I slept really well after such a nice trail magic dinner. I enjoyed the company of the others around the fire and then went to bed between two bushes under my rain poncho canopy.
In the early morning I could hear the commuter traffic on Walker Pass so I decided I had better get out there and hitchhike. I got a ride by 6am after the 5th car went by. My ride was a nice Native American man commuting to his machinist job in Bakersfield. He took me to Onyx.
I was too early for the post office and for the store, but the man who ran the store showed up shortly and as soon as the coffee was ready I stepped in for a cup. I spent the next three hours sitting on the porch drinking coffee and chatting with the locals.
There were three nice women and several interesting men. Lots of mullets and long gray beards. A couple of very handsome cowboys. Lots of laughter and gossip. It was probably the most fun town stop I had had yet, including counting all last year.
It was cold and started to rain. I was grateful there was a dry porch to sit under.
Eventually the Post Office opened and I got my package. I said good-bye to all the nice folks on the porch and set off to hitchhike back to Walker Pass campground. One of the women from the porch picked me up and dropped me off in Canebrake, the next town up. I got another ride there from a retired cattleman. He dropped me off at the campground.
Once in camp, I ate more steak and another one of my extra dinners. I had budgeted 5 days to get to Walker Pass and it had taken me only 3. I figured I needed those calories either way. It was getting really windy up there, so I packed up my things, filled my water at the cattle trough and got prepared to leave.
Clouds were still brewing. The word was that there was a freak cold front and storm, dissipating tomorrow. Another was scheduled for a few days from now. Hopefully I would be snug under the porch at Kennedy Meadows when it hit. At the very least, my tent would be there waiting for me.
At 1:15 I set off after thanking everyone for the wonderful hospitality. It was just too cold and windy at Walker Pass to stay another minute. My plan was to seek shelter at Joshua Tree Spring.
This would be my third time through this area. I took my customary photo of the plaque at Jenkins Peak. I hustled down the trail in the high, cold winds. I eyed a lenticular cloud warily.
I arrived at the junction to Joshua Tree Spring much too early to stop, so I blew by without even taking my customary picture of the sign saying the water was unsafe.
I climbed the big hill before Spanish Needle creek and descended to the first crossing of the creek just after the last rays of sun went behind the hills for good.
I set up my poncho in case of wind or rain but it was calm all evening.
All during my walk today I had been thinking about how different this hike is from last year. I have had much better luck. More trail magic has come my way. I have felt very open to whatever good things are around the corner, whether it may be a surprise koffee klatch with the ladies of Onyx, free steak, or getting a ride when I need one. It felt like the lesson the trail had been teaching me before I got off last year was continuing where it had left off. Trust the trail. Stay open. What you need with come to you exactly when you need it. You will always have exactly what you need. I felt very grateful to be here as I fell asleep with the birds.