PCT Warner Springs to Idyllwild
I woke up with my newly formed hiking group of 4 at the Barrel Spring campsite at mile 101. Chickoree, Alpaca, HoHo, and I (Leopard Sauce) left camp with the sunrise. Our goal was to hike 9 miles to the town of Warner Springs, we got into the town by 10:30 AM. Other campers had told us that Warner Spring had a community center that was a haven for hikers. They had food, laundry, a post office, and most importantly, a shower. We decided to spend the afternoon at the community center.
It had been a week since my last shower, and I didn't really feel all that much dirtier than my first day. However, when I rinsed myself clean, and watched the sheets of caked mud roll off my body, I realized how nasty I must have seemed to regular folk who I came into contact with. The shower only lasted 10 minutes, but it was heavenly. I would have stayed for an hour had it not been for the long line of hikers waiting to indulge themselves in a shower. It’s pretty incredible to experience the wonders that a good shower can have on a hiker’s body. Before my hike, a shower would have been an afterthought in my daily routine. A way to get rid of grime from the grind. In a through hike, a shower is a sacred affair. It’s one of things that you fantasize about when gusts of sand find themselves into every nook of your being.I walked out of the shower a new person. The hike causes me to fantasize on my most basic needs (food, hygene, sleep), While at the same time, elevating my spirit to consider deep questions about my place in the world.
Post shower, I met a trail angel named Wrong Way. Trail angels are people who want to support thru hikers by giving them rides, food, shelter, etc. Wrong Way was a Double Triple Crown hiker. That meant that he had hiked 3 of the national scenic trails twice (a crazy accomplishment). More impressive was the fact that Wrong Way had was in his 60's and only started hiking 9 years ago. Wrong way gave us food and a ride to the post office for my first food resupply. After that, Wrong Way offered to provide me with a shakedown. A shakedown is when someone goes through all your gear and helps you figure out what you can get rid of. Getting a shakedown from a legendary hiker like Wrong Way is kind of awesome. Wrong Way was ruthless. By the end of the shakedown, my pack was 3 pounds lighter, dropping my base weight (pack weight without consumables) to around 13 pounds. When all was said and done, Wrong Way gave me his Bandana. Hopefully it’s infused with some good hiker JuJu.
Once the heat of the desert subsided (around 4pm) the four of us left Warner Springs and hiked 1500 feet up to mile 119 to a tent site by the Lost Valley spring. We watched the sun set under the mountains and slept under the stars. It was gorgeous.
The next morning, I walked down to the spring to gather water for the next leg of the journey. The water was a fetid pool filled with sludge and green slime. I scooped up a bottle of the stuff, and saw 5 tadpoles swimming in my water bottle. At first I was grossed out, by my friends insisted that the tadpoles were a good source of protein. I filtered water through my buff, put in a double dose of Aquamira (water purification tablets), and a triple dose of lemonade powder. It didn't help. Every time I tasted the water, I wanted to gag.
I downed the water in quick chugs and walked double speed to get to the next resupply. 2 hours later, we were surprised to find a hiker haven. Mike Carerra is some guy from LA who has a ranch in the middle of no where in the mountains. The ranch is a post apocalyptic hiker’s paradise. It’s full of rusted cars and cowboy hats. Mike was out of town, but his friend Tom was around making pancakes, Chorizo breakfast burritos, and tamales. There was also an enormous box of Chit’lins. First thing I did was dump my nasty water and chug a half gallon of clean water that Mike was offering. We then ate, played frizbee, and lazed in the sun. My diet has changed so much since I started my hike. As a vegetarian, I typically have a pretty healthy diet. Now I’ve developed what I call Trail Belly. I crave carbs, meat, and all things nasty but filling. A confession: my new favorite drink is Mountain Dew.
We left Mikes place and still had 15 miles to cover to the next campground. We took a break next to a spring and I practiced hand stands and took a nap with the team.
That night, we camped at mile 143, again under the stars. I was a bit freaked out to see mountain lion tracks by our campground. Alpaca said that it wouldn’t attack a group, although I wasn’t too confident. That night, when I got up for a pee, I kept on imagining 2 eyes peering at me from beyond the bushes. I ran back to my sleeping bag and hoped for the best.
The next day was rough. We had 10 more miles to hike on the trail. Then, we were to take 16 mile detour on a local road to the town of Idyllwild. A section of the trail had been closed off because of a major crown fire that had occurred 2 years prior. The first 10 miles were a breeze. At the end of the trail there was a well known cafe called the Paradise Cafe. The four of us sang “4 miles to paradise” a remix of “2 tickets to paradise” as we hiked down the mountain. At the Cafe, I ordered an enormous burger and downed it in less than 10 minutes. The last 16 miles of road walking were tough. Luckily, we had a trail angel, Devil Fish, who offered to drop off our bags at Idyllwild. This is called “slack packing.” Even so, hiking on the road is incredibly hard on the feet. It was surprising to see that even without our packs, how exhausting the ordeal was. By the time we were halfway there, my legs were screaming in pain with each step.
Although I could have easily hitched a ride, I stuck with it. The main thing that got me through the ordeal was the support of my friends. Instead of getting depressed about the pain and exhaustion, we played tunes and danced along the way. A highlight was when we sang a unique rendition of “brown eyed girl.” A friend from college had written a parody of the song about a one eyed girl who lost her eye when she was running with scissors.
“you’re my one eyed girl… do you remember when you had to eyes!”
I’ve started to call us four hikers, the NarNar Crew, because we’re gnarly in both the best and worst sense of the word. We slept at a Bakery of two folks who completed the PCT in 2014. We slept in a gazebo that stored food in the back. The next day, I wore a sweet pair of pants that I found in the hiker box (a box of discarded clothes and food).
We decided to stay in Idyllwild the next day (do a zero day). This was my first zero day, and it was necessary. A storm was coming in and the next leg of our Journey traverses the San Jacinto Peak, the tallest mountain in Southern California. Also, my legs were killing me.
Keeping up with the two siblings has been an incredible and fulfilling challenge. Both Chickoree and Alpaca are ultra runners. They finish a 28 mile day by sprinting to the campsite and dancing at the finish line. HoHo and I are exhausted at the end. We hobble in, with our legs tired and broken. Even though we are both athletes, there is no competing with the two extreme athletes. There is pain everywhere. The soles of my feet feel bruised, my ankles worn down, my knees have been flaring up, my hips are raw from the hipbelt of my bag, my shoulderse are strained. Of late, the most prominent pain has been in the knees. The downhills take an especially heavy toll on them. I find that the pain often subsides with time and more walking. The worst thing I can do is take a 5 minute break. When I get going again, I feel even more tight and more in pain. So I continue to hobble along, often losing the siblings later on in the day. But in the end of the day, we get to the same campground. By the morning, after a good night of sleep, I’m able to start fresh. If the pain is particularly intense, I’ll take a couple Ibuprofine (or “vitamin I” as it’s known on the trail). But each day I get a bit stronger and am able to keep up with a little more ease.