Day 26 Wrightwood, CA Mile 363
From Big Bear to Wrightwood the basic trail itinerary was the same as the last stretch: climb up through the mountains, drop down to another Interstate-filled pass, and crank back up into the next range. Three out of five Interstates have now been crossed: 8, 10, and 15 (trekking poles narrowly missing passing semis, hat blowing off and flying into the next lane, dodging wild LA drivers). No not really. Most involve a dank, wet tunnel, the concrete muffling the zooming traffic overhead. On a wilderness trip you’d think these waypoints would be eyesores, but for me they are a great reminder of how comprehensive this trail is–you walk through it all.
Cajon Pass and I-15 had a special treat for hikers this time: the golden arches. The trail literally dumps you out of a narrow canyon at the freeway, and a mere quarter-mile away lies arguably the most famous fast food restaurant on the trail. When I opened the door to McDonalds in time for lunch, the entryway was overflowing with backpacks, the smell of engineered food and sweat mingled, and pct hikers had clearly taken over the place. So despite my normal habits, I quickly ordered up several thousand cheap calories and packed them away. The feast satisfied my cravings, but it also felt like a slight betrayal–which my body would confirm the next day. And when did Big Macs get downsized?
The next climb into the San Gabriels cranked up nearly a mile, and Mt San Antonio became the new dominate feature of the landscape. Luckily the day up was cool and foggy; a beating sun would have been rough with no water for almost 20 miles. When we finally breached the clouds snowy peaks were on full display, below us lay a sea of white from LA to the desert. With a blue sky overhead, that is a recipe for a phenomenal day in the mountains.
Making up for poor calories at the Pass, Wrightwood is a blessing and a really cool town. I had been in town only a few minutes before I met two other hikers who were heading to a trail angel’s house for the night. When angel Patti pulled up in her car, there was room for me too, no questions asked. A shower, laundry, and home-cooked enchiladas meal later, well that is heaven my friends. And serious generosity. Seems like this town is brimming with trail angels and people willing to go out of their way for complete strangers. There are certain trail angel stops along the trail that are notorious-coming up in Agua Dulce-but this one for me was a pure surprise. The scenery may be the lure of the trail, but the hospitality keeps you walking it.