Day 25 (Wednesday, May 11): Cleghorn PA (mi 328.71) to Cajon Pass McDonald’s (mi 342), 13.29 miles. (up/down: +2235/-2633ft)
I cowboy camped last night and woke early, leaving camp at 5:50a. As I departed, I was able to see the sun rise as I headed up the mountains. The walk to McDonald’s was quite pleasant. The weather was not too hot and the elevation change was not too bad. As I hiked, I thought I saw the trail in the distance, jetting right. I was wrong, it went left. I was happily deceived as the way the trail actually went was much better. I climbed elevation, and then stayed fairly high for a short time. Then the trail went down, down, down, and down some more. Switchback after switchback. I could see the highway in the distance and as I got closer, it got louder. I scanned the horizon to see if I could see the golden arch…nothing. I knew I was getting closer, but I still couldn’t see any signs of Cajon Pass, the McD’s, Gas station, Del Taco, or the Best Western. As I walked, I pondered the various combinations of food items I would get. A burger? Fries? McFlurry? Gas Station Shake? Nuggets? McGriddle? Endless possibilities. I haven’t stepped foot in a McD’s in years and haven’t at one in even longer (other than a ice cream cone at the drive thru).
The trail dropped into a canyon, and then all of a sudden, the trail turned a corner and BAM! Looking right at the highway 20 feet in front of me. The trail continued down under the highway, but I took the official side trail/ old Route 66 to McD’s. As I walked, I saw a man walking the opposite way, towards the trail. He looked like he could be a hiker, bearded and slightly disheveled. However, he had no backpack, was wearing skinny jeans, and was carrying something. As I got closer, I saw he was holding a RATTLESNAKE! I wish I had taken a picture, but I think I was too stunned and I just kept walking.
I arrived into McD’s around 10:30a and it was crowded. Half of the place was filled with hikers and I felt bad for the other half of the restaurant as I am sure it did not smell pretty (not that McD’s has a great scent to begin with). I sat for a while among the other hikers, and washed my filthy hands. I then went to the counter to decide on an order. The guy at the counter was awesome! His name was Andrew and I was the first Minnesotan he had ever met. He made the experience so much better. He was just so happy to be working there 🙂 I ordered a Artisan Buffalo Burger which came with FREE fries, and a large drink.
I sat and enjoyed my burger, trying not to scarf it down. Not possible. I sat with an “older” PCT hiker named Honey. She was so nice and I was in awe of what she was accomplishing, thru-hiking at the age of 50 something. I have seen a number of “older” men, but only one woman so far so was section hiking. As we sat, the Rattlesnake man returned. he had apparently gone through the drive through also holding the snake to show the manager. I forget his name, but it is apparently not an odd site to see this man holding a snake in the parking lot. He is a local and catches them in the McD’s parking lot and carries them back to the trail where they can safely cross the highway. So far he has caught 15. In conversation, he told us many random facts about Rattlesnakes. Such as; if you get bit by a rattlesnake, bite back /suck the wound and swallow. Your stomach breaks down the venom and creates its’ own anti-venom. Also, if you see a snake that looks dead – it is not. When rattlesnakes think they are going to drown, they bite themselves to shut down their system and they return to normal consciousness a couple hours later.
I planned on spending most of the day at the McD’s to avoid the heat before returning to trail. I though about what other courses I would get. Not much later, my mom arrived. She was staying at an RV park nearby and was bringing me my resupply. She got herself some food, and me some nuggets. She then started talking about the Member’s Only RV Park she was staying at: gym, swimming pool, laundry, showers, pond, and the list goes on. I was quickly convinced to go back with her for the afternoon and night. The trail was also not too far from there, so I could find a way back in the morning.
We stopped at the gas station for some ice cream and odds and ends, aka more snacks for me. We also gave Honey a ride to the Best Western. On the way to Lytle Creek, she stopped to fuel up and of course, I got MORE food. I went to Del Taco for tacos, churros and iced coffee. She then went back to McD’s to get my step dad something and a smoothie for us to share. Today was my splurge day. Food and relaxation, repeat. I went to the heated pool, sat in the Jacuzzi, ran the jets on my aching muscles, showered, did laundry, and of course ate some more.