Days 17 and 18: Tues/Wed, May 21/22

- Tuesday: Cowboy camping under a tree (PCT mi 250.5), walked 19.7 miles today

- Wednesday: at Nature's Inn in Big Bear City (PCT mi 266.0), walked 15.5 miles plus at least 4 more getting around town (not sure how that fits into the total)

It all started to go a bit pear-shaped for me yesterday (Tuesday) when I turned my phone on in the morning to find that the battery had almost completely drained overnight, from 80% down to 15%. It was done by midday and even Rocket Llama's solar USB charger couldn't save it ... The charger appeared to work at first, but it gave me the death boop as soon as I unplugged it. So there went maps, water report, reading material, and journaling medium. Was able to hand-copy relevant map/water info for the rest of the section from other people's stuff. Was mostly walking blind from then on, which was kind of nice, in the way that not having a cell phone for a few days in the real world (while it's broken, lost or whatever) is nice. But not a good long-term situation. Today I ordered more batteries shipped to Cajon Pass aka Cojones Pass, 75 miles up the trail from here.

My backpack also has some issues, broken zipper on a hipbelt pocket that renders it mostly unusable, and the two ends of the internal aluminum stay have decided to poke through the fabric at the bottom of the pack and now they glance off my butt-cheeks at each stride. Also had to deal with this in town by e-mailing the pack maker, Matt at Elemental Horizons. Hopefully something good comes out of it.

As for the hiking days themselves, yesterday was pretty hard all the way through. It was hot, windless and mischievously uphill all morning, then cooler but rolly in the afternoon. Legs were cooked by the end, even though it wasn't even 20 miles. Also I must have sweated about 5 gallons, my shirt and shorts are both covered in Rorschach-blot salt patterns from where it all evaporates. At the very end of the day, walked by something called Randy's Predators in Action, which is where Hollywood stunt animals live in cages. Suffice it to say I wish that place would burn to the ground.

Today was a fairly straightforward 15 to the highway. Walked and talked with Cream Tea, a pretty great English lady, for the last 7 or so, which flew by. After a 30+ minute wait, a nice guy named Mark, who I got the sense did not pick up hitchers very often, gave me a ride in, and actually drove me a few places around town. He dropped me off for good at the Big Bear Lake Hostel, which was full of hiker-looking people I'd never seen before (this is usually a red flag, for me at least). They were drinking at 2pm and told me that the hostel owner as well was "out drinking for the day." Used an outlet there to revive my phone, then skipped out. After the town bus didn't show up when I had read it would, walked up an ugly ass highway for 2+ miles, went to the library, printed out maps for the next section, then ate 80% of a 14" Californian pizza (chicken, bacon, tomato, avocado ... why can't this exist everywhere?), did shopping, and tried to hitch to this inn/hostel. Had to walk half the way before local hero Brandon finally stopped and offered a ride.

The innkeeper here, while certainly a funny guy, gave me literally a 45-minute rundown of _everything_ in Big Bear and the hotel itself, and that was about 35 minutes too much. His maneuvering within the space of the hotel office and the room itself was subtle and ruthless: I had no way to escape his presence. "And then the eagle swooped down and BRAWWWKK!" I don't care, man, I just want a hot shower and ESPN on in the background. But the place really is boss: I got the "shared room" for $25, which includes a Jacuzzi, shower, fridge, microwave and queen-size bed. Too bad there's no one around to share it with. Just a shame.

Tomorrow I will break the fast at legendary hiker eatery Thelma's, do some laundry and then get back on the trail. Blog entries may be uneven, as I'm not sure about having the battery power to type them over the next few days.