Miles today: 15
Total miles: 384
We had a shuttle ride back to the trailhead at 7 today, so Papa Bear, Rotisserie, Lunchbox, Katie and I packed up to go early this morning. We stopped by the coffee shop for a quick breakfast before, and met up with the Chain Gang, who were going to leave Wrightwood later this afternoon. We said "we'll see you down the trail!" and shipped out.
On the way we teased Lunchbox about his pack. He consistently has a very heavy pack weight, but today it was so massive that I was unable to lift it one handed. When I asked what he was carrying that made it so heavy, Lunchbox said, "five liters of wine," as if it were obvious. It was his birthday in a few days and I think he wanted to celebrate. Although carrying 50 pounds of food, water and wine wouldn't be my idea of celebrating.
At the trailhead we knew we had quite a climb ahead of us: Mt Baden-Powell, and it climbed 4,000 feet of elevation in four miles. Katie and I were hiking with Rotisserie, Papa Bear, and Milkman, and we stopped at the very bottom of the climb to psych ourselves up for it. We ate snacks, drank some caffeine, and went for it.
The climb was difficult, but constant. I set a slow pace and took my time, walking evenly as we ascended, and even with a very heavy pack full of food, I felt I was doing pretty well. I was proud of myself for being stronger and doing a hike that even a week ago I would have been struggling to complete. It feels good to be a true hiker.
Half way up the mountain we stopped for a water break and we commented how we have almost been on the trail for a month. In some ways, it didn't seem so long, and in other ways, it felt we had been on the trail forever.
"This is home," Papa Bear said, and his words had a ring of truth to them. We had been living on the trail so long that there was suddenly no other way to live - and this was all we had, but it was enough.
As we climbed the rest of the way to the summit, Papa Bear told us another funny story about skittles. He said in Idyllwild he had bought two bags to give to Wocka Wocka and Giddyup when he saw them next, but a day or two passed and he got a sweet tooth craving, so he decided that if he ate one bag, then the remaining bag could be theirs to split.
"And then do you remember that hot afternoon before the Hot Springs, when our energy was running low and we needed a pick me up?" He asked Rotisserie.
"Yes," he agreed.
"Well, that was the second bag," Papa Bear said sheepishly.
We laughed and I pointed out, "at least you have been leaving Giddyup skittles on the trail as you go!"
When we got to the top of Baden-Powell, we dumped off our packs and admired the view. Though elevation climbing can be daunting, usually the view from the top is well worth the effort of the climb. Such was true today. We sat on the ridgeline and ate snacks as we looked out over the top of the world, enjoying the moment. We all had the same thought at the same time: that being there, having climbed to get that far, and enjoying the view, was better than anything else right then. It was a satisfying thought.
The trail went mostly downhill from there, though it was narrow and slippery and hard on the knees. We found a spring and stopped to make dinner near the water source. It was 5pm by then and we had only done 15 miles, but shortly after dinner we came upon such a beautiful campsite that it was difficult to pass up. Rather than put in another 5 miles after such a grueling morning, we set up tents and sat around a bonfire talking and sharing skittles until night fell.