Without the willpower to leave Julian in the rain, I decided to stay in town after Carmen, a trail angel and local business owner, offered to house hikers for the night inside her restaurant. The rain came and went while a group of aspiring thru-hikers played cards inside, patched blisters and got to know each other. The next morning the clouds were weak and breaking in the morning sun. We all stayed and helped Carmen clean up and prepare the restaurant for the reward of a breakfast burrito.
(Click on the photos to see a slideshow.)
Heading back to the trail just before noon, we all climbed the hills of San Felipe and camped at the 3rd gate water cache about 15 miles from scissors crossing. I woke early to catch the sunrise and began to make the morning trek to Warner Springs, passing the 100 mile mark which seemed to easy. This was a fairly painless day as it crests the hills and lowers into the grass lands, with shade from ancient oaks and a haze from cloud cover, I lounged and ate lunch in the canopy. This would be the last wet night on the trail for the week, and it was cold. Wanting to move on from Warner Springs, mile 109, the rain pushed me back inside the community center and I decided yet again to stay the night among the other 30+ hikers.
I packed up early to get moving, for the weather was supposed to be warm for the first time of the trip. Through the last bit of grasslands the morning fog, heavy dew and rising sun created a spectacular glow, yet bitter cold morning hike out.
Once above the fog the sun felt warm and I arrived at one of my favorite bolder fields on the trail. I could wander around the boulders all day but it was time to put some rubber down on the trail. I made it to Mike’s place, a water source and yet another safe haven for hikers on the trail. I grabbed a boca burger, a Tecate and some water and headed out to find a secluded spot for the night to end a 23 mile day.
The next stretch can be challenging in the heat and even though it was a fairly cool day for the desert, the sun still brought out the infamous Western Diamondbacks. I made my peace with one and continued the long water carry to Paradise Cafe at mile 152. Many hikers were there at the cafe and making their arrangement’s to get to Idyllwild. I decided this year, to hike the 10 miles of the trail North of highway 74 to the Mountain Fire Closure.
After another 23 or so mile day I camped in a seldom traveled section of the PCT, I felt secluded and as though I was on a new trail. The moonlight back lit a puppet show of tree limbs and leaves on my tent. I had the next day to myself on the trail and spectacular views up at the crest, the trail wanders through massive boulder fields and pine trees. At the highest points, great views of the Mojave Desert added contrast to the trail and made me glad not to be down in the harshness of the surreal Mojave.
From here I hit the closure of the PCT and head down the Ceder Springs Trail at mile 162. This was the beginning of my long morning and easily the hardest hitch I’ve head on a trail to date. After reaching the bottom of the long decent, I made it back to highway 74. To the East, the highway heads back to the Cafe and to the West it heads to Idyllwild. I stood for some time with no luck and began to walk along the highway turning and sticking out a thumb with passing traffic. A few hours later I eventually got a ride. Burnt out and sore from the road walk, I plopped down in the San Jacinto State Park Campground. I made quick work of showering and doing laundry to go enjoy a good meal and a beer in town.
I am now taking the day off today, a good spot to rest and gather myself for the climb up and over the 9,000+ foot Mount San Jacinto and then detour around another fire closure to Big Bear Lake. I am starting to feel like a thru-hiker again. My legs are recovering fast and my appetite is steadily growing. The next stop will be Wrightwood, another piney mountain town along the PCT with another high mountain to climb up and over. Until then, happy trails and thank you for reading.