I have never in my life looked forward to a McDonald’s meal, but there is one almost directly on trail at mile 342. From our various campsites we had 7-8 miles to do before we arrived, all of which was downhill and overlooking wonderful views. We could see out towards the trains we had been hearing in the night, with rush hour traffic at a standstill on the side of the hill. The mountains we’ve been seeing for the past few days are getting closer.
All four of us arrived at the McDonald’s by 10:30 and the end of breakfast; enough time to order coffee and hash browns and wait a few minutes for the day menu. We had wifi, charging points, hot food, hiker company and toilets. None of us were going anywhere. A few of the non-hiking patrons looked slightly put out by our filthy appearance and worse smell, but most were intrigued. I spoke to a couple who live nearby and they were astonished to hear we had walked there from the Mexican border. They had no idea a national scenic trail ran so close. They told me to be careful “because this is LA, you know”. I appreciated their best wishes for the journey, because even though the mountains and the mean streets are worlds apart, there are dangers enough in each.
20 chicken McNuggets, a large fries, a bucket of diet Coke, 1,700 calories and 3 hours later and we started to move. We either had 5 miles or 15 miles to go to find camping, so we hit the road hard. We experienced the correlation between full stomachs, caffeine intake and hiking mood that afternoon, and were all in excellent spirits for the first 5 miles. The campsite was in a valley, with a 20 mile climb left to Wrightwood and it was still early at 4:15pm so we pushed on.
The trail began to climb, and the boys with their longer strides started to leave me behind. After a mile or so, though, I hit a rhythm. I knew I could keep going, and I passed first Dolittle then Chug, finally stopping at the dirt road we had agreed on beforehand after just an hour and a half. 5 miles in an hour and a half is pretty fast by my standards, and throw in a 1,600ft climb on top. Unfortunately the McDonald’s calories had pretty much been exhausted and just a couple of miles into the last 5 before bed, I hit a wall. Dolittle was struggling too and the last 3 miles felt like very hard work. All the enthusiasm and energy from earlier had become gritted teeth, fury, and an unwillingness to let the mountain win. Despite our grimmer mood, the 5 miles still only took 1h45, a pretty decent job considering we felt like we could barely move. Dinner was very welcome that night. The three of us tried hard to eat all of the food we wouldn’t need to get us to town (about half a day’s worth) as we don’t like to carry the extra weight. We didn’t manage, but we had refilled some of the calorie deficit left by the fast climb. We had huddled around Dolittle’s tent to eat but we’re still freezing by the time we piled into our sleeping bags. It will be another cold one tonight.
Camping: mile 357