Day 20 (Pete)

It will be hard for me to set down these words. Not because there is nothing to say, hardly. Certainly not because I don’t desire to record the events. It is simply out of fatigue at the end of this day, our longest day, that I complain. Happily, however, it has been a downright fulfilling day.

We had breakfast at Tiffany’s this morning. It looked a lot more like a greasy dinner than it did in the movie. We each powered down an omelet with potatoes and a Strawberry Delight. A waffle topped with syrupy strawberries and whipped cream. Laden down with water, enough for the next twenty two miles, we set out into the San Gabriel mountains. The first nine or so miles went fast. We climbed 1500 ft. absolutely supercharged by breakfast. In a moment of indecision, we followed what our outdated guidebook pointed to as the trail. It soon became painfully obvious that the trail, at some time, had been rerouted to simply follow the road we had previously crossed. The next two miles of trail were seriously neglected. The lack of two or three years of trail maintenance created a difference amazing to behold. It was horribly overgrown and there were many large rocks strewn about the trail. In many places there really was no trail. It had all just slid away down the mountain side. My GOD the ticks over there were starved for hikers. I personally picked seventy eight off me in one sitting. This brought my daily total to well over a hundred fifty. We were demoralized by the conditions.

More and more our peace of mind out here is completely relative to our experiences with facets of civilization. Huge ugly industry… bad day. Huge restaurant breakfast… great morning. Bad trail maintenance… bad afternoon. We are daily following a path that must have taken tens of thousands of labor hours to construct and even more to maintain. The buildings we called home twenty days ago didn’t take nearly as much effort to construct, even less to maintain.

After lunch I got a little bit ahead of Dylan. Waiting, he came around the bend with a beaming smile. He decided, at the beginning of the last stretch to try to start learning how to really appreciate the walking. Doing so made him more conscious of his body and less conscious of superfluous stuff. I took up the same technique, basically controlled breathing and head emptying, for the next stretch. The miles flew by. All this while ever climbing laboriously. I had my first legitimate lifetime experience of total clarity. I had not a thought in my head. The way I explained to Dylan that I knew it had happened was that I had actually caught myself not thinking, at which point the clarity ceased. “Yep,” he said, “that’s it.”

It seems that we are back in the groove. Getting so direly hungry so far from Big Bear and subsequently overindulging upon arrival had been a significant disruption in our cycles. Though it was fun to spend the time we did with Chris and John, they too provided a distraction. Now, left to ourselves, we have begun to realize the transformative nature of this undertaking. We have been able to pick up where we left off. Days and days ago. So now, at the end of our longest and most physically demanding day, I am awake writing with my head lamp on. Its a lot colder here at 8000 ft.. I am much more fulfilled than I have been in days. Dyl, asleep next to me, expressed the same before nodding off.

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