Tuesday, April 4 — day 9

PCT Mile 112.6 – 129.20

Looking back at where I hiked from yesterday.

Today is the first day of a four-day push to Idyllwild.  The first three days are crossing a series of desert ridges. This area is very arid and I will be relying on carrying more water and relying on water caches but this time of year there are still some natural flows that I can use.
My morning trail followed the tree lined Agua Caliente Creek for a mile or so before it started climbing up the first of many ridges.

This will be the last big stream I’ll see for a while.  It is a healthy stream teeming with tadpoles.

It was a very warm day and I was glad to have my umbrella to give me shade.

The landscape changed from Oaks and grasses to boulders and desert scrub where shade was rare.

Not as many flowers up here, but the manzanita is in full bloom.

Near a small creek crossing I heard the buzzing sound of a lot of insects.  I looked up and spotted a large bee swarm on a local tree.

Bees swarm when a hive splits in two or when it is no longer habitable.  Some bees head out in search of a new hive site while the rest gorge themselves from the honey stores and fly to a local spot with the queen to wait.  Because they are exposed and filled with honey, they are actually not dangerous.  They were too far away for me to prove this though 😜

Here’s another dwindling creek which I expect will be dry in a week.

There are a lot of spikey plants to avoid on the trail and especially in campsites: yucca, spanish bayonet, and of course cactus.  Fun fact I remembered from my High School Wilderness Studies class:  Cholla cactus spines are covered in a sheath.

The trail kept going up and up and up

After a long, uphill climb I cot a glimpse of the next range to conquer- the San Jacinto mountain wilderness 

Late in the afternoon and I near the top of the last ridge in these dry mountains is Mike Herrera’s house.  He has a well fed water tank that he shares with hikers.  I filled up my near empty water bottles here and dropped in to rest a bit and give my thanks.  Mike was out but the caretaker offered me a beer and lots of lively discussion.  Two other PCT hikers were there – these were the first people I’d seen all day.  One of the hikers went off into the bushes on a “vision quest” (chemically assisted) and returned with a virtual flower that he handed to each of us…  

Wow, look at the time!  I decided to head out and get to the top of the last pass in these mountains.  Here’s a view back.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 3 — day 8

PCT Mile 97.47 – 112.6

I slept very well. Sometime early morning, maybe 4am, I woke up and saw the headlamp of a hiker going by on the trail nearby. It was still dark and I was impressed because I needed more sleep. I did get up at dawn and hiked down the last few miles of this beautiful range. 

 On the way I found a friendly gopher snake.

It is the second Gopher Snake I’ve seen on this trip. I love these docile snakes!

Soon after i came across an inspirational milepost message on the side of the trail.

I was very happy to see this!  That means I’ve only got 650 miles to go!

I reached my next water spot, Barrel Springs, and stocked up on water plus washed, well, rinsed my spare socks. The trail is generally flat from here to Warner Springs. 

There are no big ridges to climb for the rest of day!  Yay, only a series of rolling hills between Barrel Springs and Warner Springs.  I passed through about five lush meadows filled with lupine and grass. The sky was clear and the temperature very pleasant. 
 A nice breeze was blowing through the meadows moving the grasses this way and that. It reminded me of the ocean.  I captured a short video of this, but unfortunately i am unable to post it here, but I did post it on my Facebook page.  Instead here’s a cool old oak tree.

​​The last meadow contained some boulders including appropriately named Eagle Rock.

Just a bit further and down a tree lined creek was the tiny town of Warner Springs. The town has an Information Center staffed by two very friendly women. The Center is very PCT Hiker welcoming providing a variety of services including real bathrooms, overnight camping area, bucket laundry, bucket bath (same bucket), power outlets, computers, books, maps, hiker foods (Snickers, oatmeal, dried maser potatos, etc) and unlimited hot and cold water (with cups)!  They also cater to non-PCT visitors with reference materials and historic artifacts.  

Being early in the PCT season, there were only two other hikers inside, even so I noticed the desktop air vaporizer emitting a steamy spray with the aroma of lilacs.  I wondered if it could win the battle when 20 or so smelly hikers are visiting.

I felt the need to bag a few more miles and so I filled up on cold water and left all this luxury but I admit I should have sprung for the bucket bath… I think from now on I will not turn one down.

I found a campsite and climbed in my bag. I had just dozed off when I was awakened by the most frightening shrieking noises coming from about 100-200 yards away. The eerie sound were loud and surprising long in duration. They sounded human-ish but there were no words. Later reasoned that this might have been a mountain loin looking for a mate.

The rest of the night was uneventful 😊

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April 2 — day 7

PCT Mile 77 – 97.47

I awoke at dawn and enjoyed the final delights of a zero-day: a hot shower, fresh brewed coffee, fresh yogurt and a banana. I packed up and headed to the edge of town to start hitchhiking. The town was dead. Finally cars did start driving by but they either ignored me or showed me the pinched-fingers message (“only driving a short distance”). I tried looking harmless and needy and tried to show off my backpack (message: I’m a hiker, not homeless) and tried to show how clean my clothes are..

After about 20 minutes of bad luck, young PCT hiker Abi from Portland, OR shows up to join me. Adding a female hitchhiker to the mix should improve chances greatly. I even made sure she was more visible to approaching drivers. New message to approaching cars: Father and Daughter hiking team– who could not stop for that vision?

Well, plenty.

Then a. guy who looks homeless (dressed like me 2 days ago but without a backpack) walked up to us and started asking the standard questions I usually enjoy answering: Are you backpacking? Where are you going? Holy cow, how long will that take you? Where did you start? Etc…

I’m trying to both answer his questions but also keep presenting my harmless, clean, backer father image to approaching, and then passing, cars. Indeed his joining our party is really muddying our message. My mind is racing: what to do? Just then a woman emerges from a nearby car and calls out to us “Hey! You want a ride?”. I have no idea where this car came from…

We say our hasty goodbyes to our polite 3rd wheel and race to the car. In the front seat of the car was her skinny 8 year old (going on 20) daughter daintily polishing off a bagel Fiery Cheetos. Abi and crammed our packs into the trunk trying to avoid the jumble of trash, oily car parts and what not. We then opened the back door and piled in trying to avoid the trash, oily clothes and what not.

Julian is in the mountains some 13 miles from the desert valley where our trailhead lies. I think I first got nervous just as we were backing out when the driver spied a car and said “Oh my God, is that my good-for-nuthin’ f****t ex-husband?”. The girl’s eyebrows furrowed but she said nothing. “No, it’s his f****t brother…”. Another silent brow forrow.

Our driver, gave us one exciting “Ms. Toads Wild Ride” down that windy road! We swerved around rocks in the road but also every time the driver changed radio stations. Unfortunately for us she had “Serius XM radio with hundreds of stations!”. With each new station change Ms. T would announce the song and artist to her daughter and the car would jerk from one side of the lane to the other. “Oh, I saw him in concert!” As I bumped into Ali. “Hun, that’s young Mikey Jackson with his brothers!”, as Ali bumped into me. “Mom, leave it here, that’s ‘Panic at the Disco'”. “No, I wanna Find Casey Kasom.”  And on…

 As a cherry on top of this adventure, Ms. T announced the between the sun and the grimy windshield, she can’t see the road well and maybe she should get the wipers fixed.

When we made it down to the trailhead at Scissors Crossing we thanked our host and wished them both well. Whew!

I am not making this stuff up!

My return to the trail was rewarded with images of the desert in bloom.  My feet feel great, well considering, and the weather was fantastic.  The trail was gentle and clear of rocks.  All in all fantastic!

Here’s Abi and our view:

Both shrubs and cacti were flowering everywhere around us.

The hike was up 2,000 feet out of the valley floor.  We’re leaving the Granite Mountains behind us an climbing up a new set (not sure their name).

We hike to a maintained water cache where I refilled, had many cups of water and headed on. Abi decided to stay  the night there so we said our goodbyes.

I hiked several more miles to make I a 20 mile day.  I happened on this little guy late in the day (small Horned Lizard in the lower right of the photo).

As dusk was falling I finally found a passable campsight, ate dinner and watched the moon and stars come out before crashing.

Thanks for reading!

April 1 – day 6 — Zero Day in Julian

Today was a guilty pleasure!  I spent the day sitting on the porch of the historic boarding room I rented reading the “History of Julian” enjoying the morning and afternoon sun.

I minimized my walking by only venturing out for dinner to give my feet a rest.

Julian seems to be known for its pies.  People were lined up ten deep in front of Momma’s and the Julian Pie Store. I guess I should have indulged…  

IMHO, the best dinner place based on my micro survey is Romano’s Italian Restaurant.  I met two great couples there- one couple building their dream house and the other getting a weekend break from their six kids(!).  People here are so nice and great to chat with.
Tonight, I prepped for my early start tomorrow.  I packed lunch into the hip pockets of my packed, checked the PCT Water report 😊, topped off my Water bottles, and recharged my battery pack, my GPS unit and my phone.  I applied Leuko Tape to the hotspots on my feet (apologies if you find this unpleasant)

It was only in taking this picture tat I noticed I had another blister 😞.  More tape…

My goal is to get up early, shower, eat a quick breakfast and hitchhike down to the trailhead about 13 miles east of here.  Lets hope I have good at charms tomorrow!

Thanks for reading!

March 31 – day 5.  Julian – resupply, real food and a bed!

I woke up early and decided to get going before the winds pick up again.  Not sure if this dawn picture will work ( I only have my phone to view it on)

I did not see Dave, nor his footprints-  he either hiked out last night before the rain or found a hidden campsite.

I did pass other campers who were using basketball sized stones to hold their tent stakes in place!  Wow.  

The desert is starting bloom!

I hiked down to Hwy 78 with the intention of hitchhiking the 13 miles to Julian.  Some of you older readers may remember the lyrics to the song that was in my head “Hitchin’ a ride” by Vanity Fair:  “A thumb goes up, a car goes by…”.  I wonder how long it will take..,

Well, right where the trail meets the road were two motor home drivers .

“Hey, need any water?” One asked.  

“I’m good there” was my reply.  Even now sitting in Julian I still have 2 liters of water!

“Ok, How about a ride to Julian then?  We’re getting breakfast there, you can join us!”

Trail Magic!

Pretty town and PCT hiker friendly!

Real food for breakfast with my new best buddies!  I stopped in at the Visitor center to inquire about lodging options – a bath and bed would be nice!  But, I’m told Julian is all booked up Because rue Anza Borrego (lower) Desrt is in full bloom.  There is a campsite with showers 3 more miles down the road,,, Oh well,  the lady in the office was so sweet and offered to drive me there after her shift _snd_ drive me back Saturday morning before her shift.  Such nice people in this town.

I visited the post office and collected my food resupply.  The trouble is I have way too much food still!  I should be near depleted, but this is what I’m still carrying

I combined my resupply with the food I had and donated half to the hiker box in the Post Office.  I did collect a bar of soap and shampoo from the box.  There really was not much else.  It is early in the season… In a few weeks ther’ll be a lot in there!  I ran into a PCTer in town and mention there’s some good food in the hiker box.  Her reply was, “Are you kidding? I have SO much food left!”.  Seems to be a common problem.

We heard about one guy who showed up at Lake Morena (mile 20) carrying an ice axe and crampons.  While these will be helpful in the Sierras some 700 miles away, it’s rather grueling to carry them all the way there.  He gave them away, easily a $200 gift.

I went back to the Visitors Center to get dinner suggestions and she informed me that a room had become available!  Shower and laundry in town right off the main strip!  Yay!

After showering and airing my tent I noticed some of the sore spots on my feet are blisters.  I booked the room for 2 nights to let my feet rest.

What? Is it raining again?

No, it’s laundry time!  On goes the rain gear and everything else gets washed. 

I hope it all dries in time for dinner!  The owner made reservation for me “it is Friday night you know, everything will be booked solid”.  She started the laundry and decided to give it a double rinse and extra soap.  Good call.  Her dryer is broken so I’ll have to try to quickly air dry the clothes.  But, she informed me “you can show up at the restaurants in your rain gear — this is Julian after all”.😊

Ok that’s all for now.  Please feel free to comment and if you have questions I’ll answer them!

Thanks for reading!

March 30 – day 4. Water? Water? Water! Water?

I awoke before sunrise and cooked a full breakfast: oatmeal and hot cocoa!  We packed up and filled up our water bottles at the local Fores Service maintained cistern.

Don’t fret:  the water from the spigot is clear, but does need filtering.  Someof the desert water sources are cisterns like this or are caches of one gallon jugs that friendly people keep filling. 

I carry a trail map (Halfmile Maps), Halfmiles PCT App on my phone, and most importantly, DoubleTaps PCT Water Report. The last one contain up to date reports of water conditions on the trail.  If you read it soon you’ll see some reports by Dalem — that’s me until I get a trail name.

Well, we planned on hiking 20 miles today and filled up on water when we left.  Along the way we past two places where we could (should) have drink up and topped off, but didn’t.  It was not as hot and we saw on the map that there was a water cistern at mile 62.4.  We planned to be just about by then so we passed up the earlier supplies.  For whatever reason I did not read the Water report that clearly states the cistern is dry as bone.  I swallowed my last mouthful of the water I had then opened the spigot to refill…. nothing.  Yikes!  We are in the middle of the desert at noontime with the next nearest water maybe a mile away (ok…) or verified at 6 miles away.  

Hoping to find a stream that was flowing a few days ago I started hiking up a dirt road looking on either side for signs of moisture. I hiked 3/4 miles up that hilly road and saw a lot of dusty desert.  Dave caught up with me and we decided to head out on the long dry trek to the verified source.  

Funny thing, I did not notice my feet were hurting for those 6 miles…  

It’s funny that there are two types of yearnings while hiking: the things you cannot get on the trail: ice cream, fresh fruit and veggies, hamburgers and the like. The other yearnings are for simpler things like a flat campsite, no mosquitoes, etc.  what I was yearning this 6 miles was drinking water from a cup– not having to suck it through a resistive filter from a bottle. 

I made it to the next cistern and while parched I was not in danger.  I did drink a liter and a half right away – forget the cup for now, give me water!

I have a few new rules that I follow:  download the PCT Water Report every time I have internet, memorize that report for theft Section and always drink up and top off whenever I pass water!

The wind picked up in the afternoon, and I mean really picked up!  It kept me cool which is good because I could not use my sun-brella.  Dave hiked on ahead and I slowed way down as I traversed the mountain sides.  The wind was so strong it pushed me around!  I was able to stay on the narrow trail but the wind while cresting passes was crazy!

I had a choice of finding a campsite on the mountainside or trying to hike down to the highway and hitchhike to Julian.  I was so exhausted that I found a passable campsite and had that wonderful cup of water- 2 actually!  I ate snacks for dinner and sent my first “Camping Here” satellite message and requested a satellite weather report which came back as “5pm 10% chance of rain 11pm No rain, but strong winds.”

Well, the winds are already here and getting stronger and the clouds I see are about 50 miles away on a different mountain range.  The passable campsite turned out to be not so much so – the wind blew unblocked off the crest right down the narrow canyon I was in.  

I felt rejuvenated after my meal and cups of water, so decided to head on down the trail.  Maybe I’ll catch up to Dave and maybe he’ll be in a campsite that can fit two, but as dusk fell I needed to find something better.

I found another narrow ravine with a tall rock face and dead brush that broke the wind a bit.  I learned how to setup my tent in crazy wind and quickly threw everything into it to prevent it from blowing away!

My tent is a two-walled type- an inner wall of waterproof bottom with mosquito netting atop.  The second layer is a rain fly.  I chose to not attach the rain fly as it would catch more of the wind gusts.  This worked well and while the whole tent was pushed this way and that in the gusts, it stayed put.

Of course, I was exposed if it started raining, but the stars were out and it was well past 5pm, right?
At 10:30pm it started raining.  It was still gusting like crazy but I got the rain fly attached before everything got too wet.  Luckily my tent stakes held in the sandy soil and my tent poles took the punishment.

The rain and wind cleared sometime in the night.  Wow, “water” is the word for the day!

Thanks for reading!

March 29 – day 3

Mile 33.57 to 52.51 — Long Valley Creek to Pioneer Mail Rest Area

Getting out of the tent was painful! My body is stiff and walking hurts my feet. But, I need to get going and as an incentive there may be cold drinks at the store in Mt. Laguna!  

Mount Laguna is at 6,000 feet elevation and is topped with a forest of pine trees. It was great to be hiking there. Indeed there were cold drinks but it was too early for beer, so Dr Pepper and BBQ potato chips was second breakfast. First breakfast was a single poptart.  

The pine trees disappeared all too soon as we descended the north side of Mt Laguna. We left just in time as the local fire crew started a controlled burn. Let’s hope it stays controlled!  (It did)

We turn a corner and are met with an awesome view of the lower desert and the snow capped mountains beyond. We are headed to those mountains! The snow covered one on the right is Mt. San Jacinto at 10,000 feet, the snowy ones in back and to the left are Mt. San Gorgonio and the Big Bear Mountains.  The Saltin Sea is the blue area way back on the right.  Not sure you can see all that in this photo.

We hiked up and down through low desert scrub (read: no shade).  Luckily I brought my own shade — a “chrome-dome” lightweight umbrella:

I am sooooo glad I had this!  It made a world of difference.  Note that it attached to my pack and so hands free!  I also note that I have quite a beer belly 😩.

Just when we were exhausted we came upon the Pioneer Mail Picnic and Rest Area.    The weather report looked good and there were zero clouds so I decided to cowboy camp here (no tent).  I did see and kill one mosquito, so I slept with my mosquito netting.

Two other PCTers arrived late and also setup here for the night.  I can only imagine how busy this will be in a few weeks when the main hiker herd passes through.

Thanks for reading!