Day 9 (Apr. 2): Waking up early at Barrel Spring, I was eager to pack up and go, since a meetup with Dwight and wonderdog Molly at Warner Springs was in my immediate future, just 8.5 miles up the trail. After so many days where I had seen almost no one on trail, I had thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s hike with B. and Tim often in conversation range, and then eating dinner with other people – an on-trail first! – Tim and the terrific section-hikers, Dan and Chris. (Tim looked at my freezer-bag dinner (millet and brown rice noodles, big chunks of freeze-dried tofu, freeze-dried asparagus, spinach, kale, red bell pepper, Japanese eggplant, and mushrooms – and said, “You’re going to eat ALL of that?” And indeed, I did.)
I encouraged Tim to think about ditching his huge tent for a 2 lb. Tarptent I was offering to lend him, and to consider what other items in his humongous pack (blue jeans! many clothes! huge metal fuel can!) that he would be willing to part with, and with that, I headed out for a short half-day of hiking.
From Barrel Springs north, the landscape is a mix of oak-filled creeks and big open pastures separated by low hills. It isn’t wilderness – but it has the look of well-loved, well-cared-for land, and at least in spring with recent rains, it’s a beautiful, gentle landscape:
Jean (?) from France passed me, stopped for a quick consultation about some odd bumps on his leg – poison oak? bites? – and after giving him a little packet of hydrocortisone cream, I captured this image of him hiking across one of the beautiful pastures.
In some of the pastureland, big swaths of our state flower, California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) brightened the day. Often, hikers encounter cows on or near the trail in this section. I saw none, though there were some odoriferous cow patties to add to the morning’s sensory experience.
Near Warner Springs is one of the PCT’s iconic images: Eagle Rock. From a distance, and from some angles, it is only vaguely eagle-like:
But if you go around to just the right spot, it is amazing. Check out Google Images for “Eagle Rock Warner Springs” and you’ll see what I mean.
At times, I was hiking right behind Chris and Dan, enjoying their discussion about whether it is better to rent or buy a house; and as we got closer to Warner Springs, we encountered many day hikers heading to Eagle Rock. Much to my surprise, Deb and Halfmile came around the corner – out for a hike to Barrel Spring, apparently, as they get ready to head out to the Continental Divide Trail. What a thrill to unexpectedly run into friends on the trail! I got big hugs, hiker-stink notwithstanding. Halfmile graciously congratulated me on completing 100 miles – though if he weren’t focused on the nice round milestone that hikers celebrate, he no doubt he could have congratulated me with great precision, perhaps “107.63 miles” without even consulting his eponymous map or app.
By late morning, I hit the first crossing of Hwy 79, just a few steps away from the Fire Station and then, across the street, the amazing Warner Springs Community Resource Center, where community volunteers stepped up in a HUGE way to support PCT hikers, once the Resort closed. Dwight was waiting there for me with Molly, with a cooler full of the leftover Whole Foods treats that Lynn and Charlie took home from our Scissors Crossing meetup. So I made a yummy lunch out of that, and then Dwight and I drove hikers over to the Post Office and the golf course grill, where we found Tim, Clint and other hikers polishing off a nice lunch on the patio.
Tim went back with me to the Resource Center and we did a pretty major pack shakedown. We went out into the field the Resource Center makes available for hiker camping, and I set up my Tarptent DW Moment tent, which Dwight had brought from home, so that he could check it out. After a long phone conversation with his folks, he decided to borrow it, and allow me to send his huge tent home. We went through all his stuff and he also agreed to relinquish a huge heavy groundcloth, his blue jeans and other cotton clothes, and more. I gave him a plastic Rumrunner flask for his fuel, so he also gave up the crazy-big metal fuel can. All told, we removed about 18 lbs. of stuff from his pack – 4+ pounds more than my entire base weight!. He joked, “I feel like I’m on that hoarder TV show, and I’m trying to cling to all of my stuff!”
Dwight and I then left for a motel (in Banning – don’t ask!) for the night. He brought all my resupply buckets, and the overnight motel stay was designed to allow me to prep my food for the next stretch of trail, swap out maps, wash all my trail-filthy clothes, and otherwise clean up and get ready to hike the next section.
Day 10 (Apr. 3): I worked hard on all my chores until check-out time, then we headed to Paradise Valley Cafe to drop off my resupply box (plus one for Tim with some freeze-dried veggies and tomato powder to add to his nightly spaghetti). Dwight got to experience what many claim is the best burger on the PCT – the José Burger, with avocado, bacon, jalapeños, and much more, while I enjoyed a huge salad topped with a veggie burger.
Back at Warner Springs Community Resource Center, I logged in time on the computer to post Days 2-5 on this blog, did a few other computer chores, and then bid farewell to Dwight and Molly, heading out at about 5:15pm to catch some miles. Ever since Dwight and I dayhiked in this area a few years ago, I’ve wanted to sleep under the big oaks along Agua Caliente Creek just north of Warner Springs.
With feet feeling almost completely healed after my twice-daily ministrations involving thorough cleaning and liberal use of Leucotape and Gurney Goo, I wanted to hike a foot-friendly pace so as not to lose any of the gains I had made with my feet. So I hiked an easy pace, listening to my feet the entire way.
After a lovely pasture stroll, the trail crosses Hwy 79 again, ascends gradually, and then there’s a magical section where the trail crosses Agua Caliente Creek multiple times. Here was my view as night approached:
Since I had hiked this part of the trail before, I felt comfortable doing a bit of night hiking, by the light of my Waka Waka light and solar charger, until I reached a perfect campsite right before the first creek crossing. I set up just the tent body, which is micro-mesh bug netting, and for all of 5 minutes before I fell asleep, I listened to the sounds of the creek and looked at the stars through the oak limbs spread out above me. Well worth the price I paid in being a little cold that night, without the added warmth of the tent’s rain fly.
Once again, I find myself out of computer time before I can get caught up to “real time” – I need to head back out to the trail for Day 19 of my hike – so you’ll have to wait until Saturday or Sunday to read about next part of my hike, which I already know will be called “From Paradise to Near-Hell and Back.” Stay tuned!