Days 8-11, miles 126.9-179.4
Hiked 17.1 | at mile 126.9
We left Warner Springs at seven. Once my stride warmed, we crushed nine miles by 11 a.m.
We rounded the bend to find a blue pop-up tarp. A blonde woman lounged beneath. Oranges, avocados, bananas, and ice-cold tea laid strewn across one side. Trail magic! Two dogs greeted us: a shaved, miniature Australian Shepherd and a brown-black Shepherd. I immediately exclaimed that the little dog looked like a little cow. Everyone agreed it should be her trail name. (If you haven’t gathered, trail names are nicknames given to hikers by other hikers, or in this case, a little dog.) Little Cow wandered from person to person while we feasted on fruit. The bigger dog, Moose, stayed in one spot happy a girl was rubbing his rump.
The trail angel was Topaz. She plans on hiking the PCT next year. She explained she was downsizing and paying off debt before her big adventure.
Mike’s Place was our destination for camp. A trail angel opens his ranch to hikers for the season. A grounds keeper named Off Trail runs the property while Mike is at home in Long Beach. Essentially the ranch is Mike’s man cave. There was junk, in an eclectic-whimsical fashion, all around the property. The patio featured mismatched car seats, benches, and metal chairs, while the “hiker box”—a full room—featured a drum set, surf board, and hookah, along with the typical hiker fair of fuel canisters and abandoned hats.
Nicholas, or Squeeze, helped make pizza as Off Trail stoked the wood-fire oven. He also made banana pies for dessert.
Ping-pong was made available on a converted dining room table. Nicholas indulged in a few rounds with another hiker named Jolly. The night closed over jokes and talking. Nicholas promised to help Off Trail make pancakes in the morning. The great outdoors has suddenly inspired his inner chef. Hallelujah.
Hiked 18.5 | at mile 145.4
Nicholas assisted Off Trail in making pancakes the following morning. He even cooked me an omelet as we passed a pot of cowboy coffee.
The rest of the day was a blur, just traversing along the sides of mountains, a thin dirt path carved by a giant’s finger.
We decided to camp at mile 17.3, but it was too windy. I grumpily trudged another 1.2 miles to the next site at Mary’s Water Tank, a plot of land owned by a trail angel. Mary’s Place was windy and cold. Despite the frigid temperature, Nicholas continued his cowboy camping streak. Cowboy camping is sleeping under the stars for those who are unfamiliar. (He wants to make it to the Sierras only cowboy camping—550 miles to go.)
Hiked 14.3 | at mile 159.7
Nicholas woke to frost on his sleeping bag. It turned out to be a cold night, dropping to 24 degrees.
I started hiking alone as Nicholas’s bag dried. I eventually met Nemo. A hiker who wore a black and red paisley polyester blouse with a long beaded necklace; the look completed with white Patagonia pants. “Wow, nice top,” I said shocked at the shirt. “Thanks I found it in the hiker box at Warner Springs. I thought it was fabulous and fun and gender bendy,” the petite man said with a pop of his hip.
Nemo and I hiked for an hour. Every minute was fascinating. I gathered that he was independently wealthy. He now travels and hikes year round. He hiked to Everest Base Camp and thru-hiked the AT. He has done 40- and 60-mile days on the AT—insane. Nemo spoke with an expansive vocabulary at great speeds. I felt as if I was listening to an academic paper read aloud, as he articulated the exact ounces of his Everest gear, the best way to hike in Nepal, and the cost of the trip. Soon I was too slow and he hiked on. Goodbye, Nemo.
We walked to Paradise Cafe on Highway 74, a mile off trail. We sat with the Breaker Boys, Carolyn, and Eric. I ordered a bun-less burger with fries. Food, glorious food.
We hiked eight more miles and called it a day.
Hiked (about) 19.7 | at mile 179.4
Day eleven, the last day until Idyllwild. Carolyn, or Milkshake, and I talked about Idyllwild for miles. How great it would be to shower, to wash our clothes, eat ice cream, and relax.
Our trek to Idyllwild was a tad confusing and the exact mileage unknown. There was a section of trail closed due to a fire that occurred five years ago. We had to take a detour route around the fire which eventually dumped us on to a road. Carolyn and I were picked up by a Christian, retired couple who periodically proclaimed they loved Jesus. I told them I do too and that I pray for strength on trail.
The car parked in front of the ice cream shop, named Ice Cream and Jerky. They sell jerky too. I know, weird combo. Carolyn and I savored every bite of the cold, creamy goodness.
We later met up with Eric. Discussed splitting a room, but we ended up going separate ways. Nicholas showed up later, arriving with pizza in hand. Our room was warm, had hot water, and a soft bed. Glorious.
Oh, and for all who have been asking to see Volker’s miracle massage machine: