Idyllwild to Julian

Highlights: We hiked out of Idyllwild with the intention of doing the road walk around the old fire closure there, and quickly decided the road that we were on was a death trap, and found a safe(ish) place to hitchhike around it. We got a ride to the Paradise Cafe where we had humongous burgers and hiked on via the trail from there. We are hiking through lower elevation territory with many cactuses and other plants all thorny or spikey. We are lucky that the weather is staying relatively cool. We hiked into Warner Springs to pick up our package at the post office and got intercepted by a trail angel there, Lawrence the spring guy, who coaxed us into staying for leftover spaghetti dinner with blueberry pie and showers at the community center. We carried on past Eagle Rock to Julian where we decided to spend the night, although we really didn’t need a night in a hotel- it would be our last one of the trail!

Day 116: Idyllwild to Mile 140, about 16 miles

October 25th: We got up and looked for a place to eat for breakfast. As usual, our hiker schedules meant we were up before anyone else, and the only thing open was the Town Bakery. This bakery had unbelievably delicious pastries and we totally pigged out on their egg and ham turnovers and the cinnamon buns. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This bakery is even better than the one in Stehekin. No joke!

We headed out of town looking for the road to Paradise Cafe. We were armed with a map that Ziggy and the Bear gave us, but with no road or trail names on it, we decided to just ask some locals for directions. We were meant to walk on road 243 then on route 74 to get there. We started walking, and the road got more and more hairy. It was a Saturday, and Idyllwild is a tourist town, so everyone and their families were out driving this “scenic” (read: windy as all hell with no shoulder) road going 50-60mph. It got so bad that I started not being able to walk on the correct side of the white line marking the edge of the road because it was so close to the guard rail, and the other side of the guard rail was a 45 degree cliff. I could almost feel the cars nearly brushing up against me as they were trying to squeeze through these narrow corners, still going twice the speed limit. I was shaking and yelling at Dirt Stew who was walking ahead of me. “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!”

The minute there was a tiny amount of space on the side of the road we stopped walking and with absolutely no hesitation we agreed we had to get the heck out of there. Getting killed by walking on a highway road at the end of our hike would be the stupidest way to go. I was angry that we wound up hitch-hiking because we had done so many annoying road walks that now seemed pointless. In the end, the whole hike is in some sense pointless– sometimes you get carried away in the details of keeping a continuous footpath, or being a purist, or whatever your goals are. We all create rules for ourselves and then when reality forces you to do something different, you start to question the whole thing. Oh well, we could always come back and hike around Idyllwild, we said to each other.

We got to Paradise Cafe, and ordered burgers, which of course made everything better.

Huge burger!

Huge burger!

As we hiked on, we ran into a trail angel, Mary, who had stocked one of the water caches for us, and was in the middle of trying to plant a cottonwood in hopes that it would provide some shade for hikers in the future. We tried to help her plant the tree, but cutting the plastic pot off of the tree roots was a one person job, so we thanked her and carried on with our hike. The trail was easy, so I worked on learning my state capitals and finally camped on a slanty spot near the trail sometime after dark.

Mary, trying to plant a Cottonwood

Mary, trying to plant a Cottonwood

Day 117: Mile 140 to Mile 112.5, 27.5 miles

October 26th: The water sources have been quite regular in these areas thanks to many trail angels. We came across a cistern which was set up to catch rain water. As I admired the setup and looked in at the yellowish water, a cactus came up behind me and started stabbing me repeatedly in the back of the leg. This cactus had two lines of attack: it had larger, longer pointy spines for general stabbing purposes, and then if you managed to get past those (which somehow I did), it had much smaller splinter-sized spines which it deposited all over you by the thousand. I spent most of the day trying to pick these off of me, wondering how they’d manage to get into places like the liner of my shorts. Soon after the cactus incident, I managed to walk straight into a yucca, which jabbed me javelin style right into my shin. I grabbed my bleeding leg and hopped around on one foot whimpering. Everything was out to get me. We camped not too far from Warner Springs in a valley with oak trees.

Enemy #1

Enemy #1

A relative of Enemy #2

A relative of Enemy #2

Day 118: Mile 112.5 to Mile 100, 12.5 miles

October 27th: We woke up before the break of dawn to the sound of hooting owls and I lay there for a minute listening. We hiked into Warner Springs and waited for a short time for the Post Office to open. It was a crisp cool morning, and there was fog in the valley. By the time we got our packages and packed up, the fog had lifted and the cool air was quickly being warmed up by the sun. We had just got back on the trail when we saw a man walking up to us with a large hat on waving.

“I’ve been looking for you guys” He said. I wondered who this person was, but he obviously knew who we were.

“Looking for us?” I asked.

“Yes, Dormouse and Dirt Stew! The GPS team. Thanks to you, I met Robert and Adrian, and I’ve been looking for Sadie too.” He said.

He had read my blog and was using it to track down all the southbounders to meet them on their way through Warner Springs. He got some leftover spaghetti dinner out of his car, and promised us more food if we came over to the community center when it opened. Then he told us this whole long story about how he had done research to find an alternate route around the fire closure in Idyllwild, and printed out maps for us, driving them all the way to Ziggy and the Bear’s with an explanation of how we were supposed to go to avoid “Deadman’s road” as he called it (road 243). We had gotten the maps from Ziggy and the Bear, but with no explanation!

Discussing the Idyllwild fire closure

Discussing the Idyllwild fire closure

“You think you’re doing this low-impact hike, and then there are people like me driving all over the place trying to get you maps and burning gas…” He joked. I felt bad that we hadn’t managed to figure it out. Again, people were out there running around doing things behind our back to help us out while we are hiking along, blissfully unaware.

Lawrence the spring guy, Dormouse and Dirt Stew at the Warner Spring's Community Center

Lawrence the spring guy, Dormouse and Dirt Stew at the Warner Spring’s Community Center

We hung out with Lawrence for several hours until the Community Center opened up, and then had more spaghetti with meatballs, blueberry pie and took showers in the stalls they had set up for hikers outside. They had a couple of painfully slow computers which I quickly became to frustrated to try to use to update our blog, but I did manage to check my email and found a message from Mark, the guy we had given water to at the top of Fuller Ridge. I was very happy to see the email, knowing it meant he made it safely, but when I went to read it I was in shock. Despite our best efforts to help him by giving him all our spare water, he still did not have enough. He had resorted to drinking a quart and a half of his own urine to make it to the faucet at the bottom of San Jacinto. “If we hadn’t crossed paths, I would have wound up calling in a rescue…” He wrote. He was now safely at Ziggy and the Bear’s drinking Gatorade to rehydrate. For the rest of the day, I kept rethinking the scenario and wondering what we could have done differently. He should have gone back to the last water source once he realized there was not going to me another source. The desert is no joke, and from Fuller Ridge, where you are nearly at 9,000 ft and in pine trees, you don’t necessarily think about how hellishly hot and shade-less it will be once you go down 8000ft in elevation… If only we could have helped him more.

Outside the community center, a coyote was out in plain daylight trying to hunt. Lawrence told us that was unusual, as coyote’s usually hunt a night or dusk, but given the drought, it was probably desperate. They had gotten no rain yet this year in Warner Springs, and last year they got a grand total of 3 inches. How’s that for the desert?

Coyote, hunting in broad day-light in the middle of town.

Coyote, hunting in broad day-light in the middle of town.

We left Warner Springs with full bellies and miles to hike. A scorpion sat in the middle of the trail, welcoming us back. It was poised and ready to attack when we got close to take its picture.

Scorpion!

Scorpion!

We made it to Eagle Rock, a rock formation that happens to look like an Eagle and then hiked a few more miles to camp.

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock

Day 119: Mile 100 to Julian (mile 77), 23 miles

October 28th: We hiked on through what feels more and more and more like the desert. We got to another water cache, and I sat down next to the trail register to see how far ahead our friends were. “OWWWWW!” I yelped. I sat directly on a bit of cactus that was now imbedded into my butt. Dirt Stew started laughing. “Be more careful where you sit!” He said. I spent some time picking the spikes out of my butt, and cursed the desert. Half an hour later, Dirt Stew sat on the same stupid cactus.

Enemy #3, don't sit on one of these guys, not even a small one.

Enemy #3, don’t sit on one, not even a little one.

Sign for "third gate" Water Cache

Sign for “third gate” Water Cache

Despite the lack of water, there are a few animals and insects that live in the desert. We came across a humongous black insect with orange wings. It was the size of several quarters next to each other. I quickly walked past it as fast as I could, and then seconds later heard Dirt Stew scream like a girl behind me. “Holly crap! That thing flew straight towards me!” He said, running frantically.

We hiked on towards Scissors Crossing through the shade-less desert and hitchhiked into town. We got a ride from a level 4 maximum security prison guard, who told us stories about the mafia members he has to guard. “Not a job for everyone” he said. No kidding. We got a hotel room and finished our chores as quickly as possible.

Soon to be Enemy #4?

Soon to be Enemy #4?

Cajon Pass to Idyllwild

Highlights: As we continue to hike the desert section of the PCT, we are enjoying the sections that are less desert-like, and melting in the sections that are at lower elevation.  We were surprised by personal trail magic; hiked up the Deep Creek area where weekenders trashed the area around the hot springs. We stopped in Big Bear, and lost most of a day waiting for our packages, then stopped at Ziggy and the Bear before hiking up into the San Jacinto Mountains.  We are now spending the night in Idllywild!

Day 107: Mile 363.5 to mile 342, 21.5 miles

October 16th-  We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and started hiking downhill towards Cajon Pass.  We are in the habit of picking up trash we find on the trail, and when I saw a beer can out of the corner of my eye, I pointed to Dirt Stew to pick it up.  He sighed, and picked it up as I hiked on.  “IT’S FULL!”  He shouted.  “Wow, who would have thought ‘trail magic’ would look so much like trash” I joked.  As the day grew warm and the trail was meandering a bit much, we decided to split the beer.  As we got close to Cajon Pass, I was surprised by how beautiful the rocks were.  They looked like the rocks at Vasquez Rocks- probably formed by the same tectonic plate movement of the San Andreas Fault.  Ironically, however, these rocks had power-lines running over them instead of being set aside as a State Park.  I’m sure if the Vasquez Rocks had not been preserved, they would have things built on them as well.

Rocks and powerlines

Rocks and powerlines

Dirt Stew and I made a beeline for the McDonald’s, and had some greasy food before deciding to stay in the Best Western across the street.  The Best Western had a hot tub, and I happily jumped in.

Did someone mention McDonnalds..?

Did someone mention McDonalds..?

Day 108: Mile 342 to mile 318, 24 miles

October 17th- We slept in and went next door to the Del Taco to order a few burritos for the trail.  The lady taking our order asked us where we were hiking, and when we told her we had hiked from Canada she said astutely “Wow, I’m definitely not envious… but I think what you’re doing is pretty cool”

We hiked out and were thankful for some fog for the first half of the day, and soon got to a lake.  What a concept!  A lake with water?  We hadn’t seen one of those in a while.
A lake with water in it? In the desert? Wow!

A lake with water in it? In the desert? Wow!

We took water from the lake, but were very sad to see that around the lake was mostly trashed. People had gone so far as to dump whole trash bags full of trash by the lake.  Disgusting.  We hiked past dark, which is now our usual routine, and I was very thankful that my hips were not too sore.

Day 109: Mile 318 to mile 290, 28 miles

October 18th- After a few hours of hiking we came across brown bag by the trail which had “Happy Anniversary Dirt Stew + Dormouse, SOBO thru’s” written on it.  I was so touched my voice started getting squeaky.  “Awwww! That’s so sweeeeeeeet!”  I squeaked.  We opened it up and there was a note inside from “Just Bruce” with a big bag of fun sized Snickers.  Bruce had read our blog and wanted to leave something for us.  There was also a gallon of water.  The thought that went into this gift was amazing.  It is tremendous to find something seemingly in the middle of nowhere with your name on it.  Thru-hiking, especially southbound is a very lonely experience, and sometimes you feel like there’s nobody but you for hundreds of miles. This reminded me that we weren’t alone.  People care about hikers, and care that we are successful, and are there to cheer us on!

Amazing trail magic

Amazing trail magic

We scratched “Thank you” in the sand next to where we picked up the magic, and took everything with us, so as not to leave any trash behind.  Soon we entered the Deep Creek area where many people hike up to the hot springs.  The area had more trash on the trail than we could pick up.  We were feeling down on weekenders and day hikers, seeing all the plastic bottles chucked next to the trail, and the graffiti on rocks.

And nature without graffiti..?

And nature without graffiti..?

It seemed ironic to me that the people most likely to carry that trash out were the people who would have to carry it the furthest.  Something that Adrian, another southbounder from France said to us several days ago came to mind.  “I just take two things that aren’t mine off the trail every day”.  He said.  That was probably the best way to deal with the problem.  We couldn’t pick up all the trash if we wanted to, but if every hiker just took two pieces of trash that wasn’t theirs, the place would eventually get picked up.  Now if only we could convince everyone to do this…  When we got to the hot springs, there were so many people that I wasn’t even interested in going down to the springs themselves.  A vicious dog came running up to us barking and growling.  Immediately Dirt Stew and I put our umbrellas in front of us like shields.  The dog looked confused.  “Don’t worry, he’s nice, he just is afraid of your umbrellas”  Said a guy sitting on a picnic blanket with a sunburn.  Well, I wasn’t going to put my umbrella away to find out, so we move on quickly.  The whole area smelled like human waste, and there was toilet paper everywhere to support the smell.  There had been a warning in our water report about the water there being contaminated with human waste, and that it could potentially contain a deadly virus.  I have no clue why people go there.  It’s not like in the hot desert you’re ever really craving a hot spring…?  I don’t get it.

Day 110: Mile 290 to mile 266, 24 miles
October 19th- Today we hiked up into a nice forested area.  My hips were sore, but I hiked fast to get to Big Bear in time to do our chores and get to bed at a reasonable hour.  After waiting at the road for a while, a nice couple finally picked us up.  They stopped at a store for us to buy a few things, and we were grateful because we could now cook ourselves a pasta dinner at the hostel.  Once we got settled in the hostel and introduced ourselves to the myriad of strange characters there, we cooked 2 pounds of pasta and gobbled them up with a jar of pasta sauce and some apple turnovers for desert.  I fell asleep very early, probably before 8pm, and didn’t wake up again until 11 hours later.

Day 111: Mile 266 to mile 254, 12 miles

October 20th- After sleeping a ton, I was ready to get going again.  The only problem was that our packages had not yet been brought to the hostel by the owner.  Nobody was up, and we hadn’t done our laundry the night before, so we decided to do that while we waited.  We waited and waited.  Once other people started go get up, we asked about our packages.  We were assured the owner would arrive by 10AM.  We reluctantly waited.  10AM passed, 11AM passed.  Apparently this guy didn’t value our time.  Eventually around noon, our packages showed up.  We got a great care package from our friend Mike who sent us cookies, removable tattoos and pages of facts, song lyrics, poems, etc.  Finally we would keep our minds more active while we hiked!
Care package from Mike!

Care package from Mike!

We started eating the cookies and then we realized we were actually hungry again.  We decided we may as well find a place to get a decent meal before we left town.  We found a burger place and Dirt Stew ordered a chicken pot pie while I ordered a burger.  The waitress was impressed that Dirt Stew finished his dish.  Apparently most don’t, but of course for him it wasn’t a problem.  He was soon munching on Mike’s cookies again.  We got a ride from a very nice lady who happened to be originally from Virginia back to the trail, and soon ran into a couple sitting eating snacks, looking a lot like long distance hikers.  We asked them what their story was, and they had flip-flopped from Big Bear and were finishing up their hike.  We were pretty surprised to see new hikers.  We finally found a nice spot under a cedar and set up camp.

Day 112: Mile 254 to mile 230, 24 miles
October 21st- The temperature at night was perfect, since we were at higher elevation.  In the desert the tree-line is reversed from the rest of the planet.  Instead of there being no trees above a certain elevation, there are no trees below a certain elevation.  Below a certain elevation (maybe around 6000ft), it just feels like desert.  Above that elevation, there are trees, and it feels more like forest.  At some point we went around a corner and the trail looked like it was covered in diamonds.  There were white crystals everywhere.  I’m not an expert on rocks, but I’m guessing they were probably quartz.  The whole trail was covered in a layer of them, and they all sparkled.  I felt like a princess walking on them.  We continued on, and were singing Moby (badly) at the top of our lungs when a heard a gigantic ROAR. I stopped in my tracks terrified.  Then I saw cages not far ahead and remembered that we were supposed to pass an area with animals in cages that are being kept as stunt animals for the movies.  The roaring stopped soon after we stopped singing.  As we approached, we saw a lion, grizzly bears, a cougar, and even a raccoon in the cages.  They looked unhappy, pacing about in their tiny cages.  I felt bad for them.

Cages with animals

Cages with animals

We continued on down a valley where the trail had quite a bit of poodle dog bush, and was washed away in many spots where it crossed a stream.  Normally this wouldn’t be so frustrating, but we were losing the trail frequently, and we were supposed to be mapping it for Halfmile’s project.  Every time I tried to go ahead to find where the trail went and then summon Dirt Stew with the GPS unit to follow me.  It took much longer than had we not cared and just followed the stream bush-waking wherever we wanted.  We kept ourselves entertained by learning the state capitals, one of the pages of facts that Mike had printed out and put in our care package.  I liked spending some of our hiking time learning, and wished I had thought of this earlier.  We continued by learning the lyrics to “Let It Be”.  We decided to camp before dark so as not to try to find the fairly missing trail in the darkness.

Day 113: Mile 230 to Ziggy and the Bear (mile 211), 19 miles

October 22nd- As we walked down the creek further, it became hot as hell.  We were descending into the hot, hot desert, and it felt like the hot, hot desert.  I constantly felt like I was just over heating and covered in sweat.  We came across a wind farm that let hikers fill up water.  We went to get water and they invited us into their air-conditioned office building and offered us cold bottled water.  This was the best kind of trail magic I could have asked for.  We sat there long enough to cool off and rehydrate and then carried on a few more miles in the heat to Ziggy and The Bear, a couple of trail angels who let hikers camp in their back yard.  We chatted with Ziggy for a while and she gave us cold sodas, and then The Bear arrived with Chinese food and we were so thankful to eat some real food and chat about The Bear’s career collecting marine animals in Seattle for aquariums and Universities across the USA.  I was exhausted and we needed to get up early to put some of these low elevation miles behind us in the coolness of the early morning.  We slept under the stars in their backyard.

Dormouse, The Bear, Ziggy

Dormouse, The Bear, Ziggy

Day 114: Ziggy and the Bear to Mile 188.5, 22.5 miles

October 23rd– Our alarm was set for 5AM, and I reluctantly got up and started packing up.  I was surprised to see The Bear was up to bid us farewell.  We headed out in the darkness and hiked across the valley to the next mountain range.

Desert Valley

Desert valley at sunrise

The trail was washed out in many sections in this valley, and we eventually gave up on trying to follow it, and just walked on dirt roads that appeared on our map.  Just as it was getting light I was about to step on what I thought was quite a unique looking rock, when I decided to step to one side and take a closer look at it.  Thank goodness I did, because what I thought was a rock was actually a rattlesnake curled up in the sand almost flush with the ground.  Had it been any darker, and I would have stepped right on top of him.

Rattle snake disguised as a rock.

Rattle snake disguised as a rock.

We took some pictures, and continued on, studying our steps more closely.  As it got light and we started climbing, it soon became hotter than hell.  Maybe you haven’t checked your elevation profile map of the PCT recently, but if you look at the elevation difference between Mile 211 and Mile 188.5, you’ll notice that there is almost a 8000 ft gain to get up San Jacinto Mnt.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let me tell you– that’s A LOT.  I don’t think I’ve ever climbed that much in one go before in my life, to be honest.  For the first 3000 ft or so, it was hot as hell, and there was no shade.  The next 1000-2000 ft climb there were short oak trees.  These are the kind of oak trees that will leave you covered in scratches without providing an inch of shade.  At about 6000 ft, real trees started to appear, pine trees and cedars, and the temperature dropped significantly.  The trail was poorly maintained until we got close to the top where they had obviously had started doing something about the poor conditions.  A few miles before we were ready to camp, we saw another hiker named Mark who was out for a section hike.  He told us there was a very small water source up ahead, which was news to us, since we had carried enough water to make it to Idyllwild.  He had thought that since he had found water there, some of the other sources would have water too.  No such luck.  His mistake meant that he only had around 2 liters of water to make it to the next source, which was only a few miles before Ziggy and the Bear.  He was also intending on taking 2 days to do the trek.  It was obvious to me that this guy was in trouble.  I had just taken one day to do that section, and as a small woman, I had drank probably close to 4 liters.  Since there was now water before Idyllwild, I turned to Dirt Stew and said “Do you think we can spare a liter?”  He agreed, and we transferred a liter into one of his water bottles before walking on.  A minute later I stopped and looked at Dirt Stew again.  “I still don’t think he’ll make it, can you go back and give him more water?  He needs it more than we do”.  Dirt Stew agreed, and we gave him more water to hopefully make it to the next source.  We also gave him our contact details so that he could let us know that he made it safely.  We have had so much help from strangers- from people leaving us trail magic to hikers offering us food when we were low in the Sierra to being offered someone’s condo to stay in!  It was certainly time for us to give back.  “You guys are angels.”  He said.  It really was the least we could do.  Us hikers have to look out for each other.

Wonderful trees at high elevation!

Wonderful trees at high elevation!

Day 115: Mile 188.5 to Idyllwild, 14 miles

October 24th– We got going with some energy since we knew we’d be getting to town today.  The San Jacinto mountains were absolutely beautiful, and we really enjoyed hiking through the trees and the cooler temperatures.

Beautiful trees!

Beautiful trees!

We found the water source that Mark had told us about, and spent a good half hour or more collecting a few liters.  It wasn’t the easiest water source to collect from.  We had to take a side trail to get down to Idyllwild called the Devils Slide Trail, followed by a road walk into town.  We got to town quite early and stopped by a Mexican restaurant in hopes of getting an inexpensive big meal, but in this touristy town even the Mexican restaurant had small portions and the prices were kind of high.  Idyllwild is really cute.  It’s a mountain town at about 6000ft with tons of little log cabin vacation rental homes and cute touristy shops.  We found ourselves a hotel room and did our usual chores before watching a movie and falling asleep.

Agua Dulce to Cajon Pass

Highlights: We took it slow once we got to the Saufley’s by taking a zero day.  Sadie and Adrian went ahead. Adrian has a deadline based on when his visa would run out, and he had to do roughly 27 miles a day to finish in time.  When we left, it was very hot, and we passed by the Vasquez Rocks in the heat of the day. We then started climbing up into the mountains, and had to navigate through two trail alternates: the poodle dog bush alternate, which bypasses some of the trail where poodle dog bush is growing in an old burn area (poodle dog bush is a poisonous plant like poison oak).  We also had to avoid the trail closure to protect the yellow legged frog.  We wound up walking for some time on Hwy 2.  We then climbed up to the top of Baden-Powell Mountain, which is the tallest mountain in this area, around 9,300ft in elevation.  We were grateful for a few days of cooler weather.  We hitched into Wrightwood, where we quickly grabbed some food and got straight back on the trail with the intention of making it the next day to Cajon Pass, where I’m writing this post!

Day 102: The Saufley’s, 0 miles

October 11th:  I woke up exhausted after going to bed late two nights in a row.  It had been a fun couple days hanging out with our SOBO friends and staying with Trail Angels, but I was now a tired Dormouse!  Adrian and Sadie were ready to do a 27 mile day out, so I said my goodbyes.  Dirt Stew and I relaxed in the trailer of the Saufley’s fixing some of our gear, eating food, watching a movie, and calling our parents.  We wished the Saufley’s were home for us to meet them, but their son was house-sitting for them while they were out of town.  In this section we only found 1 natural water source in nearly 100 miles.
The Saufley's trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley’s trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley's trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley’s trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

Day 103: The Saufley’s to Mile 436, 18.5 miles
October 12th:  We got a late start out of the Saufley’s and stopped by the local bakery to get some pastries.  It was immediately too hot out, and we took refuge in the “Interpretive Center” of the Vasquez Rocks, which were on the trail.  These rocks were created by the shifting of the tectonic plates on the Andreas Fault.  After a break, we kept on and hiked up through a section with no shade.  We passed a KOA campground which had water.  It seemed like there were going to be very few natural water sources in this section.  My hip started hurting at the end of the day, and we camped by a Ranger Station right after it got dark.  We weren’t sure if camping was allowed, so we stayed quiet as we set up our tent.
Grateful for cooler weather and shade!

Grateful for cooler weather and shade!

Day 104: Mile 436 to Mile 410.5, 25.5 miles
October 13th:  After we packed up in the morning, a ranger stopped by asking us if we were thru-hikers.  He had water available, and he asked if we camped there the night before.  I said we had, and he told us there were better spots which he made himself.  I was glad to hear we weren’t breaking the rules.  The heat wave is supposed to break tomorrow, and we looked forward to cooler weather.  We headed out, and immediately walked through 2 miles of overgrown trail with poodle dog bush.  We decided that we would take the alternate once we hit the dirt road.  The dirt road was hot, and construction vehicles were zipping around on this dirt road doing some work nearby.
Ahh! Poodle Dog Bush!

Ahh! Poodle Dog Bush!

Poodle Dog Bush.

Poodle Dog Bush.

Lots of poodle dog bush

Lots of poodle dog bush

We followed the road all the way to a Fire Station which also had water available for hikers, and we filled up.  A lady there told us there was no natural water in that section.  Our water report told us there was a spring coming up.  Because I usually trust local knowledge, we decided to take enough water to skip the spring.  Several miles later we got to the spring, and there was indeed water.  Grrr.  We took a liter just in case.  We realized at some point in the day that today was our two year wedding anniversary.  We shared a snickers in our tent at night to celebrate. 🙂
Day 105: Mile 410.5 to Mile 384, 26.5 miles
October 14th:  Today we came across an old Boy Scout’s camp which had a water faucet, and we took 35 miles to make it to Wrightwood.  We had to take an alternate to avoid a trail closure due to the endangered yellow legged frog.  We walked the road, Hwy 2, which could be a very scary road walk, except that there was only roughly 1 car per half hour.  As we walked down the road, we realized that we had the choice between continuing on the road one more mile, or hiking the trail 3 or 4 miles over a 1300ft mountain.  Normally there would be no question, obviously we’d hike the trail, not the road.  But my hips hurt, and I wanted an easier time into Wrightwood.  I probably would have taken the road, but Dirt Stew said “What are we doing this for? To walk on an asphalt road, or to hike in the mountains?”  I hated the PCT for doing this to me.  I love hiking, and I had the chance to take a short-cut and save 3 miles and 1300ft elevation gain, yet skip a hike.  It would be like a hike up San Bruno Mountain.  “I would feel like such a bum” Dirt Stew said, convincingly.  So, we hiked the trail.  I was angry with the trail for making me realize that I had forgotten why we were hiking.  My focus every day had been to just put one foot in front of the other to make it to Mexico without my legs falling off, and what for?  If I wasn’t going to enjoy the hike, it’s not worth it.  I’m hiking for my own pleasure, nobody is forcing me to do this.  As we hiked up to the top of the mountain, we took a break and looked out at the view.  “Isn’t it beautiful up here?”  Dirt Stew asked me.  Of course he was right.  It was.
Beautiful sunset!

Beautiful sunset!

Day 106: Mile 384 to Mile 363.5, 20.5 miles
October 15th:  The sunrise was unbelievable.  We climbed up Baden-Powell mountain, the tallest mountain in the area, and looked down at the fog rolling out below us in the valley.  I imagined the clouds as a big bed that I was going to fall asleep in.
Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise

Amazing sunrise

On the way up to the top, there was a tree which had a sign saying it was dedicated to some Boy Scout person, but more importantly, the tree was estimated to be 1500 years old!
1500 year old tree!

1500 year old tree!

We descended one more time back to Hwy 2.  I was about to look at our map for the options of walking into Wrightwood, as we had only seen one car per half hour at best on this road, so hitchhiking would be tough.  I was about to pull out our maps when a car came past and I quickly put out my thumb.  The car stopped and we got a ride into Wrightwood.  Everyone in Wrightwood was very friendly and knew about the Pacific Crest trail.  “Aren’t you guys a bit late?”  People kept asking us.  “Late and walking in the wrong direction”  Dirt Stew would reply.  We went to Grizzly Cafe and ordered their special for the day, which was meat lasagna.  We had hoped to get new socks in the mail, but when none were waiting for us, we bought a new pair at the Hardware Store.  Someone offered us a ride out, and we were very grateful to get back to the trail quickly so as to hike a few more miles today to make it to Cajon Pass tomorrow and spend the night in a hotel.  As we started hiking again, I felt completely sick.  I had more than gorged myself on the lasagna, and now I felt like a pregnant penguine waddling up the trail.  Pepto-bismol was the only solution.  Needless to day, I did not feel like having dinner that evening.  Tomorrow, Cajon Pass!

Tehachapi to Agua Dulce

Highlights:  We hiked out of Tehachapi in a heat-wave.  My hips immediately hurt, and each day that passes I fluctuate between not believing there is no way I could possibly make it to Mexico, and feeling like there is no way I could possibly quit since we’re so close to the end.  As we hiked on, we ran into Sadie again, and hiked with her to the Andersons (Trail Angels).  At the Andersons we met another southbound hiker, a French guy named Adrian.  The four of us hiked together for a day to make it to Agua Dulce, where the Saufley’s also host hikers.  We’re now hanging out at the Saufley’s enjoying the thought that they’ve put into their set-up.

Walking in the desert

Walking in the desert

Day 97: Mile 566.5 to Mile 551.5, 15 miles

October 6th:  We woke up in our hotel room and ate breakfast.  We mailed out our resupply boxes and returned our rental car at enterprise.  We were hoping for a ride back to the trail from enterprise, but they weren’t willing to drive us that far.  Instead we got dropped off at the bus station in front of the burger king, and we waited for an hour for the bus while gorging on some last minute calories.  The bus dropped us off at the same spot we stopped at four days earlier, and we started up the hill covered in wind farms.

Hiking through more wind farms

Hiking through more wind farms

It was HOT out.  I didn’t have a good idea of how hot it was, but it only took a few seconds to be drenched in sweat.  My hip only felt good for a few hours before I was in excruciating pain.  I was really really upset at this.  I had really hoped that 4 days rest would have basically cured me, but instead it was worst than before.  I felt like quitting more than ever.  I felt like there was no way I was going to be able to hike another 500+ miles with this injury.  Dirt Stew and I sat in the sand and discussed quitting.  I wondered if my hip wasn’t just stiff from not being used for 4 days, and decided to give it another day rather than go back to Tehachapi.  We kept on, and got to a water cache and a trail register.  I was excited to see who had passed us while we were off trail, but according to the register, nobody had.  We were really 4 days in front of the next SOBO?  The lack of footprints in the sand confirmed this.  In fact we could still see Robert’s footprints, even though at this point he was more than a week ahead of us.  It was still unbearably hot when we set up our tent and went to sleep.

Day 98: Mile 551 to Mile 526, 25.5 miles

October 7th: We slept in a whole hour later than usual.  We had messed up our internal clock by staying up late in civilized life.  We got going, and it was almost instantly too hot.  We came across a water cache, and took only a little since our water report told us there was a natural source coming up.  A few miles later we came across a trail register where a section hiker going northbound wrote that anyone hiking here should have enough water to make it to the aqueduct. We did not.  What about the natural source.  We hesitated, wondering if the source was dry, and wondering if we should head back to the cache.  We decided to trust the water report more than this trail register note, and continued on.  When we did happen upon the canyon where the natural source was supposed to be, I was immediately concerned to see only some wet mud, but as I went upstream slightly, I found running water, even if just a trickle.  A trickle can easily be enough to fill many water bottles, just with some patience, and we took a long break while collecting water.

Taking a break at the water source

Taking a break at the water source

As we descended into an enormous valley, we tasted the water from the canyon.  It tasted awful.  We would have to drink this for two days.  My hips continued to hurt, but I did get almost 15 miles in before they hurt badly.  We decided to take a long break to give my hips some rest, and that helped ease the pain for several more miles.  Walking through this valley was very different from anything else we had done thus far.  We were walking mostly on dirt roads, and it was very flat.  We eventually got to the Los Angeles aqueduct, which we would have to walk next to for many miles.  For the first section, the aqueduct was completely sealed, so there was no access to water.  We camped somewhere along the aqueduct road.

Walking along dirt roads in the valley.

Walking along dirt roads in the valley.

Day 99: Mile 526 to Hikertown (mile 517), then 6 miles on detour, 15 miles

October 8th:  By 8AM it was already ridiculously hot.  We continued on the aqueduct to where it opened up, and there it was, water!  Tons of it flowing through the desert.  It was so strange to see so much water at once when we were used to cherishing each drop.

Open aqueduct.  TONS of water!

Open aqueduct. TONS of water!

The trail followed roads through a town in this valley, and we passed a house with barking dogs where a woman was out feeding them.  I asked her if she knew the weather forecast.  “It is supposed to cool down.  High’s only in the 90’s today!” She replied.  I was a bit shocked.  I hadn’t realized it had been in the 100’s in the previous days.  No wonder it felt uncomfortable!  We got to a place called “Hikertown”, where hikers are allowed to stay, and fill up on water.  We stopped in and hung out in the hiker lounge drinking liter upon liter of water.  We decided to try to go to the local store which promised wifi, since we didn’t understand the trail closures up ahead.  We easily got a ride down to the store, and we got some icecream while looking up how we would need to walk to get through the next section.  It was going to be a road walk to the Andersons, a Trail Angel further down the trail.  The trail in that section had burnt badly the year before, and the trail was still closed.  Someone offered to give us a ride back to Hikertown.
"Hikertown"

“Hikertown”

  As we were driving back, Dirt Stew pointed to the road that we would need to turn down on our road walk.  “I can just drive you guys to Lake Huges if you want”, the guy offered.  “No, we have to walk that part,”  I said.  “But I’m driving you back to Hikertown now, on this road.” He said, confused.  “I know, but that’s because Hikertown is where we stopped walking”.  “I totally don’t understand what you guys do”  He said.  “I don’t either.”  I replied.  I have to admit, walking on roads in 100 degree heat felt pretty dumb.  Before we left Hiker Town, I jumped in and out of the shower with all my clothes, rinsing all the salt off, and cooling myself off for several hours.  Our clothes dried on our body quite quickly.  As we walked out on the road in the cooler hours of the evening, I felt pretty silly for what we were doing.  Since we weren’t on the trail, camping would be interesting.  As it got dark, we started looking for anything flat and hidden where we could spend the night.  We found a spot under a powerline under some trees where we quickly set up and fell asleep.

Day 100: 6 miles on detour to the Andersons (Mile 478), 18 miles

October 9th: We got up and started walking the road again.  A few hours later, a vehicle pulled over right next to us, and saw Sadie riding inside waving at us!  “Do you want to hike with them?” The man driving the truck asked Sadie.  “Yeah!” She answered.  Sadie had arrived at Hikertown several hours after we left and spent the night there.  We walked the rest of the way to Lake Hughes together sharing stories from the trail.  We stopped at the Post Office at Lake Hughes and picked up our packages before continuing on to the Andersons.  When we got there, Terri Anderson asked us if we knew about a French guy who was also supposed to be arriving at her house that night.  None of us had met a French guy.  We took showers and chatted while eating food, and several hours later another hiker showed up.

This is how the Andersons feed hungry hikers.  With Sadie!

This is how the Andersons feed hungry hikers. With Sadie!

  It was the aforementioned French guy whose name was Adrian.  He had hiked south from the Canadian border on July 31st, but had to skip about 400 miles.  He only had a visa for 3 months, and wanted to get to Mexico by Oct 27th.  It was great to chat with another hiker!  A bit later, Joe Anderson came home, and we all stayed up too late sharing stories and hanging out.  Joe talked about how he started accepting hikers into his home and becoming a Trail Angel.  “Anyone who can stand at the Mexican border and can think they can walk to Canada (or visa versa) must be an interesting person, I figured, and I wanted to meet them,”  he said.  That was an interesting point.  But on the flip-side, I also thought that anyone who was willing to have hundreds of hikers take over their house every year must be an interesting person! The plan the next day was to hike to the next trail angels, the Saufley’s.  It was about 24 miles from one to the other, and we were excited to spend another night at a Trail Angel’s.
At "Casa De Luna". The Andersons.

At “Casa De Luna”. The Andersons.

At "Casa de Luna".  The Andersons.

At “Casa de Luna”. The Andersons.

Day 101: The Andersons (Mile 278) to the Saufley’s (Mile 454.5), 23.5

October 10th:  We got up and were surprised to find pancakes waiting for us.  Joe gave us all a ride to the trail, and told us he would put two water caches along our route to the Saufley’s.  Sadie, Adrian and the two of us walked together towards our next destination: Agua Dulce.  Seven miles in we came across the first water cache, and Joe had just driven up to meet us.

Joe Anderson, Dormouse, Sadie (Kinda Sketchy), Adrian

Joe Anderson, Dormouse, Sadie (Kinda Sketchy), Adrian

We helped him carry some water to the cache, and we hung out there for a few minutes eating oranges that he brought and hydrating.  The trail through this section was really nice compared to what we had been walking through for the past few days, which had mostly been roads.  This trail was easy going, had a few trees here and there.  My hips liked it.  The sand wasn’t too soft, and there was enough up and down to keep things interesting without being difficult.  While hanging out with Sadie, we convinced her of the trail name “kinda sketchy,” which is an expression she says often.  For the first time she signed the trail register “Kinda Sketchy” and I wrote “SOBO’s UNITE!”  It was great to be hiking with a few other hikers.  The miles went by quickly and we were soon at Agua Dulce.  Someone pulled over and offered us a ride down the road to the Saufley’s.  The Saufley’s themselves weren’t home, but their son and daughter in law were house sitting for them, and they showed us around.  The place was amazing.  These people had obviously thought of absolutely everything.  They even have a buzzer so you can give yourself a hair cut!   We took showers, put on loaner clothes and rode bicycles into town to get food for dinner.  It was late by the time we finally got to sleep, closer to real midnight than hiker midnight, and I was completely exhausted.  Adrian and Sadie planned to take 3 days to get to Wrightwood, which meant three 27 mile days.  I couldn’t imagine getting up to hike 27 miles after staying up so late, so I decided we’d probably say goodbye and take our time.  I fell asleep very quickly.

Two Hikers at a Wedding

Highlights: During four days off, Dirt Stew and I drove to Oakhurst to attend our friend’s wedding. We scrubbed ourselves clean, worried about food and met wonderful people before driving back to Tehachapi and making mail drops for the next and final section of the trail: desert.

Day 93: Stuck at mile 566.5, 0 miles

October 2nd: We had a full day off in Tehachipi before making a move to the wedding. We got made contact with White Jeep, and he told us Halfmile finished his hike and was heading back down to Southern California and could stop by and pick up the data off our GPS unit. A few hours later, Halfmile and his girlfriend Deb were hanging out with us in the lobby of the hotel sharing stories and downloading our data.

Hanging out with Halfmile in the hotel lobby.

Hanging out with Halfmile in the hotel lobby.

I was so glad we were able to make a back-up of the data. It would be horrible if our only copy of the GPS data was somehow lost or messed up somehow in the field in the last 500 something miles of our trip. The rest of the day was spent gorging ourselves on various food, writing our last blog post, and cleaning ourselves up for the wedding.

Dirty Feet! This is not a picture of my dirtiest feet but you get the idea

Dirty Feet! This is not a picture of my dirtiest feet but you get the idea

Clean Feet! Quite the accomplishment to get my feet to look like this

Clean Feet! Quite the accomplishment to get my feet to look like this

Day 94: Stuck at mile 566.5, 0 miles

October 3rd: Today was the day we had to drive 3 or 4 hours up to Oakhurst for the wedding. Getting in the car, I knew it was going to be a long drive. Dirt Stew was the driver, and I was the map reader (aka terrified screaming person). “Watch out!!” I kept yelling. Being in a car going more than 3 miles an hour was terrifying, and knowing that Dirt Stew hadn’t driven in almost 4 months was not helping matters at all. We had to drive up Rt 99 which is probably one of the most awful roads I’ve ever been on. Eventually we made it, and met Don’s lovely family before crashing on the couch. I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and saw a humongous spider in the doorway. I stepped around it thinking to myself how few spiders we’ve seen on the trail.

Day 95: Stuck at mile 566.5, 0 miles

October 4th: Today was wedding day! We had meticulously packed ourselves some fancy clothes and handed them to Don and Jenny before we started the PCT, and they brought our bags to us. As we opened them up, Dirt Stew realized he hadn’t packed any underwear. His hiking shorts had underwear in them, so he wasn’t actually carrying any on the PCT either. After trying to shop for some, we gave up, and Dirt Stew decided to wear his hiking shorts under his suit. “Nobody will notice” he said. With our fancy outfits on, we couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous tan lines I had.

Fancy hikers! (With funny tan lines)

Fancy hikers! (With funny tan lines)

Sock tan!

Sock tan!

I then noticed on the couch was another gigantic spider sitting on the pillow I had just slept on. There were more bugs in this house than on the whole trail! I showed Dirt Stew, and we laughed that we definitely didn’t have to worry about so many bugs while camping inside the bug netting of our tarp on the trail.

Big spider on my pillow

Big spider on my pillow

A few weeks before the wedding I had talked to Jenny about her preparations, “My mother and I went to do a tasting of the wedding food, and although the portions were small, we thought it was a quite filling meal!” She had said. When I told this to Dirt Stew he looked at me very worried “We have to prepare for this!” He said. “We need to bring some emergency food to the wedding, and eat a lot beforehand!”

As planned, we went to a pizza buffet 2 or 3 hours before the wedding started, and I stashed candy and granola bars in my purse. At the wedding, we were pleased to see our name tags with our trail names on them.

Name cards

Name cards

We were seated at the smallest table with just two other people. “They put us at the kids table!” Dirt Stew said jokingly. We introduced ourselves to the other couple. “Where do you live?” I asked. “Well, that’s a bit hard to say…” They both replied. “Oh goodie, interesting people!” Dirt Stew said. It turns out they were tour guides and lived out of their van most of the year. We weren’t at the kids table, we were at the homeless table!

We were well placed with our new vagabond friends

We were well placed with our new vagabond friends

Don and Jenny made there way from table to table, and stopped at ours. “Have you figured out why you’re at the same table yet?” She asked me, smiling. It was so nice to talk to another couple with alternative lifestyles, and with a good sense of humor. Every dish that came out, the four of us started laughing hysterically at how small the portions were. “I think a unicorn sneezed on my forkful of lettuce” Jeanie said looking at her salad.

Unicorn Sneeze with assorted melon bits and green stuff

Unicorn Sneeze with assorted melon bits and green stuff

"A study of carrot" was the desert

“A study of carrot” was the desert

"A Study of Carrot"

“A Study of Carrot”

None of us had ever been to such a fancy dinner. “We have extra food in the van if you guys want.” They offered. “Don’t worry, I have some food in my purse.’ I said pulling out a few granola bars and handing one to Dirt Stew. I took a sip of champagne and gobbled my granola bar before heading outside to dance the night away.

Day 96: Stuck at mile 566.5, 0 miles

October 5th: The drive back was even more boring and long than the ride there because we decided to stop at stores along the way to make some resupply boxes for the desert. We packed the car full of food and boxes and arrived at our hotel room in Tehachapi and spent several hours repackaging food before collapsing in a heap. We both are more than ready to get back to the trail. Our legs were feeling restless and civilized life was too sophisticated for us. I really missed having all my belongings within arms reach. Now everything was all over the place- in the hotel room, in the car, in the bathroom etc. It will be nice to get back to the trail tomorrow and continue our journey. The break was fun, and hopefully has done a lot for the injury in my hip