Highlights: We decided to go back to the fire closure area that we had missed earlier this year in order to cover missed miles. Going from the desert up to Northern California was a huge change. We started hiking on a foggy day. Everything was wet and cold, and we were surrounded by green trees and ferns and rugged mountains. It was exhilarating. We hiked to Seiad Valley where we resupplied and met some very nice folks in the cafe. We continued on through the Marble Mountain Wilderness which was heavily affected by the wild fires, and several bridges were burnt out. The last couple days into Etna were extremely painful for me, as the suspected tendinitis in my hips was flaring up. I knew on the day into Etna that our hike would end there, as every step was painful. Plus weather was coming our way– precipitation probably in the form of snow was predicted for the day after we walked out. But by doing this section, we finished the state of Oregon and left a wonderful 100 mile section to do another year.
Day 120: Julian to Mile 60, 17 miles
Day 121: Mile 60 to Mile 36, 24 miles
The sunset was beautiful. Clouds were building in the sky, but were light and fluffy, which makes for a spectacular sunset. Since there is not much vegetation to speak of, we are always rewarded with beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
Day 122: Mile 36 to Mile 11.5, 24.5 miles
“Since when did people decide it was a good idea to go Southbound on the PCT?”
He seemed annoyed. Dirt Stew imagined this was because normally they have to have extra forces during northbound hiker season.
At some point in the day we realized it was Halloween and joked about dressing up as each other– the only “costumes” we were carrying. I was excited that in the middle of the trail on Halloween, we saw our first tarantula. I respectfully stopped and took a step back, pointing him out to Dirt Stew so that he could get his camera out. Dirt Stew then proceeded to stick his camera about 1 inch away from the tarantula, scaring it into its hole, and all we got was a picture of a tarantula butt.
“Don’t they have something better to do than to follow a couple of PCT hikers who are hiking TOWARDS the border?” I said.
Day 123: Mile 11.5 to the Mexican Border, 11.5
November 1st: In the morning, it was still raining. We slept in. As we had only 11.5 miles to do to reach the border, we weren’t exactly in a rush. The rain persisted, so we decided to get up and get going. Soon after we were packed up, the rain abated, and then stopped all together. The sand we were walking on was now hard from being wet, and the footsteps we had been following for hundreds of miles had disappeared over night. I suddenly realized that the people those footsteps we had been following were all no longer on the trail. Sadie must have finished at least a day or two ago, and she was the next one in front of us. Mother nature was reminding us that our journey too was almost over, and soon the land will forget us as well.
We didn’t have far to walk, and as we headed towards a road that we were obviously meant to cross, we saw a truck parked where the PCT crossed.
“Border Patrol is waiting for us” Dirt Stew said, pointing at the truck. I rolled my eyes.
As we got closer, we saw someone get out and wave at us, and Dirt Stew and I realized at the same time: “White Jeep!” He had intersected us just 2 or 3 miles before the border to say hi, and offer us a honey bun. From there there is a confusion of roads leading to the border with the trail winding through them.
As we continued on towards the border, we saw White Jeep’s truck again at another intersection, and behind it a Border Patrol vehicle. “Just keep on going” White Jeep commented, as we passed him. He drove on to the border, and I looked around for where the trail continued. The Border Patrol officer, still stopped next to us, stuck his head out of his window and pointed down the trail “you’re on the right path” he said. As we went on, he drove off, also toward the border.
“Ok, that one was definitely there because of us” I said to Dirt Stew.
Finally we saw White Jeep’s truck by the gigantic fence of the Mexican Border, and we could just make out the monument marking the end of the Pacific Crest Trail. Dirt Stew walked up next to me and took my hand so that we could walk the last stretch together, just as we had on the Appalachian Trail. We walked up grinning, and walked straight up to the monument, looking at it for a moment before looking at each other for confirmation that we would touch it together to mark the end of our journey.
White Jeep was there to take many pictures, and I found the register on the back of one of the wooden pillars. It was surprisingly cold and windy, so we didn’t linger for too long.
The border was amazing to me. I couldn’t have touched Mexico if I wanted to. There was a huge barbed wire fence with a dirt road behind it that border patrol were driving back and forth on, and a larger impenetrable fence behind it, and then Mexico was somewhere behind that. We could see Mexico where a hill would stick up over the fence, and that was good enough for me.
But we aren’t thru-hikers yet. The miles that we had to skip around the fire closure in Northern California are still nagging us, reminding us that we did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one year.
Since we’ve gotten off the trail, we’ve showered and stayed with White Jeep and Seminole in San Diego for a few days.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 102: The Saufley’s, 0 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.