Julian to Paradise Valley Cafe
Mile 77- 151: Easy terrain, amazing plants, and cool mornings
We are thankful to get a lift out of Julian back to Scissors Crossing at 5 AM, so that we begin the hard climb up the switchbacks before dawn. I’m worried about these switchbacks, but they are both easy and beautiful; amazing desert plants sprawl around us. We are done with the main part of the climb by 7 AM, and only have a few miles left when we take a siesta in a sliver of shade under a bush.
Thankfully there’s a well-stocked water cache at mile 91, just 14 miles into our hike. We camp here, and more friends roll in over the afternoon.
One of the things about the PCT is that it’s filled with happy reunions and uncertain departures.
Every time we leave a friend on the trail, either because they are hiking on or we are, there’s this wonder if we’ll ever see them again. We make heartfelt and awkward goodbyes, or we just nod and say “see you down the trail.”
And when we find friends again, it’s filled with joyous exclamations and hurried questions about how they’ve been doing (normally the answer is a series of complaints about the section they hiked; PCTers have made an art of complaining about a trail they overturned their lives to hike). It feels like a wonderful stroke of luck to reconnect, even if it’s only been a few days.
We had one of these the night before going down to Warner Springs Community Center, when we found ourselves camping with the same group of 8 we’d met back before Laguna.
We stop a morning at the Warner Springs Community Center to collect a package and take showers out of buckets. We rinse our clothes as best we can. It’s surprisingly refreshing to rub a scrap of soap across my body while standing over an orange bucket in an outdoor wooden stall.
The agony of afternoon ascents
The hike after Warner Springs is a mere 10 miles, but it is perhaps the hardest day we have on the trail so far. It turns out that every afternoon mile feels something like 2 morning miles. I have been loving our pre-dawn morning starts, and hiking an entire afternoon reminds me of why it’s important to be hiking by 6 AM.
We end this section hiking a long dirt road out to Paradise Valley Cafe. They are closing at 3 PM lately, so we put on the gas and knock out 16 miles by 2 PM so we can enjoy burgers and fries, which I don’t come close to finishing.
Our intention is to camp at PVC, but we don’t. There’s a big storm coming in, and we aren’t sure whether we’ll find good wind protection. The staff of PVC is also harried and a touch overwhelmed; the server told me they couldn’t find anyone to work after 3PM, hence their early closures. When I asked about camping overnight, she waved me off like “anywhere is fine.” I asked about bathroom access and she laughed and then said, “We can talk about that after my regulars leave if you’re really staying.” I didn’t want to ask my other questions – an outside water faucet and outlet has also been reported by other hikers- so instead we spent an hour or so organizing a lift into Idyllwild and snagged an Airbnb for the night. We were beyond grateful when one of the trail angels from the Facebook group was willing to return us to the trail in the morning.
So when hail, ice, snow, slushy rain and high winds arrived in Idyllwild, our tiny trail family of three (me, my partner, and our new friend Lupine, who has been with us since Hauser Creek) were warm and cozy.
Note: I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this year. Follow along by subscribing here or following me on Instagram at @big_rain_little_thunder.
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