Poodle Dog, that is. Poodle Dog bush, that is. Yeah, that’s right, the most terrifying thing we have to watch out for on trail is called Poodle Dog bush. Now I know it sounds silly, but this shit is no joke, and we just had our first real sighting of it.
When last we left you we were headed towards Cajon Pass. Cajon Pass is basically an exit off of a highway with a McDonalds, a Best Western, and Circle K. From the PCT it is four tenths of a mile off trail. Somehow this roadside stop has become a PCT legend. For days leading up to it everyone is talking about McDonalds. About how many nuggets and burgers they are going to put down. Apparently it is tradition to try to eat twenty dollars worth of McDonalds? I haven’t eaten McDonalds in years… But the trail does strange things to you when it comes to food. I was really looking forward to a McFlurry. We woke up early to get into Cajon after a very shitty night of sleep at a very sloped cramped campsite. The hike in was uneventful until we reached what we later learned was the San Andreas Fault. That is where the landscape got crazy. Mist was blanketing everything and these huge sheer cliffs kept appearing out of nowhere. They looked new, as if a landslide had taken the side of the mountain away just yesterday, missing the PCT by mere feet. Eventually we descended into a canyon which had puddles of water were a stream sometimes flows.
Cajon Pass. Lots of McDonalds. Lots of hikers. What more is there to say. In our guide book, shortly after Cajon Pass, you are supposed to start looking for Poodle Dog bush. After we left the pass we became quite zealous about it, becoming terrified of plants I am pretty sure we have been walking through for the past three hundred miles. Poodle Dog bush has a purple flower, so anything that was even remotely purple was treated like the devil incarnate. We continued on like this, climbing for most of the day, and also keeping a wary eye on a thunder storm that was taking place up ahead in the mountains.
Some time later, as I was taking off around a corner, Cameron shouted out, “Poodle Dog!” And sure enough, there on the ground was a note on a index card inside a plastic bag. Next to it was a very dead Poodle Dog bush, but even in its dead form I could tell we hadn’t seen it before. It is very distinct, the leaves look similar to marijuana leaves and it actually has the same skunky smell, leading to rumors that a couple hikers in the past tried to smoke it and had to be evacuated to the hospital. Poodle Dog bush is a plant that causes skin irritation, similar to Poison Oak, but apparently much much worse. Many of the things that work to combat Poison Oak do not work on Poodle Dog bush. In areas where there is a lot of it people are advised to wear long sleeve shirts and pants, and there are a couple of spots where reroutes have been set up to avoid bad blooms all together. It is one of the first plants to come back after a forest fire, so it is found in many of the burn areas on the PCT.
Shortly after the first dead Poodle Dog bush (someone must have come through and sprayed, thank you!) we started to see some dead bushes with live leaves on them. We became very militaristic, moving slowly and cautiously, calling out to eachother whenever we saw a bush, dead or alive. We slowed down from three miles an hour to one. We were not taking any chances. Finally we reached the end of the Poodle Dog bush section, although there is more to come ahead.
Currently we are in Wrightwood taking a zero day. Wrightwood rivals Idyllwild as a trail town, although our hotel doesn’t have AC, which is infuriating. A day off was necessary because I still have a muscle in my leg that is bothering me and Cameron may or may not have sprained his ankle. Tomorrow Cammy’s friend Brennan will hike out with us (and trail angel us because he is bringing Cameron new shoes and couple other supplies) and spend the night on trail with us before heading back. We have planned the next eleven days of our trip (roughly) and they are looking hot but full of adventure and entertainment. The trail continues to provide, like when we were coming into Wrightwood and Cameron had run out of water with six miles to go and suddenly a plastic bag with two water bottles in it appeared on a stump. We are more than halfway through the desert, and I know that even though there have been tough times I am going to look back very fondly on this part of our trip. You all know I love a good suffer-fest, and this is as ripe as they come.