The Trail Gives And The Trail Takes Away
Week 1: Campo to Warner Springs
The first week is at an end, I hit 110 miles last night and crashed at Warner Springs, exhausted and depleted from what has proved to be a challenging week. In some ways I feel I’ve weathered the week well – my feet aren’t a mess, I feel okay and my body hasn’t failed me yet. I’ve walked through incredible desert ranges (and some monotonous scenery), met many amazing trail angels and been given free beer more times than I can count.
The first few days were relatively easy going due to the various campgrounds with showers, consistent water and resupply options. I’ve been hiking with a group for the most of the week, mostly hiking alone at our own paces but camping together most nights. Julian is the first proper town on trail at mile 77. It’s an easy hitch off trail but I fully recommend spending some time there. I shared a hotel room with three others, had my first hot shower on trail and ate too much. Mom’s pies offers free pie and coffee to hikers and trail angel Carmen (a real life goddess) allows hikers to sleep on her floor and gives free mimosas, beers and hugs.
Then the bad stuff – from the moment I got on the plane at Heathrow I experienced one gear disaster after another. My stove and titanium tent stakes were stolen from my hold bag on my flight. I was able to replace them in San Diego and departed for the monument from Scout and Frodo’s last week feeling confident. Then after a few tough days on trail my brand new tent started deteriorating, proving harder and harder to pitch, every night I required other hikers to help get it up. I affectionately termed this process ‘wrestling the nylon beast’. Sometimes it would take almost 45 minutes to get up. The tent is a European brand called Nordisk, it’s very light and stable when I actually get it up. One night an eyelet fell out into my hand, the next night I noticed tiny rips in the rain fly where it had been stretched too taut. In Julian I contacted the tent manufacturer but it could take weeks to sort out the refund or replacement from the UK, so I splurged on a Fly Creek 2 in Warner Springs, spending a huge chunk of my remaining budget. Hopefully I can get a refund or I’ll be living on ramen alone for 5 months.
On the hardest day I left Julian at 11 and spent an hour sitting an underpass waiting for a call from my bank because my card wasn’t working. I’d also been waking up for days with a huge swollen lip – an allergic reaction to something I figured. I hiked out into the midday sun, getting hotter by the minute. The climb out of scissors crossing is steep and brutal. I put up my umbrella for a little shade from the sun and it promptly broke in the howling wind.
My spirits were low. I hiked with three guys for a while, we joked that the crows circling overhead were waiting for one us to drop dead of heat so they could pick our bones. It’s hard to believe we’ll be hiking in snow in less than a week. There were three water caches in this section, generously maintained by trail angels, which made it so much easier.
The next night and 33 miles later I arrived here at Warner Springs, picked up my new tent, fixed up my umbrella with a safety pin, and all was well again. I took my time getting up this morning and walked a mile to the grill for breakfast and to collect my post. We even hitched a ride back to the community centre in style in the back of a golf caddy. Next stop, Idyllwild.
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