Day 5 & 6 – A super bloom and famous apple pie!
Friday 3 May 2019
Location: Sunrise Trailhead (Mile 59.7) to Scissors Crossing (Mile 77) + hitch into Julian
Distance travelled: 17.3 miles / 28km
It was cold again last night, towards the early hours of the morning I woke up because of the cold. At 6am I finally decided I should bite the bullet and just get up and get moving.
I was up and on the trail by 7.30am. I think yesterday’s pleasant weather lulled me into a false sense of security about the sun, so I wasn’t in any rush heading off. After 3 miles the sun was blaring and would continue to do so for the rest of the day. There was a 17 mile dry stretch ahead of us today so my bag was heavy with water. It was the toughest day on trail for me yet.
I was walking for a few miles with Ruben who has unfortunately had some trouble with his foot. The views from yesterday continued this morning until we hit a steep decline taking us down into the valley floor.
When we made it down to the valley floor we walked past a group of hikers who I had met at Scout & Frodo’s, lovely people who had started on the trail the day before us. They are all great people so it was lovely to see them again.
Unfortunately, after such a steep decline we had an incline ahead of us. At the top of the hill I let Ruben and Luke go ahead while I took a toilet break. When I re-joined the trail, I caught up with the group we had passed on the valley floor. I hiked with them for a while and caught up on what each other had been doing.
Although the day was hot it was a beautiful stretch of desert where the wildflowers were in full bloom. I feel lucky to have caught the desert in the midst of a super bloom. Even the cactus are flowering in vivid pinks and yellow. It is a stunning display.
I saw my second snake of the trail today, it recognised me before I saw it and made a quick dash across the trail into the safety of the bushes. Unfortunately it wasn’t a rattlesnake. I’m not too sure what type of snake it was but it was quite small with yellow and white colouring. After seeing many interesting lizards, I’m looking forward to seeing a rattlesnake. I have plenty of miles to cover in the desert so I’m sure I will see one eventually.
After about 10 miles into the day, I caught back up to Ruben and Luke who were having a break with a small group of hikers under the shade of a tree. As I approached them I could hear their voices in the bushes before I could see them. I joined the group for lunch, taking a break from the midday heat.
Nearby, a group of local trail angels had stocked a water cache from their private well. It amazes me that so many people support us hikers out of the goodness of their heart, expecting nothing in return. Having carried enough water for the day I didn’t need to top up but it was nice to know there would have been a back up in an emergency.
After having a siesta it was hard to get myself moving again. By the time I was up and going the sun had increased in strength. The afternoon’s walking was tough. Everyone was struggling in the heat, taking breaks to recover. There was a group of us who kept leap frogging each other every few miles, resting in small patches of shade at the side of the trail whenever we could.
With only a few miles to go to Scissors Crossing, I was struggling in the heat and opted to take a long break. I thought my little trail family (the guys I had been hiking with) would be long gone but after I started hiking again, I ran into them a mile or so down the trail, also having a break in the shade.
After one final break in the shade I made a final push to Scissors Crossing. There was a fairly steep descent to the valley floor before a mile or so flat stretch to the road.
We had made plans to meet each other at a local RV park but it was unfortunately full. When I reached the road end Ruben was half a mile up the trail in the direction of Julian (a near by town) calling me to catch up. It turned out they had flagged down a car for a hitch and the driver advised them that the RV park was full due to a Christian church event. We made plans to head into Julian instead. Ruben and Luke got a ride with the friendly local while I waited for Jeffrey who wasn’t far behind.
I was standing roadside for less than a minute when a car pulled up. They were traveling the opposite direction but when they saw me, stopped and asked if I was going to Julian. I was so surprised that I was a tad stand offish at first and said yes but I was waiting for my friend. “No problem” she said.
It turned out this lady and her daughter are local trail angels who like helping out hikers. She opened the back of the truck, produced two cold bottles of water and helped me load my pack in the car. In the meantime, Jeffrey had caught up and met me with an expression of pure joy seeing the car waiting for him.
It was a 12 mile windy drive to Julian with spectacular views to some the mountain ranges we had been walking through over the last week. We chatted to the angels who had picked us up and they briefed us on the town. Julian is a small tourist town whose main street is 600 feet in length. It has a couple of cafes, supermarket and not one, not two but three pie shops. One of which offers a free slice of pie to PCT hikers! I was amazed beyond belief, free pie for all of the dirty, sweaty hikers who walk into town.
The town have fully embraced the trail and us hikers. It was lovely to feel so welcomed. While there are two hotels in town they are both a little pricey so the local store allows hikers to cowboy camp (sleeping under the stars without your tent) on their porch for free. Opting to save money we went for this option.
Leaving our bags at the store, we headed down to the local brewery to enjoy a few slices of pizza for dinner.
Not entirely satisfied, I enjoyed an icecream sandwich for dessert. It was delish, the Americans sure know how to do their sweets.
The only downside of sleeping out at the store was the lack of laundry and shower facilities. I am feeling filthy from the desert dust at this point and would love to wash my clothes and take a shower but had to settle for a quick wash in the sink of the public toilets.
It was lovely to be able to video call Adam for the first time tonight, to see his face and fill him on the trail and hear about his week. It was a short call before everyone started setting up their beds on the porch, not wanting to wake everyone else by setting up in the dark, I joined the crew on the porch. It was my first time cowboy camping, but as Ruben said it was more hobo camping than cowboy camping. I decided I would dub it cowgirl camping from now on.
We had a couple of local visitors during the evening as we were settling down. The locals having a joke, welcomed us and offered well wishes. It was beautiful to feel so accepted.
After a week in the US, all of my preconceived ideas of what the US and Americans are like have been shattered. The people I have met over the last 5 days have been polite, generous and unbelievably friendly. What could have been a scary and challenging start to this epic journey has been a joyful experience, made so by all of the great people I have met along the way.
Saturday 4 May 2019
Location: Julian to Scissors Crossing (Mile 77)
Distance travelled: 0 miles / 0 km
Waking up this morning in the main street of a country town was a bizarre feeling but having the company of my fellow hobos in our little hobo village made it feel a little more normal. There was a lot of condensation over night so all of our sleeping bags and gear was dripping wet. As the sun began to rise above the buildings across the street we laid our sleeping bags on the fence in the sun. We looked like a proper bunch of homeless people. The funniest part is, we all look like hobos but are carrying thousands of dollars worth of gear on our backs in clothing, tents, sleeping bags and mats. You wouldn’t know it to look at any of us.
I started the morning with a coffee, the first time I have used my new coffee filter on trail. I bought it after seeing a couple in New Zealand with one. They work brilliantly when you are able to clean them afterwards but the lack of water in the desert makes that tricky, so I am going to send it forward in my bounce box from Warner Springs. It was nice to be able to share and make others in the group coffee through, even if it was a once off.
At around 8am the cafes started to open, so we packed our gear and headed down the street to a local cafe where they served very American, very large breakfasts. I have fallen in love with the American way of serving coffee where the assumption is you will have it and it is constantly refilled.
I was feeling a little shaky post breaky due to all the caffeine, but was so stuffed from the huge omelette I ate that I felt it was safe enough to venture to the supermarket and do my resupply. Resupplying on an empty stomach is just plain dangerous.
With my food bag full, I situated myself outside the market where they have installed power outlets so hikers can charge their electronics. What this town has done to welcome hikers is unbelievable. Given it was a Saturday, there were plenty of local people coming by, many recognised that we were PCT hikers and stopped to chat and wish us well. One guy even asked if we needed anything, offering food and money! The kindness of the American people has been overwhelming.
One lady had tied up her dog to go into the store and get a drink from the market, he was the sweetest little terrier she called Texas Willie. He was originally her mother’s dog who had recently passed away. After flying him over from Texas, he now lives with her and was one of the friendliest little guys I have met, jumping straight up into my lap for a cuddle. Willie’s owner said that like everyone in Texas he thinks he is bigger than he is and likes to tries to attack the coyotes that come through their property.
After our huge breakfasts had settled, we decided it was time for pie and headed over to Mom’s pie shop. Mom’s is famous among PCT hikers, upon showing them your permit they very generously give hikers a free piece of pie with icecream or cream and a drink!
I spoke to the manager, she and her husband manage the place, her mother in law started the store in the 80s and loves the trail. She has been giving pie to hikers since then and her son and daughter in law have been honoring the tradition since they took over the management. The pie was absolutely delicious, baked fresh that morning. I went for an apple and blackberry with ice cream and a lemonade. It is incredible generous of Mom’s to do what they do. I was very thankful.
They let us hang out in the store all afternoon where we were able to charge our devices and use the wifi. I was able to give Adam a quick call before I had to head off again. Everyone in our group had left the store and my bag was sitting alone outside the front of the shop. It was a busy street and I didn’t want to risk loosing anything.
I headed down to the public restrooms, filled up on water and got ready to hitch back out of town with the rest of the group. We had one more slice of pizza before heading to the main road out of town to try for a ride.
As instructed, we waited outside the post office to try for a hitch. Unfortunately there were a few hikers with the same idea so we had to wait for two groups before us to get a ride before we finally got picked up. Graham and I got a ride first, then Ruben and Jeffery got a ride together with another few people coming in a little later.
The man who picked us up lived in a local community and was heading back home. He was a super chilled dude and it was super kind of him to pick up us filthy stinky hikers from the side of the road.
It was nearly 7pm by the time we got back to Scissors Crossing. I had packed out a good deal of water so not to need to use the water from the water cache Sunrise Valley locals are maintaining for the hikers. Every day someone comes down to Scissors Crossing to take away empty bottles, refill and replace them with new ones. Graham and I had arrived at the bridge only minutes before one of the cache maintainers came by. He was a super nice guy, we thanked him profusely, helped him pack away the empty containers in his car and carry the full ones down to the cache. It is an incredible job his team of people undertake.
The man that normally oversees the maintenance of the cache is hiking the trail this year but the people he has entrusted with looking after it for him are doing an incredible job.
After helping out with the water we set up our tents under the bridge, it looked like a proper hobo village by the time the final group of hikers arrived! Being on sand with a breeze coming through I opted to leave the fly off the tent. I’m hoping the shelter of the bridge saves me from to much condensation overnight!