I wake up early and as usual, can’t muster myself out of my quilt. My watch is set for 5:30am and I’ve gotten up then zero times. The sun isn’t coming up until about 6:23 am anyway, and you know what? At home I’m doing good if I wake up at 7:30 am, so…..yeah, I’ll probably never be one of those early riser thru’s.
There’s a big climb right away out of the canyon this morning and I just want to get to it. I cut through TnT’s camp (TnT is henceforth Pete and Nikki, a.k.a. Tumbler and Texas. “Tumbler because Pete tumbled down Granite Mountain late at night, and “Texas” because Nikki said, “Alright, fine, I’ll take it.”) and Pete says my trail name should be Snake Charmer because of yesterday. Then we agree to shorten it to “Charmer”. I’m still not convinced it was a real rattlesnake and honestly, the way my life works, if I get called Snake Charmer, that almost guarantees I will get bit by a snake.
I start the climb, and I zoom up so fast. 3 miles in no time. I had expected a grueling up; instead it feels like a nice morning workout. Presently, I come upon a big wooden shelf holding several gallons of water. I think this is “Hiker Oasis”, if i remember correctly. I’m so happy to have some water. Even though I’m carrying enough, I still gulp down my Gatorade bottle and refill. It’s somehow cool and refreshing, although it’s sitting in the desert. Water that does not have to be treated before drinking has become an amazing treat. There is a trail register and I thank these kind strangers profusely. Looks like there are about 2 dozen people ahead of me. A lot of early starters this year.
About 2 miles later, I find a a note written in marker on the ground. There is a rubber ducky holding it down. “Easter has come early for thru-hikers!” An arrow points to my left. I wander that way and am greeted with a wonderful surprise. I see that a tree has been decorated with Easter eggs of all colors. There is a surf board buried halfway in the ground that says, “Malibu East” and invites thru’s to sign it. Three picnic benches entice. A small encased case holds books, with a message that says, “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” Brilliant! There is cold, distilled water in a big jug and a cooler with sodas, fruit, carrots and other goodies. On top of the cooler is the best treat of all: two bananas. Whatever else I do that morning, I AM GOING TO EAT A BANANA! Then i notice that the eggs hanging from the tree have little candies in them. I sit down, take off my shoes, and enjoy the best Easter brunch ever: Orangette soda, three hard candies, and a banana. The carbonation of the soda sends shivers up and down my body. I am utterly happy in this strange and whimsical gift in the middle of nowhere.
Who is doing this? Why? In a way, I understand, because I love giving gifts to people, but this is well above thoughtfulness. It’s taking utter delight in giving strangers enjoyment, and they don’t even get to see peoples’ reactions. Thank you so much, strange and delightful trail angels.
TnT show up about a half hour later. They take pictures, but oddly don’t partake of the goodies, although Tumbler does eat the other banana. Texas’s shoulder keeps bothering her, maybe a pinched nerve. She wants to find a Chiropractor in Idyllwild. We still have about 7-8 miles to go (a 15 mile day, which is what my feet seem to be able to tolerate). Tumbler has set up a ride with a shuttle company. Unfortunately, I find out the price of this ride after already agreeing to take it. I balk at the amount, but whaddya gonna do? We’ll either be leap frogging the rest of the way, or meeting up at the highway. I head out for some more climbing up and stumbling down. Oh, PCT.
There are a lot of giant structures popping up here in the middle of nowhere. I see lots of greenhouses. too. I meet a baby boomer couple day hiking and they tell me its a bunch of investors jumping on the “medical” pot bandwagon. But why the desert, I wonder. Seems covert. “If you wanna grow pot, it grows best high,” he says, referring to the high desert terrain. “Nice one!” I say, and give him a fake high five.
I meet another group of baby boomer (and older) day hikers and they are curious about everything I’m doing, from what the trail is like, to what shoes am I wearing. They all smell sooooo good. And they are so enthusiastic, it’s hard not to feel cool for thru hiking. The group leader even gives me a fist bump. Their excitement fuels me for a few more miles. Eventually hiking downward becomes a bit like walking on a goat trail, and I am surprised to see a family riding up on horses. I would never want to do this on a horse! I can barely do it with my own two feet.
I hear the highway long before I see it, and then it’s still a mile or more to get there. TnT are not far behind me, and when they reach me, we all feel great and ask a kid in sweat pants to take a picture. We find Maurice, the driver, and climb into his impeccably clean SUV. Nothing like closed windows and air conditioner to get a whiff of just how bad ya smell.
I called Aaron earlier, when I realized I would in fact be going to Idyllwild early and asked if he would book a room for me at Idyllwild Inn, since that’s where I sent my bounce box. In the SUV I find out that the Inn has no availability, and other places are booked, as well. Well, shit. He does find a place, but it is so far from everything and I will have to carry my bounce box all the way there.
My excitement quickly turns to stress. My feet hurt so much. I need to not walk. I need to be close to everything. I need everything to be simple, or I’m gonna panic. Maurice drops us off, and I head to the front desk. maybe someone has cancelled……but no, no one has. Ahhhhh. I tell the guy my woes, and he hesitates. “Follow me, he says, and takes me into the next room. “Listen. We just had some guests walk out.” “Yes?” I say, making puppy dog eyes. “…..But they left because the people next door are being extremely loud.” he warns. “Oh, that’s no problem at all,” I give my warmest smile. Please, please, please, I’m thinking. “There hasn’t been any housekeeping, but it all looks ok…” he continues. “I can deal with that,” I’m begging at this point, standing very close to him so I can look up at his face and ignite his need to help a damsel in distress. He finally agrees to give me the room. “What’s your name?” I ask, shaking his hand. He says Chris. “Chris, you’re my new best friend! Thank you so much for helping me!” He looks both receptive and awkward by the praise.
So happy! Shower! Rest! Bath! Food! I take all my stuff into my room and promptly explode my pack all over the place. Little did I know that this would be my home for the next few days.