169-179.4 (plus 2.5 miles on Devil’s Slide)
The sun slowly rose and as I awoke, I realized that everything was just fine! I had survived my first night of cowboy camping! I ate some breakfast, packed up my things, and headed back to the trail- first climbing back up to a place that I had originally scouted out for camping and then moving on to new territory. Clouds rested in the distant blue-hued mountains and green hills rolled beneath me. Soon, the terrain would become more rocky and I felt like I was getting a preview of the Sierras with the granite cliffs towering above me. The trail narrowed and steeply dropped off to the right.
After awhile, I found a nice rock to take a break on and have a snack. As I continued on, a hissing sound snapped me out of my thoughts. A rattlesnake coiled in the rocks to my right and I tried to calm it by telling him it was okay. It slithered in front of me along the trail and I finally got my first picture of the entire body of one of these creatures.
Not long afterwards, I encountered my first snow patch on the trail. I realized this was the infamous Apache Peak, which in a higher snow year, could be quite dangerous. Luckily, for us, it was only a fun diversion. Two people had made hand prints in a snowbank along the trail and I added mine to them. A little later on, Kim caught up to me. She didn’t want to hike with me, however, so we found our own space again. Finally, I reached Tahquitz creek. Water! Two couples whom I had never met yet were relaxing by the creek- a couple from Germany and a couple who were hiking with two Alaskan Huskeys. It was strange to see dogs in the desert! I filtered some water as Kim came along. We had less than five miles to get to Idyllwild! My energy seemed strong as I headed out again, but started to fade as time went on. Kim was just ahead of me when we reached the intersection to the Devil’s Slide trail and was on a mission to get into town. I however, was running out of steam and needed a snack break. Part of me started worrying that maybe I wouldn’t get a ride if I didn’t keep up with her, but I knew that I needed to stop and was not going to push myself to hike at someone else’s pace. As I was packing up, a very poised young man came up the side trail. His name was Tumbleweed and he struck me with his confidence and friendliness. He told me that he had given Kim a card with a man’s name and telephone on it who gives rides into Idyllwild. Again, I started to worry a little… He didn’t have a second card to give me. How was I going to get a ride if Kim was already being driven by him? I started to calm myself out loud, as Tumbleweed assured me things would work out. I asked him if he was planning on climbing the San Jacinto alternate and he said no. Then, we continued on in different directions.
I met a nice young couple on their way up the path who were out for a day hike. The woman was interested in what I was doing and said she wanted to hike this trail, too. She wanted to know if I felt safe alone. I assured her that I felt very safe out here and encouraged her to do the trail when she could.
As I got closer to the bottom of the hill, a man running behind me asked if I was a PCT hiker and if I needed a ride! Yes! He said he would meet me in the parking lot and that by the time I arrived, he would be finishing up with his stretches. I arrived a few minutes later and found Kim at his truck! It turned out that she didn’t have a phone to call the number on the card to get a ride, so she had to wait for my ride! My first lesson in keeping to my own path…
He dropped us off at the Idyllwild Inn, where we we had to wait for our rooms. I looked through the boxes to find my resupply box as well as the one that contained my second hat that I would be swapping out. I only found one differently sized box than the one I had packed and discovered that my new hat had been jammed in with my food and was now mangled and crushed! The note inside said that I could duct tape it back together! Oh, boy… While I was contemplating the situation, a hiker came in and started chatting with me. I asked him where I had met him and he said at the Warner Springs Community Center. He then asked me if I wanted some ice cream. Sure! I thought we were going to go out and get a cone or something, but it turns out that he was on his way out of town and had an extra half gallon that needed to be eaten, as well as an avocado, a package of tortillas, and some cans of beer. My cabin opened up so we went back to eat the ice cream there. His name was Karma because he is always doing nice things for others along the trail. We swapped stories, looked up the San Jacinto alternate route on a map, and then he headed back to the trail while I started the cleaning process. After taking my first shower since the first morning of kick-off, I rinsed as much dirt as I could out of each article of clothing that I had (as a pre-wash). Then, I washed out my jetboil container and spoon. Then it was time to get something to eat! I headed to the restaurant across the street for dinner. It was still early and I was only one of a few people in the restaurant. No other hikers were around, so I ate alone. As I looked out the window, I saw a pick-up truck drive down the road with the two Swedes in the back! The sight made me laugh. And then, a few minutes later, it drove back up the hill with them still in the back, which made me laugh even more! I wonder where they were going! I knew Muk Muk would be coming into town tomorrow, so I texted her to let her know she had a place to stay. I then checked in with the owner to see when I could have my laundry done. She said she could do it as the last load that evening. While I waited for my laundry, I contacted a few people from home and then struggled to stay awake. When the sun goes down, it’s time for me to sleep! After it was finally time to retrieve my laundry and return to my cabin, I was able to lie down in my first bed since before I began the trail!