Cold and windy in Mt. Laguna. I left the lodge with good intentions to hike out but the local outfitters store had other plans. I popped in to ask for help with my back sores and fell into the "shake down" trap. (shake down = experienced backpacker going through your things, one by one, and telling you what to get rid of).
After deconstructing my backpacking system, trying to sell me a new bag, and sharing some warm vegan chili, I made it out and hiked 3 miles. I found a cozy camp spot with Marissa, James, and James's mother Aurora.
On the PCT you are only alone if you want to be. I enjoyed a slightly overcast, solo hike out of town, but I was ready to find "the others".
I spent the day in search of hikers. For 17 miles I hopefully followed footsteps.
My hope dimmed with the setting sun. The evening brought back whipping winds which whacked me in the face at every turn.
Feeling defeated, I almost gave up my quest to find hikers. Peering out over cliff sides I questioned:
I almost gave up this game and decided to pitch my tent in a tiny spot with slight wind protection (or so I thought).
I emptied the contents of my bag. Squeezed my tent between prickly bushes, and decided...NO. Keep going.
1 mile away was the promise of a real tent site. Maybe...just maybe...hikers would be there.
Around 8pm upon playing my game of "Tent or Rock" I saw the lime green glare of Kim's "Nemo Hornet" tent. A far too unnatural color to be anything other than a hiker. With some pep in my step I hurried down and found them. I found them! A group of hikers. I looked for my spot and out of their tents came two friendly faces.
Meet Kim and Charlie.
Kim woke me up in time to tell me everyone was packed up and leaving. Not wanting to be alone, I rushed out of my tent and hurriedly packed. Charlie -- who stayed much calmer than I -- patiently waited for me.
We hiked 14 beautiful miles and eventually caught up (crushed!) to the others.
When I found Kim she anticipated my speed and swiftly moved out of my way, accidentally backing up into a cactus. Thus began her identity as Prickles Cactus Butt.
Got our first hitch into Julian by Cathy, a self described pot head grandma.
We ate at the pie shop (apple cider for me). We drank beer with hikers at Carmen's, and we stuffed our faces with veggies and fries down the street. Prickles, Cosmic Charlie, and our newly adopted member Ed "smoke beard" have made a little trail family.
Found my place in Julian!
We hitched out of Julian, hiked 3.3 miles uphill and camped on a mountainside. We shared hummus pretzel carrot siracha burritos. And we talked about our past lives, past relationships, and cats.
Today has been the best day so far.
Hot desert heat. 100 miles! We celebrated with bourbon, a bee sting, and a sun burn.
Life is good.
We camped at mile 101 where we met Bill Thompson. A 75-year-old ultra runner, and bad ass! Super suave and decked out in his 1950s hipster onesie. Evergreen long sleeve top connected to yellow orange and green striped pants. Amazing. He came here from Australia and is hiking from Campo to Big Bear as training for his 100 mile race in San Diego! Unsurprisingly, we have a mutual friend. Howie Stern, ultra runner and ultra photographer extraordinaire! Everyone I meet in the woods knows Howie.
Trail magic. I first stepped out of my tent blind without contacts. I happily said, hi, to the "stranger" in front of my tent. Until I realized it was Ian! After which I jumped with joy, into his arms.
He provided. Boy did he provide! My trail family and I enjoyed avocados, bread, and fancy carbonated water! This was just the morning.
We hiked to eagle rock. Did eagle pose. Drank bourbon and took photos.
4 miles later we made it to Warner Springs, and Ian's car. We enjoyed a luxury ride to the post office, a warm bath at the resource center, and a cold beer picnic thanks to our trail angel Ian.
I dig this life.