PCT Day 18: DMCs with DLT

May 6, 2022

Campsite at mile 245.3 to Highway 18 and Big Bear Lake at mile 266.1

20.8 miles

I do not want to get up. My alarm rings and I smack it into snooze. I’m cold. I don’t want to hike at 5:30. We’re at a high elevation, so why do we have to leave now? It won’t be as hot today. I don’t get up until 5. I’m protesting the choice to leave so early. I’m annoyed that we’ve decided to leave before we need to today. I just want to sleep.

My first snow plant! It’s a parasitic plant that does not photosynthesize but rather derives nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi attached to tree roots. I was very excited about it.

It’s a beautiful morning though, once I get up. I hike with Andy for a few miles, then ditch my fleece and rain pants and end up hiking with DLT for the rest of the day. It’s really easy to talk to him. He listens well and asks good questions. Our conversation runs the gamut from travels to school to regrets to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests to relationships and their challenges to food we like to cook and… so many more things. DLT calls this a DMC—a Deep Meaningful Conversation. My throat is scratchy by the end of the day, but I don’t mind. The miles fly.

It’s beautiful today, mostly in more pine forest and ridge lines. There is a bit of climbing, but much of it is downhill. We run into Beetle a little less than 10 miles in, and soon we come upon a camping area with picnic tables! Andy is there talking with Leia, another hiker we’ve been around recently. We have lunch there, enjoying the sensation of eating at an actual table. While I’m there, Early Bird rolls up! We both hiked the AT in 2019 but never met in real life. We’ve been following each other on Instagram for a long time now, and I knew she was around us. It’s so great to meet her in person! We talk about the trail so far and how it compares to the AT. I’m so glad I didn’t miss her! (PS: She also has a daily trail blog: deshikesthru.com. Go check it out!)

Early Bird!

DLT and I pick back up with our DMCs after lunch, and then we stop for some water before the last big climb. The trees thin out and it gets more exposed. My mind starts to go a little fuzzy, and we take a break under a tree, where Petra joins us. I suck down some electrolyte water and another tortilla with a packet of salmon and feel a little better. From there, it’s five miles of arid scrub brushy hills and rocky paths to highway 18. DLT and I start to go a little loopy. We realize we have yet another thing in common: our love for Inside by Bo Burnham. I put on the soundtrack and we start belting. It’s hiker karaoke!

DLT smashing the chip drink

When we reach the road, I am a little annoyed when I realize that Andy and Beetle hitched into Big Bear already without us and didn’t send a message telling us where they went. Rob, Feather Blue, Early Bird, and some other hikers are gathered there, though. Feather goes with a couple of hikers to a motel, while Rob, Petra, DLT, and I try to figure out the plan.

First Joshua Trees! (We’re pretty sure)

However, the decision is soon made for us: a couple pulls up in their truck and asks if we need a ride to town. Their names are Kimber and Mike, and their kids are Triple Crowners, so they like helping hikers whenever they can. The love of this trail keeps astounding me!

We’ve hiked 10% of the trail!

Beetle has just told DLT that they are at Domino’s, so that’s where we get driven to. But just as we arrive, Andy calls me and says they’ve decided to go somewhere else that is a mile away from where we are now. We’re not about to try to get another hitch after just getting there, so we go to Denny’s across the street instead of trying to join them. It is greasy and basic and amazing, and they are playing Shakira very loudly. I wash my hands four times in the bathroom and the water still runs brown.

Town food 😍

After Denny’s, we get picked up by the trail angel Papa Smurf, who then goes to Village Pizza to collect Beetle, Andy, and our friend Ishay from Israel. I don’t talk much when they get in. I’m still annoyed about how we were not consulted re: town plans. I’m being petty and I know it, but I’m just not done being salty yet.

Papa Smurf takes us to his house, where there are so many cats and tiny dogs. I take a glorious shower that is probably far longer than I think it is. It always feels like such a relief to wash the trail off, throw away my trash, and plug in my devices.

Kingcup hedgehog cactus!

Once I’m clean and calmed down and ready to stop being salty, I go up to Andy. “I missed you today,” I say. Olive branch. I apologize for something stupid that I’d said this morning when he points it out. He apologizes for going into town without telling us. There we go. Things are back in place.

Andy and I sit around for a while in the tiny bunk room in the back of the house, talking about our plan for tomorrow and catching up after today. We reserve a hotel room for the seven of us for tomorrow night. It’s a great experience to stay with trail angels, but it can also be so restorative to stay in a hotel and sleep in a fresh bed. I’m looking forward to it.

We put in a load of laundry. In the living room, Andy takes the couch while DLT, Petra, and I set up our sleeping pads on the floor. It’s a little warm because I’m wearing loaner sweatpants while our laundry finishes, but it’s nice to be inside. We lie around talking and enjoying the internet for a while. Hiking is the best, but sometimes not hiking is great too. The arch of my left foot was bothering me today, and there is always the whisper of my old achilles injury. So it will be good to have another rest tomorrow.

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