You don’t always get what you want. Sometimes that means good wifi connectivity. Lately, that’s what it’s meant.
Jen jumped on the trail, new boots, rested feet, sad over her breakup with the boots. I dropped her off, she hiked above Big Bear. Forgot her charging cord, so pictures were scarce, as were details. She DID have Chinese food in Big Bear, and kept on going. I don’t know if she walked in wearing this hat, but I hope so.
I left the lonely campground above the lake at Barton Flats, and headed back down the hill, looking for Poke, conversations with people not named Marley and Bernardo, and some Jiu Jitsu.
Since we’d been canoodling in Dana Point, Jen was out of Beach Time and needed to put some miles in on the new boots, so I slowed down to 5 mph, and rolled her out the door at mile 250. I was way too close to the Inland Empire for my taste. Frankly, it’s more the way the Inland Empire tastes, like burning tires, ozone, and heat. Smog. Heat. Tapout shirts. Back to the coast! At least there the people act like they’re better than me
Since I’m kind of trailer park deep in my soul, I stayed at the Crystal Cove campground, which used to be a trailer park perched above some of Southern California’s most desirable views. In true California fashion, well, Southern California, because in Northern California, they’d still be having sit ins and by now all the trailer park people would be subletting their double wides to tech millionaires, the city and county decided to kick the trailers and residents out, and voila! Two decades and multiple lawsuits later, it’s a different kind of trailer park.
Sometimes you find these little gems in unexpected places. I met my friend Michelle at this little bar on the beach IN the state park, next to a bunch of old bungalows. You’re on the sand, drinking, catching up, and thinking that there’s no way this place could be opened now. Kind of a dump, casual, in a world beating location. California has all kinds of little wonders in spite of itself, and it’s always fun to find reminders that this was once a pretty awesome state.
Of course, I had to earn the drinks, so I found some training. Laguna ain’t San Diego or L.A. when it comes to training. I had to drive to find world class instructors. Boo-hoo. So I found a gym that is run by one of the dirty dozen. These are the first twelve non-Brazilians to become Black Belts. I sometimes train with Chris Hauterer when I’m in Torrance, in his garage (literally, that’s where his gym is. Not sure if it’s even a two-car, but the training is better than most dojo-palaces) so I figured a contemporary would be good. So off I went to James Boran BJJ http://www.boranjj.com/
The man himself wasn’t there, and really, neither was anybody else. Brazilian time. An older guy showed up, opened the place, and introduced himself. He was about my age, a brown belt, and there was a new, young white belt girl as well. We treated it kind of like an open mat drill session, very informal. Good rolls, very chill. Of course, the white belt was completely stoned, so that kept the energy on the playful side. Some places are homey, and very chill, and this was one. Of course, I’ve had my ass handed to me in the Garage too, and even my home gym, but in a more down home way.
Meanwhile, back on the trail, Jen was working her way east to west above San Bernardino. The landscape here is kind of crazy. From the smoggy, crowded valley floor, very steep mountains jut up four thousand feet or more. And she gets to walk up them. Then down them, then up some more. The hills here are steep, mostly granite, with some sandstone that used to be ocean floor.
She walks through pine trees, and then down into cactus and scrub oak. Sandy washes and little creeks. There is evidence of huge water, wide washes with trees and brush and trash pushed up against rocks and trees. It might have even been this spring, a little earlier. Almost all of the snow is gone, although she’s walked through patches here and there, nestled in the north facing drainages. There’s even some very nice bridges, over what we’re not sure.
Jen says No to Joe! She’s intending to walk every mile of the PCT, that isn’t closed due to fire, or flooding, or frogs (yes, frogs). She also does not intend to walk any miles that aren’t PCT, and that includes peaks, and overlooks, and hotsprings.
She also found this little mystery. A fully enclosed toilet, with solar power, in the middle of nowhere.
This is also one of those parts of the trail that must be a little frustrating. The mantra is walking from Mexico to Canada, and the people, like Jen and most PCT hikers, are called NOBOs. North Bound. There are SOBOs, although the snow this year will make that an unlikely voyage. Too much snow in Oregon and Washington, so they’ll start very late, and likely run out of good weather.
Pretty much starting at Mile 270, near where I dropped her off, then across Big Bear, the San Berardino Wilderness, past Butler Peak and Lake Arrowhead, she’ll walk west, not North. She’ll walk west, through the Angeles Crest Highway, and won’t turn North again until Mile 436. By then, she’ll be north of Pasadena, standing above the Old School L.A. with its outdated and super sketchy freeway interchanges, above Burbank and Glendale and Studio City.
For now, she’s walking to mile 330, where nestled above the teeming metropolis that is Hesperia, is a lake and a campground and hopefully a trailer, some dogs, and a husband.
Next day I walked in to a Carlson Gracie Club gym, run by Allan Goes. Former MMA fighter, 6th degree Black Belt, and the only Brazilian I’ve met who starts class on time. I was a little late, because I suck, and was figuring that somebody would be showing up shortly to unlock the doors. Nope, class is full, several Black Belts on the floor, doing a regimented warmup, with a very intimidating Professor Goes standing at the front.
Oops! I get dressed, he tells me that they go on American time, and jump in. Of course, I have no idea of what is going on, flail around in warmups, and then get paired with a big blue belt to work on some stuff.
They have cards. These guys have cards telling them what they should be working on. At first, it seemed a little McDojo, or at least Traditional Martial Arts, with the outlined curriculum, and then you get your promotion. NOT AT ALL. This gym is no joke. It’s not a full on blood bath MMA gym where a bunch of young guys try to kill you with an only the strong survive mentality. It’s professional, not gladiatorial, and they take their learning seriously, and more formally than most BJJ gyms, and it shows. Professor Goes is both very competition focused and self-defense focused. I was told he train several pro-fighters, including Lyota Machida, and I’m not surprised. In the middle of this, my phone rings, and this guy who once fought Dan Henderson to a decision, gives me a slightly dirty, mostly disappointed look. Damn!
After that, we learn some good stuff, which hopefully I’ll remember soon, I think it had to do with an armbar set up. I woke up around 2 a.m. after writing this, and remembered that we were working arm drags to back, something that has eluded me from day one. Oh, btw, I’m writing down stuff that I learned, so I don’t forget it. You’ll have to suffer along. Then we drill, with this big guy sitting on me, while I try to escape from bad positions. Totally made me realize that I need to work on that. I started to get okay at passing the guard about a year ago, and haven’t spent that much time getting smashed, and forget that it sucks. Back to the basics. I went two days in a row, and felt like a wrung out towel both days. Some places feel like home, real comfortable. This place felt like I was being challenged and pushed, and that was awesome too. I can be real lazy with my training, very complacent, and you need a reminder that you have to think and work to get better. I liked how they really work to chart progress, give direction, start on time. Just wish I’d known so I didn’t look like a jerk.
If you were thinking it was time for more Jen, you’re right. She was ready for a break, and her shirt was filthy, and it was time for laundry and a shower. I’d found a camp site at Silverton Lake, up above Hesperia. If you don’t know where that is, your life hasn’t been wasted. Jen was making better time than she had in the past, her feet weren’t bugging her, and therefore I had to hurry up to meet her. She actually beat me to the camp, had already showered, pitched her tent and taken a nap. In my defense, she’d demanded that I find her donuts, so I was delayed.
She’d ditched her ultra-light, not freestanding, super expensive tent at the last meet up, and I sold it to some guy on Facebook. Obviously, I didn’t ask enough for it, since he was willing to drive an hour up to meet me and get it. Still, $500 for a used tent seemed like a good deal to me. She’d taken my tent, all 5 pounds of solid, not going to fall down in the wind or snow tent, and loved it, except the 5 pound part. So, back to REI for a new tent. She got a freestanding, single person little thing that neither I nor the dogs will ever be allowed into. At this point I was trying to steer her to a bivy sack. Lighter, cheaper, not much smaller, but got nowhere.
After about five donuts, Jen started to regret that decision, and I took the remaining half dozen up the trail while she napped, before she could change her mind. I was looking for hikers so I could do a little trail angel action. About an hour in, I gave up. I’m not into this long distance hiking thing. I left the box, with PCT spelled out on top of it in sticks, and turned around. I wanted to make sure none of the fat little kids who had woken me up too early the day before got any donuts, so I marked them and put them up the hill where they’d be unlikely to find them. I hit the paved bike path, and of course there’s five hikers walking along. I told them there were donuts about a mile up the trail, and you could see them considering it.
Next morning, after a steak dinner, no more donuts and some time off, Jen was going to hit the trail again. I hiked up the trail again, planning on checking on my donuts, and sure enough some kid from Carolina is walking down the trail with the empty box. Success! I was pretty happy since this was the first trail magic I’d done that had worked out.
Jen was donut fueled and ready to hike, plus she’d heard that there was a McDonalds just off trail, and she knows how I feel about that, so she was ready to ditch me, get some McFood, and not have me looking at her all disappointed and sanctimonious about it.
If you’re keeping score, the campground was at mile 330, give or take, and Jen has been on the trail, mostly, since April 18, so a little over a month. She’s averaged about 11 miles per day, but that included a lot of rest days due to the blisters, and she’s regularly doing 20 mile days when she’s on the trail. At this pace, she’d be done in about 5 months, late September, which is hopefully early enough to avoid getting snowed on in Washington.
I turned back around, and headed back to the coast, this time just north of Malibu.