Day 12 – Breakfast Burritos and Ladies’ Day on the Trail

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April 27, 2016: Tom treated his guests to breakfast burritos and coffee!  Pine wanted to get started, but I have never been one to pass up breakfast!  I stayed behind sipping coffee and looking up at the next foothills that would need climbing.  It would be a long day in the desert.  I was not the only straggler.

Serenity and Woodchuck were also getting a later start, and I joined them both for a ladies’ day, talking of those special issues that us female hikers face on trail (like how not to pee on one’s foot, etc.).  It was a funny, entertaining day.  Woodchuck even found a stick bug that we all admired during our break. 

The pleasantly cool morning turned to a hot desert climb.  Serenity’s knee and my foot were really taking a beating. Woodchuck had already resorted to hiking in Crocs, unable to bear the pain her trail runners had been causing.  We slugged up and down the ridges, making one last long climb up to a “campsite among huge boulders.”  It was late evening when we arrived, and the campsites available were nearly full of exhausted hikers.  Met up with Erica and Toby, who had figured out that their water bottle had been leaking in their tent – not good since hot days in the desert were followed by cold nights and it was threatening rain. 

Woodchuck, Serenity and I pitched tents quickly.  I made dinner as the sun set and quickly got my cold self into my tent before any rain fell.

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Miles: 16.76

Elevation gain/loss: 2426/-3167ft.

Day 11 – Mike Herrera’s, Pizza, Guns N Roses & Sinatra

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April 26, 2016:  Packed up my tent soaking wet, and headed into the Warner Springs center for the hot coffee and to eat my hiker breakfast (no golf course bk for me this morning).  Another hiker there told me the story of Sierra – the coyote/dog mix that hung around the center.  Apparently, Sierra’s owner had left her on the trail and she had waited for him or her to come back to no avail.  Another hiker brought her into the center where she was quickly adopted by one of the volunteers, and has since been brought back everyday of the hiker season to bring a little joy to our lives.  Sierra loves all of the hikers and happily greeted me this morning.  (She also has a way of letting the rabbits loafing around the center know who’s boss!)  I cannot imagine simply leaving such a sweet and loyal dog behind on a trail.  Another reason to donate to the Humane Society (see my page connecting to Crowdrise!)

After getting my morning Sierra loving in, it was time to bid goodbye to Warner Springs and hit the trail.  The trail was gorgeous to begin, traveling through lush fields and over streams through Canada Verde, but then made its way back into high, barren desert mountains.  Pine and I stopped for lunch at the first water stop and so I could spread out my tent on the bushes to dry from the night before.  We continued the climb in the sun, and my left foot started to bother me something fierce.  The top was tender to the touch.  I wrapped it during another break, which took some of the pressure off, but it continued to ache. 

We leapfrogged Norbert (a German hiker), Serenity, and Powder for most of the day.  We made the sign to a water tank around evening.  By then, I was grumpy and tired and my foot was swollen.  We made our way down the road to the tank and saw a house and an RV with coolers around it, with signs saying hikers welcome.  But we saw no people! 

We sat around the water tank until my foot felt somewhat better, and then made our way down the steps to the property to explore.  Around what appeared to be a shed, we found A LOT of people – mostly hikers, many of whom we met before, Serenity and Woodchuck, Nobody and his wife, and our hosts Josh and Tom cooking pizzas made to order in an outdoor wood burning oven!  This was “Mike’s Place” and Josh and Tom treated hikers to the best all season long.  Tom’s old dog Kubota was a little on the shy side.

One house, in the middle of nowhere, providing much needed water, music, beer, soda, and food – oh, and a place to camp after a really good party.

I tucked into my tent with a full belly, listening to Guns N Roses, and then, a bit incongruously, Frank Sinatra’s hits.  It was a surreal night under the stars.

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Miles: 18.12

Elevation gain/loss: 3967/-1934ft

Day 10 – Nero in Warner Springs

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April 25, 2016:  Got up early with a real hankering for a hot breakfast in Warner Springs.  I was not dissapointed.  I arrived at the extremely hiker friendly Warner Springs Community Center and was greeted by Pine who had camped there the night before.  I was grateful for a hot cup of coffee and, so looking forward to a hot breakfast at the Warner Springs Golf Grill.  The friendly community sheriff was offering rides to the post office (near the golf course), so I hopped aboard for the ride.  Pine picked up his resupply box and then we headed over for a nice breakfast – indoors from what was becoming a downright chilly day!

On our walk back, we were offered a ride by another friendly local Gary Kent, who let us visit his sweet dogs before climbing into a nice warm car for the ride back to the community center.  He even donated to my Crowdrise for The Humane Society of the United States.  Thank you so much! 

The Warner Springs Community Center really makes hikers welcome, providing a small resupply store, laundry buckets and soap, bucket showers, wifi, computers, charging stations, books, movies, as well as opening its lawn to hiker camping.  I decided a “nero” (nearly zero) hiking day was in the cards for me.  After laundry and shower, I settled in for a rainy night and the cooking school made a pasta dinner. 

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Miles: less than 1

Elevation gain/loss: 0ft

Day 9 – Third Gate to Creekside Beach Camp

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April 24, 2016: Got up early looking forward to pushing into Warner Springs and seeing the infamous “Eagle Rock” along the way.  The temp was getting much warmer and I was more than glad to stop for an afternoon siesta in one of a few shady spots along a ridge. 

Of course, as luck would have it, only about a mile up, the terrain changed from shadeless high desert, to oak trees and lush vegetation fed by a small stream.  And, around one more corner, at the next water stop (a stream fed cattle trough) – true trail magic!  Cookies, soda, beer, chips all courtesy of a trail angel father and son team!  The son had hiked the PCT the year before and wanted to give back some of the magic he received- we love you both!!!

Fully rejuvenated, me and a couple of hikers thought we’d push to camp near Eagle Rock.  The terrain changed again to high prairie and back into lush trees lining the San Ysidro Creek.  Then it was back up into the high prairie, only the wind started to howl.  I lost my hanky to that wind.

We made it to Eagle Rock – a natural rock formation that, yes, looks like an eagle.  But, there really wasn’t decent camping around in such a howling wind.  

Tired, we trudged along – the hikers I was with settling into the first high bushes found.  I kept on, and toward late evening found myself in the Canada Verde Valley, shaded among tall oaks and cooling rapidly from the moist air of the stream.  At around sunset, I found myself on a shore of the stream on a sandy beach-like camping area with a father and son team who hiked the AT and were happy to share their campsite with a fellow Tarptent Rainbow owner such as myself. 

They supplied the music while I supplied the hot cider and the stars came out and were simply amazing.

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Miles: 17.81

Elevation gain/loss: 2487/-2956ft

Day 8 – Scissor’s Crossing to 3rd Gate Water Cache

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April 23, 2016: Greg and I said goodbye to Lorian at around 6 am and crossed the street from the Appletree to hitch to Scissor’s Crossing.  We didn’t wait long when two cars pulled over -each carrying a young enthusiastic female hiker setting out to drop one of the cars at Scissor’s Crossing as they were planning to section hike up to that point soon. My ride was with Jamie, who wanted to hear all about the hike and was thrilled to know I was thru hiking the trail.  The gorgeous 40 minute drive from Julian melted away.  The ladies parked one of their cars at the crossing and they both jumped in the other with hearty goodbyes.

A storm had moved through the desert and cooled the temps to a very tolerable level as we started winding back up into the desert mountains.  Still in view of the highway, I told Greg to hike ahead as I took advantage of dwindling cell service to arrange for my new pack to be delivered to Idyllwild.  I also ate breakfast and made a nice cup of coffee in a wind-sheltered nook.  It was, in all, a beautiful morning.

Hiked alone, leapfrogging Luis and Vivian and made the water cache at the third gate in the late afternoon.  It was a day of desert climbing and I was ready to pitch camp among the only high bushes for miles.  Thought it was the spot Greg was headed to to join up with Pine, but neither were there.  Oh well – no doubt will see them later on the trail…

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Miles: 14.47

Elevation gain/loss: 2901/-1756 ft.

Days 6 & 7 – Into Julian (the Best Unexpected Stop)

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April 21 & 22, 2016: Woke up in my little nook of a sleeping spot to a brilliant full moon!  The wind had died down too making it a beautifully spooky night for hiking!  Made some coffee and had a quick protein bar breakfast under the moonlight.  Packed up and started back up the Sunrise trail at 2:30 am turning my headlamp on low because the night was so bright it was hardly necessary.  It was pretty chilly, even without the wind, and despite the hot of the previous day.  The desert is cold at night… .   But, bundled in my clothes and rain gear, buff over my ears and fleece gloves on the hands, the hike started out cozy and perfect.  The relatively flat high desert quickly descended into Chariot Canyon, and in the moonlight I could tell I was on some steep ridges going in.  At around 5 am, I found the campsite Alicia and Pine were headed for the previous day at the bottom of the canyon.  I was just starting up the other side of the canyon when I noticed another hiker’s headlamp coming up behind me.  “Good morning,” a whisper said, trying not to wake the campers below.  It was Pine!  I told him to hike ahead of me as I was warming up coming out of the canyon and needed to strip off the rain gear and gloves.  The canyon was gorgeous as the sun slowly rose.  I passed a hiker who had had a “dry night” (run out of water) at the top of the canyon but only had 4 or so miles until the next water source to go.  Met up with Pine shortly thereafter, who was, as was his style, breakfasting after sunrise.  We chatted for a bit about our “non-hiker” lives and what brought us to the trail.  He also asked if I had seen Alicia at the horse trough.  Now it was time to worry — she had told him to hike ahead the previous day right before the turn off to the trough at Sunrise, but didn’t show for over an hour.  Turns out, Pine had left at around 4pm and I had arrived at around 5:30.  No Alicia.  But then she may have been camping stealthily along the trail as I had seen many cowboy campers (going without tent) along the trail during my moonlight excursion.

We came to the next water source, a pipe at the bottom of the next ridge with a shady tree.  We spent too long chatting with fellow hikers and let the morning wane.  The morning was quickly warming toward noon and the foliage of the canyon fading as we re-entered scorched desert.  My goal was Scissor’s Crossing — the junction of highway 78 and S-2 – that would provide a hitch into Julian where I could contact my pack’s manufacturer.  I had not planned on stopping in Julian and hoped that I could get a room booked. 

As we left the water source, the trail turned into a climb up sandy, scorched ridges and burnt desert.  The day became brutally hot and it seemed like the next few narrow, steep, shadeless ridges would never end. At noon, hungry and tired (and on hour 10 for me) we stopped on a trail rock meeting up with the first few hikers in hours.  We ate and started descending into a valley of similarly seared desert sand and charred cacti following what appeared to be a dry stream bed.  Up ahead,you could see highway 78 and a tree line. 

The tree line got farther and farther away as the day turned to temps in the 90s.  I began to think the tree line was a heat induced mirage.  We finally made it to the tree line and highway around 1:30.  Another hiker’s dad was there to tell us he was picking up his daughter at Scissor’s Crossing and asked if we needed water.  I actually had water, but was cross to learn that this was not yet Scissor’s Crossing!  We had a quarter mile to go. Limping along with broken pack and blisters in the heat to Scissor’s Crossing, the ride into Julian from there with five hikers, a loving dad, and a chihuahua was a very very welcomed respite.

Did manage to get a room at the Julian Lodge Bed & Breakfast, where they did hiker laundry FOR FREE!  Clean clothes!  Yeah!!!!!!!  But was also told there were no rooms available the next night.  I was hoping to hitch back to Scissor’s crossing anyway the next afternoon to camp and begin hiking by the morning thereafter.  I also saw Louis and Vivian at my lodge – friendly hiker faces were all over Julian!  I also sent out an email to my pack’s manufacturer, though i knew it would be too late to get a reply today from an east coast company.

After a one hour shower, I was so tired I didn’t even want to think of food, but joined Erica, Toby, and Jeremy (now trail name “Jameson” — yes because he bears the weight in his pack of a small bottle of Jameson) for dinner nearby.  After that, I went back to my room and called home. Turns out my aunt was moving, and, from the trail, I would have to change my legal address with all companies, my drivers license, and state bar associations.  Ugh.  Couldn’t take it. Went to sleep.

The next morning I got up and made my way toward the dining room to eat, eat, eat.  Jameson, from Switzerland, grabbed some frozen pancakes, put syrup on them and was ready to eat until I asked if he was really going to eat them that way- frozen that is. He hadn’t realized they needed to be microwaved before eating – we had a good laugh.   Went back to my room as check out wasn’t until noon and I needed to check for a reply from Zpacks — my pack manufacturer.  They had responded that my pack had been sent out without a design alteration that prevented the frame from puncturing the fabric supports – namely a piece of metal sewn into the fabric.  They told me they could send me a new pack down the trail once it was built (they are custom) but to cut up a soda can in the meantime and tape it to th fabric.  I would have to limp along with a trail fix until the new pack could reach me in Idyllwild, at least 75 hiking miles away.  The day was not looking bright.  Time for more sugar.

I then headed over to Mom’s for second  breakfast.  Julian is a hiker friendly – extremely hiker friendly – little gold rush town.  I enticed Pine to make the stop in precisely because Mom’s gives free pie to all PCT hikers.  Going in, and with full pack after checking out of my lodge, I was all too obviously a PCT hiker.  Several tourists from Europe stopped me on my way into Mom’s to ask about the hike — kind of felt like a celebrity!

Mom’s didn’t dissapoint — free pie (mine was “Bumbleberry” – blackberry, blueberry and huckleberry mix), free topping (ice cream of course), and a free drink (more coffee!) by showing my PCT long distance hiking permit.  After this delicious fare, I headed over to hiker central — Carmen’s Place.  The proprietor – Carmen – is a fabulous lady who helps hikers with EVERYTHING.  Dozens of hikers each day of the season can be found on her deck, eating her amazing burritos and nachos, drinking our hiker free beer, and getting our problems solved by the lady who knows everyone in town.  A soda can was waiting for me, but the suggested repair was a total fail.  The thin foil could simply not stand up to the pressure of the frame and simply kept ripping.  Pine got a hitch back to Scissor’s, but I was stuck trying to think how to get 75 more miles with a broken pack.  Carmen immediately started making calls to every seamstress she knew in town.  The seamstress for the fancy dress shop across the street would be away until 5pm.  I had no choice but to sit, eat nachos, and wait at Carmen’s. 

At around 5, the seamstress returned to close up the shop and Carmen told me to run and catch her.  I took my pack and ran across the street, where the lovely proprietor and seamstress of Kathy’s Dress Shop broke gummed up two needles sewing the supports to the additional straps on my pack to make a more heafty support for the frame pole.  We then covered the ends of the poles in duct tape to try to make them less sharp.  Kathy did this all after hours when her shop was closed!  And — she would not take a cent from me for her troubles!  These are really amazing people in Julian and I hope to be back!  (I also met Milley — the shop’s sometime visitor — so cute!)

When all was said and done, it was around 7 pm.  I went back over to Carmen’s to get my trekking poles and hitch back to Scissor’s but Carmen was absolutely against a single girl hitching at night.  I relented, as earlier in the day, fellow hiker Greg had mentioned he had a room at the Appletree Inn a few miles away.  Carmen said that it would be no problem getting one of her wonderful employees to give me a ride.  About that time, in walked Lorian!  I hadn’t seen Lorian since we hiked out of Lake Morena together the third day!  She had hitched into Julian from the Sunrise Highway near the Sunrise Trailhead Watersource.  Eddy, her other half, was still hiking to Julian via Scissor’s.  Lorian needed to have her knee checked by a doctor and Carmen went right to work arranging her a ride to a doc the next day.  Lorian also needed a place to sleep.  I called to see if any rooms were left at the Appletree (as I doubted we would all fit in Greg’s room), and they had one room left.  Lorian and I sat and drank beer and bubbly until Carmen’s closed for the evening.  I got a photo opp with Carmen and Lorian and then Carmen and Daryl and then Chrisie drove Lorian and I up to the Appletree.  Greg met us outside and while Lorian stayed in Julian for her knee, Greg and I  planned to get up the next morning and hitch back to Scissor’s.  Good night sweet Julian!

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Miles: 17.88

Elevation gain/loss: 1463/-4184 ft.

Day 4 – Into Mt. Laguna

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April 19, 2016: Pine, Alicia and I woke to do a little moonlight hiking in the cool pre-dawn hours. Alicia needed a package in Mt. Laguna and was worried she wouldn’t make it- we were determined we could prove her otherwise, and would move quicker without the heat of the dsy to contend with.  Pine had a reservation at the campground there.  Thank you Pine!  We enjoyed a relaxed hike, if pretty chilly going up into the mountains and out of the desert again.  TicTaks helped tremendously. 

But the big news of the day…  I got a trail name!!!  Pine suggested “Smooth.”  Why “Smooth” you ask?  Well, rest assured it has nothing to do with my romantic prowess on the trail.  It refers to my “smooth” hiking gait.  No wasted motion.  Well – I accepted it and it stuck.  I am now Smooth on the trail.

Got into Mt. Laguna arount 11 and haf breakfast. Resupplied a bit out of the Mt. Laguna store, where I heard for the thousandth time that I was “walking home.”  I said, yeah – my family dropped me off at the Mexican Border and told me I had to walk home. On my way!

Miles: 11.98

Elevation gain/loss: 2152/-641