Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Station Fire Detour

May 25: Charmin and I continued hiking together the next day. Through the snow, we pretty much kept in visual sight of each other the whole day, but now we were descending in elevation and the snow going away again, we started hiking mostly at our own pace alone with our thoughts.

I also noticed that my shoes had degraded badly the day before, which surprised me since I had replaced them only in Idyllwild. It seems like whenever I travel through snow with the microspikes, it really rips up my shoes. I'd have to keep a close eye on them to see that they didn't get any worse until I had a chance to replace them.

A few miles into the day's hike, we reached Highway 2 and the official start of the Station Fire detour--the second official detour of the PCT. Unlike the Sheep Fire detour where they posted a big "trail closed" sign with maps of the detour, this one they quietly remarked the trail without any warning that the reroute was happening. This threw me off for a bit since the trail labeled as the PCT I expected to be closed and I was trying to find the trail for the reroute. I searched the parking lot for a second trail, representing the detour, and finally figured out that the original trail I found was actually the reroute. (Charmin actually told me this before I started searching the parking lot for another trail, but I was convinced that that couldn't have been the detour. Damn her for being right again!)

Speaking of 'arguments' with Charmin.... shortly after settling whether snakes poop in the woods or not (when, once again, she was right), we had another argument--this time about whether rabbits and bunnies are the same thing or not. Charmin seemed to think that they were two distinctly different types of animals (albeit with many similarities), while I felt pretty certain that the two words were largely interchangeable. When we asked Running Wolf what he thought, his response was, "Bunnies are cute and fuzzy and people turn them into pets. Rabbits are used for stew." Which made us both laugh, but didn't really settle our newest argument.

Anyhow, the detour started off wonderful, following a trail to Devil's Punchbowl, a rocky paradise of bizarre rock formations. About seven miles into the detour, Charmin and I stopped at a creek in a brief spot of shade for lunch, and Running Wolf came up from behind. We last saw him at Little Jimmy Campground, still asleep--probably wore out from his hike the day before.

So Running Wolf ran into us, and he seemed a little relieved to see us before asking, "Do you know where the detour starts?"

Charmin and I laughed. "Yeah, about seven miles ago. You're already on the detour!"

He'd been growing increasingly concerned that he was traveling in the wrong direction since the trail he was following didn't seem to match up with the map he had, and since this detour wasn't actually labeled as a detour like the previous one, he hadn't realized he was already following it. He thought maybe his map was out of date, or somehow he got onto the wrong trail. So we helped him orient himself on his map, described the detour in a bit more detail, and helped him on his way.

So the first ten miles or so of the detour were actually quite nice. A real trail, out in the woods, were PCT hikers belong. After Devil's Punchbowl, however, the dreaded roadwalk would begin. Nearly 50 miles of it. This was a big detour, and it would take at least a couple of days to cover the entire distance. Much of it was through populated areas where stealth camping could be a challenge.

Charmin stuck close to me for two reasons. First, she wasn't comfortable walking on roadwalks by herself. Fears of crazy Americans kidnapping her off the side of the road may have been haunting her. And second, she learned back in Wrightwood that I knew a letterboxer who lived almost right on the reroute who had contacted me about a place to stay for the night. We'd been reading horror stories on hiker blogs about trying to camp along the roadwalk, hiding behind bushes and behind Mexican restaurants. I had a contact that would pick me up off the trail for a house to sleep in rather than a stealth camp somewhere along the road.

From Devil's Punchbowl, I used their phone to call Dezert Ratty. I only got an answering machine, however, so I left a message and Charmin and I continued on with the road walk. Charmin filled up with water, worried that the trail magic would fall through and we'd be camped on the side of the road with 20 miles left to hike to the next known water source, but I took a minimum amount of water. I had faith.

My cell phone didn't work--not yet, at least--not on the fringe of this civilization, but I thought I'd try calling again as we got further into Pearblossom. We'd only made it a couple of miles when a car pulled up, asking if I was Green Tortuga. It was Dezert Ratty! She'd gotten my message! It was still fairly early to quit hiking for the day, however. Charmin and I wanted to get as much of the roadwalk done as we could in the coolness of the late afternoon, so Dezert Ratty agreed to pick us up a bit later. Just call when we wanted to be picked up.

So we continued hiking. Charmin stopped long enough to pour out some of the heavy water she was carrying, now reassured that she really did have a safe place to sleep for the night and didn't need enough water to carry her 20 miles.

We walked for another hour or so, and I checked my cell phone, still unable to get a signal. Hmm.... "We may have to walk farther than I thought," I told Charmin. "Maybe after we pass this ridge in front of us, I'll get a signal." I planned to call Dezert Ratty by around 6:00 that evening, but if my cell phone wasn't working, we could end up hiking a lot later than that....

Fortunately, my cell phone did finally pick up a weak signal, near where Running Wolf had stopped for a short break. I wasn't sure how much space (or food) Dezert Ratty had available, however, so I told Charmin not to tell Running Wolf about Dezert Ratty. I didn't really want to ditch him, but I really didn't want him to know I ditched him if it had to come to that. Running Wolf continued hiking, and Charmin and I stopped to "rest." In reality, I stopped to make a phone call. I knew Running Wolf could see me making a call, but he was too far off to hear the conversation. He'd probably assume I was calling friends or family and checking in or something. Yeah, or something. =)

Dezert Ratty drove up a few minutes later--she lived quite literally within a few miles of the reroute!--and picked up Charmin and myself. We asked if there was room for Running Wolf as well, who was just ahead of us on the trail, and she said absolutely, so we drove up beside him. I jumped out and asked if he wanted a house to sleep in. =) Dezert Ratty piped in about having spaghetti dinner as well. It wasn't hard to convince Running Wolf to ditch the trail and come with us. =)

Dezert Ratty cooked up a wonderful spaghetti dinner, and we talked and laughed the night away. A friend of hers, Lorraine, also stopped for dinner, and was actually whose house we would sleep at that night. I think Running Wolf and Charmin were a bit confused about our talk of letterboxes (one of which I hiked by in Devil's Punchbowl and didn't even realize it because I forgot to check the reroute for letterboxes--argh!). Charmin was interested in carving her own stamp, though, which isn't surprisingly when you consider she made her own PCT patch and draws all of the time anyhow. She carved--what else--a roll of Charmin toilet paper. =)

Dezert Ratty then drove us out to Lorraine's place, quite literally a five minute walk from the PCT detour where we picked up Running Wolf, where we took showers, cleaned up, and set up camp for the night in a guest bedroom.

Running Wolf had an amusing observation. "I was praying that I'd find somewhere good to camp for the night, then you showed up," he told me. Hmm.... a messenger from God? I doubt that, but I found the observation amusing. =)


Anonymous said...

Long live Letterboxers!!! Man, I'd love to find the rare Charmin Stamp......


Unknown said...

If the PCT is anything like some other trails -- the Florida Trail for example -- different sections are maintained by different support groups. So the group at the first detour decided to post a big DETOUR sign, while a completely different group at this one decided not to mention it and just mark the detour as the way to go. It might be worth mentioning to the trail organization that, when there's a detour, it's important to clearly label it as a detour!

Anonymous said...

I love the stacked rock art.
I remember someone on tv years ago who stacked rocks in streams.
cool stuff

Anonymous said...

I read Dezert Ratty's version of this story a little over a month ago, and have been anxiously waiting for your blog to catch up with the story. So glad you had a chance to meet up, plus get a comfortable spot, dinner, shower, etc.

Will read on now, and see when you get/got those new shoes.


Dezert Ratty said...

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . . GT doesn't know I told :-P
I could have lived without seeing my photo on the page - proof that no good deed goes unpunished :-D
D Ratty

EnergyStar said...

Are you going to sell those shoes, too! :-)

Anonymous said...

Good one. There is a great book called Detective Pancake. Check it out.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ryan, What's new? You ALWAYS find things amusing. :D

Letterboxers sure are good folks...basically strangers, but connected through a common interest.

DR and Lorraine are true trail angels.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers