Nance Canyon(140.1) to Stealth campsite(155.9) 15.8 Miles
Today was all about personal challenges. I woke up a little later than usual and rushed to get started before the sun came up. In my rush I forgot to get out my breakfast and snacks for the day. I keep my food bag near the bottom of my pack so I usually keep what I'll eat during the day in my hip belt pocket. About 20 minutes into the morning I realized my mistake, but I didn't want to stop and dig through my pack. It didn't cool of very much last night and was already getting hot. I also looked at my mileage wrong and thought I would be getting to a major road crossing that lead to a restaurant in 8 miles. I figured I could go without eating until then. I also failed to look at the elevation profile. Honestly the climbs on the pct have been kind of a joke so I stopped checking. I tend to only focus on water sources and tent sites. Today had a few steep climbs reminiscent of the AT. Not very much fun to do on an empty stomach. My 8 miles to town good was closer to 12 miles, doh!!!
Even though it was hotter than normal for that time of morning and my rapidly declining energy, I took the time to stop and enjoy the scenery.
I kept wondering what kind of farms I kept seeing. They seemed to be everywhere this morning. A few miles later I discovered that they are pot farms. These farmers supply the medical marijuana dispensaries in California.
The water cache mentioned above was a treat. The water was slightly cold still. I have been pretty lucky since the first day and haven't had to carry more than 3L at a time thanks to these incredibly generous folks.
Well stoked and organized water cache
The cache a few miles later was also amazing. There were picnic benches, ice cold water, trash cans, and a book library. The trail angel, Mary, even had a surfboard for the class of 2016 to sign.
I made it through the rest of the morning with a rumble in my tummy, but very high spirits. I was rapidly closing in on Paradise Valley Cafe. They supposedly have the best burgers on the trail. When I made it down to the highway there was a note with a phone number to the cafe explaining that they would come pick you up if they had time. We were lucky and the owner came to pick us up, saving us a 1 mile road walk down a busy highway. The entire staff was extremely hiker friendly. This was one of the best restaurant experiences I've ever had. The food was out of this world, the portions were enormous, and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
After lunch I hung around outside with a bunch of hikers I've been around for the last few days. I finally met some great people and we had a fun day lounging in the shade. Paradise Valley Cafe is a notable stop for hikers. We face a major moral decisions here. The next 28 miles of trail are closed due to a fire that happened several years ago. There is an official alternate you can hike, but it involves close to 17 miles of road walking. About 70% of hikers choose to skip this section and hitch into the town of Idyllwild. By now everyone should know that I'm a purist. I plan on taking continuous steps from Mexico to Canada. Although it was tempting to skip this section(I'm not a fan of walking on a road), I stayed true to myself and decided to take the alternate. Out of close to 20 hikers at the cafe, only 6 of us are hiking and not hitching into town. I'm planning on taking a zero day in Idyllwild and know that I'll enjoy it even more with a clean conscience. I'm in with a great group right now. We all hike about the same pace and had a great day together. We waited until it cooled down and hit the trail at 5 pm. We only had to hike 4.1 miles to get to camp and it was a great hike. The scenery was like nothing we have seen before on this trail. There were lots of cool rock formations and lots of trees. We are camped in an area that looks like something straight out of the AT.
Tomorrow will be another short day, we only have to hike 15 miles. It's amazing how quickly I have adjusted to 18-20 miles being the norm and 15 is considered an easy day.
And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it's a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.
- Pico Iyer