Day 6 Afternoon – Warner Springs to Mile 124 – 15 miles
After leaving Warner Springs, the trail crosses another mile or so of grassland before passing through one of the rare spots with trees, and even followed a little stream for a while. But eventually the trail started up, became exposed and got hot; the climb was about 2000 feet before topping out.
During the climb I dropped down to the Lost Valley Spring, a small concrete tank with water seeping into it from somewhere. Other than surface crud, the water was clear and cool, so I filtered up a couple of liters and went back up to the trail. As is pretty common at watering holes, there was quite a crowd gathered at the trail junction, sitting in some rare shade.
The next listed camping was about 4 miles further along so I struck out, attempting to beat the crowd to one of the ‘several small spots’. And indeed they were small spots, and not many of them. I found a nice one sitting just off a turn in the trail with a commanding view of the valley below and dropped for the night. Martin later joined me and several others found tiny spots in the surrounding boulder field. I tried to set up my tent but the site was too small, so it’s cowboy camping again; which turned out for the best.
People were talking about an lunar eclipse that night, and the word we had was that it would start at 10 PM. I woke up at midnight and sure enough, the moon was just a pale glow in the sky. I woke up Martin and then went back to bed and watched it for a while. When I woke up again at 1:30 it was still partially there. Not sure, but I suspect this was the first time I had ever seen a lunar eclipse; and only because the site was too small to set up my tent.
Day 7 – Mile 124 to Mile 144 – 20 Miles
I seem to be getting a little earlier start each morning, being on the trail today around 6:15. Still nowhere near the first one out, but not nearly the last either.
The water report listed a water tank a few miles up the trail from where I had stayed and it seemed prudent to replenish so I took the side trail and road over to it, following the signs to Trail Angel Mike’s. I found the tanks, but a sign just beyond pointed to the hiker shack. I wandered down to it and found several hikers, some with tents still set up. Mike was not around but a couple other men were there, cooking up ham and eggs for the hikers; a much better breakfast than what I had planned on.
So after eating, resting a bit, and filling up from the potable water tank down at the cabin (instead on the non-potable water from the tanks above), I set out for another long climb, followed by another long descent and then a few miles of rolling hills, all pretty exposed. Trees seem not to like it here for some reason; must be the lack of water.
About 10 miles from Mike’s place is a sign pointing down a side road to the Tule Spring. Since the next water was a cache 6 miles away, it seemed like a good idea to stop for awhile. So I dropped down to the spring and joined a growing crowd sitting in the shade; had a second breakfast (even though it was afternoon), filled up on water, doused my shirt in an attempt to stay cooler for a few minutes and then headed back onto the trail with Patrick just a few minutes ahead and Martin preparing to leave. The rest of the crowd was planning on staying for few hours until it cooled down a bit. Did I say it was hot?
Along the way I passed Patrick flaked out across the trail in the shade of a rare tree. All he could say as I passed by was “It’s hot”. I had to agree but staggered on. And at that point it had turned to a stagger, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I kept thinking that if I had been smart, I would still be in the shade back at Tule Spring, but once again I found myself trying to get ahead of the crowd to claim one of the spots in the next boulder field.
Eventually Martin caught me, after also stumbling over Patrick on the trail, just as we reached the Table Mnt Truck Trail water cache. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that there would be an ice chest with cold sodas there: wrong. Somewhat disappointed as I had fantasized about a cold drink for the previous few miles. Apparently there was an ice chest just beyond our camp, a mile further down the trail.
After picking up a liter of water at this very well stocked cache, we headed on down the trail and shortly found the advertised campsites in a boulder field. And this time there was no shortage of spots. We each grabbed one in the shade of large boulders and set up. I started my dinner to hydrating and then ate two lunches and guzzled water, waiting to see who would make it next. After an hour or so Early Bird and Squirrel showed up dragging Patrick along and set up near by. And eventually a British couple showed up and camped up above.
Enjoyed the evening with the gang, eating and laughing and carrying on. So much different than being a solo south bound hiker. The opportunity to develop relationships with some of the other hikers is pretty cool.
Headed to bed as the sun went down and was sitting on my bed taking my shoes off when I noticed something funny looking on the rock beside me. As I looked closer it was a little translucent lizard, who eventually ran down the rock and up onto my bed. I shooed it away, and wondered if it would be back to snuggle in with me before morning. This was an unexpected side effect of cowboy camping.
Day 8 – Mile 144 to Paradise Valley Cafe – About 8 miles
After another windy night, and my most uncomfortable night’s sleep, I was up early and out of camp by 5:45, walking by headlamp for the first time on this trip, and second time ever. Breakfast, and a day and a half off, awaited me at the end of the trail.
The trail wandered up and down over a series of ridges before eventually coming out to an old dirt road just before the highway. The road had a sign to the Cafe and we followed it a mile, much better than walking the highway. The Cafe caters to hikers, bikers and horsemen, and has portions to deal with just about any large appetite. I had a 1 lb slab of ham, 3 eggs, hash browns and biscuits and gravy; much more than I could normally eat; and down it went: delicious.
After breakfast most of the gang hitched into Idyllwild and I waited a few minutes for Sue to pick me up and then followed the rest of them up to Idyllwild. Because of the trail closure just up ahead, most people seem to be choosing to just skip the whole section from the Cafe to Idyllwild. And I will be skipping even more, opting to go back onto the trail at I-10. I’ll come back another year when the trail is open and hike this whole section.
Idyllwild is a nice little town, and we wandered around a bit, as well as doing laundry and catching up on journaling. Went out to dinner that night and ran into the rest of the group I had been traveling with and got to say our last goodbyes, at least for a while. We are all going back onto the trail at different times and places, so I may not see them again until I south bound through the northern Sierra’s later this summer.
All in all this has been a very good first week on the trail. No blisters or other physical issues, other that a quad that is getting tight and sore hips and shoulders from the pack. It has been hot, but not too hot. It has been dry, but that was expected and I have compensated by carrying way too much water. All of the things I had been concerned about have failed to materialize. And the unexpected bonus was the development of identity as a part of a loose group rather than a solo hiker. I walk a different pace than everyone else, but it is nice to share the day with someone else at the end of it, or to hear someone say “Hi Eeyore” as we meet 9on the trail.