May 5, 2017
Mile 329.54 – Swarthout Canyon (329.54-347.2)
I slept surprisingly well, given the fact that the lights in the picnic area stayed on all night. I was out and hiking by 6am again. There was a bit of a climb in the morning, but I was happy to get it out of the way when the day was still cool. The morning light lit the hills in the usual beautiful way.
I was a little bit cranky this morning, I think because I had a sore spot on my heel that was bothering me. I caught up to Gummies at a small creek, and quietly gathered my water, feeling moody. As I was standing there, Cougar and Dr. McDirty came around the corner, in a great mood and excitedly talking about the McDonald’s ahead. Their excitement was contagious, and I found my spirits lifted. We all hiked on together.
A bit later, we all stopped in a little shady nook off the trail for our second breakfast break. I had a couple slices of leftover pizza from the night before and my coffee shake. My spirits lifted further. As we hiked on, the day became hot, but not as hot as it had been the previous couple of days, for which I was grateful. The views in the morning had been nice, but not spectacular, but a few miles from the McDonald’s I suddenly came around a corner to find a glorious sweeping view of Mount Baldy (I think), and the surrounding desert hills. It was pretty awesome. I could also see the interstate and a bunch of train tracks, which took away from the gloriousness of the view somewhat, but was also exciting because it meant McDonald’s was near.
The trail headed down the hillside, and I could see it winding around below for quite a while. The views were great. I stopped a couple miles from the McDonald’s side trail to make an electrolyte drink and put on a podcast episode. A little while later, I rounded a corner to find Gummies totally passed out against a rock. He had only meant to sit down for a few minutes, and had no clue he’d fallen asleep. I couldn’t believe he’d decided to take a break when he was only a mile away from McDonald’s.
When we reached the bottom of the descent, we wound along the bottom of a canyon for a while. There was a small stream running through it, with trees growing along the banks. It was pretty nice. There was a class on a field trip walking through the canyon in the opposite direction, and they all leapt out of the way when they saw me approaching. A few minutes later, I reached the turn off for McDonald’s. We had to walk about half a mile up a road, the golden arches shining in the distance. When we got inside, we found the place filled with hiker trash. It was pretty amazing. There were packs everywhere.
A couple of nights before, I had joked that the soft serve machine would probably be broken when we got there, and all our nightmares were realized when we saw the “OUT OF ORDER” sign. I ordered an egg mcmuffin with no bacon, a hash brown, large fries, and large drink. Everything tasted ridiculously good. I drank an obscenely large amount of Dr. Pepper. We joked that if we sat there long enough, the ice cream machine would start working again, and then it actually happened! I saw someone walking by with a sundae, and we all immediately leapt up to order our various ice cream related items (mostly Oreo McFlurries).
I think we sat in the McDonald’s for almost four hours. We talked to a lot of people wondering what was going on (ie. why the place was filled with dirty people with backpacks), and the reactions when they found out we were trying to hike from Mexico to Canada were so great. The hikers were buzzing with the realization that there was essentially no water for the almost 30 mile stretch to Wrightwood. It was time for our first big water carry. We lined up to fill our bottles and bladders from the fountain drink machine. I carried out 6 litres, which made my pack feel ridiculously heavy. Before we hiked out, we hit up the convenience store to restock on snacks. There was a man with a fruit cart outside selling massive cups of fresh fruit for only 3 dollars, which was an offer I just couldn’t pass up. There was watermelon, mango, fresh coconut, jicama, cantaloupe… It was amazing.
Me and my fruit ft. rainbow umbrella fruit cart in the background
As we started hiking out, I could tell it was going to be a tough trek. My pack weighed painfully on my shoulders. We passed under the interstate through a long, dark tunnel. The trail wound under and across train tracks and scrap yards, while otherworldly rock formations rose in the distance. We started climbing, our packs trying to drag us backwards. Strong wind gusts blasted us, threatening to toss us off the ridge. It was slow going. We discovered there was a tent site about 5.5 miles away from the McDonald’s, and decided to make for that. The views were really quite beautiful, with mountains and desert hills and seas of golden grass that rippled in the wind.
Once we made it down into the canyon where the campsite was supposed to be, we found some nice flat sandy patches of ground to make our home for the night. I saw something up trail just around the corner from where we’re camped, and when I went to check it out, I found… A water cache! That was actually full of water. We all groaned with the realization that the painful trek with over 13 pounds of water hadn’t really been necessary.
I ate my massive cup of fruit for dinner while snuggled in my quilt, and it was so good. I was definitely in my happy place. My current tent stakes would probably have trouble holding in this sandy ground, so I’m cowboy camping. There’s supposed to be a storm blowing in tomorrow, and there’s a very tiny chance that it might rain tonight, so I’m taking my chances with the weather. I’m crossing my fingers that mother nature will be kind. Tomorrow, we’ll be climbing up 5000 feet. It should be an interesting day.