Day 7 & 8 – Cactus gardens and a community centre

Sunday 5 May 2019
Day: 7
Location: Scissors Crossing (Mile 77) to Campsite at Mile 95.2
Distance travelled: 18.2 miles / 29 km

It was a restless nights sleep in our little hobo village under the bridge. The number of people sleeping there had grown overnight, a car dropping more hikers off pulled up after I had drifted off to sleep. The headlights woke me up and at first panicked me until I realised what was going on. On top of the car, someone camping close to my tent hadn’t set their tent up properly for the sandy ground and their fly was flapping all night. It kept waking me up, one flapping tent sounds like just any other flapping tent and I kept thinking it was my tent flapping in the wind.

On the up side it was the first warm night I’d had in a long time, it was good to be cozy and warm. It must have been the shelter of the bridge trapping the heat of the day.

I was determined to beat the heat today and set my alarm at 5am, hoping to be up and walking by first light. It was so dark when my alarm went off that I didn’t start packing down until 5.30am. By the time I was ready to leave at 6.30am the sun was well and truly up.

Before setting off for the day I said farewell to Ruben. Due to his sore foot he would be held up until Monday when he was going to get an appointment with the physio in town. It was sad to say goodbye. I have enjoyed his company over the past week, his energetic and positive nature made him so much fun to be around. Our little trail family won’t be the same without him.

Straight after leaving the bridge the trail began to climb, taking me back into the desert mountains. The plant life had changed again from the last few days, it felt like I was walking through a botanical garden display of cactus. The most incredible array of cactus lined the trail, tall long ones, short round ones, some with lots of branches and all in various stages of flowering. I felt like I was walking through the set of a country and western film.

The climb was made more manageable by the switchbacks. Although I climbed quite high, the gradient was gentle and consistent. Once at height, I had incredible views back over the mountain ranges we had been walking in only days before. It was nice to look back and see how far I had come.

There was a long dry stretch of 14 miles ahead of me on the trail today. I was aiming to make it to the 3rd gate water cache. This would be the second cache I’d seen on the trail. It is managed by a group of generous, caring locals who truck in pallets of water for the hikers to help us get across the long dry stretch of trail. From the 3rd gate water cache there was another 10 mile dry stretch. The plan was to camp somewhere after the 3rd gate cache so I didn’t have too far to go until I had to fill up the following morning but far enough so I could make it into Warner Springs early the following day to pick up my resupply package and bounce box.

I had a couple of breaks throughout the morning, making sure I took time to rest and stretch. It was also lovely to take in the views of the beautiful landscape I was surrounded by.

Bizarrely at one point during the morning, two military fighter jets went blasting overhead. I was completely shocked. It isn’t what you expect to see when you are hiking through a desert in the middle of nowhere. It reminded me of the book, tomorrow when the war began. I was hoping Trump hadn’t kicked off a war overnight when I was camping under the bridge.

Throughout the morning I spotted numerous lizards darting across the trail infront of me as I walked. They come in all sorts of incredible shapes and sizes. For the past week I have been trying to get a photo of one but they are very skittish and always seem to dart under a bush before I get the chance to get my phone out. Finally today I managed to snap a photos of one of the thorny lizards. They are too cute for words.

The morning flew by and before I knew it I had made it to the turn off to third gate cache. I filled out the log book before hiking down to the cache to sit, relax in the shade, have lunch and fill up on water. Just as I was leaving the cache I saw Jeffery on his way in. We had a quick chat, he wasn’t sure if he would stay the night at the cache or continue on for a few more miles. His feet were giving him grief.

I set out on the trail with the intention of doing 5 more miles. At 4.30pm-ish I found a nice campsite with good protection from the wind. It was one mile short of where I had in mind but given evening was on its way and I knew there were a large number of hikers up the trail in front of me, also looking for campsites, I decided to take it.

I had set up camp, checked the weather and was contemplating dinner when a friendly face rounded the corner. Jeffrey had made it! We managed to fit both our tents onto the site, chatted about the day and had dinner. I was happy to hear that his feet were managing better than he had anticipated.

I’m looking forward to arriving into Warner Springs tomorrow where I have a bucket bath and a clothes wash with my name on it.
Monday 6 May 2019
Day: 8
Location: Campsite at Mile 95.2 to Warner Springs (Mile 109.5)
Distance travelled: 14.3 miles / 23km

As I went to bed last night a big front of grey cloud was starting to build on the mountains off in the distance. It looked as if we were in for some rain. I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up this morning to a relatively dry tent.

I wanted to get into Warner Springs early-ish to have enough time for a shower, laundry and a trip to the post office to pick up my packages before it shut. I was packed up and walking by 6.30am.

The angry looking clouds from last night were still hanging about and the wind had whipped up. It was a freezing cold morning. I am normally concerned about escaping the heat but this morning I was just trying to stay warm.

After 5 miles of hiking I hit the 100 mile mark, a milestone on the PCT. I’m still getting used thinking in miles rather than kilometres but I’m working on it – 100 miles is 160km. I was proud of my effort in my first week on trail. I was thankful for the little sign in the dirt someone had made out of stones. Without it I would have walked straight past without realising.

It was a morning of firsts, after another 1.5 miles I arrived at Barrel Spring, my next water source before town. I made my way directly to the water but noticed off in the distance a big gazebo set up. I thought it was a big group of car campers but when I looked closer I realised it was trail magic!

A beautiful San Diego couple whose son had hiked the trail a couple of years back had set up the most incredible feast with boiled eggs, bread & butter, fruit, cinnamon buns, chips, drinks, beer, everything a hiker could want. I had already eaten a snack that morning so I didn’t think I was too hungry but once I sat down I didn’t want to stop eating. I had cinnamon bun, boiled egg, an orange and a bread roll with butter for the road. It was tempting to stay there all morning just eating but Warner Springs was on my mind so dragged myself out of the chair, got myself a little more water and headed back out on trail.

The trail was pleasantly flat for most of the hike into Warner Springs. I walked through spectacular fields a long purple grass, it looked very American, the big desert plains stretching out as far as the eye could see.

On the way into Warner Springs, only a few miles from town is Eagle Rock, the photos explain the name. As another hiker suggested, the only thing missing was an American flag to make it truly American.

On my way into Warner Springs I encountered my third snake of the trail. Unfortunately still not a rattlesnake but this little guy was chilling out on the path catching some sun doing some weird wriggle moves when I went by.

The nearer I got to Warner Springs the more lush the vegetation became and soon I was walking under a canopy of trees. Under the trees I saw my very first American squirrel, it was super cute! Soon after I spotted my second…

I was incredibly happy to arrive into Warner Springs. The local community have opened their resource center to hikers passing through. It is incredibly generous. For a $15 donation you can camp, wash your clothes and have a bucket shower. On any other occasion I probably would have scoffed at trying to have a bath from a bucket but when you are so filthy it feels like a 5 star resort bathroom. Washing my hair required a fair amount of flexibility and ingenuity but I managed. One of the lovely volunteers also managed to rustle up some conditioner for me. It felt so good to be so clean!

Washing my clothes took some serious time. After about 5 rinses the water started running clean and I could finally add it the soap. It was amazing how much dirt kept coming out of them. They are still looking pretty stained but at least they smell fresh now.

I borrowed some clean clothes from the centre’s loaner clothes room so I had some clean dry clothes to kick around in while my hiking clothes were drying. There were some interesting outfits to choose from. I found a pair of jeans and a jumper but there were some bold and elegant choices out there.

All cleaned up, next up was the post office. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a lift up there so I reluctantly I walked the 1.5 miles to get my packages. The saving grace was walking past a ranch whose paddocks were filled with very friendly horses. I think they were after food more than they were after my affection but I got a pat in nonetheless.

The man working at the post office was incredibly helpful and friendly. As soon as I said my name he knew I had 2 boxes waiting. He had an incredible memory. I had decided to change a few things in my pack, doing away with my Ursac, coffee filter and mug for now, picking up my normal food bag and swapping out a warmer pair of bed socks as I had been sleeping very cold. I also put my visor in the bounce box, having bought a more protective hat with a neck flap to save me from the desert sun and heat. My visor had served me so well in NZ I wasn’t ready to do away with it. I will likely swap it back out once I’ve made it through the desert.

There is a mobile outfitter at Warner Springs. They have a surprisingly well stocked airstream which travels to different points on the trail during peak hiker season. I bought my stylish and protective new hat from them. They had convinced me, prior to my trip to the post office that I shouldn’t carry my fleece as well as my jacket. I stupidly listened to them. I shouldn’t have because at about 7pm that night when the wind picked up the the temperature dropped I regretted my decision.

After dinner I managed to chat to Adam. It was good not to be rushed chatting to him like I was in Julian. Only 7 more weeks and we will be back together, hiking together again. Although I’ve met some great people out on the trail to keep me company I always feel his absence.

3 Comments on “Day 7 & 8 – Cactus gardens and a community centre

  1. Hi Leigh, More great pics! You did well to catch the lizard and the snake on the same day! There are some very generous people in the world aren’t there! You are very resilient to be walking the first part of this mega journey on your own. Stay safe! Cheers Carole xxxx

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Heah Leigh I’m really enjoying your blog and following your adventure. I appreciate the effort you’re putting in with all the photos and diary. You’ve got a long way to go but I’m sure you’ll do it in style. Good luck. We’re barracking for you here in Wanganui👍

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    • Thank you very much Craig! It’s so nice to hear from you. I hope you are well.

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