This past summer I spent some time on the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail which winds from Mexico to Canada. I’ve decided to post two journal entries from this adventure here, enjoy.
Sometime in June in the desert
Well here I am, off the trail. I hitched to Warner Springs with Michelle Wilson, a mail driver who acted surprised when she picked me up. “I thought all you guys were through the desert by now!” she said. “I’ve decided to book it to the Sierra.” I told her. After a hitch back towards Julian with a horseshoe maker I’ve found myself sitting behind Julian Pie Company at a picnic bench. Tomorrow morning I need a hitch to Ramona in order to catch a few buses and trains to Lancaster where I can get a bus that will take me twenty four miles from Kennedy Meadows; the accepted ending of the desert and beginning of the South Sierra Wilderness. For now I am bumming with nothing but my backpack and two bloody feet. Fortunately gas stations sell liquor here in the great state of California so I picked up a half pint of Fireball to get me through the night. I should have picked up a full pint.
A few moments ago a helicopter was circling above me. My first thought was, “Oh shit, lost hiker!”, “rattlesnake?”. Turns out there was an accident up the road. The copter landed not forty yards from where I sit, sending my thermarest across the parking lot and launching dust into the atmosphere. From the distance the dust mixed with light from the general store and it looked as if the mountain in the background was on fire. This was my first thought, I said “here we go, this whole place is about to go up.” Is it sick that I wish there had been a fire? A rescue team shoved a wrapped up figure into the rear of the helicopter and as quickly as it happened it was over. It lifted once again scattering dust so thick I could feel it on the tip of my tongue. A girl with a backpack and a stuffed animal walked away from the scene and sat on the step of the store. She almost looked like a PCT hiker, but then again it seems so far a lot of people in Cali look like hikers. I walked to her and stuttered as I asked if she was OK. She said yes and didn’t seem to want to talk. I walked back to my table and here I am, about to swig some more Fireball, hoping no one shows up and that this adventure keeps moving in a safe direction.
A drunk woman at the gas station earlier asked me, “What makes people want to do that? Walk through the desert in the middle of summer!” I struggled to find a profound answer for her. “I have no idea.” I said. I guess we would have to look at the context of my situation. But we didn’t have time for that. She was nice enough to wish that she could give me a ride. She said, “Just stand over there, some pretty girl will pick you up in no time.” They hurried off with their twelver of Steel Reserve to fuck somewhere on the mountain behind us and I am still here smoking cigarettes and drinking alone at a picnic table behind some dumpsters in the dark.
I made it to Kennedy Meadows the day before Independence Day. Took the bus from Lancaster. Lancaster was as sad and depressing as I expected. Stayed at Knights Motel right next door to an In And Out, I took a pill, did laundry, made two trips to In And Out and watched a Back To The Future marathon. It was wonderful. The Eastern Sierra Transit bus left at 2:00pm, it took us up through the desert towards Mojave. At a Mojave gas station a guy named Dave boarded the bus and I overheard him telling the driver he needed to get to Kennedy Meadows. I gave him a fist bump. Dave is a taller, older dude in his late 40s. He lives near San Francisco where he works as a bike mechanic. He told me how a man left him a bag of cans while he was waiting at the Mojave bus stop. “I suppose it’s time to shave.” he said. “Nah,” I replied, “those cans coulda paid for your fair man!”
When the bus dropped us off we were very much in the middle of nowhere and I cursed. “We’re still in the fuckin desert!” It was maybe 110 degrees and we needed to walk twenty four miles straight up. Fortunately I was able to hitch with a nice Singaporean couple who planned on doing a section to Yosemite. Although I’m pretty sure they are gonna die out here. His girlfriend was shocked to find out there would be no cell service for some time. This is where my adventure begins, here at Kennedy Meadows. I met Hal 9000 and Lawless. Hal started on the first and Lawless at Campo. The next day would be July 4th and we decided to take a zero together and hike out the next day, just to soak everything in before enjoying the 200 miles of desolation ahead of us.
This was maybe the strangest 4th of July I’ve ever had. It started waking up in a teepee in the dirt with faint sounds of the Grateful Dead coming in through the tattered brown canvas. I knew I had to get up because at noon there would be a parade coming up the hill. In a town like this, pop. 200, you never want to miss a parade. I sat at a table up high on the side deck of the general store overlooking the last of the chapparells rolling over the hills in the south. Hal was with me, also Dave, Lawless and Caitlin (Lawless’ trail girlfriend who seems to have been following him in her car up the trail ever since Deep Creek hot spring) and Ted Glazinski, not to be confused with Ted Kazinski, of who our Ted had never heard of. The parade consisted of three or four tractors and several off road vehicles being driven by children a bit too young to be operating heavy machinery. Some guy showed up in a single seat go kart with his dog. We drank at that table and ate burgers for several hours before piling in Caitlyn’s white 2015 Lexus and heading to Grumpy Bears.
We were told by the owner of this tiny bar/restaurant there would be live music and great food. We pulled up and a rainstorm began surrounding us. We shot-gunned Tecate in front of a sign that said, “No alcohol in parking lot!” This was our first disrespectful hippie action. In the bar we sensed a cold vibe. Like maybe we had just crashed someone’s family reunion. People mostly looked at us with disgusted faces, a few men in the corner put their Stetsons back on and left through the back door. I knew nothing good could happen here, especially after noticing the way Lawless’ mouth can run. After a few beers we were on the porch sharing a cigarette. An older local woman with short grey hair joined us and was listening to Lawless tell a story about a group of Japanese soldiers who continued to fight in a forest in the pacific for years after the war had ended. Another local joined us, she was a bit overweight and had short black hair shaved up on one side. She interrupted Lawless several times until he had had enough. “Would you just shut the fuck up for a minute?” he told her in his New York accent. She quickly retreated indoors. “Just wait you guys, in just a minute some cowboy motherfucker is going to peek his head out here and try to start shit.” he said. “Yeah, how much you wanna bet he’ll be wearing a cowboy hat and some kinda American flag shirt.” I said. Lawless continued and right on beat the door creaked open. Here is our guy, sure enough wearing a hat and tucked in sleeveless flag shirt. He was short but projected the energy that he could throw a mean punch. “Is there a problem out here?” he asked, a little red in the face and obnoxiously dominant. Lawless diffused the situation like an expert. He returned back to the bar clearly fuming over what had happened for the rest of the hour. We had a few more out of the trunk of Caitlyn’s car, we were leaning on the railing leading to the front door when our friend shows up again. This time looking even more like an angry dog. He shoves me and my headband falls out of my hair. Hal, Dave and I back off, he keeps coming at us ready to bite, yelling and smelling like liquor. “Get!” he says, “Get off this property, down to the road and take a left!” We laughed a bit, not sure if he was giving us directions or still trying to fight. The storm had cleared and now a wonderful sun was turning the mountains a bright and comfortable red. He is being shadowed by the owner of the bar and we are not sure if he is trying to fight as well or is there to make sure sharp objects stay in everyone’s pockets. He starts sprinting towards us and we take off, effectively running us out of town. I look back once more and seven or eight other angry looking people are on the front porch with arms crossed staring. Here we are running and laughing when Hal struggles for a breath, “Dude, whatabout Lawless?” We knew he was still inside and there would be a problem. We sneak back through the brush around back and try to signal him with our headlamps. Lawless comes out the front door and we continue to lie there in the sand. “Hey, there’s the other one” someone yells in a slurred country accent. “Hey boys, ya’ll seen my friends?” Lawless asks. “Yeah, your cocksuckin friends went that way.” says our proud cowboy buddy. Lawless cups his hands and yells, “Hey, cocksuckers where are ya!” Fortunately he got out with his girls help, she dragged him by the arm to her car and shoved him inside. She picked us up and drove us back to camp. That night Lawless and his girl got in a fight, it sounded very much like he punched her in the face. He packed up and I set up my tent for her. Next morning we all had breakfast together as if nothing had happened. Hal, Lawless and I hit the trail. It was the last time I saw Dave.