Miles: 11.9 (+1 to the cafe)
Camping: Hotel room in Idyllwyld, CA
Hikers seen on trail: 8
I woke up feeling much better than the day before. The promise of a burger and a hotel at the end of the day were great motivation to get moving. The New York boys, Seahawk and Bumblebee were all camped in the canyon, but I was the first up. The New York boys are a trio from Plattsburg, NY (way upstate)-a father and his two sons. We have been on the same hiking schedule for several days now, though they mostly keep to themselves. They all share a tent, and when they hike, they do so in tandem…quite a team! I enjoy them immensely, even though they aren’t very social. Maybe that’s part of their charm, as I don’t feel the need to converse with everyone I meet on the trail. It’s a personal journey sometimes, especially the last couple of days. I like to know people are there, but I’m feeling quite the eremophiliac lately.
The hiking was steeper than I’ve seen since day 1, but lingering clouds kept the sun from heating up the desert too much. I hiked in my down jacket, and trudged uphill, in higher spirits than yesterday. The long night of rest helped. There was the famous Hikers Oasis cache in a short 3 miles, so that was my immediate goal. I had skipped the last water source, and needed to stock up for the last miles to town. Upon arrival, there wasn’t much water left, but I squeezed out 2 liters with enough to spare for hikers behind me.
Seahawk, Bumblebee, Jaywalker and T-Bird rolled up behind me and we all looked through the log to see which friends had already passed through. I saw Guinness and Xtra Stout had been here 2 days before, and wished I could find a way to say hello. They are making great time, but I think I will catch them eventually.
I decided to continue the hike while listening to some podcasts. I wanted the miles to melt away, as I was more than ready for a healthy dose of rest. I listened to Radio Lab and marched on, admiring the view of the valley below. At about mile 145 I noticed T-Bird and Jaywalker sitting at a table off trail. Trail Magic! There was a cooler full of soda, which I don’t like, gallons of fresh water, postcards and trash cans. I ate some of my Trader Joe’s smashed bananas with peanut butter (those bananas don’t fare well out here-they are hard and sticky, but tasty with peanut butter. Seahawk and Bumblebee joined us, and we all felt our spirits lift with the break.
I marched on with Radio Lab still playing, and finally found myself smiling again. It was beautiful, and the air stayed a comfortable temperature. Soon though, I found myself in a valley with aching feet, and forced myself to take another break. I elevated my feet and popped more Vitamin I which quickly did the trick. After that the miles became easier, and I giggled along with a podcast of, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”
The scenery was awesome, and my day of rest was growing closer. I felt good, as I headed down the hill to the highway and the last mile of off trail walking to the cafe.
Finally I was at Paradise Valley Cafe, sharing a table with Pippen and Three socks, a mother daughter team from the Bay Area. We all ordered burgers, they had some beers, and I a hot coffee. I was the only one to clean my plate, and I wasn’t even full! So this is hiker hunger, instead of full I just get less hungry. Just as we were wrapping up, Tortuga rolled in! I was happy to see him, as I thought he’d gotten ahead of me. I decided to sit with him before heading to my hotel where I planned to shut myself in for the night.
We all left together and got a ride from a bubbly woman named Debbie, who had a ranch nearby. She hiked the trail years ago, and showed us the area affected by last year’s fire. We have to skip that section of trail due to erosion concerns.
I made a quick trip to the market where I bought cheese, ham, crackers, gelato and soda water for my night in the hotel. After check-in, I took a shower and cranked up the gas fireplace to 80°. I ate my snacks until I had a tummy ache and watched “Blades of Glory” before passing out in a real bed.
“This is just what I needed,” I thought as I drifted off to sleep.