Well I left Paradise in an Angel’s Chariot. Of course, on the PCT, Paradise is a roadside biker cafe, the Angel is Tom from Kenndy Meadows, and the chariot is a Ford F-350 with a barbeque and an ice chest full of beer in the back. I enjoyed a Blue Moon with my buddies Moose, Zippy, Mountain Dog (trail names) and Tom before getting back on the trail Sunday afternoon. As I was leaving I realized my back had been sitting on the spout of my water bladder, allowing all the water to leak out. Oh well — I knew there was water not too far up the trail. I saw a few pools, but they were stagnant and slightly greenish. Half a liter left, I see there’s a stream crossing another 2 miles up.
It’s now 7:00, and the sun is quickly disappearing over the mountains to the west. Either I miss the stream crossing or its not flowing. I end up without water, tail is getting very dark, and the nest spring is another 3 miles up the trail then off the trail 1/2 mile down the steep hillside. Worried but kinda excited at the same time. I pick up my pace, climbing as fast as I can in the little dim glow of dusk. Eventually it get too dark and I start tripping dehydrated, close to the steep cliff. A little more desperate now, I don my minuscule watch — battery headlamp, which get me another mile to the side trail down to the spring. I start slipping and sliding down the loose rock trail as it approaches 9:00. Halfway I realize I could easily sprain an ankle if I continued down so recklessly the steep, half-lit trail. I stopped to catch my breath, and ask for Guidance. I remembered that my headlamp gts much brighter when it has new batteries, and I had thoughtfully packed a spare set. It was a little humorous during the period between removing the old batteries and installing the new as my fingers fumbled in the dark to unscrew the casing, swap the batteries and re-screw the casing. Let there be light! Ahh now at least I could see where I was stepping. I made it down to a clearing with some reeds, but no sign of any sprig, only loud rustling in the bushes — a large animal. I realized I was in a very remote canyon at the only water source for miles around, ad the local wildlife were now becoming active since the sun had set. I was in their territory, taking their water and I’m sure they could smell I wasn’t a local! It didn’t help my paranoia that I was at the base of “Lion Peak” (and we’re not talking African Lions here).
I started barking and stomping my feet as I ducked and squeezed through the overgrown brush, searching for the small spring. Every 50 feet I would stop and listen for the sound of trickling water. Eventually around 10:30, I found the spring. Sweet Salvation! Actually it was quite sulfurous, smelled like a natural hot spring, though not hot. Even if it was hot and with my passionate affinity for wild hot springs, I would not have stayed long. I nervously filled three liters, my head twitching at the slightest sound. As soon as I was full, I bolted back up the hill, losing the trail to busting through bushes ad climbing under branches till I found a small space among the Manzanita halfway back up the hill. Exhausted, I threw down my sleeping pad, no dinner, and fell asleep.
I woke up to a beautiful morning, the night before seeming like a bad dream. I made dinner for breakfast, Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, then climbed in my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. It was nice and cool in the shadowns of the surrounding Manzanita bushes, and I think I slept till nearly 11:00. Nice! I packed up and started walking. Didn’t see another hiker all day until around 4:30 when I ran into my old friends — Cool Ranch and Capitan. They had just trekked 1 mile and 1000 feet down the mountain to Fobbes Ranch, where there was a small creek. I was going to go down there too because I was again in need of water, but Cool Ranch generously gave me a liter, so I could hike with them till sundown, where we set up camp near Apache Peak, a day from Idyllwild. In the last hour of daylight, I ran down a steep 1/2 mile to Apache Spring and gathered 5 liters of precious water, 3 for me, 1 for each Cool Ranch and Capitan. We had a nice evening,dining and camping with Peru and Chris as well.
During the middle of the night, the strong winds coming around the peak blew my shelter down, and woke up looking at the stars. Thankfully it was windy, but not too cold, so I was able to get back to sleep.
We woke early the next morning and started the steepascent around tall peaks and long high ridges towards San Jacinto Peak. Stunning beauty! Miles and miles in both directions — Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley, and the Salton Sea to the East, Lake Hemet and Idyllwild, to the West, snow dusted San Jacinto rising nobly to the North, and behind us, the long chain of the San Jacinto range we had been steadily climbing for the last week. Along the north side of the Red Taquitz we ran into significant snow, but Moose, who did the trail last year, aptly lead us along the north slope to Devil’s Slide Trail, Mile 179.4, where we walked the steep 2.5 mile descent into the town of Idyllwild. We got to the trailhead, but were still 2 miles above the town proper. We hoped someone would offer us a ride, but mostly we just got looks of sympathy mixed with concern. Then came a trail Angel! Tom in his huge truck again and this time he had three large pizzas! “Dig in”, he said as he started loading our packs into his truck. I must have eaten 4 slices in less than 10 minutes! He drove us down to our accommodations, and we made a plan to meet at the Mexican joint a few hours later. I checked into my room at the Apple Blossom Inn. They gave me a special PCT hiker rate, which included a free load of laundry. Thank God. Within 10 minutes all my clothes were in the washer, and I was in the shower! I stood under the hot streaming water in a daze. Hot. Water. Soap. Clean. Ahhh.
I checked in with family and friends, then left for Arribas. A fine Mexican restaurant for a small mountain town, they made me a delicious shrimp fajita plate with guacamole and sour cream. I packed up to go a few shrimp for later, but ended up eating them as soon as I stepped out of the restaurant. The appetite of a thru-hiker! I finished the night off with a pint of Haagen Dazs Strawberry and The Daily Show.
Slept till 9:30, walked to the market where I bought breakfast — a bag of spinach and a basket of strawberries from a local organic farm. Mmmmm . . . fresh fruit and veggies! Then I had a MASSAGE. Wow, now I really felt like I had entered a new universe. Clean, relaxed, fed.
My old friend Jeremy drove over from Palm Springs to visit me for the afternoon. We went to Cafe Aroma for breakfast and lunch. We order breakfast — me eggs, bacon, cheesy toast and fruit on top of organic greens and tomato; him rosemary sausage and pancakes. Then lunch — me “Dogzilla” Ca 1/2 lb. chili-cheese dog with hash brown; him shrimp cocktail. I had the excuse of being a thru-hiker, Jeremy just lies eating good food. We sat and digested another hour, then went to the drug store, where I bought moleskin, alcohol wipes, ibuprofen, and epson salts to soak my feet. Then back to the market for a 85% dark chocolate bar and a new mini-bottle of Dr. Bronner’s.
Jeremy went home and I relaxed for a few hours before heading over to the party-cabin for dinner with all my trail-buddies. We hung out chatting about the weather forecast, kick-off weekend, and looking at pictures of past PCT years on Angel Tom’s laptop. Many are getting rides to Lake Morena (Mile 20) for kick-off weekend tomorrow. I haven’t decided yet whether to get back on the trail or go down to Lake Morena. Sounds like it’s raining outside, which means more snow up on the mountain. I’ll sleep on it.
[Andy is now hiking from Iydlwild to Cabazon — he choose not to go to Lake Morena for the kick-off party]