Wrightwood – cajon Pass
27.5 trail miles + 1 mile to the best western. 4399ft up. 8729ft down.
I slept badly. No, I didn’t sleep badly it just took me forever to get to sleep. I remember seeing 12:30am, then surely I must have gone to sleep. I rejected my 6am alarm and snoozed my 6:30 alarm!
Eventually though I couldn’t put it off anymore. Catwater was putting it off longer than me and only got up after I did! I ate cold pizza for breakfast, a chocolate breakfast drink and the rest of my smoothie. We left the cabin at about 7:30am and headed for the road to hitch back to the trail. We had only been stood there for about 30 seconds when a couple pulled over and offered us a ride. Wrightwood really is one of the most hiker friendly towns. The couple had hosted a lot of northbound hikers this year and they were super happy to be able to help us out. We were super happy we got a ride so quickly.
We were on the trail by 8am. Bundled in all of our layers because it was cold when we left the cabin, but it really wasn’t that cold on the trail and we were too hot within minutes. We had about 6 miles of climbing then it was all downhill from there to Cajon Pass. We went up past the ski lifts and there were a whole bunch of cars and tents around, presumably the hunters. I was going to stop and wait for Catwater at Guffy camp ground but the cars and tents with no people about were a bit creepy. I lost the trail for a bit and had to backtrack which was annoying. I heard a couple of gun shots which sounded more like rocket launchers so that unnerved me a bit.
We eventually got the climbing over with and we started the long descent down to Swarthout canyon. I love the sun streaming through the trees and the light and shadows. Just before we stopped for lunch (cheesy garlic bread with Swiss cheese and Pringles. Delicious. And there are 900 calories in a tube of Pringles for only 5.6oz. I can easily nail a whole tube at home, no wonder I get fat!) we could start to see evidence of a fire that closed the trail earlier in the year. As we carried on it got worse and it became obvious why the trail was closed. The trail was burnt in some places and it’s very washed out in others. I’m a little surprised it’s reopened but maybe that heavy rain we had had washed away a lot of the trail. This section needs some serious maintenance. Some bits were a bit dodgy and you had to be really careful of your step but it was manageable.
The downhill is relentless, it was making my ankles and feet and just my legs in general hurt a lot. When I kicked a rock which bounced off my ankle I had to stop for a moment and gather myself. The pain was all consuming!
We kept going down through the burn, thankfully it wasn’t stupidly hot! We could see the road for ages and it never seemed to get closer, we weaved in and out of the mountains, staying up high on the ridge before descending deep into the canyon. Half way down I heard gunfire, so much gunfire. It went on continuously for a couple of minutes which doesn’t sound that long but it feels like an eternity when it’s so close to you! It was nice to be in the shade but I could feel the heat coming off the rocks, it was an odd sensation, I touched the rocks to see if it was them giving off the heat and it was. 10 miles of downhill after we had stopped for lunch and we were finally at the bottom and the trail flattened out.
A hiker ahead of me had lost his spot tracker and asked us to keep an eye out for it. I found it! I was really pleased to have found it for him because Siesta has been super helpful to us reporting water sources further up the trail.
I made it to the cache, which is a wooden cabinet, and I opened it up to see a little mouse inside! I busied myself with taking pictures of it while I waited for Catwater. It was 5pm and this was our first goal for the day. There was over 6 miles to Cajon Pass which I didn’t think she would want to do, but when she got there she said she wanted to carry on.
My ‘carrot’ is food. Her ‘carrot’ is a best western! She would quite happily call it a day at 4pm after 15 miles, but not when there is the possibility of a bed to sleep in, then she happily bashes out 28 miles! Cajon Pass is a rest stop off interstate 15. Motel and gas station kinda thing. This is where the McDonald’s used to be but it got burnt in the fire so it’s being restored. I wouldn’t have gone there anyway. I learnt my lesson last year.
So we didn’t take any water from the cache and carried on hiking. Head torches at the ready. The sun was beginning to set already, turning the sky red and highlighting the smog from LA.
Eventually we had to put our headlamps on and mine was dying. I’ve had the same batteries since the start so it must be time to replace them. I could just about see where I was going. I had to start using my phone torch when the batteries eventually died, I tried to put new batteries in just before we crossed the railway line but I couldn’t manage it with holding the phone to see and using one had to replace the batteries. I gave up and kept using my phone. We crossed the tracks and only a little while later a trail came along and I was glad we got over before because the trains take about 8 minutes to pass. I was worried about how long my phone battery would last so I pushed on ahead, through a creepy tunnel under the railway then under a really creepy tunnel under the interstate. I was sure all the shapes on the side were tramps or bodies!
It’s really hot down here, we are down at 3000ft now. I had my vest on but didn’t need it. I was sweating, partly from exertion and partly from fear! After the creepy tunnel I managed to replace my batteries while I waited for Catwater then we walked the mile up the road to the best western. There were a load of people just hanging around in their cars and the whole area smelt of sewage. Gross. We had to cross back over the interstate on the overpass. Meant for cars not humans so that was pretty terrifying. So many cars. So much noise. So overwhelming.
We stopped at the gas station and I got a soda, of course, an ice cream and a chicken and avocado burrito. The people in there were really nice and friendly, offered to fill up our water and chatted a lot.
When we were checking in the hotel there was a woman using the computer who looked very much like a hiker. She turned around and I caught her eye and smiled at her, while shovelling in my ice cream. She didn’t respond and just turned back to the computer. Maybe she wasn’t a hiker after all. We got into the room and I shovelled in my food as fast as I could. I’m sure they stuffed the burrito so it was extra full. It was huge! It was already 8:15pm and so it was time for a quick shower (I only had one yesterday!) and bed. My feet are throbbing and I’m really tired but I stay up too late writing this, but the clocks go back tonight so I get an extra hour in bed!
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.