Southern California: Mexico to Idyllwild

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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 down.

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 fit.
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Anza-Borrego.

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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.

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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 at others.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 and I.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Strolling 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 mountains.

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.

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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.

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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 cold water.

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 somesuch nonsense.

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.