Hail and Rain: Warner Springs to Paradise Valley Cafe

Miles 109.5 – 151.8

The trail crosses Agua Caliente Creek several times just after Warner Springs. It’s a sunny day and it’s nice to take off my shoes and soak my dusty feet. The creek allows for a lot of beautiful trees and vegetation for the first five miles. It also means plenty of shade. The trail is great for the first five miles and it seems that it will be a pretty easy day, which is perfect because I got a late start out of Warner Springs. Little do I know that the next five miles will be straight uphill in the scorching sun. Some of the trail literally ascends via steep rock steps. It’s my fault for not checking the trail data to know that it will be a tough climb. It’s slow going and I run out of water just a mile before the next water source, which is also where I will be camping for the night. Because of my slow progress, I make it to the campsite just before dark. It’s another 0.3 miles down to the spring. I fill up with about five liters of water and climb back up to camp. The sunset is gorgeous at the top of the ridge and I settle in for the night.

The next day is a little chilly. I’m plugging along and know that Mike’s place is coming up. Just before I get to the turnoff for Mike’s, there is a stream. I decide that I’m just going to fill my water bladders here and skip Mike’s. Hiking on, the temperature starts to drop. Suddenly, it starts to hail like crazy and I have no place to take shelter. I just keep on hiking and I start to get soaked. I have on my raincoat but I’m still wearing shorts and can’t find my rain pants. Eventually, I dig out the ground cover for my tent and wrap it around my waist. When I finally get to camp it’s raining a little bit and I set up my tent. Katie and Karen have set up Katie’s tent for immediate shelter and are waiting for the weather to pass. Finally, the weather clears up and we are able to hang all of our soaked belongings in the sun. It’s not really enough to dry everything, but now my belongings aren’t completely soaked. My backpack was drenched and muddy and made a giant mud puddle in the middle of my tent. Thankfully, all of my important items were in a dry bag. I skip dinner and curl up in my warm sleeping bag.

Every time there is bad weather I pack up early and hit the trail. I get out of camp super early and hike until I find a sunny ridge. Once I stop to eat breakfast and dry out all of my belongings, another hiker passes me. She’s a tiny little person and at first I thought she was a child. She says hello and marches on. Because of the weather and the fact that it’s so early in the day, the trail is pretty clear from footprints. As I continue on I see the small tracks of the lady that passed me that morning. Then I start seeing some giant animal prints. I’m convinced it must be a cougar. They were so huge. They continued on for about five miles and I’m pretty sure the cougar is stocking the young lady. I keep looking into the bushes to see if he’s possibly changed course. But the tracks continue on. It’s still a mystery.

It starts raining and it’s pretty cold, so I continue to hike. I was planning on hiking ten miles but I don’t want to stop in the rain. And there might be a cougar around somewhere. As it rains I start a new mantra in my head that goes, “If it’s raining, I’m hiking.” It’s a pain to set up camp in the rain so it’s better to just keep going. As I’m walking a gentleman by the name of Terry passes me. He said that he’s going to Paradise Valley Cafe today. It’s afternoon by now and that’s several miles away. I consider that option and figure if it keeps raining, I might as well keep hiking. When I reach about 17 miles for the day, it stops raining. The sun comes out and I’m suddenly meandering through a beautiful manzanita forest. I decide to take this opportunity to set up my tent. There is no specified campsite, but I find a small walkway into the trees and find a nice flat spot to set up my tent. It turns out to be a beautiful evening and I am loving the peace and quiet of my own little secret campsite.

Only three miles to the cafe on this sunny cold day. The views are spectacular as I leave camp and the canyons in the distance look a little steamy. The trail continues up, up, up, which is annoying because I feel like it should be going down. There is about a half mile to the road. When I reach the road to Paradise Valley, I see a minivan pulled over. I’m thinking, what on earth? There is no way they saw me. I cross the road and Not Yet is coming out of the brush. She says hi and asks if I’m hiking the PCT. I confirm and she tells me that she and her husband (Macon Tracks) are starting in about a week. I ask if they’re heading to the Paradise Valley Cafe and if they want to give me a lift. They weren’t but now they are. They give me a ride and we have breakfast together. They have hiked the AT and CDT, so will be working toward their triple crown this year. So amazing!

I spend most of the day at the cafe until my cousin Suzanne picks me up. I stay with her for a couple of days and enjoy a warm, cozy bed, authentic breakfast burritos, sushi, and fresh baked banana bread. Thanks, cousin!

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