April 28, 2022
Tule Spring to campsite at mile 155.9
My alarm rings at 4:00. I snooze it, wake up again, and turn it off. Next thing I know, Andy is waking me up. “Passport? Do you realize it’s 4:30?” I was in the middle of a very uninteresting dream, something about trying to find an FC Cincinnati sticker, and I am so confused when I wake up. I could cry with relief after that night of sleep. It’s the only one on the whole trail when I actually slept through most of the night. It’s still early, and there’s on spot on my right foot that hurts, but otherwise, I feel amazing.
Petra and Andy leave before me. It’s still dark when I start walking, and I move quickly with the little circle of light from my headlamp guiding my way. It doesn’t take long to warm up as I start on an uphill ridge. I catch Petra, and soon the sun begins to rise. We hike together for a bit. She’s hurting after yesterday. “Everything below my ankles is bad,” she says. We take it easy until we meet up with Andy at a campsite where Beetle, Rob, and Daddy Long Toes (DLT) are just packing up. At last! They’ve been just ahead of us ever since that wind storm, and we kept seeing their posts on Instagram and wondering when we would meet up with them. It’s so fun to see them again! We catch up for a bit and then continue on our way. After all, we got up this early to make it to our burgers that we worked so hard for yesterday.
Andy and I go ahead. I was a cranky at him last night and this morning, but today I feel like a different person. Sorry, Andy! I needed so much sleep. The world gets lighter as we walk. There are tons of precarious ridges today. This thing happens where the ridge on one side of a mountain is in the shade so it’s freezing, and the other side is in the sun and roasting. We alternate like this between fire and ice all morning.
I start to feel yesterday in my feet around five miles in. We’re at cruising speed, not too fast. I can’t manage much more than a moderate clip right now. We climb and descend into a new-feeling desert environment, with more sand and different colors of prickly pear flowers. The trail goes up though some huge boulders, then down into a cloud. It quickly becomes freezing, until it coasts downhill.
We take a break, then go down some more, up, down. We start to get loopy around then. All we can talk about is burgers and milkshakes. It’s so close. How are we still hiking? Finally, there is a last uphill around Lookout Mountain followed by a descent to the gate at the road.
It’s a mile walk to Paradise Valley Cafe on the road, which sounds downright unpleasant, so we decide to hitch. It’s not long because a truck is dropping another hiker off back at the trail, and they turn around, pick us up, and take us to food. FOOD!
Andy and I both order the Sterling Burger and a milkshake. They only have one flavor of milkshake, and it somehow involves both cherries and pistachios? But I don’t care. It’s great. We start consuming our massive lunch and are soon joined by all sorts of beautiful hiker trash: Dirt Magnet, Cam, Frankie, Sean, Scrooge, DLT, Rob, Beetle, and Petra. It makes me so happy being here amongst so many hikers, eating, talking, drinking, catching up on social media. My people!
We stay there for hours. Andy and I both have two beers after our burgers and shakes (and wings, in Andy’s case). Petra has a massive four-part club sandwich and a Diet Coke. We discuss our San Jacinto plan, chat and laugh, charge our devices, and enjoy sitting in actual chairs.
Eventually we decide to go back on trail. We get a ride from a super nice guy named Billy who has been transporting hikers for a while to and from the cafe before his drive to San Diego. Naturally, when trying to get in the van after two beers, all four of my water bottles fall out of my pack and roll all over the place. Those pockets might be what convince me to finally get a new pack…
It’s hard walking again with all those calories digesting. We do not go anywhere near fast. The trail turns rocky and makes its way between some lovely canyon walls. We find a small camp spot, take a break, and then continue on. DLT catches up to Andy and me, and we walk the rest of the way to camp together.
Our campsite is huge for PCT standards, with room for maybe eight tents. DLT and I discover that we both have struggles with getting ready to go in the morning, so he sets a challenge for me: tomorrow, we both wake up at the same time and start packing up. The first person to have everything packed up and be ready to start hiking has to buy the other person an ice cream in Idyllwild. I’m so excited for this. I love a good challenge. Is this what I need to get moving in the morning? We shall find out.
We sit in a circle talking for a while after Beetle and Petra join us at camp. I drink some tea. Beetle leads a very relaxing stretching session. I am so happy to be here sitting in the woods with trail friends. The light is lovely coming through the pine trees, I’m still full from lunch, and tomorrow is another adventure.