Last year when Bleeder and I first talked about hiking the PCT together, I was dead set against hiking the desert section again. Why would I ever put myself through the pain, the agony, the blisters, the heat, the chance encounter with rattlesnakes and the long, heavy water carries all over again?
Then I quickly remembered, the desert section is where all the trail goodness starts. It’s where all of us NoBos figure out this whole thru-hiking thing together, one mile at a time. It’s where all the friendships are formed and Trail Families are created for the first time. The people we meet now will appear again on trail in a couple days, a few weeks or even three months later up the trail when you’re sitting under a tent for trail magic, gasping for air and then realize you’re sitting next to someone you met over 1,500 miles ago. That’s just how this trail works.
The desert is also full of amazing and incredible views. Every single day out here during our second week on trail has had some sort of jaw dropping view. You can’t drive a car to see these views either. These views are earned. Earned after spending several hours and days of hiking several miles up several hundred and/or thousands of feet in elevation gain for. The desert is beautiful. Anyone who says the desert isn’t beautiful hasn’t hiked the Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Our second week on trail started out with spending an extra day of rest at the Stagecoach RV Park. I needed to rest my swollen ankle just a bit more before getting back on trail. Stagecoach was a perfect place to take a double zero. Bleeder and I had access to a super cute wagon cabin that slept the both of us and all of our gear comfortably, while protecting us from the vicious wind and sand outside. We also had access to delicious deli sandwiches, chicken strips, ice cream, unlimited warm showers, a full laundry facility, free WiFi and a cold swimming pool where I could soak my sore ankle in. This place was an oasis in the middle of the hot desert. I loved staying here this year just as much, and maybe even MORE than I did on my hike last year.
The next day, our Day 8, we got back to hiking. We started the morning off with doing about a mile of road walking towards Scissors Crossing when a trail angel driving in the opposite direction stopped and asked us if we wanted a ride back to trail. Bleeder and I both exclaimed, “Hell Yes!” in unison and ran across the street to hop in his car.
From Scissors Crossing, we started hiking back up into the hills. The weather was warm, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sunshine made everything look beautiful. The hike up and out of Scissors Crossing was enough to cause me to huff and puff, but the views were so worth it.
We took a late afternoon lunch above the popular Third Gate water cache. Bleeder got the “Boyfriend of the Year” award when he did the .3 mile trek down to the cache and back to collect water for the both of us while I stayed up top in the shade resting my ankle and stuffing my face with ramen. After lunch, we hiked to a tentsite on top of a ridge line with a number of other fellow hikers, making it a 17 mile day for us. Not too shabby on our first day back on trail after taking two days off.
Day 9 was a big day for us. We started off reaching our first big PCT milestone by getting to Mile 100. Less than two miles later, we ran into our first dose of trail magic where we were treated to chips and sodas from Magneto, one of my hiker trash friends whom I hiked with last year along the PCT. I swear, those chips were the best bag of chips I’ve had in a long time. Thank you again Magneto!
After trail magic, we crossed a road and headed into one of my favorite sections along the PCT in the desert. From Barrel Springs at Mile 101, all the way into Warner Springs at Mile 109.5 is filled with large, vast, open fields. I don’t know why I love this section so much, but I do. At Mile 106.2 is Eagle Rock, a rock formation that looks Iike an eagle. My dorky self insisted on playing Steve Miller Band’s, “Fy Like An Eagle” as I sat in front of the rock formation enjoying a short break in the shade.
Here’s a short video I made while hiking through this section:
Later that afternoon, we hiked into Warner Springs and headed straight for the very hiker friendly Warner Springs Community Center. After setting up our tent, we got a ride a mile up the road to the golf course where we dined with some of our hiker trash friends, Woodpecker and Columbia on pizza we’d been craving over the last 50 miles. Totally worth hiking 100+ miles for.
Those who truly know me, know I’m an insanely food motivated person. My friends say the only reason why I hike is so I can eat whatever I want. I’d have to agree, for the most part. I absolutely love hiking. There’s nothing I’d rather do. I also enjoy food, especially if it’s a delicious meal I had to hike several miles for.
Along the PCT, I often associate town stops with the meal I plan on eating there. For example, Stagecoach RV was a great stop for a super tasty, deli fresh, turkey sandwich. There’s a special place in my heart for deli sandwiches. Warner Springs was my veggie pizza stop. Cabazon will be the In-N-Out Burger stop. Big Bear will be when Bleeder and I get to have our long awaited grilled cheese cooking bonanza inside the kitchen of the Big Bear Hostel. Cajon Pass will be where we dine on McDonalds.
After devouring the veggie pizza at the golf course, we made our way back to the community center. I skipped the bucket shower and instead chose to soak my feet in an Epsom salt foot bath while drinking a root beer float. Thank you a million times Kristina for sponsoring that epic experience!
Both Bleeder and I were feeling sore and tired by the end of the day so we opted to take a zero the next day at Warner Springs. Woodpecker and Columbia were also zeroing here and quite honestly, it felt good to chill and relax. My ankle still wasn’t feeing 100% and now I had a nasty blister on the same foot from the ankle brace I’d been wearing. I figured giving it more time to rest before heading back on trail again could only be a good thing and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Since we were spending an extra day at Warner Springs, we opted to have bucket showers, do bucket laundry and returned back to the golf course for lunch the next day. At the golf course, I enjoyed a tasty BLT with avocado and quite possibly the best french fries I’ve had in a long time. On our walk back to the community center, I proceeded to polish off a pint of cookies and cream ice cream. Who am I? I guess its safe to say Hiker Hunger has hit me on trail and we’re not even 200 miles in yet. Yikes!
The next day, on Day 11, we were back on the trail again. I decided to hike without the ankle brace, in hopes of making my ankle stronger. This meant I had to take it easy and slow it down a bit. The hike out of Warner Springs was exactly what I needed. It was a perfect warm up consisting of a couple miles of fairly flat terrain through more open fields. Beautiful, just beautiful.
Eventually the trail started climbing up, treating us to more incredible desert views. Even though I was huffing and puffing my way through the section, I couldn’t stop myself from taking several photos and videos of the views around me.
Later that afternoon, we reached Mike’s Place, Mile 126.9. Originally we were only going to stop for water at the tank above Mile’s Place, but the comments on Guthook said the tank was empty. We didn’t want to get vortexed into another trail stop, but we both needed water so down to Mike’s Place we went. Thank god we did. Since it was Easter Sunday, the guys at Mike’s Place had cooked up a special Easter dinner for all of us hikers coming through. We were treated to cold sodas and the most delicious ham I’ve ever had in my life along with potatoes, asparagus, green beans, roasted tomatoes and tortillas. Hands down, this was the best meal we’ve had on trail yet and to think we almost missed it!
After dinner, countless thank yous, making a monetary donation and filling up on water, Bleeder and I put on our packs and headed up the trail for another five miles where we’d set up camp for the night. Bleeder had this great idea of taking the entire tent with him and seeing how fast he could hike down the trail. I wasn’t moving especially fast after dinner. He said he’d have the tent up for me at the tentsite by the time I got there so I was free to take my time getting there. Again, “Boyfriend of the Year” award. At the end of the day, we somehow ended up pulling off 22 miles. Not too shabby.
Bleeder and I decided to push another 20+ mile day the next day, on our Day 12. The views continued to be phenomenal and we even passed the infamous cistern where poor Grit had to drink his infamous “cancer” water from last year. Our main motivation for pushing another 20 mile day was to get to the Paradise Valley Cafe. We knew we wouldn’t make it in time before they closed at 3pm, but we decided to make it to the cafe by the end of the day where we’d camp in the back and be at the cafe first thing in the morning for breakfast. Are you starting to sense a theme for my hike this year?
The next morning, we enjoyed a breakfast filled with eggs, hash browns, bacon, French toast and free root beer refills. If it’s one thing I can’t get enough out here, it’s root beer, even though I know I should be drinking more water. Root beer just sounds so good when all I’ve been drinking is water everyday, all day long on trail.
After breakfast, we said goodbye to our hiker trash friends who would be hitching into Idyllwild for a zero day. Bleeder and I scored a ride from a local trail angel back to the trailhead where we’d climb back up into the hills for more incredible desert views. Later that night, we set up camp at the top of one of the junctions leading down to a water source. Bleeder again earned himself a “Boyfriend of the Year” award by hiking the mile down to the water source, collecting water for the both of us and then hiking the mile back up to our tentsite. In exchange, I had the tent and both of our sleeping systems set up by the time he got back.
On our final day for our second week on trail, we hiked another 10 miles up towards San Jacinto before we both decided we’d had enough. My ankle and blister were hurting. Bleeder’s heel was starting to flare up. I had eaten all of my snacks. It was hot. The terrain was especially challenging. Quite honestly, after pushing those 20+ mile days, we were pooped both mentally and physically and were ready for a day off. We decided to get off trail and head down into Idyllwild for another zero day.
As soon as we got into town, we set up camp at the campground, both drank a cold soda, took showers, did our laundry, grabbed food from the market and headed over to the cabin where our hiker trash friends, Columbia, Woodpecker and Arnie were staying and hung out with them for the rest of the day.
Another week in the books on the PCT and it was nothing short of being amazing. Even with recovering from an injury and having to take a couple more days off, there were plenty of desert views to enjoy along the way.
Want to be an active part of my 2019 PCT thru-hiking experience without having to take a single step? CLICK HERE to be a Trail Angel for my thru-hike this year.