Pam was kind enough to keep us until late in the morning. Much of my time was spent on the cabin's backyard deck. Previous owners had constructed it around the existing Ponderosas, which shaded the entire yard from their little foot and a half diameter pine cutouts through the deck. Pam was plagued by the sap from the trees, but I was so pleased with the construction that I basked in the sun filtered through the pine needles until time came to return to the trail.
We were let off at Inspiration Point, the same rest area from which we'd originally hitched to Wrightwood. Coyote had performed another exorcism on my ankles and calves, and I was feeling nauseated when we pulled in. I told them to go up ahead while my stomach settled. After a couple of hours and several conversations with passing hikers, I continued down the trail. Coyote and Grasshopper were napping just a few miles in. She had also begun to feel sick, perhaps from concentrating so hard on removing my pain. I felt terrible that I might have contributed to this, and exacerbated the problem by waking them both up to see if they wanted to camp together later that night. They were very patient with me, however, and we all determined to walk to South Fork campground.
There are two accepted alternates to the Endangered Species Closure near Devil's Punchbowl. We decided to skip the climb over Mt Baden-Powell, which leads, naturally to the much shorter alternate. This would leave us with the longer alternate through the Punchbowl. Fewer hikers, hopefully.
We met up at the Manzanita Trail, the beginning of the High Desert Alternate, and walked for five miles to South Fork campground. It was entirely empty. 20 or so spaces for cars and recreational vehicles and a large group campground all belonged to us. We caught a newly hatched gopher snake, cooked a huge feast and luxuriated in the simple pleasure of being away from the herd.