Chapter 4: Week 2: “Yeti, an Eagle, and a Van”
Chapter 4: Week 2: “Yeti, an Eagle, and a Van”
Days 8-14: 3/13-3/19/22
Total Trail Miles: 74.70
Total GPS Recorded Miles: 76.60
Cumulative Trail Miles: 151.80
From: Julian to Idyllwild
Day 8 // March 13, 2022 // Trail Miles: 14.10 / GPS Recorded Miles: 14.44 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 91.2
We’d organized a ride to trail from Julian pretty early thanks to 2-Foot Adventures. Deuces, Optimist, Basecamp and myself met on the side of the street in town and our ride pulled up. The sun was still half-asleep. When our driver dropped us off at the “underpass” (aka a huge vortex), we all walked towards a small crowd of hikers huddled in one spot. They offered drinks and a smoke, but we were fresh and ready to hike, not ready to slow ourselves down before the coffee even had time to kick in.
True desert vibes. That’s what we were in. The trail took us up desert climbs. Cacti and agave waved as we sped by trying to make as many miles as we could despite only being out there a week. We hiked on and off with Deuces and Optimist, leap-frogging here, stopping for lunch there. We came across another hiker we’d met once before, Brother Paul, a Buddhist Monk from Idyllwild. We chatted with him a bit during out lunch break, and just as quickly as he’d come, he left.
It was hot, but we needed water, and there was a cache close to where we’d planned to camp for the day. The site was called the “3rd Gate Water Cache.” That evening when we arrived at the campsite with Optimist, we took first dibs on the best plots for out tents, and then looked for the water. A few signs indicating water nearby scattered the trail, but we couldn’t see the water. Come to find out, that’s because the water was a good quarter mile downhill near and access road. It made perfect sense. We grabbed our precious water from the cache and marched it back up to camp.
When we arrived, another hiker was there, older. He’d moved Optimist’s backpack and claimed that site for himself. We looked at Optimist and he was speechless. To be honest we were pretty shocked as well! The hiker’s name was “Gup” and he was later in years. A Mormon by practice. Quite a nice guy. Deuces showed up, one or two other hikers rolled in after him, including Brother Paul. Lastly, ROY G BIV and her dad, 6-Pack, came in but hiked a bit beyond us to camp. They seemed completely exhausted and not in the mood to chat just yet.
We didn’t build a fire that night, but we all sat in a circle as if there was one in the center. The conversation wasn’t deep, but we could almost read one another’s thoughts after the day’s heat. Brother Paul shared a bit about his story, we ate ramen, and one by one hikers stood up and crawled into their tents for the night.
Day 9 // March 14, 2022 // Trail Miles: 10.00 / GPS Recorded Miles: 10.00 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 101.54
Day nine was the day, the day we’d hit our first mile marker (increments of 100 of course). We were excited, not only because we’d soon be at the Montezuma Valley Market with food and beer, but because we’d almost hiked 100 miles in the desert heat, and done so in a reasonable amount of time, we felt. The trail to the mile marker looked like it had for days: white hot and tan sand, rocks, manzanita, scrub brush, and cacti.
When we approached the number “100” in the middle of the trail made out of rocks, we shouted and cheered for ourselves once I’d taken my headphones out. There were only 2553 more miles to go until Canada. To celebrate the moment, we snagged a few photos and a video before heading back out towards Montezuma. The parking lot was only a mile or so further down trail next to an old water trough. A few hikers loitered around filtering water and taking a breather. Some were heading into town, while some were staying there or hiking further. The Market, at the time, was picking up hikers from the lot, so we contacted them via phone and had a ride on the way in minutes. Bless those people.
That evening we sat around the front picnic area of the Montezuma and cooked frozen pizzas in one of the rentals that a few hikers had pitched in for. The owners of the Market were kind enough to rent us spaces to pitch our tents with the understanding that fires, even stoves, were strictly prohibited in that area. They suffered a fire recently that caused massive damage to the facility.
Out front stood a massive, white yeti statue. The sun was setting, and by that time we’d all had a few beers. A topic of the moment was my lack of a trail name. Leon was there, recently named “Racoon” and so were both Deuces and Optimist. I can’t exactly recall how it happened, but I ended up over by the large yeti statue and placed my hand on one of its buttocks, the size of my head. For the perspective of the other hikers, they took in the scene and saw the sun beaming through the tree behind me as it bade farewell. Just then, Optimist snagged a picture, and Deuces had a name for me.
“How do you feel about, ‘Yeti Legs’?” he asked.
To be honest, I loved it. Other hikers had commented on my large legs since the beginning of the trail- part genetic, part being a hiker and ultra runner. Those comments and the fateful hand placement on this particular yet sealed the deal. Deuces knighted me in front of the statue with his ice axe that evening. From that moment on, Wesley was no more. Only Yet Legs existed.
For the rest of the evening, we sat around, ate pizza, pitched our tents, and talked. We had cell service, but we were all more interested in the company at hand. I ended up having a deep conversation with Tumbleweed, the same guy that we’d gotten a lift into Julian with. He commented on how great it was to see a married couple hiking the PCT together, and he admired us for it. I liked the guy and felt like we’d get a long both on the trail and in the “real world.” Optimist also opened up to us that night and told us about the significance of a particular kitten in his life that might as well have been a superhero.
Day 10 // March 15, 2022 // Trail Miles: 13.50 / GPS Recorded Miles: 13.50 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 114.70.
We were heading back on trail from Montezuma Market. Grabbing a few last minute items from their shelves, Basecamp and I packed out bags and waited for our lift to trail. The owners of the market were giving shuttle rides to hikers at the time, and we were exceedingly grateful. Optimist was heading out with us. It was also the same day that we would see the infamous Eagle Rock, a native monument that held special meaning.
After drop-off, we hiked together for a few minutes, but Optimist quickly started ahead and was gone before we knew it. That was fine though. We knew that we’d catch up with him later, and we’d been socializing so much the past day that a little quiet time was welcomed.
The terrain was part desert, part meadow that reminded us of scenes from Jurassic Park, and part old-oak groves with streams flowing between. Deuces was taking a break with his feet in the water as he usually was, and it was tempting, but we wanted to make it to Eagle Rock. And we did. It was in the middle of an massive, open field. A huge rock formation in the shape of an eagle, and the perfect place to stop for a snack in its shade. Its wings opened wide and pointed in the direction of the trail as if guiding us. Tumbleweed, Razor and a few others were already at the rock. They’d gotten an earlier start than us.
Passing the epic lunch location, the trail resumed in desert before transforming into oak grove once more. Shade was a welcomed site to combat the day’s heat. Hiking on and off with Tumbleweed a bit (he hiked much faster than us), we came to a split for Warner Springs and were seconds away from hiking into town to grab beer from a gas station, but decided against taking extra miles. And a good thing we did, too. A few miles further down trail we came across a Styrofoam cooler left under a bridge by ROY G BIV and her dad, 6-pack. It had once been full of Modelo beers, but now had two left, just enough for us. We were extremely grateful for such a treat.
Rather than hiking them to camp, we drank them right there fueling our bodies with the extra carbs. Our tent site that night was under a canopy of thick growth near a stream. It seemed the perfect home for lions. We never used deodorant, and didn’t carry soap or shampoo with us, but we used the next best thing to clean ourselves that night (other than the normal wet-wipes we would bathe with). Basecamp and I took turns rinsing ourselves off with the cool stream and sand, which basically acts as an abrasive rag, cleaning the sweat and muck off. It was glorious sleeping that night feeling clean.
Day 11 // March 16, 2022 // Trail Miles: 16.90 / GPS Recorded Miles: 16.98 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 131.60.
The air was hot when we woke up, despite being near water and under trees. Oh boy, what and omen for the day, and it proved to be true. Our shaded forest ended quickly, opening up once again into twisting desert ridges. There was no shade. Our only goal for the morning was to reach water again. We’d grabbed a few liters from camp, but there was nothing until for several miles until a cistern with water levels reported to be low if not nonexistent.
The cistern was about a third mile downhill, which meant we’d have to climb back out. Hopefully it would at least pay off. Down at the bottom was a small collection of other hikers, including Deuces. The cistern was empty, but there was a small trickle of a stream down at the bottom of a steep 50-foot drop. Gup, the same hiker we’d first met at the third gate water cache, had engineered a rock and leaf damn to funnel the tiny trickly making it viable for collection. “Gup Engineering” is what we started to call his clever rigs. Thank goodness for his rig and the flowing water. It was enough.
We lugged a bit of water out of the cistern spur trail, and back onto the PCT. The sun had gotten even hotter in just 30 minutes. Our only other listed water source for the day was a water tank at the infamous “Mike’s Place.” Renowned for either a good time or weird vibes, we didn’t plan to actually visit Mike’s home, but would happily collect some water from the tank at the top of his property.
The stretch up to Mike’s Place was a blurr. Basecamp suffered intensely from the sun and heat. On the whole, she suffered from a sodium deficiency meaning she needed salt, often, and a lot of it. The heat made it worse. We were both struggling and thirst by the time we reached the split for Mike’s and the tanks. Several hikers were there, including Tumbleweed, Razor, Deuces, Optimist, ROY G BIV, and a new hiker named “Chief.” He was 19 years old and was dropping bleach into his water bottles when we finally sat down. It immediately turned his water an off-yellow color.
“Is this too much bleach, you think?” he asked us.
“I’d say so. Isn’t it just 3-4 drops per liter?” I replied.
He poured the water out and started over. Everyone else was filtering there water and getting ready to head back out. There was one last climb to tackle before reaching camp that day, and the sun was starting to get low in the sky. On the way out, a guy named “Gueno” drove up and asked us if we wanted some whiskey. What in the world? We declined and then he offered us some Budweisers. Those we accepted from a random stranger, but not open whiskey. He grabbed three cans from his trunk, handed us two, and cracked the third open for himself. He thought we were going to stay and chat, but that wasn’t the gameplan. We had to quickly shut it down and start hiking, so we began walking away as he continued to talk but letting him know how grateful we were. It was an interesting exchange.
Marching up and down the mountain towards camp with beers in our hands, we reflected on just how difficult, but entertaining the day had been. Thru-hiking was like Alice in Wonderland, wonky and unknown. We camped with the same crew from the water tank, but just above them for a little privacy. Our site was riddled with holes and we had no idea what made them. It made for a sketchy dinner experience, but nothing ever popped out of them…that we saw.
Day 12 // March 17, 2022 // Trail Miles: 14.80 / GPS Recorded Miles: 15.68 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 146.40.
I’d broken a buckle on my pack from pulling it too hard. By midday, I’d stopped to grab something out and broke a second buckle. I had to stop and rig it with paracord just to keep it latched. While doing this, reaching out to Hyperlite Mountain Gear customer service with one bar of cell service to get a repair, and taking a well-deserved poop break, another hiker came by. He had a huge Dead Space tattoo on his arm that I recognized and that struck up a conversation. His name was “hey Google” because he knew a slew of random facts. He hiked on while we finished up our break.
Later in the day we met him again dead stopped in the middle of the trail staring at an indigo snake slithering across the path. It was harmless, but beautiful to look at with its blue and silver sheen.
Just long stretches of trail through the desert heat, and we met “Hey Google” because he had a Dead Space tattoo. Oh, and my backpack snapped a buckle. Cry. Those sunsets were worth it. The hours either flew by or dragged on forever with the desert heat and exposure. At one point my footing became careless and I slipped pretty badly on a ridge, scraping my leg up several inches, but nothing terrible. We called this stretch one of the “seven levels of hell.” It was blistering hot, dry, shadeless, and had little vegetation. The landscape was red and shades of brown.
Mary’s Oasis was listed on the map, and reportedly had a water tank filled with delicious rehydration. The last mile to Mary’s, well, Basecamp was verging on delirious. She couldn’t lead, she could barely stand, yet alone walk. Every five minutes she would sit down to cool off in the sparce shade of some scraggly bush. I took the lead and led us the last mile in. That one mile of flat trail took us around an hour. The same hikers we’d been seeing over the past few days were there laughing and drinking cool water. The site of it brough Basecamp back to life. Opening up our foam sleeping mats, we sat on the dirt exhausted, but filtering sweet, cool water from the tank. By this point, the sun was going down and, as a result, so was the temperature.
With a small snack and water in her, Basecamp was ready to hike another mile to camp. We did so with Deuces. Along the way, California poppies bloomed yellow and the sun blazed orange. It was a magical sunset that we couldn’t pass up for a photo opportunity. Deuces opted to split from us and camp on top pf a hill with Razor, and a father/sun duo, Butcher and Waterboy (who I’d named the day before). We camped maybe and eight of a mile further on a flat, sandy plot looking out over the horizon. Cayotes howled in the distance as the cool embrace of night descended on us.
Day 13 // March 18, 2022 // Trail Miles: 5.40 / GPS Recorded Miles: 6.33 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 151.80.
Basecamp was running. With her pack on, she was running downhill to the highway that lead to the Paradise Valley Café. The only thing we both had on our minds was a hot breakfast of pancakes and sausage. I was astounded. It’s a crazy thing, the motivation of good food while on trail will make you achieve feats you never thought you could.
At the café, we feasted. Pancakes, waffles, sausage, eggs, orange juice, coffee, and even beer were our rewards for making it over 150 miles. Deuces, Razor, Gup, Butcher, Waterboy, Optimist, ROY G BIV, and another hiker named “Decades” all sat on the patio with us to celebrate the moment. Our plan was to grab a hitch to the town of Idyllwild further up the road. And what a hitch it was.
This was our first true hitchhiking attempt. We stood about a half mile from the traffic light where cars could see us but also have enough time to stop before the intersection. Decades hiked by us back towards the trail and suggested we get a bit further up the road around the shoulder. We did, and within 10 minutes had a van pull over. A Mercedes Sprinter van with enough space in the back to hold all of us trying to hitch in: us, Razor, Optimist, Hey Google, and Deuces. The van was cool, but the driver was the best part. Driving the van was none other than Jake and Logan Paul’s father. He was a great guy and wouldn’t accept any payment from us, other than just enough cash to buy a 6-pack of beer on the drive home.
And so there we were, pointed there by a massive eagle and delivered by a van. He dropped us off at our lodging that my aunt in Georgia was kind enough to cover for us on behalf of Basecamp’s birthday the week before. The Silver Pine Lodge and Village was its name, and they offered laundry service with loaner clothes to use for hikers. It was a true gift, and the thought of clean clothes was irresistible. We checked in, grabbed clothes, dropped off our filthy things for washing, and walked around town to get a lay of the land. We checked out the gear store, Nomad, and scoped the resupply options. On our route we ended up meeting the town mayor, Mayor Max, who also happened to be a golden retriever, one of a few places that has a dog for a mayor.
We’d planned to meet a few other hikers at the local brewpub for food and beer, but only Deuces and Hey Google made it, which was just fine. Small groups get better service, right? Well, the Idyllwild Brewpub showed us the worst service we’d ever received and would receive while on trail. The waitress shrugged us off, ignored us, got our orders incorrect, and neglected to ask if we needed food in over an hour of sitting there. Her other tables around us were greeted and served with smiles. It was the first true taste of mistreatment we’d experienced, and it left a poor taste in our mouths, all because we looked and probably smelled like thru-hikers. Basecamp stood her ground, and went to every server until one finally didn’t respond with “Ask your server.” We blew that popsicle stand and headed over to the pizzeria across the way. No judgement there, and the food was actually affordable. Thank God for pizza joints.
Our room had a fireplace and comfortable bed. With the orange glow of the fire and stomachs full of greasy food, we slept soundly in a temperature-controlled room that night.
Day 14 // March 19, 2022 // Trail Miles: 0.00 / GPS Recorded Miles: 0.00 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 151.80.
Zero day in Idyllwild.
Zero days are rarely rest days. They are more like chore days. We had to grab our food resupply, go to the post office/local shipping company, and hit up the gear store to get Basecamp a sun shirt and sun gloves. Up until Idyllwild, Basecamp had only been wearing a short-sleeved shirt without sun gloves, and she was starting to cook in the sun, even with the use of sunscreen. We also were on the hunt for Tibetan prayer flags to string from our pack in honor of her name being a reference to the Everest Basecamp. We found the flags.
On a lunch break we stopped by a local burger place. Ordering beers and a burger to split, two guys at the bar struck up a conversation with us. We recounted our stories from the last two weeks and they covered our bill as thanks. Trail magic at its finest right there.
Finally grabbing all the food we would need going into the Jacinto’s, we also grabbed extra beer and a bottle of wine for the evening. Hey Google was a cook, and we were having a cookout at the lodge with the chef himself, Optimist, Deuces, Tumbleweed, Cougar, Razor, Sam, Moriah, and Firecracker. We hadn’t been hiking with the latter three hikers, but still knew them, and we were all in the good fight together. Hey Google whipped up guacamole, brats, sauteed vegetables, and a slew of toppings for us. Everyone inhaled what they could while we sat around and laughed about the last two weeks. There was rough terrain ahead in the San Jacinto Mountains and that was something we all had in the back of our minds. After dinner we went inside and discussed a short gameplan for Apache Peak and tackling the very same ridge that cost Microsoft his life on his 2020 PCT attempt.
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