I finally let the alarm do it's job and we got up at 5:15 and hit the trail by 6. Around the first bend we approached a fenced comp ground, and like an explosion a loud roar filled the air. We looked at each other with wide eyes as a dog started to bark and approached the area with caution. In cages behind the fence we could see two massive grizzly bears, a tiger, a black panther and a lion. There was a large German shepherd mix barking at us from on the hill and as we approached he walked closer on only three legs. I started to sweet talk the dog and he stopped barking, lowered his head and pushed his body to the fence. I pet the 'guard dog' for about ten minutes before we pressed on.
I had to stop a few times to tend to my feet as per usual and we hiked with purpose toward Big Bear. The trail was an easy grade over Onyx Summit and we opted to sit and have a cup of coffee at the top. Josh pointed to a sunny area to take a break and when we arrived we were treated to trail magic! A couch filled with snow and a toolbox containing a variety of sodas and cookies. I put my sleeping pad over the icy sofa and drank a cherry Pepsi and ate some cookies while reading the trail register. Happy feet had passed on the 24th, Sasquatch made big miles and passed the day before when we saw him at Coon Creek Cabin. There was no entry from Pillsbury so she must have passed during the night or early morning as it seems the box is locked up at night, probably for bears.
We continued down the mountain at a reasonable pace and the miles were ticking off but not without effort. Both of our feet were hurting and I asked if Josh would trade me shoes. At least our feet would hurt in a different way, which is refreshing!
We took short breaks here and there until we started to climb and I felt something tear in my sock. I dropped pack and took off my sock to find a mess of goo between my first and second toes. I had torn open a blister and could not tell what was skin and what was adhesive from the tape. We back tracked down to a creek where I took off every piece of tape on my feet. I had neglected to clean my feet the day before and the tape was old and wrinkled with nothing but bad news below. I stuck my feet in the freezing creek and took hand sanitizer to them (which felt like a fiery death) on a baby wipe to try and remove the adhesive. Josh stuck his feet in the creek too and tried to hold them there as long as possible by singing silly songs. I was at a loss on what to do and Josh recommended I don't tape anything. I did want he said and put on clean-ish socks and his brooks shoes. We hiked out slowly and surprisingly my feet were feeling ok.
As we made it to the top of the canyon I spotted a familiar hiker resting under a tree. "Lion King?" I said. "Hey Mandie," he replied. "Is Josh with you?" Just then Josh arrived and instantly knew who this was. Lion King aka Michael Thomas Daniels is a film maker and accomplished thru hiker whom Josh and I have followed on the internet. This was the first time we actually met him and it was a nice encounter. Josh took a photo with him while I stood on the sidelines, I know I was a little standoffish, but only due to my feet hurting and being a bit socially awkward. Not very conducive to making friends, I know. Lion King gave us the heads up on a hotel in Big Bear and we thanked him before we hiked on.
The trail winds thru a strange mix of Pine, Juniper and Joshua Trees as it heads toward Big Bear. Here we had our first glimpse of the Mojave and I thought to myself holy shit, that's going to be trippy. The trail is beyond easy here, very flat and well maintained, so nice in fact it seems to have lured mountain bikers and we saw many tracks in the clay soil.
We popped out at mile 266 on Hwy 18 around 3pm and crossed the street to try to hitch into town. We only had to flag three cars before one picked us up! A young guy who's name (I think) was Gary drove us to the post office and chatted us up about the area and his sporting adventures. We tried to give him some cash for the ride and he refused saying he was happy to drive us.
We went inside and I asked the postal worker for my box and he said it was at a different location. Maaaaaaannnn. A man over heard and offered us a ride but then discovered he had locked his keys in his car. We thanked him anyway and went to find something to eat. We walked down Big Bear Blvd and spotted Pillsbury in the distance! We chatted her up about the hike and town before she left to head back to the trail and us to CVS. While we ate ice cream sandwiches and Gatorade at the bus stop we discovered there was a hotel in the vicinity and we opted to stay there and call it a day.
We walked into The Best Western Big Bear Chateau and it was fancy! The rate was reasonable and we took a room on the fist floor. Never have I stayed in so many first floor rooms. I think they save them for stinky hiker trash so no one gets stuck in an elevator with them. I don't mind though, it's closer to the continental breakfast :-D
We spent the rest of the night cleaning ourselves up, licking our wounds, eating and watching TV. (I love that Josh likes Pretty Woman!) We're playing with the thought of a double zero here to heal our feet once and for all! It is also Josh's Birthday on the 30th, so a double zero ensures we have cake and ice cream! I've given up on trying to hike on other peoples feet. I'm just going to take it at my pace and have a good time.
Tomorrow I'll figure out shoes.
Until then, goodnight!