Day 7: 8 miles – “Town” is so relaxing. I can see why hikers find it hard to leave towns, especially ones like Julian.
I’ve gathered my supply of food for the next three days and sit with a group of guys behind Carmen’s resteraunt. More than one of them comment on how much food I’m bringing. Their food bags are meager. Compared to Mountain, who has a lot of energy bars and not much else, I have a ton of food. I know I’ll eat it all, but it is heavy. I pack light food with over 100 calories per oz, but am definitely eating more than some people.
The next objective is a big mountain to climb in nearly full sun. I suggest the idea of night hiking and it seems to catch on. By the afternoon, many people have the same plan. A group of us hitch a ride back to the overpass/trail around 3, just as the day is starting to cool off. We set a mile and time to meet at. Mousetrap, Twerk, Tarantino and Speedy Jesus leave, and Nirvana and I start up as the sun is setting, with Allen and Eric the Red coming up behind. We meet up and night hike from there a bit. We find a place to sleep and share stories and woes over whiskey.
Day 8: 17 miles – The goal is to get to the water and fill up before passing the 100 mile marker and camping around mile 101. I find that when I night hike I drink much less water, and upon reaching the water cache still have 3.5 liters out of the 4.5 liters brought from Julian. I decide not to fill up. Water weighs 2.2 lbs per liter. There’s a big lineup at the fork for the water cache. I hang out for a while and then go take a nap under a tree with Justin, Eric the Red, Scissors, and Allen. My usual group departs without me while I nap.
I start hiking again around 2:30 and the sun is still very much overhead. It’s likely in the high 80s with little wind. On the way up I pass Speedy Jesus and slowly we overcome the rest of the group. The 100 mile mark is near and we push on, though our mileage for the day is nearing 17.
Past mile 100 is a large campsite with water fed from a spring, host to many mosquitoes. They don’t bother me because I treated my clothes with Permethrin prior to the hike.
We set up camp and make dinner. I boil some water and add some Pasta Roni noodles, before pouring it all back into a freezer ziploc with the cheese mix. I’m eating by headlamp and a moth is flying at me because of the light. I don’t notice that the moth has perished in my food until a moment later and promptly zip up the rest of the pasta and refuse to look at it. In bed, my whole body starts to itch. I worry it’s poison oak and take an allergy tablet before trying to ignore the itch and go to sleep.
The Day 9: 8 miles – The itch is gone and there are no other symptoms of poison oak. I figure laundry and a shower will help. We head out from camp and the terrain turns to hilly fields of grass interspersed with very buggy patches of trees next to the creek. It doesn’t feel like Southern California. At mile 107 we trek up to Eagle Rock.
From there, Warner Springs is quite close, upon approaching, a huge fence is visible. It’s covered in clothes hung to dry. A big sign reads “WELCOME PCT HIKERS”. Since it’s Sunday I’ll need to stay here until morning when the Post Office opens and I can get my box of food. The Warner Springs Resource Center offers bucket showers, bucket laundry, and loaner clothes. It runs on donations, which hopefully everyone contributes to if using their services. I’ve heard of many places like this closing after being taken advantage of.
The first thing I do is fill a bucket and take it into a stall. There’s a scoop in there and soap, shampoo and conditioner. It’s the best shower I’ve ever taken. I do laundry and hang my clothes to dry.
In the loaner clothes, I find a pair of white high-waisted jeans and a red shirt. This outfit gains praise from many, and Twerk, who is a professional photographer, does a photoshoot with me, and one with me and Nirvana (who is wearing loaner clothes in similar colors). We look like siblings in a band. Twerk tries to convince me that my trail name should be Ralph Lauren, or Ralphie for short. I’m considering it.
I set up my tent in the field. There must be 30 tents here. I get in my tent after dark and find a huge black beetle – a type of stink bug common around here, and about the length of my pinky finger- and carefully let it out of my tent. As I lay down to sleep, my whole body starts to itch again. Maybe it’s my wool sleep clothes? I change and don’t feel much of a difference.