Mile 329.34 to 352.
There was universal focus and drive among the group today. No debate on how far to go or where to break. The goal was McDonald’s.
We woke at 5:00 and with military precision broke down camp and were on the trail putting rubber to dirt as if we had a drill sergeant barking in our ear.
We prepared our orders and checked them twice as we sped through a long valley taking a particularly curvey route, even for the PCT. The sound of train wistles could be heard in the distance as if beckoning us to the promised, to the golden arches.
The wind picked up and whipped our faces and the surrounding terrain offered little distraction as it was still recovering from a recent burn.
We got a glimpse of the highway and soon we were rounding a bend to find a sign proclaiming that McDonald’s was only .4 miles away.
We entered the holy land of calories and placed our first orders of the day. I was set on waiting until lunch was served and seeing as it was only 9:30, I was content to order a coffee and bide my time. Burnout and Baldy went straight for the McGriddles.
Bedazzled decided to run to the Motel 6 to pick up her new backpack. We are relieved since her other pack was literally falling apart and being held together by tape. I’ve included some photos to show the evolution of her pack.
11:00 rolled around and I order a McDouble and McChicken. About an hour later, I followed that up with 2 more McChickens, a strawberry shake, and apple pie. By 2:00, everyone was itching to leave so we left, however, the damage had been done. Burnout’s eyes were bigger than his stomach, and he was already regretting the 5 McDoubles that he had consumed. I didn’t have time to each one of my McDoubles and the apple pie so I packed them out in my pockets for later.
The area known as Cajon Pass doesn’t have much. Besides the McDonald’s, there is a Chevron and a Motel 6. It borders the highway and freight trains are constantly running through. Getting from the McDonald’s side of the highway to the other and over the rail lines takes the trail through tunnels, switchbacks, and u-turns before you make your way through all the infrastructure and pop out on the otherside.
If the golden arches were heaven, passing through those tunnels was like entering hell. On the otherside of the highway was sun burnt and wind swept land that nothing called home. It was a treeless and waterless wasteland that only had wind and grit in abundance, and it was happy to fling both into your eyes.
We were pushed around the trail battered to the right or left as much as a foot and a half when the gusts came. Interlopers in an inhospitable land, we moved as fast as our feet would carry us covering 5 miles in 90 mintues.
We checked our maps and set our sights on a campsite 5 miles up trail. We didn’t look back as we set off.
As we pulled away from the wind swept desert floor, we began to climb up long switchbacks that took us up and along the valley like a flight of never-ending stairs. Almost reaching the top only to see another fold in the mountain reveled. We climbed for 2,500 feet over shrub cover mountain sides that stood in contrast to the empty desert below. The highway and the cars looking like blood cells flowing down a capillary in the distance.
We covered the remaining miles without a rest and threw our packs down and our tents up on a small windy clearing.
I pulled my McChicken and apple pie from my pocket and dreamed of those golden arches.