We left Julian, CA feeling refreshed and ready to start hiking again. The zero day was really crucial for both our moral and our blisters. We woke up early and packed up our backpacks, a task that was starting to feel more and more like a routine, and headed down to the hotel lobby for our free breakfast (two words that are truly music to a thru-hikers ears) and met up with Emily, one of Aliah’s good friends. After enjoying a lovely breakfast, and stealing a couple extra pastries for the trail, Emily drove us back down to the trail head and hiked with us for a few miles. Her company was so lovely and I could tell that Aliah really enjoyed seeing an old friend on an unfamiliar trail. That day’s trail was lovely, my body started to feel really strong, the pain I had been experiencing in my feet was slowly starting to fade and my legs begin to feel more like machines. Emily left us after a couple hours and Aliah and I pushed on through the heat to hike about 16 miles for the day in order to reach the water cache where we needed to resupply. Relying on a water cache along the PCT is always a little risky; water isn’t guaranteed and in the desert heat, running out of water could be a serious problem.
Before reaching the water cache we heard our first rattle snake! A bone chilling noise that makes you cringe. Josie, a girl we had been leap frogging with all afternoon saw the snake up the trail, we only heard it. When we arrived at the third gate campsite, we pitched our tents among 7 or 8 other hikers and headed down the short side trail to reach the water cache. Other hikers had warned us that there were more rattle snakes near the water, we were all a little nervous to see the snakes so we bought our trekking poles to poke at the bushes on either side of the trail to try and scare the snakes off. It must of worked because we didn’t see a single snake. Lucky us! The water cache was a neat sight. 3 or 4 palates full of gallons and gallons of fresh water that someone managed to drop off in the middle of the desert. Without this water cache, there wouldn’t be water for nearly 50 or so miles. Theres a reason these people are called Trail Angels. Trail angels are people who take time out of the day to come out and support hikers in one form or another. Whether it be providing a safe place to sleep, leaving water along the hot dry stretches, or grilling up food for us hungry dirty hikers, they really have the ability to turn the most frustrating and painful days into a bright one. We camped that night near a few women who would soon become our friends and would hike the next 100+ miles with. I am still so surprised about the number of women out here attempting this thru hike, most of them hiking solo. The women vibes out here are so real!
Reaching the 100 mile marker was an exciting moment for Aliah and I. Feeling tired and a bit beaten, we took a little break in this wonderful shady grove with our friend Katie. We sat there for a while fantasizing about drinking a nice cold IPA and discussing the food we would like to eat when we get to town. Right then, a wonderful man named Dan came by and invited us to his BBQ just 100ft up trail where him and his friend Steve were grilling up brats and hot dogs for thru-hikers.
What did Dan and Steve also have? BEER! Our first real trail magic! We sat there for a couple hours, enjoying the free beer and food, sharing stories and meeting other hikers. Before long, the sun was getting ready to set and it was time to start hiking again. Finding the motivation to hike while feeling a little tipsy and with a belly full of food was more difficult than you might think. Aliah, Katie and I set off in hopes to hike just two more miles before setting up camp for the night. Two miles soon turned into seven as we were feeling strong and not too tired, plus we also needed to reach the next water source since we were running low. We pushed on to Eagle Rock giggling the whole way out excitement from our recent trail magic and the fact that we were reaching our first re-supply stop in the morning. Eagle Rock is this sweet eagle-looking rock formation in the middle of this grassy plain along the trail. It really just appears out of nowhere. This monument, along with many other we will see along the trail, is something you only hear or talk about before setting off on trail. It’s a monument that we all look forward to seeing along our journey. That night we camped along the trail just blow the infamous rock structure. The sunset was incredible that evening, the sky lit up in beautiful pinks and oranges, and purples; coyotes were singing in the background and my heart was unbelievably full. 100 miles, trail magic, good friends, a beautiful evening, the trail, the sunset. There was no where else I would rather be in that moment. The trail has been everything I could have ever wanted… and more.
Arriving in Warner Springs was an exciting moment, a town that I had only read about but was so famous on the PCT. The first resupply town! Warner Springs was like a miniature Woodstock for thru hikers. We walked in and we’re greeted by the friendly volunteers who gave us the low down. Hand wash laundry facilities, bucket showers, foot soaks, a restaurant, an air stream trailer selling hiking gear, loads of shade to camp in, and free WiFi…. what else could a thru hiker need? I spent the day enjoying the facilities, meeting new hikers, picking up my resupply box from the post office, and giving my loved ones a call. We took another zero day in warner springs to enjoy the facilities, eat real food, and rest before tackling the next section.
We got a late start leaving warner springs, only hiking 10 miles that day before we reached camp. 10 uphill, HOT and grueling miles, but at the top of every climb is (usually) a view that makes it all worth it. This nights view definitely did not disappoint. The desert has a way with its sunsets, It’s like cotton candy magic almost every night. It was the first night on the trail that Aliah and I camped alone, we made dinner together and watched the sunset before turning into our tents for the night. I talked on the phone with my boyfriend for about an hour before bed which was so so lovely. He has been such a huge support and motivator this whole time and I cannot thank him enough for being such a supportive light in my life. I slept like a rock that night, I guess the uphill battle really wore me out. When I woke up there were about 10 other hikers cowboy camping all around us!! I didn’t even hear them settle in last night, I guess we didn’t camp alone after all. We got a much earlier start that morning, making it easier to make miles before the sun got to hot. We met up with Katie again that afternoon and took a few hour siesta in the shade to wait out the heat of the day. In the desert, it is important to wait out the heat in the afternoon and take solace in the shade to conserve both energy and water. Water is scarce in the desert so it is important to be strategic about when you hike. Taking a couple hours out of the heat of the day to rest, eat lunch, and dry out your feet is extremely important, and if you’re lucky, you find some shade to do it in. After a much needed nap, we pushed on to the next water source where we hoped to camp. What I imagined to be this wonderful flowing creek oasis of a water source was actually a mostly dried up muddy, slimy, barely flowing stream which we had to scramble down an extremely steep hill to reach.
The water was insanely gross and took FOREVER to fill up 4 liters and filter. THANK GOD FOR WATER FITERS!! At this point we were extremely exhausted and ready to be done for the day… it turned out that there were no good flat spots to camp so we had to push on another 5 miles before finding a decent place to camp. This night we actually did camp alone, the first and only time on trail to date. I was filthy, hungry, and ready to sleep by the time we set up our tents. I could not wait to shower again soon, the last shower I had was a bucket shower almost three days ago, and before that was in Julian almost a week ago. My legs were beginning to be caked with dirt, I couldn’t tell where my tan begun and the dirt ended, it was all blending together.
The next day we hiked 14 miles to reach Paradise Cafe, a true paradise really. Rick was going to meet us at the cafe and I could tell that Aliah was so excited to see him. It is really hard being away from your significant other out here. Like usual, the day started out wonderful and my body felt so good, we were really hoofing it to the cafe with dreams of lemonade and burritos in our future. The second half of the day my quad started giving me trouble again… The pain I experienced was extremely discouraging, I cried for the second time on trail. Any down hill hiking really exaggerates the pain. I fell behind Aliah quite a ways and struggled the last few miles before I could see Rick’s car in the distance, I could see Aliah too, she was running down the last few hundred feet to trail to see her man. I giggled to myself knowing how happy she must be, wishing that my man would also be there while also wallowing in my own pain, struggling so far behind. I was relieved to finally reach the car, I gave Rick a giant hug hopped in the back so he could drive us the last quarter mile down the road to the cafe. Paradise Cafe was a welcoming sight with wonderful staff who catered to us smelly hikers. Aliah and I each ordered lemonade which we sucked down in seconds, and giant burritos the size of our face. It was really an impressive sight. I ate half of it before nearly busting at the seams. I took the rest home and ate it later that night.
The next section of the trail from Paradise Cafe to Idyllwild was closed due to fire restoration so many hikers, ourselves included, decided to bypass the alternate trail and hitch further down the trail. Aliah and I took a couple days off to head to her moms house near Palm Springs. Aliah had hit a low point with her knee pain as I did with my quad, so we decided it would be best to give our bodies some R&R while being taken care of by momma bear. We enjoyed lots of beer, binge watched Netflix, had a wonderful BBQ with their long time friend Bobby, and enjoyed each others company in some sweet sweet air conditioning. I made new friends with their family dog Codi, he’s a sweet little guy who gave me lots of snuggles those two days. He made me miss Lyla real bad.