Day 7: Warner Springs! (104.9-117.3)

Triple Digits! Yay!

Despite passing the 100-mile marker the sixth day, Warner Springs seemed like a more important milestone. I’d sent a resupply package to the Post Office (completely unnecessary, as the Montezuma Valley Market in Ranchita is a dream of a food bag come to life, with unimaginable tuna flavors and every electrolyte in existence) and thus headed into town -again! – in the morning.

The short jaunt wound through a meadow, which was fun not only because it was a change from the desert – WHICH I LOVE, DON’T GET ME WRONG! – but because there were herds of cows munching grass. Some were in the distance; others were quite close to the trail. Could you take a cow on the PCT? Milk for days! (Is that how cows work?)

Period on Trail! The Worst!

In theory, I’d planned on grabbing my box at the post office, repacking my pack, and heading back out on trail. After all, it seemed like Warner Springs was little more than a post office. Upon arrival, though, I realized I’d been wrong. Near the post office, there were picnic tables and trash cans and shade. There was a gas station next to the post office, a gas station with coffee and Topo Chico (!!) and refrigerated ham and cheese sandwiches and – most importantly – a bathroom.

(At this point you’re probably like, Do you ever go to the bathroom al fresco on the PCT? I mean, not if I can help it! As described in a previous post, I’m a number one fan of having a toilet for number two. On the pee front, I’m pretty dehydrated all the time so I rarely have to pop a squat. My kidneys are probably raisins, bless their hearts.)

So yes, call me a wuss but once I saw the picnic tables and bathroom, I knew I wasn’t leaving until the afternoon. In my defense, I’d gotten my period the night before, a period for which I was ill-equipped both emotional state-wise and tampon-wise. It wasn’t as bad (or good, if you’re pro-free-bleed) as when M.I.A.’s drummer rode the crimson wave through the London Marathon but a hot dry desert plus thick thighs plus blood and uterine lining and – maybe fake news – salt crystals? is a primo recipe for chafe and low morale. If you don’t know, now you know. Also, bathrooms have trash cans and the fewer of my own bloody tampons I have to lug around in a Ziploc bag on trail, the better. And yes, I’ve heard of the poorly named Diva Cup and I’m not into it. Cycle your own cycle, dammit.

In short, I chatted a bit with other hikers, organized my food, and sporadically spent money on the gas station so I could practice good hygiene with impunity. A great day!

Hikers! Also the Worst!

The other known PCT landmark in Warner Springs is their hiker-friendly community center. It’s one of these places on this thin trail  that, inexplicably, provides services to hikers who, in my humble opinion, do not deserve these services. The services include bucket laundry and shower, some snacks, charging. In the past, they allowed camping; times changed and now they don’t.

This community center is located on the property of a school and so, understandably, is not permitted to have messy, frequently-weed-smoking, people who are cosplaying homelessness while draped in Dyneema and Alpha Direct. This means they have set hours during the week for children to learn and set hours for hikers to mooch. It was a weekday so they opened at three in the afternoon. Alas! I left before that so didn’t get to enjoy their hospitality. Sometimes you miss happy hour and that is life.

Reasonable, yes? APPARENTLY NOT! I hiked a couple miles more, found a picnic table, and promptly decided to take another rest while it cooled off a little. (A note on the heat: It’s not actually that hot! I’m just a baby who likes to take naps for no reason. Plus, picnic tables – so many picnic tables!) As hikers passed and we exchanged the post-town pleasantries – a.k.a. engaged in the passive aggressively competitive conversations wherein these strangers try to ensure they Won At Fun In Town – I realized that most people had, in fact, gone to the community center. Hmm…had the rules changed? No, it appeared that many hikers, charged up from walking a manicured, well-graded trail with daily town stops (seriously, is this the Camino? This trail is luxury.) felt super entitled to water and shade and so trespassed at a school in order to get those things they so strongly felt they deserved. I don’t need a reddit forum to tell me who’s the asshole here…

Le Sigh. Anyway!

I headed out around five, through the meadow at first then back and forth across Agua Caliente Creek which did, in fact, have water! I knew I’d be dry camping so I loaded up about 3.5 liters, which I regretted as soon as I began climbing out of the wash and up into the mountains towards the next set of campsites.

A note on the elevation, or lack thereof, at the beginning of this trail: It is blissful. We’ve climbed, certainly, but slowly and over large sweeping switchbacks that bring you to heights with ease. I know this won’t last; I’ve perused the maps for the upcoming sections. However, the first 120 miles spoil you rotten. In other words, the ascent out of the creek, though by no means outrageous, felt HARD. I climbed, dripping sweat, stopping frequently, not caring about the relatively short day of mileage, desperately ready to camp.

I found a small slot for one tent right off trail near where another woman was already camped. I’ve stopped using my rain fly – I’ve basically stopped looking at the weather, to be honest – so I was able to sleep in high mountains (yes, yes – for a New Yorker! These Californians are v. snobby re: mountain height – wait till you heard the shade thrown at poor San Jacinto!) looking at the stars.

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