Mile 403.5, Highway 2 to Mile 427, Mountain Ridge
I'm not sure whether or not this makes me a horrible person, but for once it's nice to know that I wasn't the most pained and broken hiker all day! We were all out of our parking lot campsite by 6:30. Angela had given us a Starbucks Via yesterday at lunchtime, so we gave that a shot today - first trail coffee, and boy did it do wonders! Made a mental note to look for single serve instant coffee at the next stop.
The hiking was fine but we accidentally took a wrong turn and wound up walking about a mile in the wrong direction before realizing. After making it back to the trail, we had a 5 mile climb in the rising heat, but we made it up in record time. Maybe not record time, but it wasn't bad either. Took a quick break at the fire road, which looked directly out to Mt. Wilson. It was so weird to be so close yet so far from Pasadena/Sierra Madre. What I wouldn't have done for a Greek salad and grilled cheese from Corfu and a beer at the Buc!
Spent a lot of the morning avoiding the dreaded poodle dog bush we've been hearing about for seemingly years now. Poodle dog bush grows in areas that have recently burned - it's a really pretty bright green plant with purple flowers, but the hairs on the plant can be irritants to skin. They say only about 1 in 20 people are affected by the bush, but you don't want to test and find out if you're one of the ones who IS allergic. Apparently it's much worse than poison oak. I wore my goofy zip off Columbia pants for the first time to provide extra protection - one hiker mentioend that navigating through the bush was like a movie scene with a museum heist...so much to avoid it's like you're trying not to trip the laser wires. I thought that to be a pretty accurate description for our dodging in, out, under and over the bush. Afterwards, we started a walk along the fire road for about 5 miles. Five miles on a jeep road can seem like forever, and I started to get frustrated when I thought it wouldn't ever end. Just when I was about to pull off my pack and take a little break, Sheryl Crow's hit from sometime in the 90s, Strong Enough, hit my iTunes on random. I didn't even know I had that song, but for some reason, it was the perfect tempo/fe-power music to pump me up and motivate me to keep going. Hooray for pump-you-up empowered women/music to keep me going one foot in front of the other. When we finally got to the end of the road walk, there was a fire station with picnic tables and all kinds of other hikers hanging around avoiding the heat. After hiking 16 miles that morning, we were ready to join them!
After lunch, we only had 6 miles to our intended camping spot, a trail camp at mile 424. I told the boys to go ahead without me and that I'd meet them at camp - I didn't want to be holding them up and I assumed they'd beat me by a mile. But, for the first time on this entire trip, I wound up passing other young people! Finally! I've done plenty of flip-flopping with other similarly aged hikers, but this was the first time I actually was hiking significantly faster than others on the trail - I passed a few groups of people. I couldn't believe it, but I also just kept thinking "well, it's about g-d time!" It turned out the supposed camp at mile 424 either didn't exist or we are all blind. We decided to just go ahead and keep on hiking and take the first spot we could find. One of our guidebooks said there'd be another site in about a mile and a half, but we couldn't find THAT one either. It was getting late, and I started getting nervous we'd have to walk all the way to 332 (what that really means is I started getting nervous that all those folks I passed would catch back up!) Luckily, we found a nice flat area at mile 327 and joined Starfox, G-Dub, and Busted for a quick dinner.
Tomorrow, in only 17 miles, we'll all be at the Acton KOA, lounging by the pool, freshly showered, and hanging out before the last 10 miles to Agua Dulce/Hiker Heaven and the official end of Section D. I may finally be getting accustomed to this insane trip!