Day 9: Best and worst

Mile 109.5–Warner Springs Community Center

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… generally at the same time. That’s how it goes out here!

So. Last night, it did, indeed, rain! A soaking rain alternating with drizzle, all night long. And my pitch was crappy–between cacti, slightly sloped. The soil out here is so drought-starved that it thinks it’s rock. I could hardly drive the stakes in, and at that, I have only half the stakes I need. (I hate that issue. I heard there’s an outfitter in Idyllwild.) The good news is that the inside of the tent stayed dry. The bad news is that I shipped my pack cover ahead to Warner Springs, so while I had a pack cover, it was sitting in the post office five miles away.

The pack got soaked. I had to pack up a heavy, soaked tent in the predawn rain, and it was COLD. The good news is that my raingear works perfectly.

Bad news: It became obvious as I started my five-mile hike that there’s something wrong with my left foot. “Stress fracture!” whispers the dark little demon. I mostly limped the five rainy miles to the Community Center. The scenery was pretty, though–green oaks, a little stream, as wet and lush as Wissahickon back home. This desert thing is odd. Are we in it, not in it? At elevation, naturally, it tends to be less baked.

On the way in, I passed the famous Eagle Rock–a giant boulder formation that looks exactly like an eagle. It was huge! There was one sad little tarp set up under it, and it was too rainy and foggy to take pictures.

So there I was, soaked, freezing, and starving when I limped into the CC–to find it not really as advertised. “Laundry,” it turns out, means a bucket. It’s too freezing cold to get my arms wet, and I lost my soap days ago. Likewise, “shower” means a bucket. The food listed in Yogi’s guide is nonexistent. But they’re kind and had coffee and apples, and plugs to charge my battery and phone. Bad news? The resupply is sparce and very expensive. Also, no sort of tape to wrap this foot, but they do have duct tape.

So I put up the soaking wet tent. Maybe it’ll dry a little. It’s a very Appalachian sort of day. I slackpacked a mile to the post office, still limping, and picked up my food box.

Next to the post office is a golf course. The Grill is open. They don’t usually take thru-hikers, but it’s raining, and they let a few in… then BOOM! the place was full of us. And the waitress was seriously not happy. I mean seriously. I felt bad for her. I hope everybody tipped her well! (Also, people were out golfing. And they say thru-hikers are crazy!?) 😀

So. It took until 4 in the afternoon to actually get off my sore foot. But it was good, because I had time to interview all and sundry about a big upcoming problem–two wildfire closures that have closed a couple of big chunks of trail.

The secon was obvious. The Powers that be don’t want anybody to walk around it. The roads are very dangerous. Hikers have been doing various forms of bus, Uber, hitching, trail angels, you name it. But that closure is north of mile 210.

The earlier one I hadn’t even thought about because somebody worked out an alternate. Looking at the alternate, it’s exceptionally confusing–a tenth of a mile to this side trail (probably unmarked), a tenth here, a tenth there… dozens of instructions. Out here, the trail is crisscrossed with gulleys and jeep roads. I realized that I have probably nil chance of finding my way through that alternate without getting lost, even with maps. It was really stressing me out.

It turns out that literally everybody is hitching around it, which involves skipping 11 miles of open trail. You could go up and come back, but there’s no water. So I decided to do what everybody recommends and go around that 11 miles. Like Yogi says, there are closures every year, and the trail that year is your trail. I think the penalty is that out of Idyllwyld you have to take this Devil’s Something or Other trail to get back to the PCT, and it’s supposed to suck.

So from here to Big Bear, part of this adventure is of necessity going to involve some trains, planes, and automobiles. I still haven’t had a shower or managed any laundry. That’ll have to be at Idyllwyld or Big Bear, or something. Gah. I’d still like a night in a bed. A clean bed. 🙂

I’m now in tent city behind the CC. There must be 30 tents here. It feels like a folk festival–or, as I like to call it, Norovirus Central. There’s even a guy playing guitar three feet from my head–or else he’s hiking with a cat. Supposedly there’s some sort of hiker feed across the street at 4:30. Chili dogs and a high school volleyball game. I might skip it. Today’s been rough, and this foot hasn’t gotten any rest.

I’m still right in the middle of things. I heard start dates today ranging from 4/15 to 4/23.