Day 5 (7.0mi) Tent site to Scissors Crossing/Julian
(Been seeing a lot of this guy lately)
Spent a pretty easy morning hiking down in elevation a ton, then got to a road crossing. As luck would have it, there was a van taking hikers all the way to Julian, CA for free and they had one seat left. I struggled to decide abandoning my plans to go straight to Warner Springs, but I am glad I did.
Slight tangent, buckle up…
What really drove me throughout the AT was a curiosity of whether or not I could actually do it. 3 cortisone shots and a ton of blisters later…done. Fast forward to present day and my curiosity isn’t as heavy on the PCT. It sounds arrogant, and I couldn’t mean it any less that way. Thing is, literally everyone I’ve met that has done both have said the AT is way harder physically. This has probably been said by at least 30-40 people I’ve met in person over the years.
So I have now done parts in all three states. Desert, check. Climb out of Columbia River in Oregon, check. Gnarly trekking in the Cascades in Washington, check. It’s all full of switchbacks. My knees are doing great. No blisters. As I’ve said before. Kind of boring.
So why am I glad I went out of my comfort zone, broke from plan, and spent some time in Julian? It reminded me of a key aspect of thru-hiking, the people. When asking other thru-hikers (myself included) you tend to not remember the rocks, roots, climbs, etc. Instead you remember that crazy German you hiked many miles with, or that time you left you phone in Vermont never to be seen again, or the guy on a lung transplant list in Virginia, or the guy riding a unicycle on the CDT, or giving a how-to thru-hike talk to day hikers in the White Mountains to earn a bunk spot for the night. Experiences. Oops. Forgot about that whole experiences thing.
Julian was much needed. There is a restaurant called Carmen’s. Bet you can’t guess who owns it. Anyways, she is amazing. “Every hiker gets a beer and a hug” she says. She only accepts donations and is closed for everyone right now, except “her kids, the hikers” as she calls us. Turns out she is selling the joint and wants to make sure the new owners still give the hikers a home and we are not just stuck in the desert. So last night, she brought us all in to meet the future potential owners, proving to them that we aren’t murders/skanks/hippies/freeloaders. (She is mostly right). Regardless, it ruled seeing someone care so hard and being so selfless.
(Yep. I’m a trashy dude.)
Day 6 (9.4mi) Scissors Crossing/Julian to tent site
Myself and 7 other hikers slept on the floor at Carmen’s restaurant last night. Yay for earplugs. I spent the morning getting my gear packed back up, cleaning some bathrooms, and helping the cook make pico de gallo. Figured it was the least I could do given how she opens her place up.
You may be thinking, “Dude, your mileage has dropped in half.” First off… I applaud your math skills. Second, it’s not a race. I told myself a few years ago that if I ever did another thru-hike, I’d soak it in more. So that’s what I am doing. Hiking a little slower. Stopping and looking around once and a while. Digging the experiences in trail towns. I’m bad at chilling. Seriously, all my closest friends and family know this. I always want to cram it all in. I need to cram chilling in to. I’m getting there. Learning curve man.
Speaking of curves…
I spent the first part of my afternoon hiking up up up a mountain range. I saw a hairpin curve ahead and thought I’d let this fast hiker (who I never met) pass me up. Him and his headphones meant business. Basically running to Canada. Then 45 seconds later I see a silhouette of him jumping in the air on one leg, screaming, and a snake striking towards his other leg. I scream out to ask if he got hit. He did not. But the rattlesnake kept eyeing him down afterwards. My first rattler (on this trail). Daniel-son (the other hikers trail name) was pretty spooked. Rightfully so.
Day 7 (?mi) tent site to Montezuma Valley Road
Super windy night last night. Again, yay earplugs. Windy day too! The dichotomy of the desert is amazing. Wind: good while hiking in hot weather, bad while setting up a tent. Water: good for hydration, bad for carrying. Sun: good to warm up to while breaking down camp at sunrise, bad while burning your flesh during hiking. Goldylocks.
Anyways… hit a water cache. Totally volunteer funded and maintained. Amazing. Saw a cave that looked straight out of Zelda. Hovering in my brain was also a loose plan to make it to Warner Springs tonight. However, I have also vowed to enjoy this hike and embrace opportunities/experiences.
Sure enough, I came to a campsite near a highway this afternoon to take a quick break and all of a sudden an man from China came running asking “Are you camping here?”. He seemed frantic as though I was going to take his spot. He said “Please come 100ft up trail.” I figured “Sure. Experiences, right?”…
Boom. Trail magic. Hot dogs. Beer. Water. Candy. Chips. Brownies. Happy hikers and good times. I have an easy hike in to Warner Springs tomorrow. Need to do laundry. Badly. Really badly. I’ll also need to wait around until Monday when the post office opens so I can hit my bounce box and resupply.
(Nothing like surprising the cook from behind)
I feel guilty not putting more miles in. I need to let it go. 1) I told myself I was going to enjoy this hike and not rush 2) the Sierras got 17ft of snow in March alone, so it’s best to get there early June instead of mid May like I was tracking.
Time to hear a bunch of hikers snore at this crowded site. Again, yay earplugs.
Day 8 (?mi) Montezuma Valley Road to Warner Springs
(Fly like an eagle)
Awesome day, even if I did miss an important turn. Oops. Saw Eagle Rock. A naturally formed rock formation that looks like, well, an eagle. Saw my first creek since the beginning of the trail. Trees too! Babbled with another hiker, Tunes, for the next few hours and walked an extra 2.5 miles north. No big deal though. We got a hitch back to Warner Springs and was there by lunch.
(Thanks for the reminder)
Took a bucket shower and did bucket laundry. Both are exactly what they sound like. Pretty necessary after 110 miles in the desert. Started looking into how to handle the first trail closure due to wild fire.
Also had a pretty easy walk in to town. Through a cow field. Weird.
(The crooked “8” bothers me)
Also had dinner with a bunch of hikers at a golf course grill. They separate all the hikers from everybody else and put us on the patio. Classic.
Met a cool couple who reconnected 20 years after high school, got married on day one of the PCT and are making this their honeymoon. Turning in early tonight. Hiker midnight is 9am.
Day 9: Warner Springs to Auga Caliente Creek
Hit my bounce box for the first time on the hike. I am trying to hit it every 10-ish days to refresh on meds, toothpaste, etc. shipped it another 100+ miles up the trail.
I also took my time getting out of Warner Springs. Myself and 6 other hikers helped the community center workers move four huge leaf piles off the property. They need help due to an upcoming newscast this week on PCT hikers. Still got out by 3pm and busted out some miles to get to my creekside campsite. Camping with a MIT mechanical engineer who is starting her doctorate in the Fall after hiking. Lots of engineers thru-hiking. Just like the AT.
Day 10: Auga Caliente Creek to Tent Site
After a few hours of walking I felt like I was back on the AT. Following a creek. Cool-ish. Bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Even after getting up in elevation and away from the creek, they swarmed in my face most of the day.
Eventually I hit water at Mike’s Place. He opens his house and water supply to hikers. I avoided the vortex of his pizza and hiker infested house. Normally I’d be game, but I am looking forward an actual zero day in Idyllwild. A day where zero miles are hiked. Haven’t done that yet. Probably should.
Speaking of miles, I’m not even going to track them anymore. Given I’ve recently decided to make it more about the experiences and less about the mileage goal, I’m going to not document it. Besides, I know I’m slowly getting towards Canada each day, and that’s good enough.
Let’s see if I can actually get up early and get some miles in pre-heat. Fingers crossed.
Day 11: Tent Site to Idyllwild
(Sunrise. I did it!)
Woke up sort of early. Beat some of the heat. Cranked out around 18 miles or so by 3pm. Still got crazy hot. I mean…it is the desert.
Eventually got a ride into Idyllwild. Hitch hiking was hard. There was a state trooper who had someone pulled over messing up my game. I even gave him the thumb. He had zero interest.
I’m crashing at Idyllwild Bunkhouse. Straight off the bat, toilet doesn’t flush. Shower is full of mold. A/C is pitiful. But hey, it’s still easier than the desert!
On my “off day” tomorrow, I need to loom at maps an understand where to intersect the PCT again (fire closure is messing up the normal trail). Once I figure that out, then I need to see how far up the trail is the next food resupply. Buy however much food, clean gear, make some calls, and eventually rest.
Also, sungloves are a must. Need. Outfitter. Now.
(This is getting old real fast)