A Brief Message:
Before I dig into the meat of this post, I want to apologize for the delay in posts. I'm getting a lot of feedback suggesting the posts are a fun read and that I should get crackin'
! Plus, people are curious and concerned. It's understandable. Thanks for that!
When I'm on the trail, it's difficult to communicate. I'm limited to short 160-character messages, via a satellite device, to another person (usually my father). I can't post directly to the blog from the trail, which makes it tough. And, frankly, my last few satellite messages to my father have been lackluster simply because
of the text limitation. I let him know I'm alive, that I'm fine, that hiking is hard, and that I'm camping for the night. That doesn't make for a quality update. So, the blog sits until I find myself with a decent place to type and send. I can only assume that if there were something time sensitive or endlessly worth knowing, that someone would alert all y'all. Gaps in posts essentially means I'm hiking and don't have any meaningful connectivity. It also means I'm generating content (or it means I'm napping). Huzzah!
I am now in Big Bear with my computer. My first day in town involved a lot of snoring in a bed with soft white sheets. Then, catching up on work. Now, I blog!Day 27 Shortcut to Idyllwild. 127.3 to 179.4 (52.1 miles driven)
Morning at Mike's Place.
Many moons ago, I had made a plan to hike for 3 weeks, then get a hotel room, cabin, condo, etc. for 3 days and use that time to blog and work. Then, I'd go out on the trail for 3 weeks, then rent another space for 3 days, work, etc. This was how I planned to hike but stay connected to people and my work.
My first big official planned 3-day work spot was selected as Idyllwild, about 180 miles in to the hike. I looked for an affordable place close to town, with Wi-Fi and a table to work at. I searched Airbnb and found a tiny studio cabin with Wi-Fi, just block to the town center. Perfect!
I had reserved the cabin for 3 nights from April 23rd to April 26th, but it was now
April 23rd and I was still over 50 miles from Idyllwild, at a random place, with no connectivity, no power, no meaningful road and virtually no hope I'd make it to the cabin in time.
It was obvious all the way back in Julian that I was going to be late. I contacted the owner of the cabin through Airbnb and asked if it was possible to slide my reservations by a few days. I noticed that she had those days available. It seemed logical and would free up a bigger chunk of time for her to reserve before I arrive. I thought that maybe it was good news for her. At the very least, it seemed like a harmless question.
She responded with an out-of-place scathing and accusatory message suggesting I'm just making excuses and am trying to back out of my reservation and that she's a small business person who relies on the income from her property and that she believed me to be an honest and honorable person and that clearly I'm not [insert more accusatory bellyaching here.]Note to Crazy Lady
: Some of the time a question is just a question. My note to you was a feeler, nothing more and nothing less. Calm down. Geez!
Knowing that I had mailed my computer to Idyllwild and needed to work and that the location was still perfect, I tried to reason with her and explain that I'm just trying to understand my options and that I will make it right. She then called me and represented herself as someone baffled by time, dates, the internet and her own posted policies. When I'm rested, I consider myself a strong communicator and generally logical, especially when it comes to topics like time, dates, the internet and posted policies. This lady would not be penetrated by logic and continued to deflect it at every opportunity. By the end of the call, in an effort to not get sucked in and take the high-road, I'd added two more days to my reservation. I had also firmly decided that this lady was, to use family vernacular from my childhood, a straight-up poopy-butt
This meant that I now had a 5-day reservation in Idyllwild, over 50 miles away. Even if I hiked 10 miles a day, I'd miss the entirety of the reservation, which had already been paid for. Somehow
, I needed to jump ahead, even if it meant returning to Mike's place after Idyllwild.
The day before I'd tried to reach out to my father to see if he had any clever ideas, but my satellite device was misbehaving, and he didn't seem to get them. This had been a looming source of stress for days.
I awoke to multiple messages from my father seeking more information. This started a long and complicated discussion about rides from Mike's Place to Idyllwild a seemingly impossible task. Mike's Place truly was
miles from nowhere. Beyond the discussion, I also had Sits determined to hit the trail early, which meant I had to lose 2 or 3 days of my reservation (as the trail doesn't cross a road for over 20 miles), or
stay behind, cross my fingers and hope for the best.
We ran through as many scenarios as can be run in non-sequential 160-character messages timed several minutes apart, while another hiker stares and taps his foot. None of the options seemed reasonable or possible. Sits was getting antsier and antsier, "Dude! You're like a girl with that thing. Let's go!". Finally, I suggested Temecula was fairly close and suggested a ride may be found there? This seemed to trigger a quick "Aha!" from my father, who said he knew a guy in Temecula and would reach out. Minutes later, I received a message reading, "He's on his way!"
One of my grandmothers lives in Temecula. Based on what I know of my father, I assumed that this connection was some kind of periodic errand boy that my father used for things like setting up Apple TV's at MeeMaw's house. I pictured a helpful 35-year old guy in a beat-up faded-yellow Gremlin. This suited me just fine. I told Sits to take off and that I'd reconnect in Idyllwild. *fist bump*
He put on his pack and headed out.
I asked for more information about the guy coming. I received a name, a phone number and a description "Tony, a friendly guy from South Africa, Australia or one of those. Message him, in case he has questions."
I messaged Tony to warn him of the dirt roads. "No problem, Sir!" came the reply. "See you soon!"
I went out to the morning circle of hiker zombies, licking dirty fingers of hot fresh cinnamon rolls and sipping cloudy black coffee. Because I'd gotten directions from Off Trail
before, he was curious if I'd found a ride. I explained that I had, at which point Scott (I don't quite understand how Scott fits into this world he's not the caretaker and he's not a hiker, but rumor has it he has complicated relationships with the female hikers that roam through) piped in and said, "Hey! Can he bring us some beer?!"
"I don't know. I don't know the guy. I don't even know if he'll find the place." I tried very hard to change the subject, but Off Trail overheard Scott's inquiry and it was clear that we were now fast approaching Beer O'Clock. They ganged up on me and asked about the satellite communicator, which I tried to pass off as terrible at communicating and mostly broken. They then asked about my phone. "Sure, I've got a phone."
"Great! Get in the truck. We know a spot where the phones work."
"Ummm Ok." I wasn't totally certain what was happening, but my hope was that they intended to use my phone to order beer, somehow. I hopped into an unregistered beat-up truck and we drove about 4 miles closer to the end of the dirt road, to the spot Off Trail called his Telephone Booth. "Try it. Go up on that hill, stand real still and try it."
"What am I trying?"
"To make a call.'
"Who am I calling?"
"Anyone who will bring us a beer!"
Now, in a normal world, I would've passed on this offer. This felt so awfully tacky. It was unwanted pressure, plus it was layering an additional favor onto a guy who was very likely doing a big favor for my father. With just 160 characters, the terms and scope of Tony's participation in my day were still shrouded in mystery. But, there I was, on the side of a hill, at the end of a road, with a working phone, a thirsty trail angel and a South African-Australian headed my way.
It's impossible to describe how drained, pained and beat-up I felt when I arrived at Mike's Place. I hobbled in on whatever happens after
the fumes have all been burned up. Off Trail had taken care of me. He had made me pizzas, given me ice cream, coffee and cinnamon rolls, as well as a place to sleep. Oh, and all the water I could drink.
This softly spoken desert dweller was now throwing powerful puppy-dog eyes at me. I dialed the phone and called. I ordered beer from Tony. I did it. I handed the phone to Off Trail who explained where to go and what to get. I felt very small and feeble, but Off Trail had
fed me. Being fed is my favorite. I owed him.
The newly energized Off Trail excitedly suggested that we go grab my stuff and head to the pavement to meet the beer (I mean, make it easier for the driver.). I agreed that this made sense. So, we drove back to Mike's Place, grabbed my stuff and we headed to the pavement, some 5 miles of twisty dirt road away.
As we drove, I chatted up Off Trail who talked a lot about Mike's Place and how Mike LOVES the hikers, but Mike gets to show up, be a celebrity, walk around and engage the hikers, feed them and disappear back to Long Beach, leaving them behind with Off Trail who ultimately has to deal with them, their problems, needs and requests. He also loves the hikers, but they don't always love him. The guy is definitely a bit rough around the edges a slight and relatively young man with a shaved head, long unkept beard, teeth that are either not there, or are just too short to see when he smiles and a dirty black MEGADEATH t-shirt with the sleeves torn off. He just looks
like trouble, but this same person takes care of hikers. In my experience, he does a wonderful job, too!
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with Off Trail, his life choices, his attitudes, philosophies, politics and so on. They then get on social media and let it rip, "reviewing" Off Trail. Then Mike reads it and it all funnels back to Off Trail, who gets hurt and has no meaningful way to respond. And, he's CLEARLY hurt, too! I actually really felt bad for the guy. He is who he is. He's rough, but genuine. Hard on the outside, but soft in the middle.
We then turned to talking about Cabo, living off grid, solar systems, fishing, surfing, the east cape, the social life of living in the middle of nowhere and so on. What can I say? I found Off Trail to be an interesting cat!
We arrived at the pavement, where I attempted to message Tony with the satellite toy. I wanted to let him know we'd meet him at the pavement. The device just spun and spun, sending nothing. I put the device on the roof of the car, to give it a better chance of hitting the satellite and just continued talking about smoking fish with Off Trail.
A few minutes later Tony arrived in a large and lavish Excursion a big beefy Surburban-like vehicle with bright silver rims, which were impossible to miss. Tony, a large man who looked like an off-season Santa Claus, popped out and opened the back door. Inside was a single leather bench facing a wet bar and a row of various champagne flutes, wine glasses, tumblers, muddlers and more. This
, I have to admit, was the strangest off-yellow Gremlin I'd ever seen!
I loaded my stuff into the Excursion, while Off Trail paid Tony for the beer (tipping him very well, I was told). I thanked Off Trail for everything, then piled into the back of the large limo-like 4x4, where I slid from side to side on the bench, as Tony wound down the curvy mountain road.
"Oh snap! Tony! Can we turn around?! I left my satellite receiver on the roof of Off Trail's truck! I'm so sorry! I need
Tony looked for a spot to turn the beast around, then we headed back to where the dirt meets the road. We both hopped out and tried to find the device, hoping it had simply fallen off the top of the truck. Neither of us found a thing. Now, we had to either abandon the device (which isn't cheap, nor is it simple to get running), or head the 5 miles up the twisty dirt road something we'd all hoped to avoid.
We headed up the dirt road, where I continued sliding back and forth in the back of the Excursion in a way which would be fun if I were 40 years younger. Finally, after what seemed like hours, we pulled into Mike's Place. I ran to the truck and looked in it, under it, in the back of it and could not find the device. I asked Off Trail who said he had no idea, but DID offer a tip. "When I left, I took a long u-turn. I pulled onto the asphalt, taking a wide turn, before heading up the hill. Maybe it's in the dirt on the other side of the road?" Neither Tony or I had thought to look there and it's the best we had to go on.
Right as we were about to head out, Acid Jesus asked us if we'd give a ride to Good Eye, his girlfriend. They were from Louisiana and were both colorful people (literally
their clothing was borderline neon a kind of a culturally lavish hipster look to both of them.) Acid Jesus was a very funny person. I liked him enormously, but Good Eye rarely spoke. All I really knew of her was that she had plantar fasciitis
. This is a painful form of inflammation along the heel and arch of the foot. It's relatively common, but she had it bad. They were roughly as slow as Sits and I because they would stop every few miles to rub and massage her feet. AJ said she couldn't hike, that the pain was too severe. I asked Tony if that was alright and he said it was fine. I waved her into the Excursion and we headed out.
We wound down the road, to the pavement. We both went to look on the far side of the asphalt, but found my device sitting dead center in the middle of the road. It was certain to be crushed. Tony scooped it up and handed it to me. It looked good as new! I pushed some buttons. All good!*whew*
We continued along the curvy road. As I tried very hard not to keep sliding into Good Eye as we turned all the corners, I asked Good Eye about her feet. This started an approximate hour-long monologue, detailing her entire life story, her hiking history, her meeting of Acid Jesus and so on. Every once in a while, I would try and interject with a question or comment. Good Eye would stop and wait for me to finish making noises with my mouth, then continue with her monologue, as if I'd said nothing at all. She was very polite, but I'm not convinced she knew I was in the car.
We arrived at my little Cabin in Idyllwild. I thanked Tony for the ride, gave him a nice tip, then proceeded to hunt for the cabin's key. I found it and Good Eye and I entered.
The Sugar Pine Cabin.
Cozy bed and fireplace.
Nice little kitchen.
All the yellow made me glad there was a bathroom close by.
Good Eye sat and called various hotels in the area, finally making a reservation at another hotel. She then tried to find a ride to the hotel. We both dug into our phones and notes to find a ride for her.
I "believe" the hotel Good Eye was staying in contacted a woman named Barb and sent her to fetch Good Eye at "the market on the corner". I knew I would be in town for a few days and wanted to meet Barb, in case I needed a ride around town, or better yet a ride back to Mike's Place when my time was up. I ventured out into Idyllwild with Good Eye, in the hopes of finding the market on the corner and meeting Barb.
If you read the banner in the center of the road, it says,
Hikers are all over this town. Throw a rock and you'll hit one (but don't do that, hikers don't like it).
These mountain towns are riddled with crazy wood carvings and sculptures, everywhere.
Idyllwild is a very cool town.
Super charming, there was quality food and little shops and bakeries and gift stores everywhere. As a random aside, one night I walked by this little alley and am certain I interrupted some kind of shady drug deal, though. They started yelling at me as I walked by, beckoning me to return. They wanted to talk to me. I was freaked out, put my head down and walked by as if my ears were glued shut.
While looking for the market on the corner, Good Eye spied a liquor store and ran off to grab some booze. I waited by the side of the street and baby sat her backpack. While I waited, a hiker approached me and asked me if I wanted to split a cabin with him. I explained that I already had a cabin, but that maybe Good Eye would be interested, then pointed to the liquor store. He ran over and disappeared into the store. Minutes later, he and Good Eye emerged. They had struck a deal.
Good Eye came to collect her backpack, then called her hotel to confirm that Barb was still coming, then to clarify where the market on the corner was, then she promptly cancelled her hotel room.
Good Eye and I found the market and waited for Barb. After a few minutes, Barb pulled up and Good Eye piled in to her car. Now, at this point, I was dirty, stinky, hungry and hadn't had a good night's sleep in a while. I did my best to explain my thoughts to Barb, but I assume it sounded like foggy hiker dribble. She gave me her Pet Sitter card, said she'd try to help and that I should call her, should I need a ride. She'll do what she can. I thanked her. She and Good Eye drove off.
I found a nice little restaurant and ate a big French Dip sandwich and half order of Biscuits and Gravy. Then, I wandered back to the Sugar Pine Cabin and completely passed out.