Day: Tuesday, May 17th
Miles: 63.7 – 84.7
Remote Camp 63.7 – Remote Camp 84.7
That was my order. I was in Moms pie shop in Julian, CA and earlier this morning I had no intention of going to Julian at all, but here I was. Moms gives free pie, ice cream and a drink to PCT thru-hikers so the draw was strong.
I woke this morning to a crystal clear view. The sun was obscured by the ridge to the east and it was cool. I have already learned that getting out early is the secret to keeping moving although in practicality this has worked better sometimes over others. I bounced out of camp around 6:30am aiming for Rodriguez Spring Rd. A nowhere on the way between two other nowheres. It has a water source and that’s all that’s important. I had a good breakfast there of oatmeal with added raisins and mused over the animals visiting the water trickle whilst I was lurking. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, bugs, yellow jackets, too many birds to mention. It was a busy little puddle!
The trail dropped a huge elevation, virtually all of that I worked so hard to accrue on Day 2, but that’s how the PCT goes. Some days it’s up, some days it’s down and most days it’s a lot of both. The view over the valley to scissors crossing was incredible and kept me contented through the morning. With the change in topology however came a change in climate. It was obviously desert scrub and heat would be a problem.
The valley became barren and the trail seemed to march in the wrong direction relentlessly for longer than I was happy with. Eventually it dropped to the valley floor with a harrowing thump: a 2-3 mile straight-line walk of doom across the valley floor in hellish pre-midday heat. My sun umbrella – the one piece of gear I was most suspicious about, came into its own (By the end of the day, this would maybe be my favorite piece of gear). I was aiming for an unglamorous destination: underneath an overpass that crosses a dry creek bed that’s on the PCT. This attracts hikers as its cool and inviting as a place to avoid the midday sun. I arrived to Alfie from Wales and Shannon from Tennessee. After realizing that hiking up the valley was not only ill advised but downright dangerous in the heat, I realized that I had a few hours to kill. Julian is a small tourist town 13 miles west and seemed like one good way to spend the afternoon *if* I could hitch a ride. Shannon was game for the idea so we both popped out hitchhiking cherries with a nice family from Palm Springs. It did take an hour to get picked up however we won’t dwell on that too much.
Julian is a nice little town and the pie was worth it.
Unfortunately Carmens restaurant was closed (it’s a big hiker spot) so I missed out on that, but it was worth spending a few hours to see that place. We caught a ride back with a local lady who went home and brought her whole family so they could meet us. Julian is a very hiker friendly town and this lady showed us huge kindness – she drove us 13 miles just because she wanted to help us, bringing us water, sweets, wet-wipes and offers of anything we needed. She also filled us in on the difficulties Julian faces with fires (as a member of the fire department committee). A small volunteer fire department dealing with larger and larger and more numerous forest fires than ever before, as a result of the drought and some other illegal activities (apparently Break Bad gave a lot of people really bad ideas about mobile meth labs). Never a dull moment on the PCT for the sheer variety.
I rejoined the trail at 5pm and started the long weary hike back up the hills. Thankfully the sun was low in the sky and the sunset was incredible – assisted by a swirling storm to the north.
I popped on my rain jacket at the sight of imminent rainfall and encounter a bizarre experience of hailstones the size of gumdrops, falling from the sky whilst a burning sun set behind. I didn’t mind getting wet for that experience and the rainbow afterwards was a nice additional treat. Today was a varied day for sure! I continued onwards for a long time, 8pm is my finishing time based on the last few days, and by 8 I found a nice spot to camp in. The moon was shining brightly above (like a flash lamp) and it seems like the perfect night to cowboy camp (no tent, just sleeping bag). I decided it was worth the risk and used my tent as a base. It was a beautiful night, punctuated with 1 or 2 late night hikers passing, occasional jets overhead and the slow passage of the stars. All terribly romantic.