We wake up in the Cajon Pass Inn. It sits right along the freeway, so sleep was not in abundance. At around 5 am I hear a loud car that rattles me awake. It’s followed by the chatter of birds. The sound gives me a sense of solace in this interstate crossroads.
The Cajon Pass Inn sits at the intersection of I-15 and Highway 138. It’s a point of transition from San Bernardino to Victorville, or Palmdale, all aligned on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The area has a sense of nowhere, marked only by McDonalds, Subway, Del Taco, some gas stations and the inn.
Our friend Chef tells us that he received a call in the middle of the night to his hotel room.
“Hey, are you in the room below me?” the caller asked. “We have some music going and stuff, and want to make sure we’re not bothering you.” After that Chef says he heard the water going off and on all night. Most likely a group of homeless were renting out the room and taking turns showering. Along the highway we noticed a lineup of parked cars that looked as if people were potentially living in them.
Chef’s recount of the evening explains why several of us have had a hard time getting hot water this morning.
In the next part of the trail ahead there is a fire closure that stretches about 22 miles, and to go around it involves about a 20 mile road walk. The fire, the Bobcat fire took place in September 2020 and burnt 115,000 acres and destroyed 87 homes, injuring 6 people.
Some hikers choose to walk the road in this section, but we decide we’d like to avoid it because we don’t like road walking, and it sounds pretty desolate given the burn. Plus there’s no report of water. Chef has arranged for his friend to come pick us up tomorrow morning in Wrightwood, which sits just Northwest of Cajon Pass. But to get there it’s about a 22 mile hike that ascends about 5,000 ft then drops about 2,500 into Wrightwood. With sore ankles, Lupine, Horse and I are not quite ready to do that. Deciding that our bodies need a rest day we arrange for a Trail Angel to give us a ride into Wrightwood where we will meet up with Chef the following morning.
Wrightwood turns out to be a beautiful trail town that delivers on my previous hopes for Big Bear. It’s the nicest town we’ve been too yet. It has a great hardware store full of hiker supplies, great restaurants and a friendly demeanor. And, you can get anywhere you need to go without a car.
We start out at the Hardware store where we resupply on some camp stove fuel and catch-up with a hiker, Siracha, who we haven’t seen since Idylwild. He’s planning to do the road walk we’re bypassing, after first getting some Mexican food in town.
Lupine, Horse and I drop into the local brewery for lunch. We each get gigantic sandwiches which extend our bellies and leave us satisfied into the late afternoon. Horse says his mission on the trail is to “learn how to relax”. He’s had a stressful job for the past 30 years and recently retired. Today, he’s doing a good job with his mission, sipping a couple of beers as we all chat in the calming mountain air. After lunch we all part ways.
Lupine and I kickback at the local coffeeshop and chat with the locals. One of them sits chain smoking watching a baseball game on his phone. “What the hell are you swinging at your moron?” he exclaims.
“You sound like one of my uncle’s from Chicago” Lupine tells him.
Another couple strike up a conversation with us. The man has a son who lives in Snohomish, which sits just across the water from us at our home on Whidbey Island. He’s been to Whidbey Island as well and he says he’s told his son that that’s where he plans to live if he ever leaves Wrightwood. He considers it the “Wrightwood of the sea”. Maybe that explains why we feel so comfortable here.
We’re supposed by how friendly the community is to hikers, as we receive free patches from the stores made just for PCT hikers. A lady strikes up a conversation with us as we sit outside the grocery store.
For the night, we stay in the basement apartment of local Trail Angel who only hosts females or married couples. We walk to town for takeout pizza, that dwarfs are appetites, and I cram into our mini fridge.
I love being on the trail, but this town is comfy for tonight and I’m thankful for the hospitality. We sleep well and enjoy the rest.