These days of transition from trail to town are always the strangest. They are always the longest as well. When I think back to where we woke up, it seems like a different world. There are four people in this roadside gas and shop speaking a language I can’t identify. It makes me feel even more estranged from this space.
Our luck has been tremendously good. The day went by without overt distinction until lunch. The mid day meal we took at the edge of the Rock House Basin. It is a gateway to the Domelands wilderness. What we could asses from a perimeter view is that the Domelands is some of the most spectacular land on the planet. This coming from two travelers with an opportunity to be jaded about sweeping vistas. With only 8.3 miles left to Kennedy Meadows we would be made in the shade. Eating ice cream on the porch of the general store with Mom on the way to pick us up for our little vacation.
We were tired by the time we hit the store and it was closed. There being no phone, we turned to the nearest house and I set to knock. Two short stubby barking dogs greeted us followed by an old man, of similar stature, in Dickeys overalls. He listened to us briefly before exclaiming, “There’s no phones on the mountain.”
“Thanks that’s what we needed to know.” There were also no cars on the mountain headed east. There wasn’t much light left on the mountain either. There certainly wasn’t any energy left in either of the two poor saps stuck on the mountain. The old guy and the “Dirty old man from Mojave” we met at the Mojave P.O. told us about “The Grumpy Bear.” restaurant. We hobbled along to a closed restaurant called “Ireland’s” Kennedy Meadows seemed like the kind of place where a restaurant could have a different name that the one on the sign. It was closed in any case. So, forlorn, we sat down to eat our cold pack dinner and sing silly songs to “The Lord,” asking for just one car. A guy in a bug with a Scottish accent putted by not long after. We flagged him down but he said her was only going two miles up the road. He also told us that The Grumpy Bear was another mile up the road and that he would give us a ride if he had room but he didn’t. Neither of us had a mile left in us. Yet, neither of us had much of an option when returning to the meager remains of our uncooked pack food. More importantly, the restaurant may have people. People may give us a ride to the valley and a phone. Phone home.
As we sullenly and painfully walked along the road, the guy in the bug came back the other way in a truck. He yelled, “Throw your stuff in the back guys. They were gonna’ close but I told ’em you were comin’.” Martin, his name, said, after listening to our tale of woe said he would take us, “down canyon,” if he had enough gas but he didn’t and he couldn’t get more as the general store was closed. We thanked him for the ride to the restaurant. He sat down with us at the bar to have a beer and we proceeded to eat and eat. Great food served to us by two lovely ladies.
I went to the bathroom. It was outside. Upon return, Dyl informed me that Martin had borrowed gas from the restaurants generator supply and that we now had a ride “down canyon.” We bought him another beer, hopped in the truck and headed very much down a death defying, curvy, no gaurdrailed road. Martin seemed to know the road well enough so as not to even have to look at it which he took the liberty not to now and again. We all talked about how when the, “Shit hits the fan,” everyone will be freaking out; yet, for some reason, still staying in L.A.. us three, on the contrary, will be fine up in the mountains, perfectly happy with no power.
Our first welcome back to Mom’s was a sudden self consciousness about how dirty we both were. Mom and Jay strongly encouraged us to get in the shower and winced as I pulled off my shoe dumping sand all over the carpet. Dazed, I pulled off my cloths in the bathroom while looking in the mirror at my weathered brown face and dirty full beard. Jay’s arm reached through a crack in the door. “Hey Pete. Why don’t you hand me your cloths so I can put them out in the garage.”
Local boy makes good story from the front page of the “Ridgecrest Daily Independent” known around town as, “The Daily Insufficient.” Dated: Tuesday May 28th, 1996
Ambitious 20-somethings hiking 2,700 miles. By Julia Kennedy, Staff Writer.
Few people in a lifetime will get to experience what Peter Bergman and Dylan Kuhn are doing every day from sunrise to sundown.
While many people will hike, few will do it for more than 12 hours each day, burning nearly 12,000 calories before sleeping again and eventually crossing through all eight climates in California. (Does this sentence make any sense?)
Bergman, who went to Burroughs, (The public high school in Ridgecrest .) has teamed up with Kuhn for the walk they describe as “a rite of passage.”
They started April 16 from the Mexican border and passed through Ridgecrest last week. They will be following the Pacific Coast Trail, (The Pacific Crest Trail.) all the way to the Canadian border. The entire length of the trip is 2,700 miles.
Scheduled to arrive there at the end of August, they will leave Kennedy Meadows Tuesday, heading into the final climate they haven’t hit yet – snow and ice.
Both twenty three years old, at a time when neither is sure where he is going next, but they have wanted to hike the crest trail for years. (Does this paper have an editor?)
“I think you could probably paint a romantic picture of it. But not anyone who’s done in would want to do that. It’s more work physically and psychologically than we’ve ever done.” Bergman said.
The two men, looking more like blond, gangly teen-agers, (My friend Chris Sharon worked at the time at “The Daily Independent.” He asked Julia Kennedy about what she thought of us. She said, “The blond one was cute!” As stated in her own article, we are both blond.) sat in the cool of Bergman’s mother’s kitchen Thursday afternoon, snacking on fresh bread one of them made, dipping it in oil and vinegar. Bergman still wears a compass around his neck.
They talked freely about what its like to drink hot cocoa for some mid day refreshment when the water filter breaks, or how, while trekking across an endless stretch of desert, “some horrible song from junior high” will stick in their heads.
In one of the bedrooms, their equipment is stored. Boxes and boxes of dried fruit, broccoli, even spaghetti sauce line the walls. Bergman’s mother sends the boxes to prearranged post offices, where the hikers pick them up.
“Basically, the most important things are eating and drinking water, besides walking,” Bergman said. As they packed, Kuhn donned a flimsy straw visor he found on the trail.
Both of them say that they look cleaned than they have in weeks. They have been on the trail for about thirty six days, hiking through the San Gabriel Mountains, Agua Dulce and the Antelope Valley.
They have seen bizarre things. In the desert, they found an abandoned bus with a bunch of electronics and magazines from the 1970s. They met a group of men with M-16s who gave them food and were, “super friendly.”
They also met the legend of the Pacific Coast Trail, “Walkin’ Jim,” who has been hiking the trail for 22 years. (This was the first time Jim had hiked on the PCT.) He was standing right behind them as they prepared a meal one morning.
Two coyote pups scampered across the trail at one point and they have seen eight rattle snakes.
Although they still have a long way to go, both men say the experience has given them a lot so far.
“The days seem to be of epic proportion. Spiritually and psychologically, you’re more awake. You’re forced into direct experience with the world. You can avoid it in regular life,” Kuhn said. “Meditation helped my mind from going in circles. we concentrated really hard on ourselves and what’s around us and our bodies and our breathing.”
“It hasn’t been weird for us to come here (to Ridgecrest), ” Bergman said. “Its not that we got used to trail life and have to adjust to this life. We just deal with what’s in front of us.”
Both having lost about ten pounds on the trail, they devoured real food in the following order one night last week: a burrito from Del Taco, sundaes from Baskin-Robbins and two to four donuts each from Crest Donuts. (Either Julia needs to brush up on her shorthand or she simply didn’t believe us when we told her we each ate six donuts.) Kuhn collapses with laughter as he remembers the half gallon of ice cream he ate after that when he got home.
But Tuesday, it’s a different story. They’ll have returned to the wilderness again, to a diet of steady walking, low-fat foods, and cold.
Even though nobody knows exactly where they are, you can guess what they are doing by the light in the sky. If its daylight, they’re walking. If its dark, they’ve gone to sleep. It’s that simple.
Back in Agua Dulce Siri sent us some stickers made by a friend of mine in Washington State named V2. They are a simple drawing of an alien face covered by a red circle with a line through it. A “No Alien” icon. We placed these stickers on a majority of the trail markers right along with the no motorcycles and no bikes icons. Stickering was especially heavy near the Antelope Valley where ufologists claim there are massive underground Air Force facilities with silos that open up to the surface allowing alien craft in off the Pacific. We relayed the information about the Antelope Valley to Julie Kennedy in great detail and remarked about the mysterious stickers on the trail markers. Were they truly for the benefit of the hikers? Was the forest service trying to keep the bustling alien activity off the trail? Or, was it yet another example of subtle desensitization of the populous to alien imagery at the hands of a government eventually planning to make their alliance with the E.T.s public. In either case, we told her that it was something we felt people should know about. Unfortunately, she failed to mention anything about it in her article.