13.5+ miles to Warner Springs
While I was getting ready for the day inside my tent, a friendly hiker passed by and said hello! I didn’t know who it was, but I returned the greeting. It was a pretty morning and I made slow progress due to wanting to photograph the changing colors of the sky. I made my way along the ridge and then started a descent. After a few miles, I took a small break where Luke caught up to me. He said Drama was up ahead. We soon passed by some stones set in the shape of a ‘100’ along a slope! We had hiked 100 miles! Just up ahead was a second ‘100’ marker on the ground just off the trail and we stopped to take photos there. Luke was very excited about this milestone. Maybe it was because I had already hiked a long trail and knew how long we still had to go, but this milestone didn’t have the same impact or excitement for me. I was happy for Luke, though. Soon, two German hikers came along silently. Luke couldn’t believe they didn’t let out any hollers after passing this milestone. He and I walked together and he told me about a strange dream he had had about a teacher from the Philippines and the trail. The Lorax then made an appearance in the dream at a sad point and told Luke he could grant him one wish. I suggested that maybe that could be his trail name. I think he was hoping I would say that because right after that, he started to introduce himself as ‘The Lorax’. We reached a pretty meadow area with big oak trees (another surprise for me in the desert) and then found Drama and a couple of other hikers by a water trough. Drama was also demonstratively excited about reaching the 100 mile point. When Smooth Operator approached (Mike had acquired a new trail name as well as shoes, socks, and poles after his town stop in Julian!), Drama asked him to do his 100 mile pose. He simply held out his first two fingers. After filling up and filtering water, the four of us headed out. Drama talked about how his first few miles in the morning were slow and meditative (calling them his library hours) and then his energy built as the day continued and he would test his limits of how fast he could walk. He also talked about how he sometimes would think of moving from his solar plexus chakra, which I found interesting. He and I reached some nice flat lands where we spotted a herd of cows. I really wanted to get close to them and debated whether or not to take the time to do so. Drama was not interested in this diversion, but humored me anyway. The cows were a bit skittish!
I was excited about getting to the first famous landmark on the PCT- the big stone eagle! I had been seeing lots of rocks that looked like eagles on day 1 and a couple today. But I couldn’t wait to get to the real one! Drama thought it was the Eagle Creek trail with the waterfall when I mentioned it and I had to tell him that was all the way in Oregon! I got to the landmark first, followed by the three guys. Two hikers- Dan and Hillary were already there. I climbed up to the eagle’s head and tried to straddle it because I wanted to ride it, but the rock was so wide! I guess it wasn’t the best choice for a picture, as Drama kept saying, “Look alive! Look alive!”.
Smooth Operator had no need to be photographed on it- he hadn’t even known about this landmark and took off first, followed by Drama and the Lorax. I needed a snack so I stayed there longer and then headed out on my own. We had only a few miles to get to Warner Springs! We were all tired. I had felt a lot of pressure since I had started the trail to get to Warner Springs by today, as the trail angel who had played a big part in organizing the yoga sessions at kick-off told me he wouldn’t be able to give me a ride down there if I arrived on Thursday. I probably wouldn’t have pushed so hard in the beginning otherwise. It’s not good for your body. I caught up to Lorax and then Drama, who was sitting on the side of the trail, not sure which path to take. None of us knew, actually. We decided based on what we read in our guidebooks and took the path to our right. It was a much longer walk than I expected. At one point, I thought I saw some hikers near a building that looked like a school below us, but The Lorax thought I was wrong. We kept walking and came to a garbage can oddly placed along the trail. We then saw a hiker carrying his resupply box back up this path! How strange! Why wouldn’t he have repacked his pack at the post office and thrown away the box? Finally, we reached a road, but again, had no idea which way to go! I tried calling the trail angel who said he could pick me up, but there was no answer. We stood there for awhile, not knowing what to do. Then, Mike came walking down the road and told us the post office was a mile that way and that the Community Center was in the other direction. I wasn’t going to walk a couple of miles carrying my pack and resupply box and said I was going to the Community Center first. The Lorax agreed to do the same while Drama chose to walk to the post office. Finally, we found the community center, which had been set up by some elder local volunteers to help out the PCT hikers after the resort shut down last year. They offered showers for $8, laundry for $6, and burgers for $5. Many hikers had gathered inside to escape the sun, use the computers to write home, and take an extended break. I walked in dirty and disgusting-looking! The desert and I don’t agree so well… I was quickly greeted by Ben and Jaime who rushed over to me, surprised that I had already caught up to them! Jaime looked so different in her glasses and dress that I almost didn’t recognize her! Unfortunately, they weren’t going to kick-off, so they would be three and a half days ahead of me leaving Warner Springs. It would be a tough feat to catch back up to them!
I wasn’t sure if I should order a burger or take a shower, or just try to hold out until the trail angel came. He called back and told me to just wait and asked if the Brooks Cascadias were still in the hiker box. He asked me to set them aside for him. I went outside to use the hose to rinse off some of the dirt off my legs and feet. The “fun” group was there, as well as the two girls, several hikers who had been ahead of me, and now Lorax and Drama. The trail angel showed up with a female who I did not know and after chatting with other hikers for a bit, the three of us got into his pick up. We picked up my resupply box at the post office while the trail angel rummaged through the hiker box, looking for things he could use for his own future hike. As he and the girl were getting into his truck, he asked me if I would turn around. I thought he wanted to kiss the girl without me seeing, as he definitely seemed interested in her. I thought this was strange, but agreed. He then said, “See? Doesn’t she have big calf muscles?” to which the girl agreed. He said (again) that he could always spot an AT hiker from the size of their calf muscles. I had already told him on the phone that those muscles had disappeared a long time ago and that any muscles I had now were from yoga. I still couldn’t figure out who the girl was on our way to his home… She was clean, pretty, nice-smelling, and had a foreign accent, and the guy said she would be working at the Dirty Girl Gaitor booth at kick-off. I assumed he must have found a new girlfriend already (he had talked about his ‘ex-girlfriend’ on the phone with me before I had left for the trail when we were discussing the yoga session).
It wasn’t until I saw her pack and we started chatting together that I realized that she was also a thru-hiker who had started on the 15th and was suffering from a lot of blisters. This trail angel saw her at the community center and invited her back to his home. They seemed very chummy together and I felt like wallpaper during my stay there (which was just fine by me!). Another woman was staying there as well, and again, I could not figure out who she was. I took a shower and was given a homemade vegetable pizza. I updated my journal on the PC (which was difficult for me to figure out how to use), and helped the Australian girl go through her huge pack and get rid of a lot of things, including a bear bell! She was carrying paper maps for the first 700 miles of the trail (!), as well as an extensive array of medical supplies. The trail angel kept saying things like, “Do you want to see my first aid kit?” and then opened a drawer and held up some duct tape. He definitely wanted to be the center of attention, but wasn’t interested in actually helping the poor girl get rid of some serious weight that was hurting her body. He didn’t plan on leaving until 9 in the morning (kick-off didn’t start until the next night) and I wondered why I had to push so hard to get there so early.
In the evening, Roz, who had been considering taking the trail name “Dunno”, was telling the trail angel about a note she received from her friend Sarah (her inspiration to do the trail) at the start of the trip. Sarah had given her the name “Muk Muk” – a British Columbia species of marmot- because this was Roz’s favorite mascot of the Vancouver Olympics where the two met. Sarah had previously hiked the PCT and had put the idea into Roz’s head. I thought the name was perfect! I loved the story and it was also a cute name! So, she decided to take it.
I slept in the living room/kitchen area while Muk Muk slept in a second bedroom. Before we went to sleep, the trail angel went into her room and started massaging her feet! He turned out the lights in the middle of it! What was happening? I didn’t like what was going on at all…