Day 8: mile 131.5 to mile 151.8 (20.3 mile,32 km)
I had one thing on my mind today – get to Paradise Cafe no matter what. The Paradise sits on Hwy 94 just one mile off trail and is a beacon for hikers finishing the stretch from Warner Springs. Incredible burgers, fancy beers, water restock and a launching place to get into Idyllwild if need be.
But it’s 20 mile from last nights camp plus the extra 1 mile off trail. I was away by 4am again and liking the new early morning strategy.
The miles were coming easily in the cool morning air. Walking in the dark and so early meant passing many other camps. The trail sort of resembles a world war one trench as there are all this little spaces off to the side that could be dugouts where hikers have made home for the night, some in tents, others just on the ground like myself.
Walking past the odd head lamp was a good indication of someone getting up but more often than not the deep snores of an exhausted and sleeping hiker bellowed through the air.
By the time I was able to turn the headlamp off I was flying along. Soon my tummy said feed me. Without wanting to cook anything like oats there was only one dried option I had and the breakfast of champions – pop tarts in all their sugary goodness.
You could feel it was going to be another hot one today with the pockets of warm air out numbering the cooler ones, mainly sitting low in gullies. I love finding those cooler air pockets.
Most of day was a bit of a blur really. There was nothing spectacular scenery wise and it was a matter of getting the miles done. If I wanted to eat lunch at the Paradise then it would mean walking into the heat of the day so I had to get as many miles in early as possible.
A couple of stand out things for the day.
A fellow hiker was airlifted out. An older fellow, over weight and burdened by a heavy looking pack, I had passed him 60 mins earlier. Observing him to be under a bit of stress, perhaps having bitten off more than he could chew (hell I think this myself sometimes too) I asked if he was alright. He indicated ‘yes’ in a really gruff sort of way and I just passed this off as grumpy old man syndrome before moving on. Then latter, sitting down for a snack Miren comes passed as tells me this fellow had set off his emergency beacon to call for a chopper. She said he basically had a dummy spit when she passed him, claiming a sprained ankle. We couldn’t work it out, he was only a mile from a house. We reckon he probably just wanted a dramatic exit. Sure enough 5 minutes later a chopper goes screaming past, sets down and takes off again shortly after.
The second highlight for the day was reaching a water cache to find that all the water was empty – that is why you never rely on a water cache as your only means of water resupply. But only another mile or two was another oasis set up by a land holder whose property runs adjacent to the trail, with a water tank, toilet, table, shade cloth and mini library. Oh the kindness of strangers.
The third – just the heat and how slow my pace had become in the afternoon heat. I have never drunk so much water in my life than on this journey.
The fourth – the Paradise Cafe. Reaching the cafe just after lunch, many other hikers had gathered waiting out the heat. I had burger on my brain all morning and that is what I was getting. While it is too early to have developed true hiker hunger I still made quick work of lunch. One thing I like over here is in diners/cafes that I’ve been to so far you pay for a drink once and it’s bottomless refills, plus the quick attentive table service. I guess wait staff need to be if living off tips.
And the final highlight for the day – walking the final mile to the Paradise Cafe I had resolved to take a day off in Idyllwild tomorrow. My body says it needs a rest. But I didn’t have a place to stay arranged and no ride into town just yet. Burgers first, worries later. Then, as I was eating lunch with my friends a trail angel approaches and asks if anyone needs a ride into town. I jump at it.
It will mean I skip 17 mile of open trail. I’ll probably get judgement from other hikers for not having continuous footsteps but I really don’t care. I will make the miles up later on, on other side trails etc…, This is my hike and they are my miles. You see from the Cafe you can only hike another 17 miles before there is a trail closure, that then requires hikers to take an alternate side trail into town and reconnecting with the PCT from Idyllwild. Most will opt to maintain a continuous path and walk into Idyllwild. But my body screams rest and seems kinda silly to stay in town 2 nights, backtrack to pick up the missing miles and end up back in town again.
I just realised on reaching the 150 mile marker today, that is 241 km’s in 8 days. Yikes! No wonder my body says rest for a day.