317.9 to Cajon Pass (342)
Daily miles: 24.1
When you thru-hike you go to bed dirty and wake up dirty and spend the whole day getting dirtier. You fall asleep quickly if the moon isn’t too bright. Try not to drink too much water before you go to bed, because nights are cold and nobody likes getting out of a warm sleeping bag and walking barefoot over rocks at 2 in the morning.
Today is the day where everyone hikes really fast because there’s a McDonald’s close to trail, along with a hiker-friendly and cheap Best Western hotel.
There’s a beautiful valley with hills rising up to form a mesa and the sun makes shadows over the grasses and dirt. Below me are small collections of one or two room houses and I see people milling about, doing Sunday morning things. A woman hangs clothes out on a line to dry. Pickup trucks putter back and forth along the roads either headed home from a long night out, or else going to church. Maybe both. Cows moo in a pasture and a dirty irrigation creek cuts across the land. Who lives out here? It feels like a place of nothing, but people are here living their ordinary lives. It’s easy to forget that this trail passes through the backyards of some folks, which lends it a homely sort of grace.
Silverwood Lake comes along suddenly and I walk it’s banks for a few miles. People ride on boats and jet-skis and I hear them laughing. It reminds me of my youth and the days spent on Norfork Lake.
I eat lunch at a mostly abandoned campground and gather water from a spigot. I wish for a concession stand, but that’s further along the lake and off trail, so I decide not to go. I eat too much and hike with a heavy stomach up and up. There’s rapid gunfire from a nearby shooting range, and I listen as a mother tries to console a crying child.
The trail miles fall away and Cajon Pass draws nearer. The sand hills fall away too and I come to the great vista looking out over highway 10 in the valley below. Beyond are the 8000+ ft mountains I’ll climb tomorrow.
I eat a Big Mac, my first in such a long time (have I ever eaten a Big Mac?), fries, sausage biscuit, orange soda, peanut butter shake, bag of glazed doughnuts, and a package of Hostess chocolate cakes. It’s a birthday feast; I’m 31 years old. I share a room with Blake and Socks, and everyone goes to sleep with clean feet in this, our moonless place for a night.