Camping: Trail Angels patio in Julian PCT mile 77
Hikers seen on trail: 7 (lots more at Scissors Crossing and in town)
Woke up at 5:30 naturally, which is apparently what time I wake up now. Started doing my morning routine and Al started stirring too. We wanted to make Scissors Crossing today in order to hitch into Julian…only 13 miles up the trail with a 13 mile hitch to town. We knew we weren’t facing any serious elevation gain, so we were confident that we would make it by early afternoon.
As we were getting ready to jam, Andrew woke up and grabbed his pack to join us. Duckets is fast, so we knew he’d catch us, and we left him at camp. The climb out of Chariot Canyon was steep, but my blisters are mostly at bay and I am feeling very strong. As I passed Wrong Way (a 68 year old section hiker), he remarked, “I wish I had legs like that.” I was cruising up that hill and feeling great. It helps that we had our first windless night of sleep, and the blister situation has greatly improved.
Al and I opted to pop in our headphones and listen to some music for the morning. I developed a new form of hiking that involved dancing with my trekking poles and using them as drumsticks. The music definitely melted away some miles, particularly “Peace Like A River” by Paul Simon. I enjoyed that one at least twice along the way.
We made it to Rodriguez Spur Road where a fire tank is set up with a valve for hikers to fill up on water. Here we met Wyoming and Cowboy, a couple from Iowa. They had a hole in their water bladder, so I gave them one of my extra 2L squeeze bags from my water filter (that I had acquired in Mt. Laguna). It felt really good to help them, especially when we found out what we were in for in the next 8.5 miles.
Andrew wasn’t feeling great at this point, and was experiencing foot pain. He was contemplating cutting over to the highway for a shorter walk, and hitching into town early. We helped him map out his route and Duckets powered ahead to meet him in Julian, legitimately concerned for the well being of his nephew (but wanting to complete the trail miles himself). We wished him well and continued on a particularly hot and exposed section of trail.
Just before we hit the 1000 ft ascent in half a mile, we sought shade with Wyoming and Cowboy for a little break. A hiker named Julie from Southern California caught up with us, and we all chatted and enjoyed the increasingly rarer pocket of shade. Wyoming gave us all a piece of watermelon Bubble-icious gum, which I haven’t had since childhood. I figured the sugar would rev my motor, and enjoyed the gooey wad as I reapplied sunscreen for the third time that day.
The climb was what we expected, hot and steep. The terrain began to change to more arid desert as cacti, aloe, sage, yucca and Joshua trees began to take over the landscape at the top of the ridge. Al soaked some cool neck bands with little beads in them for us to try out, which felt amazing after the steep climb.
Next came a steep descent, as it is bound to do. I was listening to a podcast of radio lab about the dinosaurs when a jet flew overhead by only about 2000 feet! It was the loudest thing after days on the trail, and my heart nearly jumped from my chest. This was also around the time that the heat became oppressive, and I truly felt like I was in the desert. Lizards scattered every few hundred feet, and even the cacti and aloe had died from what looked like dehydration in places. What does it say when that happens?
Al suggested that we stop at the next opportunity for shade, and we kept an eye out, but it looked grim with the sun overhead. I’ve come to refer to this time of day as, “no shade-o-clock.” We did spot a juniper leaning in the opposite direction of the sun with just enough room for 2 weary hikers. We lay there and enjoyed a cool breeze with our feet on our packs, while discussing the cheeseburgers that we would eat in Julian.
After we got to moving, I was hot again and thought I could smell BBQ sauce in the air. I started dreaming of BBQ chicken and caught myself salivating and even chewing the air a little. This seems early for hiker hunger, though I imagine it’s the tip of the iceberg. Is it possible to have olfactory mirages out here? The heat does something to you, that sends you to a place within…it’s different.
When we had just 1.6 miles to go, we found a lovely tree with ample shade in the sand. We decided to break one last time and reapply sunscreen. As we did this someone walked up and stood in front of us. It took me a moment to recognize him, but it was Jake from the day before! We welcomed him to our hiking party and proceded on the last leg to the highway.
The trail was flat, but so incredibly hot. We trudged along slowly, one after the other dreaming of cheeseburgers BBQ and cold beverages. Just as we thought we had arrived, the trail took a sharp left to follow the highway for another 3/4 of a mile. It was at least 10° hotter by the road, and we had officially drank the last of our water. Soon a woman in a red Prius parked close by and offered us some cold water, which tasted delightful. My last liter had been pretty hot, and it amazed me how much more I appreciated the small amount of cold water she offered. Of course, any water will do in these circumstances.
Finally we made it to the bridge at Scissors Crossing where “Warner Springs Monty” was just finishing up serving hot dogs and watermelon. I ate 3 hot dogs (on one bun), a piece of watermelon, and still thought about what I would eat in town. We mingled with other hikers under the bridge and then the 3 of us decided to hitch into town.
We put on our best hot, tired and happy faces and stood on the hot asphalt waiting. Not a lot of cars went by, but soon a man named Section Hiker Bill gave us a lift. He dropped us in Julian where we promptly ran into Melody and Phoenix who looked enviously clean and refreshed, while we were covered in desert dust and sweat. We needed to eat and figure out accommodations, especially showers, so we agreed to meet them at the bar in a few.
We found a Mexican/pizza place where Jake and I split a pizza and Al plowed through a chimichunga. I really only had 2 slices, but had already eaten 3 hot dogs. I wrapped up the other 2 slices and we went to meet our friends. They had been at the bar having a couple of drinks, and when we joined them they said that the trail angels they were staying with would let us all come over! That meant showers! I was so relieved I almost cried.
I heard from Duckets who said that Andrew had decided to quit, but they were staying in a cheap cabin up the way. We know we will see Duckets again, and are all proud of the effort and tenacity we saw in young Andrew.
Our trail angels Mike and Robin are incredible. They are hosting 6 of us in their home, allowing us to shower and even do laundry. The shower was basically a religious experience, and I emerged a new woman. We are all sitting around their beautiful home with epic views and it is great to relax. I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you Mike and Robin Shirey!
We sat around a small fire before bed, and then all laid out on our sleeping pads on the patio. Now we are listening to a new wind (not the Santa Ana’s) and looking at the stars and crescent moon. It’s a lovely night among good people. I’m happy this life chose me. I’m happy for these people around me. I’m happy in my cozy sleeping bag, ready for sleep.