I awoke today with the goal to make it to Cajon pass for an early lunch. Here, there is a well-traveled side road that takes you directly to a McDonald's not more than a third of a mile off the trail. When hiking at Philmont, scouts are often told there is a McDonald’s on the top of Baldy Mountain. After they have been on the trail for a week or longer, there is hardly anything more motivating than a hamburger on top of Philmont’s highest peak. Of course, there is not actually one there, but I am hoping this legend has more truth to it.
It was 14.5 miles from the campground I stayed the night to Cajon Pass. I started my hike at 6:20 and passed through the golden arches at 10:30. Warm food, cold water, and flushing toilets are good motivators for making great time.
The hike to the pass was spectacular. After climbing over the mountains that held the lake in place, you could see for miles. Visibility would even have been farther if not for some low clouds in the distance. From there, it was a twisting downhill hike along on the ridges going with a very sharp drop on either side. Some of the coolest terrain so far.
When I arrived at the McDonald's, I ordered a Big Mac, fries, and a 6 piece side of McNuggets. I found that there were about 6 other hikers also hanging out and I joined them. Thankfully I also found an outlet I could charge up my phone, McDonalds is amazing.
As I was eating, Andy came in and joined me at my table. He had stayed at the day use area in the park and had met a few other hikers with whom he shared dinner. He said he found a place under the cover of the restroom where the light was burned out and rolled out his sleeping bag for the night. He told me that he has a serious fear of heights and the section we had just climbed down shook him pretty good. But as he said, there were two options - turn around and call it quits or the push on through. He had picked the latter.
I had spent 2 hours at McDonald's and felt like I should get back to the trail. As I was walking out, Oliver walked in and we visited for a while.
Afterward, I hiked 11 more miles and it was slow going with all the food in my belly and extra water I was carrying. According to my guidebook, it was going to be dry for the next 20 miles before the next opportunity to get water. Well, is was much shorter than that as it turned out that some trail angels had left a water cache 5 miles up the trail.
Just before getting to the cache, I felt the hairs on the back of my leg stick straight up and then heard the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake coming from just behind me. I looked back and saw it all coiled up on the side of the trail and decided to hike a lot a whole lot faster.
I did not see anyone else on the trail today until going through the underpass at Cajon Pass.