Cajon Pass(341.9) to Campsite(361.7) 19.8 Miles
After eating like ravenous dogs yesterday you would think we would be satisfied, but when the alarm went off this morning the first thing on our minds was continental breakfast. We were in the lobby at six sharp. Everyone else ate several Belgian waffles. I settled for a banana, blueberry muffin, and a cup of coffee. After breakfast we attempted to clean up the room a little. Feeling bad for the housekeeper we decided to leave her a $5 tip. The Cajon Pass Best Western was amazingly hiker friendly. Evac and I were the first to leave and we were back on trail by 7:30. Due to a 28 mile dry stretch we were carrying 5L of water. That wasn't very much fun considering we did nothing but go uphill all day long.
We managed to get turned around leaving the train tunnel and it took us awhile to find where the trail went. Eventually we got back on track and began the long climb. After five miles we took our first break. It only took us an hour and a half. We hit a water cache so everyone drank a liter of water and refilled a liter.
For the next five miles we all hiked pretty much together. Hawkeye set a quick pace and I definitely struggled to keep up. I love climbing uphill and I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting my climbing legs. We were slowly gaining elevation. The maximum grade of the trail is 30%. Most of the day we hovered around 6-10%, but anything past that and it was very hard work.
We wound our way across a lot of mountains today. I don't think I have ever done 20 continuous miles of uphill. By the end of the day I felt like I was walking through molasses, but I still managed to keep up a 3 mph pace. We took more breaks as the day wore on.
To add to the difficulty we finally started to see the dreaded Poodle Dog Bush. For such a sweet sounding plant it is vicious. It grows in areas that have had fire damage. If you touch it you get a horrible rash with blisters. Imagine poison oak on steroids.
It has a very strong odor of marijuana when it is blooming. We spent a few miles watching every step trying to avoid it. I think we will be dealing with it for the next few hundred miles. It was very mentally taxing to keep an eye out for it.
Some of the uphills were made even more difficult by steep drop offs and loose rock. One wrong step and you could easily slide a few hundred feet down off the mountain.
With only 2.2 miles to go, I finally hit the wall. I kept my head down and managed to push through. The last few miles are always the hardest. Just before reaching our predetermined camp spot we came across two trail maintainers. They are the first I have seen out here. They had a chainsaw to cut down trees that were blocking the trail. The pct is open to equestrian riders as well as hikers. I have been looking forward to seeing a horse on the trail for weeks. I finally got my wish. The trail maintainers had ridden in on horseback. The only difficulty was the horses were blocking the path. We had to go offtrail on a steep slope to get around them. By this point my legs were shot and it was a very hard maneuver.
Once we finally made it to camp we quickly started to setup. Usually I like to sit down for a few minutes before I setup, but today I did it immediately. I knew if I sat down first it would be much harder to get anything done. Instead of cooking dinner I ate my Subway sandwich that I packed out. It was delicious.
I'm camped on a ridge at 8,200'. It's going to be another cold night, but I have a great view.
We hope to catch up to Outro tomorrow morning in Wrightwood. Today was definitely a butt kicker, but I loved the feeling of climbing all day. It is probably the hardest 20 miles I've done so far.
There's a quality of legend about freaks.
Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats.