Day 5: Beyond the desert…

Day: Wednesday, May 18th

Miles: 84.7 – 109.5

Remote Camp 84.7 – Warner Springs, CA

Today was a day of interesting experiences. I woke-up to a really very unusual situation: I had just slept out under the stars. There was no snakes, no scorpion bites, I didn’t get rained on, I didn’t have wild coyotes savage me in my bed. None of these. I woke up and quickly prepared my breakfast as I folded my bed. It took 32 seconds. Precisely. No pegs, no emptying my tent. It was supremely  efficient. I do not think this will be my last experience at cowboy camping so watch this space.

I was on the hoof (so to speak), by around 6am. My hitchhiking partner from yesterday blew past at 6:15 with a purpose in her step – “I’m aiming for Warner Springs today”. I didn’t really assemble a goal for today, but that seemed as good as any. I had enough water to drag myself to the next cache/and emergency cistern a few miles up, so I aimed for there initially. The cache was huge – the first I’ve seen – with about 30 1 gallon bottles of water. Huge generosity and really difficult to fathom how to give your appreciation for it. I mused on the walk today that generosity is a virtue, but generosity without expectation (in this case by a nameless devotee(s?) to the trail ) is truly something special. I stopped for a chat with a nice SoBo section hiker from Colorado. He gave me a recommendation for a pizza joint on the trail up north. We chatted about Colorado and the trail and the heat and that was it. I set to, and he ate his peanut butter pot of rice. Human contact up to now on the trail has largely been like this – a brief chat, something in common, light banter, back to business. Maybe it’s the start of the trail but I guess I expected things to be slightly different. Everyone is finding their own levels.

The day was hot after the cache. It evenly rose several hundred feet, roughly keeping pace with the Mercury it seemed.

I had a new target in mind. Billy Goats Cave. I had read about it, and saw a NZ-er tweet a pic of her camp setup one night in it. Right now I felt it was the best place to be, from the midday sun. I hiked up to noon and managed to grab the cave. I was surprised nobody else was there. I settled in for over two hours of cool time and a nap.

It was quite the spot. Perfectly cool, I lay out my camp Mat and was asleep in no time. It was about 90F outside and probably 60s inside.

Close to 3pm the sun seemed to come down from its high and so I wearily started back on the trail. It was a long stretch of down ahead, and it was obvious the terrain was in transition. The ridge moved out of the desert, and at the cave you could see hills specked with white rocks just north. Now as I descended I had a huge plain of yellow ahead looking north. I hit the 100mile marker, something to be happy about I guess! The first 100 is easy. But now people want the 500 and 1000! The other hundreds sink into irrelevance.

After the 100 mile mark, the trail dropped down to Barrel Springs. It was cool and inviting although the water trough was full of frogspawn and tadpoles (at this stage I’ve drunk from worse), but I wasn’t in the mood to filter and had enough to get to the next springs.

Not today, tank of tadpoles

The trail took an abrupt change from here, we were at the base of the valley, heading into burnt yellow pasturelands as far as the hills on the horizon. No more desert but the sun was hotter than ever.

Unfortunately the spring I aimed for had run dry in the last few days so I conserved my remaining water as best I could. With the sun dropping in the sky I wasn’t too worried about the 6 miles remaining. Eventually the trail led up to Eagle Rock, a hugely popular photographic spot on the trail. Once you see a rock that looks like an eagle, most other rocks just look boring.

The sun dropped into the hills on the horizon, and I was treated to amazing colors and shadows across the whole valley. The expanse in view was incredible.

Finally, around 8pm and with a few weary miles on the clock. I got to my home for the night at Warner Springs. The local community puts on a huge amount of hospitality for hikers with laundry, showers, wifi, recharging, food, trips to the post office and all things in between. I was a little taken aback at the number of hikers here and being plunged into lots of new people and friends already met. Given the late hour I detached to catch up on my blog and recharge my GPS tracker which ran out of juice earlier. Tomorrow I have a shower, clean clothes and a foot bath waiting for me!

5 thoughts on “Day 5: Beyond the desert…

  1. One more if I might. Some of the best PCT / long distance hiking writing I have seen since your countryman, Chris Townsend wrote, _Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles: Hiking the PCT_. Written in 1982–Chris one of only eleven that completed the journey, that year. Surly quite a few changes since he was on the trail for that book. .


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