Southern California: Mexico to Idyllwild
May 5, 2003, Bloomington, IN
Another summer is almost here. A summer I've been anticipating for
many months. A summer of adventure, hope, and fulfillment. After watching
my friends Daddymention and the Trees walk out of Damascus to continue
north on the Appalachian
Trail, to continue into a life that I could only wish for,
after feeling so much love in Los Gatos and Cave Junction,
after surviving the glaciers and barren rock
around Mount Hickman in northern British Columbia to
lay in the edenic flower patches, after days and nights of philosophical talk in
Oregon, I felt dead when I returned to Bloomington. I felt that I was only
walking as a shell, only marking time,like some prisoner in a jail. The
summer spoiled me; or enlightened me. I just don't think that I can return
to a life of [mathematical] research: A sterile existence. For months
I've felt a crushing weight that never seemed to lift, that seemed to
permeate my entire existence here.
In a few days I will leave here, and hopefully regain that feeling I had
at the end of last summer. That feeling of freedom and joy that
gave me so much hope for the future, and a peace inside strong
enough to be unafraid of dying and afterdeath. I need to return to that
state. I hope to on the Pacific Crest Trail. In the heat of the
desert, the cool of the forests, and the clarity of a small stream.
Only time will tell if I will be successful in the short and long terms.
I hope, I crave success. Without, I do not know what I will do. Maybe this
is the point of life, the mission of our souls.
May 8, 2003. San Diego, CA
I am almost there. Only a few hours of sleep and an hours drive to
the beginning of this thing that I have lived for; have lusted
and sacrificed for; have dreamed of. Before leaving Bloomington, it
became clear that my mathematical colleagues were not pleased at my
leaving for the summer, postponing our work and my career. Perhaps
indefinitely, as the case may be. As jobs in the mathematical world
depend upon papers published and letters of recommendation, and as
my leaving for the summer will hurt both, I may not be in the
academic world for very much longer. Perhaps they will soften over the
summer. One of my goals for the summer is to think about my future. Not dreaming of
being a cowboy or secret agent,
but actually pondering the sort of path that I want to lead my life
My last days in Bloomington were rather hectic. In addition to dealing with my
not-amused colleagues, my father was concerned for my safety in the desert,
I moved out of my apartment, gave and graded a final exam, and assigned
final grades for my class. I gave my final exam yesterday at 10 am and
was on the road, heading for Chicago, by 5 pm. This morning Mom
dropped me off at Midway. Along the way, she commented several times
on how happy I looked. On how I glowed. I really am in a state of bliss,
even with a three hour wait in Midway and a five hour flight to San Diego. I've
been trying to hold everything in, just waiting for the moment when I am at the
border, alone, waiting to set out north on my summer ramblings.
Bob Riess, a San Diego school teacher, met me at the airport in San Diego and
put me up in his RV for the night. Tomorrow morning, he will drive me out to
the border near Campo, an hour or so away. Bob isn't doing this for money. Bob
is doing it because he likes to help people, likes to be involved with something
like the PCT. Even if he never hikes it, Bob will be an integral part of
many hikers travels. He will always be remembered for the kindness that he
shows. I hope to pass some of it on in the future.
It is 11 pm as I write this in Bob's RV. We are supposed to get on the road
by 4:30 am tomorrow, so that we can reach the monument around 5:30 and he can
get back to San Diego to teach. I very much doubt I will sleep more than a
few minutes tonight. My excitement is at I level I haven't experienced since I
was 10 years old on the night before Christmas. I aim to make it to Lake Morena
State Park tomorrow to meet Anna, my sister, who is coming down from San
Clemente (near Los Angeles) to hike with me for a day or two. It will be nice to
see her, as we have been apart for the past year. But, I won't feel like
my hike has truly begun until I have left her and my other commitments
behind and am free to blow in the wind, to move where and how I see
I woke up every hour or so last night and this morning, constantly
checking my watch, waiting for my time. Finally, 4 am rolled around and I was up, as if
I had never slept, and had gotten mostly packed up when Bob came out and
offered some coffee. Sipping on coffee and listening to Bob talk about
cars, we raced through
the empty blackness of the San Diego streets, and I thought it odd that, here in a
massive population center, there should be such a feeling of emptiness. After all,
several million people live in the area and the streets are never devoid of
traffic. Except at 4:30 am. Miles slowly slipped by and I became conscious of
looking at Bob's odometer, waiting impatiently for each mile to tick off.
We reached the border at 5:30 am, a magical time, as I would find out over the
next few months, when night began to fade away. Bob took my picture and
was then on his way home and to work, another hiker delivered.
I sat for a while, my back to the monument, wondering if I would be able to make it
to the twin, 2650 miles north. More importantly, I tried to decide whether or
not I really cared about reaching the end. How important was the goal to me? Because
no one else was around and no one else would hear or judge my answer, I had a hard
time coming to grips with how I really felt about it. I eventually decided I
should start walking and resolved to tackle the question again tomorrow. And thus,
my long journey began at 6 am with a single step.
The trail from the border was very gentle, taking great pains to avoid a climb. The winter
had been a wet one in southern California, and the wildflowers of the desert began the
show that would last through to the Sierra.
The smells that the blooming desert gave off were even more intoxicating than the
immersion into Mountain Laurel that greats a hiker in southern Appalachia in the
spring time; the smell added an extra dimension to the joy of this first day. Not
only was I starting this long sought after dream, but I had beautiful flowers to
ogle and smell. Even with the weight of more than a gallon of water on my back, I
cruised along the trail in a rush of adrenaline and excitement, barely
stopping to notice several tents set up on the trail near Campo creek, and reaching
Hauser creek before noon, nearly 16 miles from the border. Everything was green and
lush. Hardly my preconceived notion of a brown, dry, desolate desert. On the
climb out of Hauser Creek I passed my first thruhikers. A young lady named Jenny.
I didn't stop for long, both because I was enjoying my walk and because she looked
like she wanted to be alone as well.
At the top of the climb up Hauser mountain I stopped for a rest, my goal of
Lake Morena in sight below me. It wasn't even 12:30 yet. On this first day, it
began to occur to me that I might be able to hike further each day than I thought I
was. I was neither tired nor ready to stop when I reached the lake shore at 1 in the
afternoon, 20 miles from the border. Anna was to meet me here, so here I must stop.
I didn't like it, and I wanted to keep going. To stretch this first day out
as much as I could. I set up my tarp next to where Tom, a section hiker from
Austin who passed me on my last break, had put out his sleeping bag
and sat down, to await my sister's arrival. I was rather jealous when Jenny
came walking by, said hello, and kept going.
After a short nap, hikers began to file in to the campsite. Ron, a hiker that I
passed near Hauser creek, and Glory, a young girl from Tennessee whose tent I
stepped over near Campo creek, came walking in before dinner. Everyone was a bit
nervous as to how to act around the others. We were still fresh out of society,
with its restraints still upon us. Anna didn't show until midnight, long
after I had buried myself in my sleeping bag to hide from the frigid night.
In the morning, Glory and Tom set out an hour ahead of Anna and I. My sister and I
had not seen each other for about a year and we had much to catch up on. We didn't
walk particularly fast, and Ron soon caught up with us as we sat in the sun just past
I-8. The flowers made their show again through the desert as we began our climb into
the Laguna mountains.
The Lagunas brought a new environment to the trail. The desert, no matter how
lush, is still the desert. The Lagunas brought dense pine forests and,
where the pines were not too close, carpets of blue flowers. I became confused
about landmarks and was convinced that we were still several miles from the Mount
Laguna store. Tired from the climb and the sun and the heat of the day,
we rested and looked at the map. Working together, we realized that the store
was probably less than a half mile away, just behind a ridge from the
Burnt Ranchera campground. Being the little brother, I have always felt a
drive to compete with my older sister. It was not hard to admit that I was wrong, and
I was determined to think on this during the summer.
Refreshed, we strolled down the trail, passing Desert View, a sneak peak into the
awesome furnace of the Anza-Borrego desert, sitting several thousand feet
below us. The colors of the late afternoon light gave the land below us an
orange tinge, just like a piece of metal that has been heated by a torch. Reluctantly
leaving Desert View, we ran into the road that took us back to Burnt Ranchera
and the Mount Laguna store. Even though I had only been hiking for two days, I
already felt the call of a town stop, even if this town was barely there.
After resupplying from the store, I sat down, in the dust, to drink a half gallon of
iced tea. Glory, who was at the store, and Anna sat chatting off to the side. They
took a liking to each other, with Glory, who is 18, looking up to my sister, who is
30, as an older role model. My sister, on the other hand, wanted to hear all that
Glory had to say. Glory hiked the Appalachian trail last summer (when she was
17) and my sister wanted to hear a woman's perspective on hiking alone.
I sat with my iced tea and pondered the sign across the road, which reminded
people that throwing snowballs at moving cars was illegal. The picture of a
pack of kids pelting passing cars with snowballs struck me as rather
incongruous with the heat of May.
Glory, Anna, and I retreated to the campground for dinner, Tom, who was also in town, was
spending the night in the motel in town. Having visited the motel and the town,
he could claim to have seen everything in town. I had only seen half of it.
Anna and Glory were buried in talk as I set up my tarp and started dinner going
on my little alcohol stove.
I think Anna has become overwhelmed a bit by the spirit of the hike. An infection,
if only temporary, that inspires and begins to break down normal
fears and reactions. Anna has mentioned several times now about how she
wishes she were continuing on wards with us. About how she wants to try to
hike the southern California section of the PCT. Glory has cast away alot of
her fears and reservations in the span of a few hours. I've never been able to
have this effect, and probably never will, on my sister. I'm glad the two
were able to meet.
Dinner was interrupted by a group of cyclists who had to chat. They were as friendly
as could be, but I really just wanted to eat, not reassure them that I really could
hike in running shoes. Or cook on an alcohol stove. Or buy food in the towns I would
pass by. I drifted off to sleep with a slightly troubled mind. Tomorrow would see
the first major waterless stretch of the trail: From Pioneer Mail to Scissors Crossing.
I would have to camp part of the way through it. A dry camp. Would my water hold
out? How would almost two gallons of water feel on my back? Eventually the
worries began to fade and a feeling of warm contentment crept over me. Happiness,
was not so hard to find, I thought. I was only walking and sleeping and eating and
drinking. This is simple, clear, uncompromising. Perfect.
Yet another cold night in Southern California, but not as bad as the previous
ones. The 40 degree sleeping bag is definitely overwhelmed, but I am only
chilled after 3 am or so. Glory, Anna, and I hiked out in the early morning cool,
passing Desert View again. Stopping, still in the cool morning air, we replenished
our water supplies and took a break atop an observation deck looking deep into
Shortly, we arrived at Pioneer Mail and the start of the first real waterless stretch
on the trail. Roughly 25 miles to Scissors crossing and the next reliable water,
although one can fill up at a fire tank that sometimes has water after Chariot
Canyon. This was also the end of the hike for Anna. She had to return to
San Clemente for work on Monday. A local woman was driving her back to her
car at Lake Morena. As she still had a few hours before her ride showed up,
she decided to stash her pack and walk along with us for a mile or so.
Glory and I took a couple of gallons each from the horse
trough, and the three of us began to stagger forward. Anna
Anza-Borrego got closer and closer and the views became
more and more fantastic. Not fantastic as in great (although they were
that), but fantastic as in from another planet. Different than anything I'd
seen before. Even knowing that the surface temperature down there must be
immense, I felt a deep desire to go and explore the valley floor. Just to be in
that sort of environment.
Shortly after Pioneer Mail, we saw a group of hang gliders preparing to launch out
into the air above Anza-Borrego. It was a real treat to see them take off and
I couldn't help but feel jealous of the freedom that they must have felt up in
the air. And of the courage in their hearts for being able to step off the
edge. We saw them for the next hour or so, soaring high above us at times, closer
Shortly after the hang gliders, Anna turned around to go back to Pioneer
Mail and wait for her ride. Glory and I were on our own and we moved through
the hot afternoon, struggling with the heavy loads of water that we were
both carrying. I quickly separated from Glory and was out on my own, walking on
my own for the first time in several days.
As I passed through a recently burned area, the terrain became
very barren, with little soil to hold the ground together. It felt like walking
through ashtray. Progressing forward through the burn, though, some plants were
already making a comeback: Yucca were
growing and flowering everywhere and bits of dry, short grass could be seen
The contrast between burn and growth inspired me to think for a while about
my future, the first real chance I had had since beginning the trip. For a
few minutes, here and there, I felt sure that something like the Peace Corps
was exactly the path I should take: Useful, adventurous, honorable. The
emotional highs left me, but the memory remains. Leaving the burn area,
I began the long descent into Chariot Canyon, in which I found large patches of
long, green grass interspersed with lovely flowers. I found a patch well
shaded by a tree, ate a Snickers bar, and lazed about. I decided that
the twenty odd miles that I walked to get here was enough for the day, despite it
being only 4 in the afternoon. There was a little bit of paradise in this
oasis of green in the desert that I could not leave right away. The reoccurring
thought of the day was amplified in the flower patch: "How much is this worth?"
Anyone can come out here and sit in the flowers and listen to the bees go about
their daily work. Anyone can spend the day walking through the desert to reach
this cool, well shaded spot. Why weren't there more people here? Here I was,
all alone in this bit of heaven. In the end, it occurred to me that
my question was really meaningless. This place was
an experience, not something to be purchased and placed upon a shelf to be
viewed as a collectible.
After 30 minutes,
Glory appeared and part of the spell I was under was broken. We camped together, in
another, larger flower patch not far from the one I had philosophized in,
simply throwing out ground cloths and
sleeping under the stars.
In the morning, Glory was tired and not very motivated to hike. I wanted to put in a
long day so that I could get to Warner Springs tomorrow before the post office
closed and set out while she was still in her sleeping bag. I assumed that I
would not see her again and muttered the standard words of departure that two
people exchange when they part for good, but pretend it is only temporary. The
cool air of the morning was greatly appreciated after the heat of the previous
afternoon. With two liters of water left, I needed to make the water at
Scissors Crossing before the day got too hot. The trail wound me around the sides of
various mountains, before dropping into the flats that compose Scissors Crossing.
On the way down, I could see the trail rising on the other side through the
dry San Felipe Hills. Another long waterless stretch awaited me, but I was
unafraid of this one. Successfully getting through this first one inspired me
with a large amount of false courage. I stopped briefly under the shade of a tree to
eat a peanut butter burrito before facing what I assumed would be a terrible
water source. There was supposed to be a water cache here, but I was not counting on
its existence. Laying under the tree, eating a peanut butter burrito, with bits of dried
cow and horse dung around me, I felt completely at ease. Centered and perfect.
My laziness and ego indulged, I headed forth to the creek.
Where crosses Highway 52, there was
a large water cache, which was greatly appreciated: The natural water source just
past it was a murky, highly unappealing creek.
With another 7.2 liters of
water on my back, I began the long climb up into the San Felipe hills just after
noon, during the hottest part of the day in a land without shade. Sweating
freely, I soon caught up to Jenny B, whom I had not seen since Lake Morena,
along with Tom, whom I had not seen since Mount Laguna. As the day wore on, the
heat began to fade and I began to regain the strength that the heat had stolen
from me. I pushed ahead and found a good bit of flat ground past a cattle gate
(the third of such things), where there was an empty tent. Jenny and Tom showed
up shortly and we all decided to stay there for the evening. The owner of the
tent showed up shortly, after a successful search for water.
After eating dinner and conversing with Tom and Jenny and the owner of the
tent, I was preparing to turn in
when Glory showed up. She had gotten lost on the way out of Chariot Canyon and
had stumbled across what sounds like a methamphetamine lab in the desert. The
heavily tattooed man inside the house gave her directions back to the PCT. Spooked,
she spent the rest of the day racing to catch up with someone, with anyone that
might keep her on the right track. On a busy trail like the Appalachian trail (which
she had hiked the previous summer) she would have found lots of company. On the
relatively uninhabited Pacific Crest Trail, she had to come all the way here
to find anyone.
I awoke after the first pleasantly warm evening of the trip. Jenny was stirring
around 5 am and I decided to join her in the early morning cool. A bit of
depression set in for the first few miles. The same sort of depression that I
experienced last year during a section hike of the Appalachian trail around day 5.
Just a nagging feeling, rather than anything concrete. It disappeared as I
passed Jenny, loping into Barrel Springs to end the waterless stretch. Barrel
Springs was a piped spring, emptying into a large cistern. The land had burned a
few years ago, but there was enough vegetation to provide shade, and the
Trail Ratz (cachers of water and good carpenters) had built a few chairs for
hikers to sit on. Tom and Glory showed up a half hour later to join Jenny
The trail turned lush again, descending through a sequence of pleasant meadows
on the way to Warner Springs, the first real town stop of the trip.
Jenny and I separated again, as she was not resupplying in Warner Springs.
Her plan for the summer was based on mail drops and not going into towns
very frequently, unless they were right on the trail. I never found out
why, but her plan called for hiking from Kamp Anza, 40 miles up the road,
to Wrightwood, at least 13 days away. She was skipping
Idyllwild, Big Bear, and Cajon Pass. I knew I would catch her again, as that
much food weighs quite a bit.
The trail crosses a state highway, which I walked a mile into the hamlet of
Warner Springs. The town consists of a golf resort, a few homes, a gas station,
and a post office. I picked up my bounce box and a food box I mailed from
home, bought a 44 oz. lemonade at the gas station and started sorting things.
Several other hikers were in town, but I wasn't feeling very friendly
and didn't introduce myself. Glory arrived and started to talk with the
other hikers, who had stayed at the resort the night before and had not
left yet. Tom showed up even later, the hikers left, and the three of us
sat down to lunch at the resort's grill. The Trevino burger (double swiss
cheese, bacon, and green chile burger) was most excellent. Another
44 oz. lemonade finished up my town stop. Tom was staying in Warner Springs for
the evening, and I knew I would not see him again. He was only hiking until
Big Bear and was already two days ahead of schedule.
Glory and I set out from Warner Springs, retracing our steps down the road
until we reached the trail again. As before, the trail wound through meadows
and fields. Feeling lazy, we walked only to a developed campground at the end of
a dirt road, about three miles from Warner Springs. But, there are tables and
a nice creek here. I washed myself and my clothes in the creek after dinner,
my first cleaning since leaving Indiana. Lazing about with the sun going down, I
felt completely content with my easy day. I had several long days in front of
me and the San Jacinto mountains to deal with soon. The first real mountains of
the trip and its first real test.
The weather was, as usual, clear and glorious and the trail nice and easy. The
morning's walk was along the sides of various mountains, with continual, open
views into the valleys below. In the afternoon the lack of shade might be
bothersome, but in the cool of the morning it was spectacular.
Glory and I were only planning to walk 20 miles or so: An easy day out here. Near
Kamp Anza we reached a large water cache, although it was still cool in the early
morning. Temperature aside, drank deeply and filled up my waterbags for the
haul to the next water.
along, we crossed Chihuahua Valley Road and ran into our first large group of
thruhikers at a large water cache. Ed and Sven, the two hikers from Warner
Springs, Eric and Erin, a young couple, and Jay Powell, a
retired professor from the University
of British Columbia who knew a friend of mine in Vancouver. Resting at the cache
and talking with the hikers really got Glory and I fired up to hike. The last
to leave, we powered past the others going up hill and made plans to link up
at the next water source, a large fire tank in Tule Canyon. We reached the
water tank around 4 after an easy 25 mile day and awaited the masses of
hikers we were sure would arrive. None did and I even went looking for them.
Grey storm clouds rolled in and I became excited with the prospect of a thunderstorm
in the desert. Something about the contrast. The clouds continued past, and
the night was clear. Clear and bright, with the star shine and moonlight
powerful enough that I could write in my journal without a flashlight.
As usual, I got a jump on the heat of the day in the morning and found the
hikers from yesterday still mostly asleep. They didn't want to walk down to the
fire tank and had camped up near the road in a little clearing. Today we
would reach the start of the San Jacinto mountains. The excitement propelled
us to the Pines-to-Palms highway, even under the first oppressively hot
midday sun. The desert was beginning to appeal greatly to me. By covering up
completely with long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a large hat, and by
drinking plenty of water, I could hike in the heat and sun in relative comfort.
In the shade the air was cool and pleasant and restful. I had yet to use sunblock
and my skin had no pinkness to it or even a hint of tanning.
At the highway, Glory and I detoured from the trail, nominally to fill up with
water at a local cafe, but really to eat there. The Paradise Cafe graced the
intersection of the highway with another about a mile down the road. There were
seven other hikers there, all moving slowly, including one couple that had taken
three weeks to walk the 153 miles from Mexico to here. It was nice to see other
hikers. The main pack of hikers had started two weeks before I did at what is
known as the Annual Day Zero Kick Off Party (ADZKOP). I was beginning to
track down the stragglers already, which encouraged me greatly.
Glory and I both ordered the Jose Burger. Our collective amazement at what
came out from the kitchen was simply overwhelming. Like getting that first view of
the Grand Canyon, I simply could not fathom what came out on that seafoam green
plate. Standing 8 inches high was the best burger I'd ever seen. A gourmet
dill bun formed the foundation and 1/2 lb. of actual ground beef the base (no
preformed patties here). On top were good California tomatoes, lettuce,
pickles, red onion, roasted green chiles, bacon, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, and
swiss cheese. I had to attack it in levels.
Refreshed after the meal and a bit irritated by some of the hikers who cautioned me
greatly about the dire consequences of hiking in the desert during the day,
Glory and I set out back down the road, running into Jay who was heading for a
burger. Lounging under a bush in the shade we found a young, blonde hiker in
pale green clothes, aviator sunglasses, and a red bandana. I started to
introduce us, but he already knew who we were. He had started the day after us and
had been chasing us ever since, following our various entries in water cache registers.
His name was Will Tarantino and he had just finished his sophomore year at
William and Mary, where he also ran track (the mile in 4:12) and studied
biology and chemistry and physics. A bit shy and distant, but highly
likeable. After chatting for a while, he was intrigued by our stories of the
Jose burger just down the road and decided to set off for a snack. Just before
he left, the woman that he had been hiking with from near the border arrived.
Sharon was her name and she had started the afternoon of the same day that I had.
In her mid 30s and from Racine, she seemed very nice, but I doubted I would see
much of her on the rest of the trail. She took Will's spot in the shade
as he took off for food and Glory and I began the climb into the San Jacinto
Glory and I cruised uphill, heading for Live Oak springs, which is one of the
few water sources in the area. Unfortunately, it was also a mile off trail and
about 500 feet down. But, the water was fresh, even if the trees and
mountains blocked the view of the lunar eclipse that occurred that night.
Will showed up late and reported that Sharon was camped further along
the trail. She had to make the post office in Idyllwild tomorrow and
put in a longer day, hauling extra water so as to avoid coming down to us.
Idyllwild will be the first real town on the trail so far and a stop that
I am looking forward to. Tomorrow I get up high for the first time and get to
explore this new national monument.
Glory was out and moving down the trail before I left this morning, and Will
was still solidly asleep. The day was already hot at 6 am and I was sweating
just to get back to the PCT with 7.2 liters of water on my back. I was
glad to be out hiking alone. I hoped to be able to be more independent in the future.
After all, I wanted to spend alot of time during the summer thinking about how I
wanted to live my life in the future and I just couldn't do that with other people
around. Even if we were not talking, the presence of another consciousness kept
me from being able to concentrate on the task at hand and maintain enough creativity
to think well. I passed Glory as she was resting at a water cache and mumbled
a few words before moving on. I just wanted to be out and alone.
The trail led up to, and then along, the Desert Divide. Looking north, one sees
the vast Californian desert with the snaking grey back of I-10 running through brown
hills and brown scrub. I loved the desert view, but even more I liked being able to
look south from the divide and see the lush, green environs. A true divide, this
ridge separated the easily inhabited from the hard. The land of fat from the
scarce of fat.
The trail steepened and my breathing grew labored under the soaring temperatures.
I was reduced to walking for a half hour before having to rest, the shade, as always,
providing a comfortable place to rest. My water became
superheated for the first time on the trip and my third could not be slaked by the
95 degree water. No Glory, no Will, no Sharon. I struggled with the terrain and the
heat and my own mindset. I was sure I should have made further progress, but when I
would check the map, I'd see that I'd only have gone two miles, not three.
Depression began to set in, rearing its ugly head when my body was physically
weak. In the sun, I began to question if I could make Idyllwild before dark.
Maybe I would have to camp one more night. It was silly and foolish, but
it was there none-the-less, and I had to deal with it.
The trail ran across white rock, blasted out to make a path on the most
precarious of ledges. With snow on it, this could be treacherous. And snow was
what I soon reached. The hardest part of the day was done, I could tell. I
had reached forest again, leaving the ridges behind, and there was snow here.
Cool, wet snow. I emptied out my hot water and replaced it with cold snow melt,
following in its richness. Luxury and necessity had become a matter of
perspective already, after only a few days away from settled life. Luxury was
ice cold water on a brutally hot day. Necessity was any water at all. There
was nothing anyone could have given me then that I would have liked more. Just
Buoyed by the water and shade, I loped down the trail, renewed with energy and
happy to be skating along pockets of snow hidden from the sun under a canopy of
pine. I lost the trail under the snow and tracks ran everywhere and nowhere.
I was so happy that I didn't care which way I went. Go up, I thought, so up I
went. Picking my way through the forest and brush and snow, I went higher and
higher toward a prominent rock: Taquitz Rock. I knew quite well the trail was lower
down, but I didn't really care. Idyllwild was only a few miles away and it was not
even three o'clock yet. Plenty of time to get lost for a while. Eventually, my
legs and lungs got the better of my floating mind and convinced me to stop the climb
upward. Everyone compromised and I settled on a lazy break on top of a large boulder,
just below the top of a ridge. Climbing up, I was treated to a vast, open view of
the land that I had just traversed and the land to come. Resting in the wind, the
sun no longer seemed oppressive and hot. It was warm and pleasant, much like the
sun that actors get while laying around, shooting a commercial for Corona. Or
After my required laziness, I struck out, contouring toward where I thought the
trail would have to be, dropping down slightly as I went. Fifteen minutes later, the
trail appeared out of nowhere and a few minutes later I reached the Devils Slide
Trail, my highway to Idyllwild. The Devils Slide dropped me down to a trailhead
parking lot, which was full of cars, but no people. Not even people out for a
picnic. It was Friday and it was 4 in the afternoon. Lots of cars, but no rides.
I set off down the road, hoping not to have to walk all 2.5 miles into town.
A few cars passed me on my walk down, but none stopped. A bicycle with two people
on it flew by, declining to pick me up, perhaps sensibly. A mile down the road a
car did stop. Two former inhabitants back to see the sights. For the first time, I
realized I really smelled. I wondered what they would say when I left the car. Would
they feel good for picking up someone obviously tired and needing a ride? I hope so.
Would they comment about the rank smell? Probably. I was looking forward to town
and the car didn't seem to be moving very fast, despite my having lived recent
history at 3 miles per hour. They dropped me at the local supermarket and we
exchanged goodbyes. I couldn't thank them enough and don't think they realized
how much I appreciated the ride. Sure, it was only for a mile and a half, but I
had walked 180+ miles to get here. The paradox struck me, and would continue
to strike over and over again during the next three months.
The supermarket was heavenly. Air conditioned, row after row of cold drinks, aisle
after aisle of fatty, liquid filled foods. After eating energy bars, dried fruits,
peanut butter burritos, and similar foods, a half gallon of grapefruit juice and a
Creamcheese filled coffee cake really hit the spot. Sitting out front with a cart full of
supplies, drinking the juice and eating the cake, I must have made
quite a scene. But, the town was used to hikers and climbers. Dirty, smelly, and
looking homeless (I was homeless, now that I wasn't on the trail), I had images of
being run off by the local sheriff, like Sylvester Stallone in First Blood.
Fantasy and juice over, I set out to find a place to stay for the night. After
wandering around town, I heard someone shout my name. Glory was across the street.
Both of us walked out into traffic, oblivious of the multiton objects trying hard not
to hit us and end our hikes. We tried various places in town, but they were
either full or wanted a lot of money. Idyllwild is a burgeoning tourist
destination, but is still small and quaint and very pleasant. A pretty young
woman was sitting in front of the movie theater waved us over. Instantly recognized
as a hiker she wanted to talk. To know how and why. To get a feeling for what
we were doing. She knew it was good, and wanted to get a little inspiration.
To share a bit in what we were doing. It would become a common theme for the summer.
The young woman was eventually joined by several more people and soon there was a
small crowd. They all had various suggestions as to where to stay, with the owner of
theater settling things by asserting the Taquitz Motel, down the road and around
the corner, was the place to go. Thanking them, Glory and I walked around, picking
up some beer and other goodies on the way. The Taquitz Motel was everything I wanted.
Inexpensive, huge hiker box, and a ride back to the trailhead in the morning.
The hiker box even had a few pairs of sandals, so I Glory and I could cruise
around town in something other than our running shoes. Well showered with
laundry done in the sink,
we set out for a Mexican restaurant with a nice back porch. Will and Sharon
strolled past and we invited them to join us. They were staying at the state
park campground right next to the Taquitz Motel for the very reasonable price of
$2. I thought my shower and bed worth the extra money and figured there was plenty of
time left during the summer to be cheap. After dinner, Glory and I retired to the
motel with plans to meet Sharon and Will for breakfast at 8 in the morning.
A few beers accompanied "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", a very funny John Candy and
Steve Martin movie about, appropriately, two business men traversing the country
after their flight home gets canceled. I stayed up late, wallowing in the
luxury of a couch and a television and running water. I didn't want to go to bed, for
I knew that once I did, the morning would arrive and it would be back to the heat and
the climbing. I'd only been away a few hours and I had already grown soft.