|A lot of the day looked like this.|
But not for long. As we began a long descent toward Highway 74, I conceded defeat and put the rain pants back on. An insistent drizzle followed us as we put our feet on pavement. It was a mile road walk to the Paradise Cafe, and I really didn't want to go there, but I knew Triscuit did, and the lure of real food eventually made me give in. It was early for lunch, since we had hammered out 10 miles in only a few hours, but I dreamed of a grilled cheese sandwich. Triscuit yearned for her only vice, a Diet Coke. The rain increased to a torrent as we hiked the busy highway, nobody stopping to pick us up.
"We aren't in the Pacific Northwest anymore," I said. There, someone would have stopped to offer us a ride. Not in California!
Staring at the Paradise Cafe in the distance, I began to get a sinking feeling. The parking lot was empty. No lights were on. Committed, we continued to find a closed up shop due to a water problem. Shivering, we perched on the porch eating not a grilled cheese sandwich, but cashews. A few disappointed cafe goers approached, stared at us, and left. "Are you hiking?" One man asked, perhaps disregarding the obvious clues of backpacks and lack of a car. To their credit, they asked if we needed a ride to Idyllwild, but unlike 99% of the hikers this year, we were not going to hitch around the fire closure. Our trailhead was only a mile back up the road but despite our blatant hints and (perhaps because of) our drowned rat appearance, we couldn't get a ride back there. Grilled cheeseless, we trudged back to the trail.
In rain too cold to stop and break, we wound back up into the mountains, passing little rock gardens and ephemeral streams that were running strongly. The footing was rocky and the grade had steepened to something un-PCT-like. This was my vacation? I thought. This was why I had worked 50 hour weeks? But I could still feel the magic of the trail, even through the rain. Once again, it was not the flat, cactus desert I had expected.
|Yard sale! A successful dry out has the trifecta: wind, full sun, and helpful bushes.|
|As if there was any other trail...|
Finally we reached the fire closure sign, which meant a switchbacking descent down the Cedar Springs trail. The wind receded and the urgency of the situation subsided. We had made it. Stumbling into an abandoned campground, we searched among the cow pies for suitable tent sites. The trail today had mostly been deserted but Man in Black was already in his tent there. As we passed he declared that the ridge situation hadn't seemed bad to him. Triscuit and I exchanged glances. We knew how much on the edge it had been. After 21 miles, it was good to stop.
|Pictures were unfortunately scarce on this day.|
|Peeping Tom, Man in Black and Triscuit: Hikertrash at the store|
Except, no. Lukewarm showers! I shivered as I sprinted for the tent. I was regretting my decision to go stoveless on this trip as I observed Triscuit and Man in Black sipping hot drinks. Who knew that it would rain this much? But there was hope. A hesitant moon peered out through the clouds. Would we have sun for our last few days on the trail? I fervently hoped so, not realizing that I would later have cause to change my mind. Soon the windswept and slightly desperate ridge situation would take on a different hue as the weather drastically changed.
To be continued.....