With my tent properly set up, and a distinct lack of wind, I slept reasonably well last night. I was so tired from the long day, though, that I slept in a bit and didn’t leave camp until almost 8:45 am. And that late start was further delayed by an unexpected surprise: a water cache just a few tenths of a mile from where we camped, and earlier than the expected one under the CA-78 bridge at Scissors Crossing.
I had a very short debate with myself whether to get water there, or at the water cache up ahead, deciding to get the water that was in front of me, rather than risk the (unlikely) case that the cache just under a mile up the trail would be empty. Shortly after i got there, Meghan and Patch arrived, and went out to the nearby road to hitch into Julian. Just then, trail angels Lindsey and Eric arrived, to replenish the water (drawn from their well), and take out the trash. This was good for everyone behind me, since it meant I could fill up with the extra water they brought beyond what would fit in the cache. They gave Meghan and Patch a lift into town, and I headed off down the trail to begin a long day under a brutal sun. (Thanks again, Lindsey and Eric!)
Carrying somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 liters of water, my pack was heavy and I was somewhat sluggish. I took a short standing break underneath the CA-78 bridge at Scissors Crossing (so-named because the pair of roads crossing there look like a pair of scissors). This early in the morning, the shade was quite welcome. The cache still had plenty of water, as well as a few cold orange sodas and beer.
Past the bridge, the trail began a long upwards climb with switchbacks and a long walk along the side of the mountain, gradually gaining in elevation. The trail followed every nook and cranny of the mountain, and since it was following the mountain’s south face, there was precious little protection from the sun. Not surprisingly, there were also pretty great views of the landscape for essentially the entire day, and the trail could be seen in both directions for long stretches. I also saw my first barrel cactus on the PCT.
My first real break was somewhere around 7 miles into the day, crammed under a Juniper tree with German hikers Anna and Martin, who had passed me earlier; and Shenanigans, who was following behind me. Shenanigans gave me some coconut oil to help with the sunburn on my arms, which was slowly getting worse despite the sunscreen I was using. (I probably need to get more than SPF 50, and probably need to apply it more often, but the two tubes I got at Lake Morena are nearly out; hopefully there will be more in Warner Springs in a couple of days.)
For the rest of the day, I generally hiked with them, though somewhat behind to varying degrees since the sun was sapping my energy. Our second break, about four and a half miles later, was under a larger juniper tree in a somewhat open area, large enough for a few tent sites. Also there were Lee and Full Sail (who got her name a few days ago when she discovered the wind invigorated her and made her move faster — “faster to get out of the wind”, I quipped). While we were there we heard a loud roar, and then an Air Force fighter jet flew directly overhead. (“Who ordered the Air Force flyover”, I wondered aloud. “That, or the border patrol is upping their game.” — There is a large border patrol station in Campo, near the southern terminus.)
After that break, the day largely blurred together: I had enough water to be able to camp anywhere, so each time I got to a campsite, I evaluated whether it was actually usable, how I was feeling, and how far it was to the next one. Later in the day, the cacti growing on the side of the trail grew more bold, and I had to step around them more often (and more carefully).
Eventually, I reached the Third Gate campsites and water cache. (Third Gate is so named because it is the third pipe gate past Julian.) Finding the campsite empty, I assumed Anna, Martin, and Shenanigans (who were pretty far ahead of me by that point) were down at the water cache. So, I dropped my pack at a campsite, grabbed two water bottles (and my filter, just in case), and headed there.
At the cache, there were three large pallets of five gallon water bottles (well, two large pallets, and one mostly empty pallet). I got enough water for dinner and to ensure I’ll make it to the next water source (in about ten miles), and chatted with them for awhile as they started cooking their dinner. Before I went back to my campsite to set up my tent and eat dinner, Anna gave me some sort of gel that is also supposed to help with sunburn.
Tomorrow: Clouds, please? Planning for about 18 miles to put me at a campsite just outside of Warner Springs, so I can go to the post office in the morning at my leisure on Thursday. Hopefully, I’ll get going early, to have as much hiking time as possible before the sun gets too high.