|A day in the sun makes all the difference.|
Soon we attained the closed May Valley Road, a dirt road that runs through the heart of the old fire. As such, it is closed to vehicle traffic, so we could boldly walk through it, seeing nobody. There were only a few hiker tracks. Prior to the road we had been following some distinctive prints that had a castle like image on them. "King," I mused. "Chicken A La King!" Triscuit said. Whomever the tracks belonged to, he now had a trail name. We giggled for miles. Sadly, we never found the person to let him know.
Near the South Ridge trail that would take us back to the PCT, we called the ranger station to see what conditions were like on Tahquitz Peak and to determine our fate--to Idyllwild or not? I harbored hopes of not touching a town at all.
"I'M SO GLAD YOU CALLED!" the ranger said. "DON'T GO UP THERE." He went on to elaborate that the trail climbed the shoulder of the peak and was icy and dangerous. People who had tried it had come back in defeat. It's always hard to know what fears other people carry, but we decided to be prudent and road walk into town. I was disappointed, but without additional information, this was the best we could do. On we walked, finally attaining pavement and walking through some delightful neighborhoods with cute cabins. I could totally live here, I thought.
But it was taking forever. Where the heck was town? Triscuit grew tired of guessing and flagged down a small car. The driver popped out, a lanky and handsome young man with a do-rag wrapped around his head, and reeking of patchouli. "Don't come near the car!" he warned, and two evil looking dogs surged the windows. "You're almost there," he said before retreating. What the..? The juxtaposition of a hippie and mean dogs was yet another mystery we could not solve.
Like a mirage, a restaurant appeared on the corner of the main drag. Despite our bedraggled appearance, we hiked in. Water! Tuna melts! Sweet potato fries! One thing I love about hiking is the freedom from the daily calorie count. Then we pondered our options. Most hikers were hitching to the Devils Slide, which took them up and over Fuller Ridge. However, we were hearing horror stories of people sliding and falling. It seemed to make more sense to take the Black Mountain alternate, which is the same in terms of mileage, so we wouldn't be "cheating." We just needed a ride to the Black Mountain Road, 8 miles away on a highway with no shoulder.
We scanned the dining room for possibilities. Would those older ladies be a good bet? Everyone's eyes avoided us as if they knew what we were up to. Triscuit marched off and managed to yogi a ride with two New Zealanders on vacation, ambushing the woman by the bathroom. Intrigued by us, they agreed to take us to the road. I wasn't able to believe our luck. We hadn't had to hitchhike!
|Our trail angels the Kiwis!|
Triscuit and I trudged up the road, which was incredibly steep. We both agreed we wouldn't want to drive it. Near the top, Posey Spring was, in fact, not running, and we knew we had a long way to water--over 20 miles and not nearly enough water. I scraped some snow into my bladder and we gathered water from a puddle. That was a first. The water was a strange shade of yellow, but it would do.
|Triscuit gathering water from a puddle|
Finally we reached the intersection with the PCT and headed downward. This was a 6,000 foot descent to the valley floor. After having ascended 6,000 feet, we weren't going to do it all tonight. Instead, we hunted for the camping trifecta when it is windy: boulders, trees, and a great view. We lucked out at about mile 192.
|Sparks, a section hiker finishing up his multi-year section hike of the PCT. Go, Sparks!|
I often have a hard time explaining to others why I love backpacking so much. But this was it--a challenging day in the books, the right decisions made, nearly 100 miles under my feet, and one of the most beautiful campsites ever.
Saving Day 5.5 for last...because it deserves its own post. Ha ha.