Nero Daze


A slow start to a lazy day. One of those mornings where you just don’t want to hike, but you don’t want to hang around town, either. So you split the difference and take a “nero,” not quite a zero but not much more.

The little town of Wrightwood has a lot to offer: breweries, bakeries, various restaurants, a great grocery called Jensen’s and a gear store called Mountain Hardware. Friends from the trail crashed in various cabins and motels, sometimes cramming as many as half a dozen or more people into a single $100 room.

Rodeo and I find a hiker hostel called The Holistic Day Spa, a log house just outside town where you can get a cozy private room for $50 or claim a couch on the long porch for $10. In a pinch, the owners make room for you under the dining table for $5 – and do your laundry. They also shuttle you to and from town, as well as up and down the mountain, for free. A pet pig sleeps in the kitchen, bt know that he’s cleaner than we are.

We spend the morning stocking up on supplies, having a coffee at the Cinnamon Bakery and packing up. By the time we hit the trail, it’s coming up on 10 am.

The trail from Islip Saddle, where I left off yesterday, begins with yet another peak: Mt Williamson, rising 1200 feet in less than 2 miles. — not the stuff of  perfect nero, I think to myself as I slog upwards. The views are impressive, as you would expect at 7800 feet, but an anti-climax after Mt Baden-Powell. I am only glad I did not do it yesterday evening, as planned.


From there it’s an easy downhill walk, save for the necessity of making another of those PCT choices around mile 390. It seems the rare mountain yellow-legged frog makes its home on the PCT after the Eagle’s Roost picnic area. The official Endangered Species Detour takes 20.5 miles to bypass seven miles of frog habitat. The unofficial detour entails a roadwalk on Highway 2. Not big on tarmac, I opt to hitch, along with a few others, and pop back onto the trail where Highway 2 again crosses the trail at mile 398.

Don’t you just hate amphibians? I mean, really. Mass extinction of species is a looming reality. You would think these little yellow-legged slippery slimies would just give it up already.

Two miles later, a milestone in pine comes: the 400-mile mark. Nearby, there’s a clear burbling spring not shown on Halfmile Notes and, a bit further around mile 402, yet another. The Camp Glenwood youth camp also has piped water, not to mention a beautiful little cabin and camp sites.


At the Three Points trailhead, where the PCT makes its ninth crossing of Highway 2 since Wrightwood, at mile 403, we catch a lift to Newcomb’s Ranch, a nearby biker haven offering good food and drinks. A checkered racing flag waves smartly in the breeze.

It’s Rodeo’s last night on the trail. Heavy-heartedly, we drop down to the nearest motel, in an LA suburb called La Crescenta, half an hour away. Marilyn Monroe used to escape here, a long, long time ago. How weird, coming down so far from the mountains, only to go back up in the morning, alone.

May 10





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