Miles: 11.8
Camping: PCT mile 88.8
People seen on trail: 2

Knowing I didn’t have to wake up at my normal time, I was happy to sleep in this morning. That meant I got up at 6, and everyone else was still soundly asleep. The sun was rising over the San Felipe hills, and the sky was stained a lovely shade of lavender. I had the best night of sleep on the trail yet, even if it was technically a patio.

Everyone else started stirring about 30-45 minutes later and we enjoyed coffee, toast with peanut butter, scrambled eggs and bacon (the latter 2 courtesy of Al). Mike and Robin so graciously allowed us to take over their kitchen, and gave free range on the refrigerator. They also wouldn’t let me do the dishes! They have certainly earned their angel wings. Funny enough, since Robin didn’t want to cook, Mike called her “the fallen trail angel.”

Mike drove Phoenix, Natasha and Melody to Warner Springs as they didn’t want to hike in the desert. Jake, Al and I were getting a ride to Julian for errands before our hike when he returned. We still hadn’t cashed in on our free pie, I had a package waiting at the Post Office and we needed a couple of things at the store.

Since Al left his PCT permit at home in OK (the golden ticket to free pie), Jake and I went to cash in while Al used the computers at the library. Much to our delight, we also got free sandwiches and a scoop of ice cream on our pie! We happily accepted the bounty of generosity, while Al decided to go rustle up a cheeseburger around the corner.

Jake told me he needed to stick to town for an extra day, so Al and I were on our own again. We figured Jake and Duckets will catch up with us in Warner Springs. As we were leaving town, we ran into Cry Baby and Wrong Way, and we were relieved that those 2 old dudes made it out of the desert alive (these are the guys with no water report or maps). Wrong Way grabbed my hand and said, “You are an excellent hiker.” It felt good to hear that, because I feel that way more and more every day.

We got a quick ride back to the trail from a man named Chuck, who is a section hiker hoping to finish by his 81st birthday. Good luck Chuck, and thanks for the ride!

Back at Scissors Crossing we ran into Tortuga and Rocket under the bridge. We were all waiting out the heat of the day for our long exposed climb out of the valley. Al read aloud a Buddhist teaching on joy, and Rocket shared a poem about a logger. Before those two headed out, Tortuga sugested Buddha as Al’s trail name. It suits him plenty, but we both agreed that it would be a bit pretentious to accept that name. I suggested Lama, and it sat as a possibility most of the day. It rang true later on when he got sunscreen in his eyes and dealt with it by taking a swig of water and spitting it up in the air to wash his eyes…Lama now had double meaning, and was starting to stick.

We started the long ascent at 4:27, just as the desert heat was beginning to wane. The terrain was beautiful with barrel cacti we had not sen yet, and the grade gradual enough for us to make speedy progress. It was a great time of day to be climbing in the desert heat, and we were definitely relieved by the gentle grade of the trail. I couldn’t understand why everyone complained about this climb, though they probably all take it on in the heat of the day.

We stopped at sunset to watch the sun tuck itself in for the night, and I finished off my leftover pizza with the view. I felt pretty decadent about it. We fished out our headlamps with the intent of hiking into the night, and proceeded up the trail.

I have to say that hiking at dusk is my new most favorite thing in the whole wide world! The temperature is perfect, I don’t have to wear my hat or sunglasses, and the lighting is spectacular. I cruised through the dusk smiling to myself,  feeling endorphins rush through my blood, and knowing that I was born to hike this trail.

We hiked into the night as the stars and moon began to hang in the sky, making the night sparkle. I think I can get used to this night hiking, though not too late. I started to grow weary at 10:00, and knew it would be best to set up camp before I made a tired clumsy mistake.

We found a great spot to sleep at 10:30 and I decided it was time to cowboy up and try cowboy camping. I couldn’t get enough of the light show provided by the stars, and I was too tired to fuss with my tent. As I lie here, drifting off and admiring the galaxy, I’ve thought of the perfect trail name for Al, “The Jolly Lama.” I will suggest it to him in the morning. In the meantime, goodnight.