Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Warner Springs

I am here in Warner Springs. I have walked 109 miles, not counting the mileage in search of water and camping places. It's been quite an adventure.

I have a journal I am keeping on paper and I'm in no position to type all of that here. I have written quite a bit. But here is an update.

Tony and I started at the Mexican border on April 30 in the afternoon. We hiked about 9 miles and then made camp off the trail. The border is an awful place like a war zone with helicopters and mean looking guys in trucks patroling the area and scraping the dirt to reveal new footprints. The do all this buzzing and show of bravado within the first 10 miles or so inland from the border. I'm convinced it's all for show. We saw evidence of illegal alien traffic for tens of miles inland.

The country-side is chaparral and there were lots of flowers blooming. The weather was perfect hiking weather. It was really nice.

The second day, Tony and I hiked up to Lake Morena which is a nice campground next to a reservoir that was nearly empty. PCT hikers only have to pay $5 per tent. We got there early in the day after a long climb up and over Hauser mountain. Eventually about a dozen other hikers showed up and we all camped in the same spot. I haven't seen any of these hikers again except for 2 of them because they are all way faster and way higher mileage people than me. The two I keep bumping into are Mike and Kat, a young couple from San Diego.

Tony was going to end his hike with me at Lake Morena and hike back, but when we emerged off the trail there were two hikers having some beer. Tony got a ride back to his truck with them and brought it back to Lake Morena so he could hike one more day with me.

So the next day we headed out from Lake Morena to Cibbet Flat campground which is who knows where. The country-side got a bit more arid but it was still chaparral. Just add cactus and tons of wild flowers.

The campground had a nice creek so we soaked our feet and enjoyed it for a while. Then came the boys. A whole church group of father-son campers arrived. They were noisy and kept us awake until past 3:30 in the morning. To make it up to us they let us have breakfast burritos the next morning.

Mike and Kat stayed at Cibbet Flat with us, too.

In the morning, Tony and I made the long hike up the hill back to the trail and said good-bye. It was a very tearful good-bye. Tony just stood there in the clearing where the trailhead was as I hiked on. I kept looking back to see him standing there looking so forelorn. Eventually I turned a corner and when I had another chance to look back again he was gone. It was hard to see him go.

I proceeded to Laguna Mountain. The country-side had pines and flowers growing underneath. The elevation was getting up there around 5 or 6 thousand feet. I hiked in to my first trail town experience at Laguna to a little store. There were cyclists having an organized ride that day and I got the third degree about why on Earth a solo woman would do such a crazy thing while I was trying to enjoy my burrito and energy drink. I bought a few other things because it looked like I might not have enough food.

I walked back to the trail and hiked up to a campground. It was too expensive. $17 and the showers weren't free and didn't even work cold. I stayed anyway. I wasn't going to pay but Mike and Kat showed up and they felt guilty so I payed for half. The campground was full of young children who were, thankfully, quiet.

Mike and Kat told me that Tony had driven around the area looking for me. I must have missed him when I stopped to cool off my feet on the trail.

I slept well and in the morning I packed up and got ready to begin the difficult part of this hike. At the first opportunity, I loaded up with 5 liters of water in preparation for a potential long distance without water. It was overkill because I found natural water on the way in addition to other piped water and caches of bottles.

At Pioneer Mail picnic area I swapped my too-fluffy toilet paper for much more businesslike USFS issue TP which gives you more sheets for the space. I didn't need any water so I continued on.

I walked along what seemed like a cliff. I guess hangliders come up there and often the wind is wrong and they die. There were memorials painted on the cliff and written on an old guard-rail. It was a kind of scary spot.

The trail got more and more dry, the plants were lower and scrubbier but still chaparral. I could see views of the Colorado desert in the distance.

Eventually I met a day hiker out in the middle of nowhere. He said he had seen dozens of hikers that day, more than he ever had before. I had some hope I might catch up to them and not be all alone. But I never did. The trail was very dry and rocky and not very hospitable. I decided I would walk as long as it took to get to the next water source. And so I did, for about 20 miles.

That spot was Rodriguez Road. I camped there. Another very quiet guy showed up and camped there, too, but I never really saw him. He kind of showed up and then vanished.

The night was very windy and my tent fell down. I put it back up. A hummingbird kept trying to fly inside. I decided I would give myself the trail name "Piper" because a piper is a type of bird and it's also someone who plays a musical intrument. The birds so far have been very important to me, bringing me joy, comfort and happiness as I see them.

In the morning, anticipating even worse dry conditions for the next few days, I went down to Rodriguez Spring and loaded up my 5 liters. It was a delightful spring with hummingbirds drinking the water. The spring was a 2.5 mile round trip out of my way but that's ok. I really wanted to do this without relying on plastic water bottle caches.

I hiked down toward Scissors Crossing which is in the desert proper. A fellow named Jake "Don't Panic" met up with me along they way and his conversation kept the hiking going quickly.

At the crossing, which really was in the desert, but gratefully not too hot, there was an enormous pile of water bottles (which I didn't need since I still had my 5 liters) and a trail register and a guy named Wild Bill.

Wild Bill was hiking the PCT when he got word his mom had died so he had turned around to walk back. I thought the story was a little fishy. Wild Bill reeked of alcohol and that wasn't Gatorade in his bottle. He was a nice fellow, toothless as he was, and he knew a lot about the trail and the trail towns. He talked Jake's and my ear off for a couple of hours as we waited out the middle of the day under a bridge. The quiet fellow showed up and waited with us too. The quiet fellow's name is John.

Wild Bill told us that there was a fire up ahead and part of the PCT was closed. I'm going to have to hike roads around near Idyllwild.

At about 2PM we headed out for a very long climb into the San Felipe Hills. The desert was beautiful. There were cholla and barrel cactus. Wildflowers, too. Eventually we reached a level spot noted in the Data Book as dry, sandy wash. That's where I camped with John. Jake took off for some night hiking. It was another 20 mile day for me.

It was very windy again. It also rained. Just as it was raining the hardest a violent gust came up and knocked my tent over. I had to go out again to set it up. It was bumming me out but the tent is very warm inside so if I can ever figure out how to properly set it up maybe it will be a good tent. "The One" is what it's called. If anyone has one, I'd appreciate some advice.

After a difficult night where I think I slept maybe an hour or two I got up and packed to leave. As I got going there was a beautiful sunrise with the rain clouds and the little wildflowers in the wash. All thought of my discomfort vanished. I hiked on.

Somewhere along the way to the 3rd Gate water cache I did something to my thigh muscle. I had to hobble. It really hurt bad. I started to worry because the pain wasn't going away. I got to the cache and took a soda and topped off my water because I feared I might end up camping somewhere on the trail in my condition. I ended up limping all the way down out of the San Felipe Hills and the desert into Barrel Spring. It was only 13 miles but it was the most difficult 13 miles I've ever done.

When I reached the spring I saw a cooler and a note saying help yourself to a drink from a trail angel. There was no soda in the cooler but I still had the one I grabbed from the cache. The thoughtfulness of the trail angel was greatly appreciated and I stared bawling my eyes out in relief that the agony was over. I was safe, near water and somebody out there understood. I think I cried for half an hour.

I collapsed next to the cooler and watched the birds come down to the spring to drink and bathe. Then I chose a campsite and set up my tent making sure to set it up in a way that it wouldn't flap all night and keep me awake.

Then I took a bath with the spring water, dried my hair in the sun watching the birds. (There was a Western Tanager among all the beautiful blue, brown and yellow birds.) Then I went in my tent and took a nap. When I woke up, Mike and Kat were there making their camp.

We shared tales of our ordeals over the last few days. Then we went to bed. Finally I had a really good night's rest. I looked forward to maybe my leg being ok in the morning.

I cried as I left the spring. I hated leaving such a safe place in such a lovely little oak woodland full of pretty birds (even a wild turkey). But onward I went the 8 miles to Warner Springs. My leg still hurt so I limped the entire way.

Warner Springs is where I am now. I got a room for two nights. It has a hot pool fed by natural hot springs. It's a lovely place. I picked up my packages at the post office. I'll do my laundry, lounge by the pool and just try to recuperate for the coming segment.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your journal....I hope that your leg heals up as good as new...i walked the PCT from Campo to Weldon (that was before the reroute) in was a beautiful, lonely hike: very few hikers back then, but lots of rattlesnakes...