Southern CA A

May 16, Mon.–18.7 miles — So. CA A Warner Springs

Mon. May 16 Miles today 18:7 Total so far: 109.6 Warner Springs End Sect. A

Awesome clouds!

Awesome clouds!

We passed TWO milestones today—the 100 mile mark and the end of Section A! What a different day it was, too—cool and windy, with dramatic clouds building over the mountains ahead. We’d gotten up at 4:00 am again, worried about the potential for heat, but need not have been concerned. That’s the kind of surprise we like!  

Wildflowers for miles!  Seriously!

Wildflowers for miles! Seriously!

After several miles of hiking, we said goodbye to the TOUGH San Felipe Hills, and stopped for breakfast in a cozy, sandy bend of the trail. An enthusiastic flock of tiny birds seemed to find us a fascinating show to watch; they perched and twittered and sang in the bushes all around us. Several more miles of wildflowered trail (which included a view of sand dunes, and a cave as well!) brought us to Barrel Springs, an oasis of green grass, big oaks and vines.

Elegance in a horse trough

Elegance in a horse trough

Barrel Springs runs into a nice big stone horse trough which many hot, weary PCT’ers have literally climbed into—but not us! It was a cool, windy 65 degrees. But somebody had left a beautiful red peony on a long stem floating in the water. Very elegant!

Bill collects Barrel Springs water

Bill collects Barrel Springs water

The water at the Springs didn’t taste very good, but the trail register at the spring included a classic Gary Larsen cartoon that gave us a good laugh.

Fire-blackened PCT post

Fire-blackened PCT post

On the trail beyond the spring, we finally reached the end of the area burned in the terrible 2002 fire. The scout leaders we met a couple of days ago told us that at its peak, that fire was torching one acre a second! What a relief to be out of it, except that I will say all through the burn zone, the wildflowers were spectacular!

Lots of hills for PCT hikers!

Lots of hills for PCT hikers!

Yes, it really DOES look like an eagle!

Yes, it really DOES look like an eagle!

We spent the rest of the morning hiking through miles of hills with grass blowing in the wind, and walking past rock formations, till we reached the famous Eagle Rock, and got totally carried away taking pictures of it!

A couple more miles of trail along a creek and we reached the town of Warner Springs, our next resupply. On the way into town we stopped for lunch by the creek, under a huge oak tree with a soft cushion of leaves underneath it…what a great place to just lie back and relax! But we didn’t stay long, because we started thinking about town goodies.

Mexico to Canada thru-bikers

Mexico to Canada thru-bikers

A short while later,  we were sitting in front of the store enjoying orange juice and ice cream, when a whole bunch of dusty, grungy guys in what looked like Star Wars outfits came in on equally grubby bikes. Turned out they are RIDING from Mexico to Canada! Just like us, they started at the PCT border monument, but they are riding dirt roads all the way to Canada. They told us their maps often give them a choice of routes, labeled “hard way” and “easy way.” One of them pointed to our packs and said, “You’re going the HARD way!”

The small but very hiker-friendly Warner Springs store folks encouraged us to spend the night at Warner Springs Ranch resort, where they have a special thru-hiker rate. I walked across the street to check it out, and yes indeed! The price was right, and now we have a comfortable room in a real adobe building. The resort includes a hot pool, showers. laundry, etc. Ahhhh! What a great place!

May 15, Sun.–16.5–So. CA A

Sun. May 15 Miles today 16.5 Total 91 Sect. A

Early morning light in cactus country

Early morning light in cactus country

We got up this morning at 4:00 am hoping to beat the heat for what we knew would be a killer day. Packing up by headlamp is a bit tricky, but we were ontrail by 4:30, and hiked by headlamp till 5:00. It seemed like the PCT was just traveling along the edge of a large valley for a LONG time, without going down and across as we knew it was supposed to do. Finally the trail turned left and came down off the mountain, landing us in “cactus country”. It was a beautiful clear morning, but already warm. Not good. We hurried to reach the creek where we planned to eat breakfast, and poor Bill did not quite look where he was going and bumped his shin into an “anklebiter size” cactus right by the trail. Ow! We stopped, and I tried to pull out the more obvious spines from his leg, but it was still hurting so much that when we started hiking again, he didn’t notice that he had not picked up his trek pole, but left it lying by the cactus. Not till we were all done with now late breakfast, and loaded up on water from the Scissors Crossing water cache did Bill notice he was missing his stick. He had to hike 2 miles back to find it, and as a result, we were VERY late starting on an 8.5 mile climb into the hot, shadeless San Felipe Hills.

Hot 'n tired feet in the San Felipes

Hot 'n tired feet in the San Felipes

It took us 5 miserable hours to hike those 8.5 miles, because it was so hot (99 degrees and maybe more—I stopped looking at the thermometer) that we could not go far without stopping to rest. Many of the cactus were blooming, but I was too wiped out to photograph any of them except an ocatillo with its flowers that looked like flames. At lunch, I flat out said, “I am NOT cooking anything for lunch—it is too hot!”

The amazing, flaming ocotillo

The amazing, flaming ocotillo

What a relief to reach the top! I was exhausted. We pushed on, glad that it was more “flat” with only “some” climbing, plus an afternoon breeze, and reached the “San Felipe Hills 3rd Gate Water Cache” by dinnertime. With the breeze and the water, I was glad to cook dinner—tuna, rice and dehydrated green beans (the beans from our own garden, last summer).

Then we hiked on till sundown and camped by a bend in the trail—the only flat place we could find. We were tired and sore, but cheered by the fact that we’d met the San Felipe Hills challenge! Before crawling into my sleeping bag, I decided to try an experiment. I have been having a lot of trouble getting any sleep at night so far because I ache so badly all over by the end of the day, especially my knees. So what I did was take some Motrin. It worked—with no pain, I could sleep! We were looking forward to breaking through the 100 mile mark tomorrow.