Morena to Idyllwild; Thoughts on Trail Towns

I think we all have different requirements for towns. Some of us are only there to resupply quickly and get back on trail. Others are there for two meals and to hang out with fellow hikers. I’ve had an interesting experience since I was injured. I hurt myself around mile 45 (injury blog coming), and limped to almost every town in the first 200 miles in excruciating pain. Because of this, we spent a couple of days in each town before heading back out. I think I got a decent gist of the towns, especially Idyllwild. Of course others have reviewed towns, but when I was researching the hike, I wanted weird information that I couldn’t find. So here it is. The perfect resource for a 2019 hiker who is overplanning. Welcome.

Local school chili supper in Warner Springs.

Mile 20: Lake Morena

Most people hit Morena on day two, either early in the morning or around lunchtime. It’s a hot climb, and in dry seasons, a very dry climb. There is a small variety store .3 miles from where the trail hits the campground. It’s an OK store with many hiker-friendly foods. I also noticed that many of the options were single servings, which is amazing for hikers. I didn’t need to resupply here, but I did get some french fries and a friend bought me a Sprite because I shared some water during the climb. The campground has showers, but there was a cool and exposed campsite about two miles later that had an epic sunset.

Mile 43: Mt. Laguna

I don’t want to hate on this town. But, ugh, they just don’t like hikers. And I get it. There are so many of us and we smell, but c’mon, when it’s snowing and nobody has winter gear let us stay at the hotels. I arrived at Mt. Laguna around lunchtime and expected only to nero, but a storm rolled in, forcing many people to zero. The restaurant is along the road outside of the campground and it has weird hours, like 4-7 Thursdays and 9-11 Fridays (not the exact hours, but comparable). The store and post office are another little bit up the road; both are pretty standard with the store being a little overpriced.

Mile 77: Julian

Do not skip this town. People will try to convince you to push on, but it’s worth the hitch. We got a hitch from Scissors from the first car that drove by. Julian is a tourist trap, and even a hiker trap. Many of the restaurants offer free food deals to hikers. If you do it right, you can get free pie, soda, ice cream, candy, and cider. Carmen’s used to be the go-to for thru hikers, but she closed her doors a couple weeks ago. She offered lodging and laundry, and for us lucky ones staying there close to her closing, some free food. I loved how historical Julian felt, even in its most touristy ways.

Mile 110: Warner Springs

Warner Springs, the place where everyone replaces their shoes. 2 Foot Adventures is the gear shop here that saves many a hiker. Warner Springs is interesting because you basically camp in a field on school property. The resource center provides bucket showers and bucket laundry. They also have a small store with great hiker foods, and Gatorade. The post office, gas station, hotel, and restaurant are about a mile away and during the day, local trail angels offer rides. If you are going to resupply here, I recommend resupplying at the resource center store and then maybe hitting the gas station. I bought all the essentials, but definitely needed to buy Fritos and Pringles.

Mile 179: Idyllwild

Idyllwild has been my home for two weeks while I recover, and I feel I understand the town as well as any hiker could. I stayed at the campground my first week and was asked to leave when I went over the five-day maximum stay, which is understandable. They were willing to let me stay two extra days because I was injured, but Danielle was waiting with me, and so we left. We then jumped hotels and inns until we left. Not super cost-efficient, but it’s what had to happen. Everything is so close in Idyllwild and a quick walk from the campgrounds or hotels. This is a town that you are going to want to spend money in, so if you’re on a strict budget, save it for Idyllwild.

Bonus Town: Hemet

Why the heck are we in Hemet? Because it’s cheaper to recover here than in Idyllwild. Hemet reminds me of South Florida and reminds Danielle of Texas. So I guess you could say this is just like every southern city. We got to resupply at a Target here, which was magical. Along with Target, there are quick cares, fast food, and almost anything you could need. Some people have told us Hemet is the armpit of California, but it feels like any other town to us.

I made a little graph here because I am injured, and bored, and at the first computer I have used in a month.

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