Day 12: Easter at Muir Wood/s
Sunday, April 1, 2018 8:20 pm
Location: CA 74 / Paradise Valley Cafe (151.8 miles)

I had a mostly restful sleep, once my sinuses actually cleared out around midnight. I suspect it was just dehydration, and not a cold, and it was only by then that my rehydration efforts kicked in enough to allow my sinuses to open up.

I left camp around 8 am today, delayed a bit by having to fish part of a cactus needle out of my toe — I’m not entirely sure how it made its way through my crocs and two socks; I suspect it may have gotten on one of them when then fell to the ground at some point. Fortunately, once I got out my tweezers, it wasn‘t too hard (or painful) to pull out.

The goal for the day was the Paradise Valley Cafe, which would be just shy of 15 miles, plus a mile roadwalk to the cafe, which supposedly has the best burgers on the trail, and allows tenting in their back lot. Unfortunately, today was Easter Sunday, so they would be closing at noon, far too early for us to get there for food today. However, Hulkspiration yesterday had talked with them, and they confirmed it would be ok to tent, and that they would leave the door to the exterior restroom unlocked.

The morning was marked by more desert-like scenery as the trail continued to wind around mountains. It reminds me of a quote I saw on an AT shelter log: “In geography, we learn that the longest path between two points is the Appalachian Trail.” The PCT clearly puts the AT to shame in that regard: you could easily be a quarter mile or more away by trail from a stone’s throw across a gap.

View southeast towards Borrego Springs.

Things started to get interesting when I came across a sign advertising a water cache in a mile. I was getting ready to take a short snack break, but seeing that sign, figured that everyone else I camped with would be ahead at that water cache. A mile later, at the cache, was another note: because the cafe would be closed, Trail Angel Mary (who owns property adjacent to Mile 154 and maintains a water cache there) was holding an Easter dinner, from 11:30 - 2:30.

That may have been the fastest two miles I’ve ever hiked, but it was totally worth it when I got there. The “hiker oasis” there, renamed “Muir Wood/s” (S for south) for this year’s theme, had a water tank, picnic benches, some camping space, a little library (currently featuring writings of Muir’s), standees of Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau (themes from prior years) and John Muir, the “Muir John” privy, and a shower (new this year).

When I got there, there was lemonade and water available, as well as a fruit platter. Later, after christening the new privy and shower (with really good champagne), with help from some of her friends, those of us there (which wound up being about 20 people by the time it was winding down) got our choice of a steak or salmon dinner, plus desert and cookies.

I had the steak (which also came with potatoes and green beans). It was gigantic. I don’t know that I’ve ever ordered a steak that large, let alone eaten that much meat in one sitting. And it was delicious. The fruit tart for desert I got was also very tasty. (There was also cheesecake.) And, there was red and white wine.

Steak Dinner
Steak DinnerThis steak was so good, I forgot to take a picture of it before eating some.

I received a lot of trail magic on the Appalachian Trail, but, absolutely nothing like this. A lot of work (not to mention expense — these were good and large steaks) went into putting this on. This was, simply, the best trail magic I’ve ever received. Mary, thanks so much for doing this. It was truly amazing.

I lingered there for quite awhile longer than I expected. Hulkspiration took a look at a blister forming on my foot, and pointed out a place in my shoe that was causing it. With some heavy-duty duct tape Mary had, we covered the place in the shoe that was causing the irritation. (It seemed to do the trick for the rest of the day’s hike.)

Finally leaving at almost 4 pm, I began the remainder of the hike, just under six miles to Highway 74, plus another mile to Paradise Valley Cafe. There were no shortage of good views, including, I think, one of San Jacinto (which seemed to have lost its snow). For once, the trail went into the mountains, rather than around them, and there were some places where there was a pretty significant drop-off not far from either side of the trail.

View east and southeast. Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak are in the center.

Moving somewhat faster than I expected, I made it to the cafe around 6:45 pm. Unfortunately, the restroom was locked, so there’s no water for the several of us camping here until they open tomorrow morning. (We suspect a misunderstanding of what day we would be arriving when Hulkspiration talked with them yesterday.)

Since I was pretty low on water, Ramen Shaman shared some of his with me so I could at least cook my own ramen, which was a blessing as it was starting to get colder than we expected. (It was surprisingly chilly this evening, even an hour before sunset.)

We have five or six tents set up behind the diner, in a field studded with mouse holes, making finding a flat campsite nigh impossible. This is likely to be the lumpiest campsite I’ve had in quite a long time, but then, beggars can’t be choosers.

Tomorrow: breakfast at the cafe, and then, hopefully, 17 miles to the Spitler Peak trail and campsite that marks the beginning of the fire closure on San Jacinto. This will also be my first foray above 7,000 feet, surpassing the high point on the Appalachian Trail.