I really wanted to love this section of the trail. All I had been hearing from previous hikers is how it was horrible and they wanted to get done with it as quick as possible.
“How could someone dislike a whole section of the PCT?!” I asked Lingo our first morning in the section. Well my question was soon answered. Detours, road-walks, long water-less stretches, poodle dog bush, and nights of hiking miles and miles passed what you wanted to hike, in search of finding a spot to camp. I really tried to stay positive during Section D, but it was tough!
We started Section D at Cajon Pass. We had just left McDonalds around 3pm, and we were feeling pretty great. A handful of our fellow hiker trash friends were getting a hotel that night to “prepare” for the climb out. The way they talked about the climb, and how it was hot, hard, and exposed sounded scary! We just wanted to get it over with so we left in the afternoon. Our belly were nice and full with a days worth of indulgence at Mickey D’s, I had my I Pod blasting a mix of Metallica, Godsmack, and Queensryche, and I powered my way up that mountain! Leaving in the afternoon was a great idea because most of the trail was in the shade. But it was steep, windy, and long. Once we got towards the top there was a jeep road that we were able to take as our first detour around the poisonous poodle dog bush! We got on the jeep road, and the sun was starting to set. We found a perfect spot to camp off the road where we could see the city below. Normally city lights aren’t my cup of tea, but there was something beautiful and comforting about them that night. We slept warm and cozy all night, and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Day one of Section D was good.
The next morning we covered up, like we had been told to do, so that we wouldn’t touch any of the poodle-dog bush. Poodle dog is a plant that takes over in burn areas. It makes you itchy, and has an outbreak similar to poison oak. I’ve heard nightmares of hikers who have walked through it, or camped in it at night, and had to be hospitalized! So we wanted to be covered up since we heard it was in this section. Well, day two had hardly any poodle dog bush! It did however, happen to be blazing hot starting at 7am, with no wind, and no tree coverage. I had on my long sleeve shirt, and long pants. I felt like there was a rain forest in my pants I was sweating so much! I finally changed after 12 miles or so, when we had hardly seen any of the dreaded plant. We hiked through Mountain High Resort, and it was covered in green grass where the snow usually is. It was really neat walking through it! We hiked 17 miles by 3:30pm, and ended at Highway 2 Angeles Crest. There were some other hikers there on the road waiting for a ride into Wrightwood. They were going to stay at the Pines Motel, and the owner was on his way to pick them up. He zoomed into the parking lot in a little red rice rocket. We asked him if he had any more rooms available. “Only one. Big room. Two beds, two couches. Sleeps 8 people. Usually $120 but for you $99… $89! You can stay for $89!” He left and told us he would be back in 20 minutes with his bigger car. When he came back, he was driving a Dodge conversion van, and it came screeching into the parking lot, bass thumping, Rhianna blasting. We got in the van. The windows had curtains, and tvs on the back of the seats. “Sunflower seeds?” he asked Lingo, and pointed down into the cup holders, both driver and passanger cup holder filled with seeds. “Dill flavor.” he added. The highway might have well not have had a line down the middle, because the van was going all over the place. I felt like I was in a scene of the Hangover, with Chow driving us around. We pulled up to the motel, and it was full of our hiker trash friends! It was so exciting to see faces we hadn’t seen in the last week! We split the room with our friend Glitter (formerly known as Rob,) and Rocket Llama. The funniest part is that since there was only 4 of us splitting a room that sleeps 8, the motel manager and his wife kept asking if we could fit more hikers in our room since all the motel rooms got booked!
Our plan was to stay that night and do our resupply shopping the next morning, and leave in the afternoon. Leaving town is always hard, and we felt like taking a full zero day would allow us to get too comfortable. We can’t get too comfortable and get sucked in! In the morning we went to an awesome bakery where I bought I cinnamon twist pastry, a fresh from the oven most delicious chocolate croissant of my life, and a peanut butter and chocolate muffin (I packed out the muffin for breakfast the following day.) Lingo also got a cinnamon twist and an apple turnover. The food was seriously amazing.
We got a hitch out of Wrightwood back to the trail that afternoon. We hiked up Mount Baden Powell, which was named after the first Boy Scout leader. It was a Saturday evening, and there were quite a few day hikers there. Its a very popular trail, and reminded me of Cowles Mountain, except this trail kicked my butt! It was 4 miles up to the top of constant switchbacks. The locals were friendly though and asked if we were “thru hikers,” which when we told them we were, they thought was “so cool!” The mountain summitted at 9,407 feet, and had snow towards the top. The view, along with the altitude, was breathtaking. It was cold up top, and the sun was going to set soon. We ate dinner at the summit, and pressed on for another mile or two until we found a spot that leveled out enough to camp among some trees. We must have found the only spot.. There was hardly anything since we were on a ridge, and the wind was bone-chilling and strong. Another hiker, Blue Yonder, was also camping there. We all watched the sunset, and went to sleep. It was a cold night.
The next day we hiked only 16 miles to a trail camp. That day was weird. We hiked our normal length of time, but didn’t make our normal amount of progress. We hiked the first road-walk of this section. It was a detour around an endangered toad. Poor toad. We also encountered lots of day hikers over the course of the day. There was even a “meet up” of hikers at one of the trails. There must have been around 60 of them. When we passed them I felt anxious. They were loud, and I heard multiple conversations. They smelled too! The smell was so strong. It smelled like laundry detergent and clean people. I had gotten used to body odor and stentch. When we got to the trail camp we were exhausted. We wanted to get more mileage in, but it was almost 6pm and we were discouraged and tired. There were a few other hikers there, including this cool older hiker named Raspberry. He felt like he had been hiking all day too without going his normal hiking distance. It was nice to know another hiker felt the same way we did. We ate dinner and decided to camp there that night.
The next day was full of poodle dog bush. It was everywhere. The trail had the bush to the left, to the right, and even in the trail. Big poodle dog, little poodle dog, and incognito poodle dog hiding within other plants! We had to do the “dance” around it the whole day. Our hiking speed plummeted. We had to keep focused with every step we took. It was mentally and emotionally draining. We ended up hiking our longest hike that day though, so go us! We did 23.5 miles, mostly due to looking for a spot to camp, but everything was overgrown with, you guessed it, poodle dog bush! We hiked to the Mill Creek Fire Station since that was the closest water source and we were almost out of water. It was about 7pm. The station was closed, and we decided to just stealth camp there for the night. We walked around the back of the station and a couple hikers were there set up! They said a woman who worked at the station said it would be alright to camp as long as we were gone before the firefighters got there in the morning. It was windy and cold so we set up our tent next to a trailer for the hot shots, and there storage. We tried to be stealthy, but when the sun set a street light came on directly over us. Stealth camp fail!! Rocket Llama showed up and set up next to us. We all slept with our buffs over our eyes to block the light. It was awful, but we were too lazy to move the tent.
The next day included a road walk up Mount Gleason to avoid the poodle dog bush that took over the forest where the Station Fire came through. It was devastating. We passed the Station Fire memorial, and it was a very beautiful but sad memorial. It got cold that afternoon, and started to sprinkle. The clouds were dark and scary. We hiked another 22 miles that day into the desert towards Agua Dolce. We had trouble finding a place to camp, so we camped on a ridge, that had a little bit of clearing. The sunset was beautiful.
We hiked 7 miles into Agua Dolce the next morning, and ran into Rocket Llama in town. We found some large dandelions and made a wish. She stopped at the cafe for lunch, and we pushed on into Hiker Heaven where we took a nero, and a zero! Finally!