Some important terms to know for long distant trails:
NOBO – Northbound (Mexico to Canada)
SOBO – Southbound (Canada to Mexico)
Yo-yo – Complete the trail one direction, turn around and hike it again the other way (yep, crazy right?)
Flip Flop – completing the whole trail, but hopping around to different parts of the trail, typically due to weather (ex: start at Mexican border north to the Sierras, hop to northern CA to hike north to Canada, then back to Sierras to hike south bound)
LASH – Long Ass Section Hike (ex: 1500 miles of hiking)
Ah, the McDonald’s at Cajon Pass. It’s the closest McDonald’s to trail so far, making it a destination for a majority of hikers passing through. We arrived at McDonald’s at the end of breakfast time, joining a few other hikers who had made it in earlier that morning. We enjoyed a nice mix of breakfast and lunch foods (looking at you, nuggets). After two hours of feasting, we decided it was time to start hitching towards Wrightwood, with the plan being to get to Wrightwood and hike southbound on the trail for the duration of the 27 mile section from Cajon Pass to Wrightwood. Why not do 27 miles down hill without water instead of 27 miles uphill without water?
On our way out of McDonald’s, we ran into a hiker we had met a few weeks before. We tell Patch our plan to section hike south and he’s on board! So, back in for another round of lunch and to pack out some burgers for tomorrow’s lunch. With our bellies and lunch bags packed full of McDonald’s, we quickly get a hitch all the way into Wrightwood. We were advised to hit the hardware store for all the hiker information in town, as well as a free gift.
Once there, we found a wonderful trail angel by the name of Mary who hosted the three of us plus another hiker, Fireman, for the night. We enjoyed the day in Wrightwood eating our weight in burgers and Mexican food, checking out the farmers market, and grabbing a few extra snacks for our somewhat of a sack pack. We were not actually slack packing since we still had all of our stuff with us since we weren’t sure if we would do the whole 27 miles in one shot. But our packs were lighter with only one day of food, so it felt like a slack pack.
The next morning, Mary gave the four of us a ride out to the trailhead, with Fireman continuing on his path north and the three of us delinquents heading south. Not only was heading south a good idea because it is downhill, but it was a great opportunity to kind of mess with all the other hikers we had made friends with in the past couple weeks. They would be on the correct path heading north, but see us and be like, ‘Wait a second, why are you here, why are you going the opposite direction?’ So, Hulk & Patch both enjoyed taunting the hikers a little bit. Of course, we wouldn’t lead them in the wrong direction, just confuse some for a few moments before they were like, ‘No, we’re heading the right way’. Well, we are headed McDonald’s again, so maybe we’re heading the right way! Haha!
The three of us enjoyed a nice day cruising down the open hillside, encouraging our fellow hikers as we passed them. Another beautiful aspect of going downhill is I tend to stay focused on the ground ahead of me, just trying to survive, when we have a long hot uphill. But I can look up on the downhill, enjoying the expensive panorama playing out in front of me.
The bad thing about mountainside hiking is mountainside pooping. It seems the only time I have to go to the bathroom is when it is the absolute most inconvenient time ever. But this gave me a new opportunity as I was hiking along somewhat of a rock cliff, with nowhere to go to the bathroom as it was a pretty shear up and shear down. I found a nice medium size rock, did my business on top of the rock, then chucked the rock off the cliffside. I figured this was a practical alternative since I couldn’t leave trail to go to the bathroom without risking my life. Of course, I pack out my wipe. I don’t leave those behind, just a little bit of poop all the way down the cliffside, far from where people hike.
When we finally reached the bottom of this mountainside, we still had about 10 miles to go through the ground level on the little desert hills before actually reaching the glorious McDonald’s. As the evening sun was starting to fade away to night, we decided to book a room at the Best Western adjacent to said McDonald’s. Not only did that prevent us from having to find & set up camp in the dark, but they had a hot tub which is a blessing for hikers with sore muscles. We were rewarded after a long day of hiking with a beautiful dusty rose desert sunset sweeping the entire valley around us. This started my first evening hike on the PCT. Around that time, we reached my first marathon distance of 26 miles and we still had some to go.
As our hike progressed, the sun did not. So we begin my first night hike of the PCT. We navigated our way along the rail road and highway by headlamp. We picked our way along, finishing those last few miles to the illuminated McDonald’s ahead. We gorged on our hard earned nuggets, before hobbling our way across the intersection to the Best Western. Upon check-in, I instructed Steve to rinse off his legs before we got into the hot tub as I didn’t want to be sitting in a pool of grey dirty hiker water. The hotel manager was very hiker friendly and even let us soak late since we didn’t arrive until 10 o’clock, which is closing time for the pool. We promised to be quiet and he would let us stay in the hot tub for an extra half hour. What a wonderful man!
We indulged at the hotel breakfast the next morning, chatting with other hikers who’d also opted for a hotel room. (I’d reached my fill of McDonald’s.) After a morning hot tub soak, it was time to hitch hike back to Wrightwood so we could resupply and resume on our northbound hike as it was originally planned.
A little bit of non traditional hiking plans help keep it interesting and help break up the monotony of a continuous foot path North, as many people prefer to do. For Steve & I, we just like to hike in a way that will make it the most fun for us. We were very happy to have Patch join us for the adventure as well!