PCT+9 = Homeward Bound

Not a bad way to spend 40 days. I suppose.  Final tally, 19 days of hiking, 369 miles. 21 days of travel, broken bones, thorns, mammoths and boardwalk ice cream cones.  Decent, although I can’t quite decide if going slower would have helped the feet.  I think not.  And, then I would have missed many other things, experiences, and friends.  It’s hardly On the Road, but then again maybe it was.  I’m certainly more Sal than Dean.

On Sunday I left Tehachapi, drove Q down to the Bakersfield, and after a few side adventures, we found the Amtrak station.  He’s off to Michigan to pick up his truck and the family dogs, and return.  Jade, aka Empty Tank, remains bound for Canada.  The party was almost over, most were hitching uptrail, or actually hiking out.  

A few were remaining to nurse sore feet.  The only thing anyone could talk about was the heat, although some of us had bigger crosses to bear than others: “Man, my period is supposed to start today, and I have to do all this hiking…”

It was 107 in the Central valley as I drove through, what a terrible place.  Did some car wandering, and wound up at the beach campground in Carpinteria. Fortunately a spot opened….but for 45 bucks.  

I had to dip my gross, blistery, broken feet in the Pacific though.  The water seemed…dirty, maybe it was the brown sand, or the offshore oil wells.  Or maybe just the lighting.  It’s not Rhode Island ocean water, thats for sure.

(… standing on the beach, the Sea will part before me …)

On my last day here, appropriately enough, Q asked me, after calling me Greybeard instead of Smokebeard, “what was that guy in the Lord of the Rings, the Grey Beard?  The Grey Wanderer?”  “The Grey Pilgrim”, I answered, with enormous satisfaction.  It’s not every day you get confused with Gandalf, but I’ll take it!  It’s not something you can do for yourself, it can only be given.  Since none of these whippersnappers know Kerouac or music before 1990, maybe I should just stick with Greybeard going forward.  At least out here, where the hikers are young and the stars are strange.

Monday was a slow drive down the coast to LA, where I finally got an opportunity to visit the La Brea Tar Pits.

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Very cool.  

After that I went to the Venice Beach Hostel, dumped my stuff and hobbled down the strip of burger stands, street performers, and marijuana  “clinics”, where for 40 bucks they’ll find something medically wrong with you.  It’s a classy sort of place, featuring little shops that sell women’s underwear with the words “It ain’t gonna spank itself” printed on the rear.  Vegas meets Ocean City.  At least there’s some soul here.

Eventually the foot forced me back, so I hung out in my room, where I’m the only American.  In addition to the usual Brazilians, there’s a Swiss girl and a guy from West Africa, country unspecified.  The Italian guy and the African guy are “aspiring actors”.

Limped around, found dinner, watched them filming some kind of skate park thing, and people-watched as the ratio of tourists to fringe people subtly shifted the other way, and things started to get enjoyable sketchy.  I had a chat with a homeless woman exercising her 2 year old pitbull, the only time I’ve ever seen that done.  Great, well behaved dog.  Turns out she didn’t need any help, so I left her playing tennis ball fetch.

At 5:30 the next day, the two actors were up, and the others were beginning to move around.  My Swiss friend never made it back to the hostel last night.  Took an actual shower, then went out wandering in search of coffee.  Saw all the people sleeping on the beach just starting to stir and was struck by some eerie similarities to basically any thruhiker campsite.

Also, surfers.

Finally, I found a place that serves “Four Barrel Coffee” (that’s  an old car reference, kids) and was blasting The Wall (on vinyl, on a Marantz turntable and receiver), getting there just in time for final, tremendous verse of The Show Must Go On.  apropos?  We then switched over to a full play of Led Zeppelin III.  TIL that the subject/singer of the traditional song “Gallows Pole” is a woman, something I had always suspected.

Good times.

Over a Second Breakfast of hostel waffles, where I found myself the waffle-iron instructor to baffled foreigners, I got to know some other hostel-dwellers, a Swede, a Brit, and an Aussie girl who liked Vonnegut, Heinlein and Dylan, who she had seen on concert in 2014.  What was sobering to me was that I had seen Dylan before she was born.  Once again I was going to be free uber, but a last minute lost passport sent my riders into a panic, so I set out solo.

More infamous LA traffic later, a long flight, and I made it home.

I even beat my backpack, which ended up getting delivered the next day, with only minor damage…less than I feared, so I’m counting it as a win.

I think California and the PCT aren’t quite finished with me yet.  Looking at the map, there’s a lot of walking left.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jason Major says:

    It was an adventure, to say the least. Thanks for the sights along the way, and welcome back. (Are you Whitebeard now?)

  2. bernard s sobel says:

    Ed: very impressed with the melding of photos-and-story.. The colors of the images were woven so seamlessly into the ‘story line’… Thanks 4 the vicarious hike. ( Wish I could have done this in ’64 , as I hitch-hiked thru Europe x 6 wks…)
    Perhaps you may have a 2nd chance..


    1. edthesmokebeard says:


  3. Tim says:

    Ed, totally felt like I was on the trail with you. Thanks for letting me hitch along!

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