I love my stove with a burning passion

Day 13: Arraste Trail Camp to Highway 18 and Big Bear Lake

Trail miles 256.2-266.2

May 15, 2019

The allure of town is strong, especially after a difficult section of hiking. I broke camp early and joined what felt like a procession of the faithful on the ten mile hike to Highway 18, where it’s possible to hitch into the town of Big Bear Lake.

At least 20 other hikers were headed into town in search of food (preferably cooked by professionals on proper stoves instead of by absolute amateurs using dinky sprinkler-head sized contraptions, which roar like jet engines as they spew high pressure propane-isobutane mixtures, and which have only one temperature setting: scorching. If we’re honest, many ultralighters “prefer” (an outlandish claim) to cold soak their meals, choosing to eat clammy ramen noodles in order to avoid carrying a stove at all: “It’s actually not bad. Want to try?” (Here’s a tip: if a thru hiker offers you some of their dinner, they are either not actually thru hiking, or the food is truly inedible.) If we’re really, brutally, unflinchingly honest, I cold soaked the first time I tried the PCT, and I can assure you that beans and rice rehydrated in cold water are as unappetizing as you imagine. Now I will end this absurdly long and sarcastic parenthetical and politely request that you reread the start of the original sentence.), a resupply for the coming section (yum… more Clif Bars and tortillas…), and maybe even a warm bed (snow is forecast for the evening and the following morning…Yay May!).

Convoluted grammar and lazy punctuation aside, the above is meant simply to prove to you that the luxuries of town are powerful incentives for hikers deprived of basic creature comforts. I was one of those deprived hikers, and I hiked my first “10 by 10” (10 miles before 10am) on my way to Highway 18.

At the road, trail angels Papa Smurph and Mountain Mama had left sodas and snacks for hikers waiting for a hitch. I drank a can and then caught a ride with Brightside, T-Pain, and Hiccups.

A friendly woman named Jubilee picked us up. She was so friendly that many times I wished she would pay a little more attention to the winding road instead of turning around to smile at us in the back seat, especially considering the broken seatbelts in her car. Thankfully, we made it to town in one piece (four pieces?) and Jubilee dropped us off at a donut shop (jubilation ensued).

After breakfast, we wandered around the grocery store for the better part of an hour, then crammed our booty into our backpacks and started walking towards the AirBnB we’d rented. Brightside and I got picked up by a friendly couple who took us to the hostel where I had a package waiting (thanks, Mom!).

Again, we started walking towards the house we’d rented, and again, we were picked up by the kind owner of a set of cabins in town, who was disappointed to hear that we’d already arranged accommodations.

At the AirBnB, we found our other friends and I immediately set to work devouring the food I’d bought at the store. For a reason that still eludes me, I thought yogurt mixed with chocolate Carnation instant breakfast powder and sweet potato chips sounded like a delectable lunch, so I made myself a bowl and ate it on the porch while calling my dad.

I spent the rest of the afternoon eating strawberries, chocolate chips, spinach and a host of other foods that are hard to get on the trail.

When I walked to dinner with my friends, my clothes were still in the dryer, so Fire Socks lent me her rain skirt (a swatch of silicone-impregnated nylon with a bit of elastic and a strip of velcro meant to hold the nylon around your waist). While comfortable, I found the skirt a bit drafty for my liking, especially as the breeze picked up in anticipation of the coming storm.

At the Indian restaurant, we ordered vast amounts of curry and naan, and when the meal was over, we went next door for ice cream.

Back at the house, I slipped into my warm, dry clothes and crawled into bed.

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