Day 22: The Characters of Mt. Baden-Powell

Sunday, May 28
Start: Wrightwood
Stop: Little Jimmy Camp
14.6 miles

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and everyone and their mother is out. The parking lot is teaming with hikers and birthday celebrators. I start the climb just after noon and here’s some of the characters I met. Now remember, the downhill hiker is suppose to stop and allow the uphill hiker to pass without breaking step. I’m also a very rhythmic hiker so once I get in a sustainable upward rhythm, I do not want to break stride.

Looking North towards the desert

1. The Shrieker
I see a few hikers coming towards me and I keep my head down until we’re close. I’m sorta pretending that I don’t see them but I know they are approaching. It’s a switchback where I’m on the inside and the guy now directly in front of me does not stop. He attempts to take the very edge of the trail while still hiking down the mountain. As we pass each other he lets out a battle cry/moan/shriek and now those nearby are looking. Perhaps he felt his life was tetering in the balance. I stomp forward and do not look back.

2. One Who Risks Family
I approach a wide switchback turn and to my surprise a family rounds the turn and is heading my way. I again do not alter my step. They first guy manages to get past me but he is off balance as he passes. The mother with baby in a pack on her back is forced to the steep edge and she too is off balance. Well damn, I don’t want her and the kid to fall so I freeze my step until she takes her off balance momentum and quickly lunges forward. Probably after seeing me shaking my head and using my resting bitch face, the next group is smartly waiting at the wide turn in the switchback.

3. The Vibesters
I approach two people standing in the middle of the trail who are clad in non-hiker clothing and who are playing music outloud from their cell phone. They stare at me approaching and don’t say a word. I step around them and I notice a giant knife hanging from the waist of the girl’s pants. On the switchback above them, I see that they are still standing in the middle of the trail. Those must be some interesting drugs they are on.

A rare quiet moment on the climb up Baden-Powell

4. The Water Vlogger
I’m taking a break on the trail to Lamel Spring. It’s the most perfect ice cold water you’ve ever tasted. I assume this 60-year-old guy took a wrong turn and I ask if he’s trying to get down the mountain. Nope, he’s here to check on the spring. Just down the trail I notice he’s sitting so I assume he’s taking a break too. Next thing I know, I hear him talking and I when I look over I see that he’s filming a video, giving a status report on the spring. He tells me that he’s got a YouTube channel for trail updates and that he’s training for some Sierra hiking this summer.  (I don’t even have a YouTube channel so go figure.)

5. Buddy The Dog
And then there’s Buddy, the excited adventure dog who’s breathing heavy. His owners stop on the side trail to the spring. But apparently, Buddy won’t drink his water because he’s more interested in meeting me. I’m headed out for the rest of the climb so they quickly dump Buddy’s water and restart their climb. With tiny packs, they are faster than me. But I keep getting close to catching up with them because they stop to give Buddy water. When they come into sight, I see Buddy whip his head around to look at me. They promptly dump his water and continue up. This happens at least 4 more times until finally they are headed back down the mountain. Sure hope Buddy didn’t dehydrated because of me.

6. Old Man with a Canteen
There’s an old man approaching with a equally old canteen slung around his hip. He politely steps off trail to let me pass.
“Are you spending the night on top of Baden-Powell?”

“Nope,” I say as I pass.

“That’s an awful lot of gear,” he retorts.

“Well, I’m hiking the PCT so I’m headed up and over. I’ve got another 9 miles to go today.” I’m thinking he doesn’t know what the PCT is because I don’t see any lights of understanding.

“Well, there’s a few patches of snow but you’ll probably be ok,” he thoughtfully considers.

“Oh sure, no problem. I’m sure I’ll be fine.

“Well, have a nice hike.”

“Thank you. You too!”

7. The German Headnet
I know I’m getting close to the top because I’m finally seeing some blue sky through the trees and a ridgeline is taking shape. The trail skirts the North side of the mountain and the views of the desert splay out in front of me. There’s a woman with a German accent standing in the middle of the trail with a bug net on her head. She’s got a larger backpack that’s laying on a nearby stump and I can’t tell if she’s going up or down. Mostly, I’m just distracted by her head net because there really aren’t that many bugs. There are those little black flies that like to zoom in and tag your face. I always imagine they’re collecting trace minerals from my sweat-laden face, arms and legs. Yes, there are a few flying about but you just give a good breathe outwards and blow them away. My headnet trail blocker says something to me but all I can think about is that darn headnet and getting to the top.

More desert views
The Wally Waldron Tree

After I reach the top and take a picture of the famous Waldron Tree, an estimated 1500 year old limber pine, I make my way North on the PCT. In my mind it was downhill from this point on. But traversing the ridgeline west means going up, across and down every little peak. My PMS body is exhausted from my Baden-Powell exersions and I quickly dive into a negative headspace. It plays over and over in my mind how yesterday in Wrightwood, a hiker named Blue stated that being ultralight starts with the body, at which point he looked directly at me. I know I am overweight and I know that makes this hard hiking even harder. Hey, you try not having a thyroid and see how well your body functions! I do my best to shake it off but it’s hard to ignore how sore my body feels and how being overweight certainly plays into that. Then I delve into the why am I out here? Why a third time? There’s been a few magical moments but the afternoon slog in the heat as the body tires, starts to make it not feel worth it. I pull myself through some sharp shrubs that rake at my legs. I have a tantrum and wack my trekking poles at the plants after passing. Take that you shitty plants. My mind plays thru the reality of the rather unfortunate trail vibe. A lot of hikers seem more interested in themselves than the bigger picture of the trail family. Where are all the cool hikers? 

After a total of 4100 ft. of climbing and 4000 ft. down, I drag myself into the Little Jimmy Camp. It’s teeming with people and young kids and I do not find Buddha. Granted, I’m too beat to look very hard. I set up camp in a quiet spot near a road over the edge of the camp. I bliss out on a perfect wooden bench, eat pizza and I’m asleep by 8pm.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

9 thoughts on “Day 22: The Characters of Mt. Baden-Powell

  1. I imagine each section has its own vibe depending on where the other hikes are from. These must mainly be the LA crowd! I bet it gets better when you are in the back country. As Charlie Brown says – “I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!!”

  2. If you’d found the Buddha, you’d have had to kill him, which no doubt would have been a tall order after 14+ miles and Baden-Powell. My wife and I are both very large people (different root cause) who nonetheless do 70+ mile multinight backpacking trips, and the cruel judgement of fools does rain down. Doubly so on women such as you and my wife, since fools seem to think such judgements are welcome; a gift even, to be praised by the receiver. You don’t need some other fool on the Internet telling you how to deal with it; you’ve been doing it your whole life. I have nothing to give you that you don’t already carry. Let me say then, good luck, and good miles.

      1. Yep, Blue is who I meant. Fits square into the ‘fool’ category, the worst kind to boot – the fool who thinks himself wise.

  3. As Sedaris so aptly quoted his brother, “the past is gone, hoss”. The generation of romantic, artistic hikers is yielding to jocks; marathoners, ultras, Euros, et al. Trying to re-create a previous era (your two previous hikes) within the present reality is a futile exercise, one which you are experiencing first hand.

  4. This would have been your most genuine post except you forgot to include a description about yourself…you’re the victim!
    Thanks for proving my point that you never tried to locate me (us). You know, the plan was to meet at Little Jimmie and I’m just at a lost as to why you couldn’t find me? How could you get this so wrong LionHeart?

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