May 17, 2018
Roughly 220 miles due south by car.
I woke up around 4:30am without the aid of an alarm. Ghosthiker and Sparky were still sleeping but I assumed they’d be awake any minute, so I quietly snuck into the bathroom. They still weren’t up when I came out so I grabbed my phone and money and walked to the nearby gas station for coffee since nothing else was open yet.
My feelings from the previous night still weighed heavily on my mind as I sipped my coffee while walking back to the hotel and I asked myself why I was there. Really, why was I hiking? Why was it so important that I finish this? I didn’t have an answer, but neither did I ask myself if I should quit. It never even occurred to me as an option. I was in this for the duration, whether I liked it or not.
When Sparky and Ghosthiker awoke, we all threw our laundry into the washing machine and headed over to Kristy’s Diner across the street for breakfast. By the time we got the rental car and checked out of the hotel is was 11:30am and we were already hungry again, so we went back to our favorite restaurant in Ridgecrest, Ephen Tacos. Theirs were literally the best street tacos I’ve ever had.
As we left Ridgecrest heading south, I rode in the backseat updating my trail journal until I could feel the car sickness coming on as it always did whenever I tried to focus on reading in the car. I turned off my phone and looked out the window, watching the flat desert roll past in the wrong direction. It was so surreal, seeing almost barren landscape studded with the occasional and seemingly abandoned town with a 4-way stop and nothing else. I had to keep reminding myself that this had been my idea. We could have gone to Disney. Sigh.
We decided to head straight to Julian and work our way north from there. We made a quick detour to the ASICS outlet store near Ontario, CA, in the hopes that I’d find some better shoes for the Sierra. My New Balance trainers had served me well through the last bit of desert, but they’d struggled over the more rugged terrain going up to Trail Pass. Sadly, ASICS doesn’t seem to think women who run or hike have feet wider than a man’s narrow foot. It was also an outlet store so the employee working there, while he was extremely friendly and as helpful as he could be, didn’t have a lot of things in stock and didn’t really seem to grasp the concept of long-distance hiking and the kind of shoes such an endurance sport required.
Fortunately, there was a New Balance factory store just 1.3 miles away, so we headed there next. Not only did I find trail-specific shoes and some good insoles with arch support that I really hoped would work for me, but there were also at least two other pairs of shoes that, if these didn’t work or whenever I needed to buy another pair, I knew exactly what to get. And the ones I got were only $59, plus they had a sale so the $40 insoles were only $20. With the way I’d been feeling lately, it was nice to win a little.
We got back on the road and headed further south, stopping for a quick coffee and ice cream break at the McDonalds at Cajon Pass where we met lots of late-start hikers heading north. We took photos and sent them to Alias, since he was hiking with us last time we were here. We wished him well and hoped he was safe.
It was late in the afternoon by the time we got close to Julian, but rather than pay for another hotel, we all unanimously decided we’d rather save our money and camp at Pioneer Mail Trailhead. Ghosthiker had skipped the section from there to Scissors Crossing, and since we were all clean and well-rested from the previous night, it only made sense to camp so Ghosthiker could get a nice, early start the next morning. We stopped at a small, local taco place and got some tasty homemade Mexican food, then it was off to the picnic area to camp.
Unfortunately, the wind cutting through the picnic area was no less fierce that night than it had been when I’d camped there two months ago and Ghosthiker’s tent collapsed in the night! She’d spent the night sleeping in the back seat of the rental car and hiked out at first light. What it had taken me two and a half days to do before, Ghosthiker planned to do in one, long day of hiking.
The wind, as I said, was pretty fierce. We’d arrived early in the evening and were setting up our tents practically in the dark. Before I crawled into my tent to sleep I snuck behind some bushes to pee and completely failed to notice that my period had started! So I went to sleep none the wiser. Ugh. So much for several pairs of clean laundry.