Day 23: (13 miles)
mile 329 – 342 / 3370 ft – 3078 ft
I awoke to sounds of raindrops hitting the top of our tarp, and thought to myself, ‘good thing we put up the tarp to combat the “lake effect” (things get dewy in the morning when close to water). I lifted my head and was immediately blasted in the face with a shot of water. That’s NOT rain!…SPRINKLERS! Oh Crap! Paul wake up! The F’n sprinklers are on! “Oh we’ll be fine, we have the tarp up”, he replies groggily, then he gets blasted. Shit, what do we do? It’s not like we can immediately relocate. Chick. Chick. Chick. Chick. Chick go the sprinklers, nearly in unison. We’re being bombarded by three, count them three, industrial strength golf course style sprinklers that were tag teaming us. Paul then exits his sleeping bag, timing it with the passing of the sprinklers. He goes to the one on our left attempting to redirect its spray. Meanwhile I pull my ExPed pad out from beneath me and use it as a shield to ward off the two other sprinklers that are still on attack. I am hoping that I can keep our sleeping bags dry enough to sleep somewhat comfortably. (luckily last week I had “weatherized” the exterior of our bags as Paul had decided we were going to Cowboy camp). As the spray of the sprinklers overlapped I had to adjust my pad to protect what little was still dry. The sound against the pad was like a drum roll, and made me laugh at how ridiculous this situation was, and the irony that we had both recently retired from State Parks and were now caught in the cross fire of sprinklers…at a State Park. Paul was successful with the one on our left which was directly hitting the back of our tarp, he then moved onto the one on our right, at our 1 o’clock…success! Then onto number three at our 4 o’clock…success! Back under the tarp and into his bag he dives. He was not drenched, but he was not dry either. We settle in, and begin to laugh just a little as now we realize that sprinkler #2 is strafing the Russians who are fast asleep in their tents, most likely thinking it’s raining and now laughing at us for only having a tarp. Then we see it. Sprinkler # 3 is now watering our backpacks as they sit atop a brick structure once used as an open pit BBQ. Shit! Our clothes. Our food. Shit…our BOOTS! Out of the bag Paul springs again. He grabs both bags and our boots and relocates them to the sidewalk near the bathrooms. As he does this I notice that the tarp is sagging. I push up on the sag in the middle. Water thunders down the front face opening, drenching my pad that I had pushed out to the side to “dry”, just a little. So much for that idea. At least the tarp no longer sags. I now get out and tighten the guy lines so the tarp is taut once again. I feel the tops of our bags. They are wet to the touch, but remarkably not wet inside. Cool. It is now nearly an hour past hiker midnight (hiker midnight is usually 9pm) and there is nothing else to do, but try and go back to sleep. Sleep comes quickly. We awake the next morning (0530) to icicles hanging from the interior of our tarp and ice crystals on the outside of our sleeping bags. We are not cold, but see that the grass is frozen as is the outside of our packs.
Some lake effect huh? As we are going to be picked up once we reach Cajon Pass (and therefore McDonalds) this afternoon, we dress briskly and shove our stuff into our packs. Coffee this morning is a MUST, so we take time for that. We find that our boots were spared from an ice bath, as we had originally placed them under our packs before the waterworks began. Yeah for us! The rest of the group awakens and remarks how cold it is. It is now that we discover that we were the only ones attacked by sprinklers…go figure. I guess we shouldn’t have taunted Mr. Murphy and Mother Nature in our previous posts. Lesson learned. Now to walk ourselves warm. We are lucky that the air is cool and the skies are somewhat overcast as we are transitioning into an area mostly devoid of shade…especially toward the end of our trek.
The area is again greener than we’ve ever seen it, and because it’s on the cool side…snakeless for me, at least on the trail.
Green growy stuff (a “technical” term used by my crew at work) soon turned to ancient sand dunes eroded into spectacular canyons.
The trail is soft and pliable, which makes the edges of the trail fragile and susceptible to serious erosion, especially with the new “shortcuts” made by impatient travelers drawn by the imaginary smell of McDonald’s burgers and fries.
The most exciting part of the trail comes in the last mile (and no it has nothing to do with McDonalds).
We are now walking on remnants of thick asphalt that travels through a narrow high wall canyon paralleling a sparsely flowing creek, that at one time must have been even more picturesque.
We wonder what road this used to be, and its purpose. I make a point to research it once we get home. Paul then pulls out Halfmile’s maps as he recalled seeing some lengthy verbiage on the map.
It read, “Hiker going to the McDonalds or gas station mini-mart at Cajon Pass walk along a section of Historic Route 66 [now called Wagon Train Rd.] which also runs past a memorial
built in 1917 honoring pioneers of the Santa Fe and Salt Lake trials [behind the truck weigh station]. Route 66 ran 2,448 miles from Chicago to LA, less than the length of the PCT.” Wow! We walked part of Route 66! They wrote songs about it. They filmed parts of it. It was how most Americans made their way across the country, not only by automobile, but via wagon or by foot. What a privilege.
Now we are at our intended destination. We breath in the intoxicating aroma of saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup. We are surrounded by folks who do not necessarily appreciate our aroma, but we don’t care…we earned this stench.
We join the other like smelling, and currently satiated hiker trash who take up a good portion of the restaurant’s air-conditioned interior. We share our sprinkler encounter as the event has made it through our current hiker community, but they still want to hear it first hand. We all laugh, and think some lucky hiker is going to camp in the same place we did at Silverwood. The sprinklers will go on, and they will come out unscathed…dry as a bone, and think ‘It’s a miracle! I didn’t get wet…what are the chances?’ Yes, what are the chances. Everyone deserves a break once in a while.
Our son arrives to pick us up. Like a good son he hugs his smelly mother and says he glad to see me/us. Such a good boy he is. Off to REI for a new air mattress for Paul, and shoes for both of us as they have in excess of 500 miles. My feet have definitely widened, in fact they used to be somewhat petite (really the only petite thing on me), but now they resemble blocks of wood with snausages sticking out at the end. Once we’re done, it’s home for a much awaited shower, jacuzzi and sleep in our own bed. Bliss. Next on the menu…the Kick-Off.