few snacks. Refreshed, we went back into town for resupply. Adam and I gorged ourselves on an eight-piece fried chicken dinner and a bagged kale salad from the deli counter. Pumped for Casa de Luna tomorrow, I’ve heard it’s an iconic location in trail culture. My clothes smell fresh, I am clean, I have food. Life’s good.