PCT Week Two Featuring Trail Tattoos and Tent Zeroes
My second week on the PCT prominently featuring the lovely town of Idyllwild.
PCT Day Eight / 8.4 Miles / 101.5 Total Miles
We started our morning at 4:30 so we could get into Warner Springs as early as possible. We passed through foggy meadows in a constant drizzle and rain gear became necessary. I fell behind the others because my knee is always more painful and stiff in the mornings. I flew past Eagle Rock because the weather made it hard to even see and there was no one around to take pictures anyway; maybe some other time I’m in California.
Finally, we made it to the community center where there was an abundance of trail angels offering rides into town. We ate some fruit, dried out a bit, and made our way to the restaurant. We all had veggie omelettes and I had lots of coffee. We caught up with some others (Jan and Risa) that we have been leapfrogging with since Scout and Frodo’s. We had a debate on how to draw monkeys and bears and what makes the difference, we settled on the mouth. We decided to rent a room at the Warner Springs resort so we could do laundry and shower (hooray!) after killing time at the restaurant for almost 5five hours it was finally time to check in. Ashes, Stickers, Papaya and I shared a room and had a great time. Fig Bar, Chris, and Sam came over and we played cards and drank beers and I had a bottle of wine. The night ended by 10:30 and we slept in BEDS!!!!
PCT Day Nine / 13.4 Miles / 114.9 Miles Total
We spent the morning organizing our resupplies and shaking down our packs. We made our way back to the restaurant much cleaner than the day before. I iced my knee as I’ve been doing on and off the entire time I’ve been here. My knee is finally starting to feel better. We ran a few last-minute errands and went to the community center to buy some gear and wait to start hiking. I got some K tape for my knee and dropped some more food. We ran into PHB again and Cool Breeze gave me some cupcakes for my birthday tomorrow. We also figured out our resupply plan for the next stretch. Soon, we will hike out a few miles to camp for the evening before heading to Mike’s Place tomorrow.
Bringing in a birthday on trail felt much more fitting than how I’ve brought in any of my other birthdays; it boded well for my 24th year. I woke up at 5:30 to Hostess Cupcakes and a “candle” (a lighter I had to blow out) packed out by my lovely little trail family, Ashes and Stickers. We promptly fell right back asleep and didn’t end up leaving camp until 9:30, but that was fine with us because we only had about ten miles before hitting the famed Mike’s Place.
The reputation that preceded this desert anomaly did not disappoint. If you’ve never been, it’s an experience worth having but be careful or you’ll never leave. We caught up with many trail friends while there, made new ones, and celebrated properly with pizza and beer. As the sun went down we made the decision to night hike for fear of getting stuck there forever. We made it about four miles before calling it quits and cramming seven people into what was probably a two-tent site.
The day began with pouring down rain in the desert (again) and remained that way almost all day. I packed up completely from inside my tent while discussing the best way to tackle the day. Everyone agreed that it sounded best to push all the way to Paradise Valley Cafe so we could reward ourselves with a hot meal after what would likely be a long and challenging day—we weren’t wrong. The sky spit at us continually, only letting up for a couple of minutes at a time and even hailing at some points.
Somehow, hiking in the rain doesn’t really bother me, especially with my Frog Toggs, but camping does because it’s impossible to get dry. With wet tents that hadn’t had a chance to dry all day we decided to get a room in Idyllwild split between four of us. We stayed at the amazing Idyllwild Bunkhouse owned by Flashy Raj and his wife, Anji (more on them later). We spent the night hanging out with other hikers and staying warm in our soft beds.
Ah, the magic that was my first zero in Idyllwild. We showered, we ate quesadillas, and I drank approximately six cups of hot coffee (shout-out to the Red Kettle for their generous refills). We resupplied at the grocery store and caught up with even more of the hikers we have gotten to know so far and discussed strategy. Many people were already deciding to stay a few extra days to wait out the storm that was hitting the next section of trail. Stickers and I saw the tattoo shop and figured what better time to get a trail tattoo than our first zero? Unfortunately, they were closed until Thursday and we didn’t plan to stick around that long.
We expressed our disappointment to Raj when he came to drive us back to the bunkhouse, and he informed us that his wife was actually a tattoo artist. Not only is Anji an incredible tattoo artist, but she is also the first female Indian tattoo artist (so badass). He said maybe she’d be willing to tattoo us and that was enough to get Ashes on board with the plan as well. When we got back to the bunkhouse she graciously agreed and our evening plans were set. We lounged around for the rest of the afternoon, filled up on $1.50 tacos from La Casita for dinner, and headed to our appointment. Anji has a studio in the works on the bunkhouse property and we all gathered to get inked. I went first followed by Stickers, then Ashes. As she was tattooing us, we had wonderful conversations with Anji and Raj about their lives and how they came to live in Idyllwild. I felt so blessed to be meeting such wonderful people and to have a permanent reminder of the experience in the form of a tattoo. That night we went back to our room and slept happily after a fantastic rest day.
PCT Day 13 / Zero Miles / 151.8 Total Miles
When we woke up in the morning there were more reports of bad weather in the upcoming section of trail. We spent most of the morning agonizing over the decision of whether or not we should stay another night in Idyllwild or try to brave the weather. We heard stories of people suffering from hypothermia and getting airlifted out and even ran into a couple we started with who turned back after attempting 15 miles. We decided to stay, despite how much it pained us to zero twice in a row. We were happy to have another night in the bunkhouse and the lovely town of Idyllwild.
Everyone we encountered in Idyllwild was incredibly kind and welcoming and clearly held their community close to their hearts. I picked up a harmonica (I’ll learn to play, I swear) and some post cards to send home. Stickers, Ashes, and I decided to watch Into the Wild over pizza and popcorn in our room. I began to feel like I was on vacation instead of a thru-hike.
We woke up later than planned, probably because of the warm and comfortable room we’d been calling home for the last two days, and began to pack up to leave. We were still hearing bad weather reports but were growing too restless to stay in town any longer. After saying goodbye to Raj, I headed to the post office to send some things home and send out some postcards.
We called a trail angel, Grumpy, who agreed to give us a lift back to Paradise Valley Cafe (some people have decided to skip this section of trail but we decided we are thru-hiking purists and would do no such thing). After checking out the hiker box and one last Diet Coke we caught a hitch back to the trailhead. By 1:30 we were back on the trail and it felt better than ever—until the hail. Around 2:30 it started hailing and it just didn’t stop. The desert transformed from a dusty brown oasis to a winter wonderland. As we got higher in elevation the hail turned to snow and we decided to call it a night. We pitched our tents in a tree-covered site in hopes to get some shelter from the storm. Despite the weather, we are still happy to be back on trail, even if it means zeroing in our tents tomorrow to avoid the rain.
PCT Day 15 / Zero Miles / 161.8 Miles Total
The snow melted but I did not move. The day promised more rain and no sun, and with our tents already being wet we opted for a tent zero rather than hike and get wetter. It was easily the least amount of steps I’ve taken on trail. I got up twice; once to go to the bathroom and once to hang out in Ashes’s tent and play games. We hoped the next day would be a much drier, more productive day.
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