October 13, 2017
Cooler Water Camp – Idyllwild Road Walk to Town
The raging wind wakes me at midnight. Trees sway in their windy dance above. I’m grateful to have by chance chosen the right side of the boulder to set camp. I am utterly protected by this warm desert wind shifting the chill I experienced the night prior to a sleep so hot I wake up to not only the sound, but my sweating self. I feel like I’m underwater I’m so hot and soaking wet from going to sleep with all articles of clothing plus every hatch battened down on my tent. I gasp for air and shed layers, open vestibules, cool off and drift into sweet Mount San Jacinto sleep once again. A 4:30 wake-up feels down right leisurely. I’m walking by 5:30am and soon reach the water I would have walked to the night before. I remain grateful so grateful for that cooler water. Thank you somebody who forgot the red cooler at the camp on Fuller Ridge.
I assume it’s going to be an easy walk and let my guard down. Big mistake. There is no easy walk when you’re tired. Soon I am fighting the feeling of being pissed off for every little rise in the trail, battling this with self-talk of ‘one step at a time; enjoy the sights and sounds all around; be where you are not where you want to get to; etc., etc….’ but man do I want this morning walk to be over. I want to be in town eating good food drinking coffee then more food and beer and a shower and laundry and maybe just maybe a zero. I am not present and know it. Oh well. Mindfulness is not always attainable. I tried.
I don’t even go up Mount San Jacinto because I don’t really care to be up there looking at the surrounding views. We live in such a glorious mountain setting in the Rocky Mountains that I’m not super keen nor motivated to go up every single peak that has a trail going up it. I’d rather scramble up some obscure mountain nobody cares about. That and I think the lower trail is going to be a breeze. Which it is not. It drops almost 1000ft then climbs back up. Damn.Might as well have climbed up the big mountain. Ha. The joke is on me. I laugh. It brings me back into the moment and I walk with a smile.
The sun arrives and it is hot oh so hot. And exposed. Deer sprint to the left and right. I reach Deer Spring and realize they are wondering what a human is doing at their spring. I walk some more and find an un-marked little seep and fill my clean bottles with this wonderful earth juice, drinking its cold thirst quenching liquid greedily down. A little better than the filtered melted cooler water but still I am grateful for last night.
Five hours later I reach the trail junction to the Devil’s Slide and drop down down down. Day hikers hike up up up. They are all clean and huffing and puffing. Me, dirty and smiling and running down the trail to the trailhead to the other trail to the road walks into the town of Idyllwild.
I dump all my little zip lock baggies of trash in the bins, pound a bunch of crumbs I have left of food, drink a whole lot of water and begin the walk to town. Want to be in town. Want to be in hotel. Want food that’s not TRAIL food. I want I want I want I want…
Seems to be this morning vibe, this ‘I want’ thing I have going in my head like a mantra that is actually an anti-mantra. Makes me grateful my whole half-trail hike has not been this desire to be somewhere I’m not. I work to shift the want to the incredible here and now. Stopping. Looking. Listening. Being. Oh man do I want to be in town though.
I walk through neighbourhoods and look at houses and yards. You get a feel for a place when you walk through and this has a good vibe. It’s funky and real. Not too polished. Not extreme wealth. Character. I make another turn onto another road by way of Guthook’s app (apparently he lives in this town?). An older man looks at me and asks in confusion ‘you’re not on the PCT, are you?’. I tell him yes, I am, south bounding to the border. He asks where I’m from and tells me many stories of travels in Canada many decades back. One confused story leads to another and I try not to think about being in town not standing in the sun with my pack on my feet tired my body sore my stomach hungry. But I find patience and listen because as a human being what else can you do. My new friend explains how I can walk to town giving many twists and turns and names of streets. I listen some more and secretly hope he’s going to offer me a coke. An iced cold coke. I listen some more. Then my new friend offers me a ride the mile to town and i jump on the offer so happy. Before I get to the hotel he tours me around, sharing his local favourite places, his town. Paul is a gem.
I pick up my package at the Idyllwild Inn and learn town is in it’s busiest weekend all year. There are likely no rooms available. The man at the desk calls around. Finds me a room a little out of town ‘not too far a walk’. Ok. I’ll take it. It’s only for one night but there’s a room the following night at a bed and breakfast. Sure. I’ll take it. I will move. I am desperate and oh so tired.
I walk to what I think the hotel is and ask the lady at the desk about the room that the man called about. She has not idea what I am talking about so calls the Idyllwild Inn. Finds out the right hotel I need to go to that has the room. Offers to drive me. Yes. Oh yes. Before we leave she asks how many nights I am looking for, I explain the situation, the moving of hotels etc but I will take anything I am so tired. So hungry. So hot. She says wait a minute, goes in, comes back out and says ‘do you want to stay here?’. Soon I am in the ‘Secret Squirrel’ room tucked away just for hiker trash like me. She calls the other hotel and says they will take me, they have two nights available, I am happy so very happy. Town is hopping. I am soon clean. Fed. Watered. Fed again. Watered some more.
Tomorrow is a fucking zero and life is good.
0 miles/0 hours
Town markers sending me in the right direction
Loaner clothes from the hotel in Idyllwild
.7 mile North of HWY 74 – just before HWY 74 PCT Crossing Night Hike Camp
What to do. Trail closure due to past forest fires means the choice of a road walk, a hitch, a drive…not sure what to do. I am fully aware I’m not on a thru-hike nor do I judge others decisions on these tricky sections that make for shitty walking on roads or far-off alternatives, but know if I were on a true-thru I would likely choose differently. That’s just the way I roll, I do like to be walking not driving. Even going into Idyllwild would have been different if I was actually on a thru-hike. But I am not. So this is what I did. I ask the hotel owner if she knows anyone who I could pay to shuttle me. When I am alone I would rather hire someone if I could (Or need to) rather than hitching. She asks where I am trying to go to and what time I want to leave. I tell her I hope to get dropped off at why 74 where I can then walk the miles up the dirt road to get back on trail where the southern end of the closure is. At least I can walk the trail this way which I ultimately want to do. She says how about 1130 am I will drive you. Chris does this asking for nothing and I’m grateful. Not only that, she drives me almost all the way up the dirt road, to where it gets a little too rough for her Subaru. What luck. Kindness. Seriously I am so grateful.
She and her husband do the many point turn to go back down the road when I see an SUV driving up. I wave it down and get a ride another mile up from a young dad and his two sons. He says he hears it’s Native land up the road with some good energy and things to see. I mention it’s all Native land and he laughs with me, realizing yes it was and indeed still is in spirit, despite the dire ongoing devastation of colonization.
Very important resupply item for maximum nutrition
They park 2.2 miles from the PCT. I’m on my way walking up the road with poodle dog brush all around on the roadside ditches. Skunky brush saying ‘hey Clara, we’re still here, gonna get you…’. Yikes. I do not want that on my skin with the rash and the itch and the…actually I don’t even know how I would react but it creeps me out because I think it’s going to cause something very uncomfortable to say the least. Where where has been recent fire there is the dreaded PDB.
Mexican American hunters are at the top of the road just returning to their trucks. They are friendly and can’t believe i am up there alone. One says his wife gives him a really hard time for being out there alone, deer hunting. She worries something will happen to him. He tells me ‘i’m gonna tell my wife about you, for sure, then she can let me come out here in peace. I love it out here.’ José, another hunter, asks to get his picture with me. Too funny.
Soon I’m back on trail and grateful I made my way back up to this section. It’s beautiful with late day light into the setting sun then darkness. Warm billowing breeze makes me feel light and airy as I walk and walk some more. A few burrowing owls take flight as I approach their ground perch on the trail. My first scorpion sighting of the entire hike greets me with tail curled up. With limited water I don’t do my usual end of day water bottle rinse but that’s ok. All is good. I’m back on trail. I find a flat-ish spot just beside the trail, set camp, eat some food, smile to the twinkling stars and soon am fast asleep.
Close to HWY 74 Camp – Somewhere Somewhat Close to Warner Springs Camp
35.3 miles/12 hrs 45′
Five different burrowing Owls greet me at various times this morning as I walk into the morning darkness. I love seeing these little creatures. Reminders I am never alone out on trail. Never. Two of them let me stand right above, their eye looking up at me, me looking down at them, saying hello. That glowing eye from far away looks like a reflective disk sticker on a dried up piece of wood on the trail. Then the stick takes flight floating softly away the shining eye glittering from the light of my headlamp following into the darkness.
Oh my the long hot day begins. I find a small water cache about 12 minutes/.7 miles from where I camped. Sweet. This water has been here a long time judging by the taste of plastic from sitting in the bottles in the glaring sun for who knows how long. Not that I’m complaining. I take a little bit to get me to the cache at ‘Walden there is no Pond but there’s a tank’ which is a wonderful place in the desert sharing not just water but reading and kindness and again I left so very grateful.
Community library at Walden
An ode to the Borrowing Owls on trail?
I move into the cactus jungle after Walden so pristine with variety and great energy in abundance. Then a long hot walk where I do not see a single person again all day. I stop at ‘Mike’s Place’ sitting in the shade of a tree filtering some water from the big tank. I don’t go to the house because I’m enjoying being alone and just want to keep walking.
I walk and walk and walk into the setting sun. I carry an extra 1 litre of dirty water to do a rinse off at the end of the day and realize I’ve somehow gotten sunburnt through my hiking dress. That’s how intense this desert sun is. It hits at least 100 degrees during the day so I am not surprised.
sunburnt through dress
Creepy Camp – Desert Bliss Camp
35.7 miles/12.5 hrs
Fatigue. Man am I tired. What a bad sleep in this creepy bad energy spot. I am glad to leave. Some places vibe good and others not. Who knows what went down here to leave this residue of creep. It’s a good tired though and I embrace the feeling of utter fatigue. Welcome it in. Walk with it. It is another extremely hot day I can feel that’s gonna come walking into the darkness of morning on my way to Warner Springs. Then a blast of cold in the valley. So cold I have to put on jacket, gloves and toque. Yes, cold air descends, that it does. Then hot again. I don’t wish for warmth while the biting cold has me shivering along because I know it’s going to be another dreadfully hot 100 degree day.
Desert sunrise walking into Warner Springs
Trail into Warner Springs
Taking a shade break from the 100 degree heat
A massive water cache at the gate just down from the trail is magic pure magic however it’s human beings who made this magic happen. I sit and drink and look around in the heat. So hot and grateful. I wind my way along the smooth desert ridges into the darkness hauling 5 litres for the last ten miles because camp will be dry as will many morning miles as I am not going into Julien for pie. I am walking onward southbound on the PCT almost done this half trail walk. I thought for sure I would go into Julien because of all the training rides I did in this area to see what it was like these two decades later but more importantly see what I was like all these years lived later but instead feel I don’t need to do this, I just need to walk. Pie can wait.
The mother of all water caches
Environmentally friendly, too
I see my first tarantula making his NOBO way on the trail in the late day light. I finally stop to camp in a quiet, beautiful spot exuding peace and silence save for the softly blowing wind. I take my water bottle shower right on the trail because there is nobody around and I know if someone were to approach I’d see their headlamp. I feel free standing in the desist darkness drying off with the warm breeze enveloping my entire being.
Late day desert lighting just beginning to put on a show
Desert Bliss Camp – Mount Laguna Campground Camp
36 miles/12hrs 20′
I’m a little concerned walking DOWNHILL at 4am SWEATING. It is going to be a very, very hot day. Then a funny and welcome thing happens. It’s as if the sky decides to put on a light show for the morning viewers, clouds building, sun rising, colours vibrant all around. I stand in awe of the shades of nature gazing up in wonder. The clouds build some more and it actually begins to cool off. The sun hides behind the billowing clouds until 10am allowing for some respite from the heat. The wind picks up. It is downright PERFECT hiking weather. Right on. Let’s go.
Magical morning in the Anza Borrego Desert
I feel strangely good. Strong. I almost feel fast. I walk and walk and walk some more. Knocking out the miles. It may be that the end is so near I let down my guard and just giv’er, knowing there is no burn out now that I am so damn close the the southern terminus of the PCT. A few days away.
I stop for water from a black hose some kind trail supporters rigged from the fire water tank for the hikers. I filter 3 litres, make some electrolyte mix, eat some Pirate’s Booty puffs, put on some sunscreen and walk some more.
Until I hear the voices many hours later. I hear them before I see the humans they belong to. I round a turn to find a big group of young men in orange jumpsuits taking a break from working on the trail. They are crouched down below the manzanita bushes out of the wind. I say hello to these men in orange with bold ‘prisoner’ on their pant legs. I stand there in my pink hiking dress/orange camo hunting cap/dirty/smelly/pack on back and smile at the crew of trail angels working on making this part of the PCT easy going. I thank them for working on the trail as I would any other crew doing the same. They are all very nice and polite and seem in shock to see someone out there alone. Not too many passing through at this time of the year. I pass another crew of the same group of men. Chat some more. Someone asks if I walked all the way from Canada. Another asks how far I go in a day. One offers me water and one of the other guys tells him ‘look at her, she has everything she needs, she don’t need nothing’ and I say ‘water, I’ll take it’. I tell him he gave me trail magic and I’m thirsty and grateful. He hands me a 500ml of unopened bottled water. I walk on and round a turn and see them all standing staring at me, my trail angel saying to the others ‘she said I gave her trail magic, how cool is that?’. I wave and thank them again and they all smile and wave back. I see the guards shortly after and tell them the guys were all polite and respectful. One is nice and one seems mean.
After nine hours of walking I finally stop to eat something more than the drink mix and pirates booty I had earlier, as well as a few bars along the way. The salami, butter and cheese sandwich tastes so good. I realize how hungry I am. More electrolyte mix. Nuun tablet water.
Ten more miles I walk.
I meet David the Vietnam Vet who is up there watering trees planted to honour the dead of a Native American tribe who used to be the inhabitants of this very land until it was set in a treaty that was ultimately not honoured moving them many miles from their ancestral homeland. He is paranoid and harmless. He asks what is my line of defence against the ‘cats’. I tell him common sense and a knife I hope I never have to use. He shows me his hiking pole with spike on the end, knife (big knife) and other weapons. He goes on to tell me how the government planted something in his head that gives him splitting headaches because he knows things people should not know.
I make my way from the water source and David, hustling along. I know he is harmless but also am aware I am very vulnerable all alone on the trail. I think how kind he is to water those trees in an area that should be sacred that is marked by graffiti and litter.
Magical Mount Laguna views into the vast desert
I decide to go to the campground up on Mount Laguna because it has showers and I’m tired and a little freaked out. I arrive and the campground host tells me there is no water but I can have a little gift. He gives me two 700ml water bottles. It is not nearly enough. I am paying for camping it is now dark and I am screwed. I walked in with only 500ml and resign myself to serious rationing. I say thank you and just wish he would realize the situation I am in and help me out. Oh well.
I find a camp spot and set the tent. Pay the camp fee. I am too tired to leave now. Soon I hear the electric golf cart coming with the same man saying ‘I told my wife about you and she gave me hell for not giving you more water.’ He hands me two more water bottles and some chocolate mints. He also offers to drive me to the nearby campground to shower, and drive me back. I say no, thanks, it’s ok but thank you. I am SO GRATEFUL and now water rich. So happy I want to cry.