The morning after my dreaded heat rash, we woke at dawn to hustle down the mountain to hit Scissors Crossing before the heat was too much to bear. It would not be entirely inaccurate to say I was closer to a run than a walk as we knocked off 4 miles in an hour that morning. As we arrived at underpass, we were greeted by Bangarang, a thru-Hiker from 2016 who had driven all the way out from Vegas to make coffee and pancakes for weary hikers. What a guy!
We got a ride up to Julian – a town 13 miles off trail that is famous for its apple pie – easily, and before we knew it, we were eating breakfast and pie at Granny’s Kitchen. We spent an amazing nero (a day with nearly no miles hiked) and zero in Julian eating our fill, hiding from the sun, and hanging out with our new hiker buddies, Tim and Sharon.
We arranged to be picked up from our hotel at 3:30 AM on Monday morning to be brought back to the trail for an early start. We were hiking by 3:45 AM under the light of the Milky Way and countless stars in the moonless night. We had over 1000 ft to climb to get back up into the hills and we were keen to do it in the cool of the morning. We were treated to an incredible sunrise as we crested the mountain and began our ridge walk. We reached the Third Gate water cache (14.5 miles from our starting point) by 9 AM and filled up on water. This cache is a crucial water source on private land that is generously maintained to break up a long dry stretch of trail.
Given that the day was cool and it was only early, we decided to push on from the cache. The next water source was Barrel Spring, up and over another mountain. Our plan was to potentially make it there for a total of 24.5 miles – our biggest day yet. We had a beautiful hike in the cool, windy weather and came across the 100 mile mark on the trail! We only need to repeat that another 25.5 times and we’ll be in Canada!
When we arrived at Barrel Spring, we filled up on water and took a break to air out our feet (not a pretty sight or smell). It was still only early afternoon, and it occurred to us that if we hiked just another measly mile and a half, we would have walked a marathon distance for the day! The challenge was too tempting to dismiss so early in the day so we laced up our shoes and pressed on.
We walked on, and soon the trail brought us to some amazing grasslands. Before we knew it, we were approaching San Ysidro creek – a perfect place to camp after a whopping 28 mile day. The creek was flowing and we were able to sponge off the day’s dirt and grime before heading to bed for an early night.
The next day, we took a relatively late start (6 am!) to hike the final few miles to our resupply destination of Warner Springs. It was cloudy, windy, and cool – a perfect day for this Canadian! We passed through some more grasslands and the famous Eagle Rock before rolling into Warner Springs just before 9 am. With hashbrowns constantly on my mind, we made our way to the golf course restaurant to enjoy a warm meal before picking up our package at the post office. We spent a couple hours at the Warner Springs Recreation Center sorting out our resupply of food and planning our approach to the mountain fire closure (an area of trail that has been closed since a fire in 2013). We set out from Warner Springs around 1 PM to tackle the next big climb before nightfall. We found an awesome campsite nestled between boulders just as the sky began to darken.
We had another sunrise start the next morning after far too little sleep and the pressure of getting ourselves as close as possible to Mile 151, where the trail crosses a road that leads one mile to the famous Paradise Valley Cafe. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather had run out and we had to tolerate 30-plus degree temperatures (yes, Celsius, you crazy Farenheit weirdos) by 11 am. The cycle of sweating and drying in the hot dry air coated me and all my things in salt, and my heat rash reared its ugly head again. I discovered that even SPF 50 zinc sunscreen is no match for the desert sun when it comes to my skin. In an effort to let Everett keep his shirt, I took his leg compression sleeves instead to protect my lower legs and coated the rest of my exposed skin in my impotent sunscreen. We made the push to put in another few miles before camping so that it would only be a short 8 miles to the cafe the next day. By the time we found a camp spot we were exhausted, and the aforementioned salt crust had turned my shorts into a thigh-chafing crisp. We have all the type-2 fun!
The next morning we keenly set off for the cafe, and the miles flew by! Last year, these were the last miles were able to hike due to my injured foot. We marveled at how much more enjoyable these miles were with all my bones aligned properly, and with Everett only needing to carry one pack (last year he carried mine on top of his for about 4 miles). We arrived at the cafe too early for burgers, but I was happy to eat hashbrowns, hashbrowns, and more hashbrowns! From there, began our alternate route to circumvent the Mountain Fire Closure while still maintaining our uninterrupted footpath from Mexico to Canada.
The alternate route was better than expected, especially because it was enjoyed in the presence of hiker friends, Kaylee, Alex, and Martin. Even better, though, was arriving in Idyllwild (the town where we ended our trip last year). It felt amazing to walk into town on my own two feet, feeling tired but healthy. We are so grateful for our good health this year, and are looking forward to continuing our adventure into new territory tomorrow!