Friday, May 1st / Pre-Hike Day
We stayed in contact with Eric and his support person, Pat since leaving the trail. As he approached Fuller Ridge it as still looking grim with reports of bad ice and snow sections. Eric had no crampons so we drove ours (plus ice axes) out to him and Pat while he was taking a zero day shopping trip. During that trip we asked Pat if she could shuttle us from Snow Creek back to where we got off the trail last, at Scissors Crossing on the upcoming Friday. She agreed and on Friday morning we tried to wrap up all our business stuff as fast as we could, we were hoping to get an earlier start, maybe even get a few miles in that afternoon. But when we got to Snow Creek Pat was waiting for Eric, apparently he was due any moment. With the weather forecast calling for more rain and snow, it’s a good thing.
Sure enough Eric came down the road within a half hour but he only had one set of ice gear. The rest of our gear would be a few more hours out with some other hikers that were using it. So we waited for a few hikers that were right behind Eric and everyone piled into vehicles for a trip to Burger King. When we returned, there were more hikers showing up so we took them into town for supplies. By the time we returned from that trip our gear had made it down. These guys didn’t want to go to town so we were finally on our way. While looking for a place to leave the Jeep, a resident, Ken, offered the use of his driveway!
We also talked Pat into keeping the ice equipment for now and taking half our food supplies. She would then meet us at Paradise Café on Wednesday at noon. This works perfectly into her schedule and relieves a good amount of weight off of us!
The drive down to Scissors Crossing was long; we didn’t show up until 8:15pm. While unloading our packs from Pat’s truck, Zack started barking. A hiker named Amanda came limping out of the darkness, her headlamp broken. She looked terrible and we tried to convince her to ride with Pat and Eric into Julian for a zero day. She must have been too tired to think because she declined the offer, instead she followed Kelly, Zach and I as we start looking for a campsite off the road somewhere. Within a few minutes, we walk right into a campsite with a large group of hikers already setup.
Amanda knew most of them and seemed relieved, I guess finding them was her goal. Kelly went around and met; Barrett, Garrett, Backfire and the couple we dubbed “the hippies”. As soon as we set up the tent and toss in Kelly’s Thermorest sleeping pad, Zach does that dog digging in dirt thing on it and “pop”, down it goes. I try a quickie fix on it which doesn’t work and Kelly suffered through the night. At first trying to sleep on the flat pad then I give her my little 1/3 ultralight pad which wasn’t much better. I got more sleep on the hard ground than she did on my pad.
Saturday, May 2nd / 24.0 miles / Elevation gain: 3,913’
Scissors Crossing to Barrel Springs
Despite the dire warnings of rain from the forecasters, we awoke to partly cloudy skies at 4am. It was delightfully cool as we climbed up into the San Felipe Hills and even though we were carrying 7 liters of water each we felt strong.
As the sun rose, it looked like the cool weather would continue; we have had nice low temperatures, light cloud cover building and a steady, strong breeze. A far cry from the last time we were in this desert.
Backfire must have left camp right behind us and we saw him across the winding canyon trails below us all morning. One highlight of the morning was the discovery of a Desert Rosy Boa sunning itself, trying to warm up.
Not more than a few hundred yards past that, we found these Master Blister Beetles mating. Or as Kelly says, “Funky bugs fucking.”
Although we had seen signs of horses on the PCT before, on this morning we actually got to meet 2 thru-riders! Janice and Susan were from Tennessee and were traveling up from Mexico. I never did ask how far they were planning on going. Anyway, Zach was thrilled by the presence of horses and spent very little time watching where he was walking and kept an excited vigil on the pair.
Sometime around mid-morning Kelly and I did some simple math and decided that given the coolness of the day, we were carrying too much water. Even if the cache at the 10.4 mile point was empty, we could make the full 24 miles to Barrel Springs with less than we had. So instead of dumping the extra, we offered 4 liters to the riders. The horses were quite happy to drink it up on the spot.
With continual stops to water the dog we end up traveling considerably slower than other hikers who drink on the move. So all morning we were passed by those that started later. It is something we have gotten used to: when we move, we are traveling at a good pace but we always travel as a group meaning that we all stop whenever any of us need to stop. With Zach, that means quite a bit. There is a saying among long distance hikers, “Hike Your Own Hike” meaning that you should always hike the style and speed that you desire. For us, I am starting to realize that we need to “Hike Our Dog’s Hike”.
We made the 3rd Gate cache about noon. Everyone who had passed us was there and the few behind us showed up shortly after us. It ended up being quite a gathering. Kelly was able to get everyone’s names, even the hippies. Stacy and Bernie are a couple that started the morning on the other side of the highway and she had a piece of PVC on her pack being used as a case. It ends up she is carrying a Navaho flute and when I comment on it we find out that Bobby is carrying a ukulele! I should note that this water cache was a marvel; the only way to get the jugs up here was for a group of trail angels to haul them 1 mile up a steep trail from an old Jeep trail. God bless the trail angels!
It’s even more amazing that the trail angels still had enough energy to place this hilarious prank enabler up near the cache. One of the most popular jokes to play on your fellow hikers is to secretively place something heavy in their pack and see how many miles it takes for them to find out it’s there. Kelly threatened me bodily harm if she found lead weights in her pack.
Shortly after this Barrett and Garrett (not brothers) caught up and walked with us, followed by the riders. It didn’t take too long before they we renamed to “B&G” and then the “BeeGees”. I don’t know if the trail name stuck but it’s what Kelly and I called them for the next couple of days.
Climbing out of a typical sandy wash with the BeeGees in the lead, Kelly lets out a sharp “whoa” and stops in her tracks. A massive rattler is coiled and ready to strike next to a bush the BeeGees just walked past. Their first response is “can we come back to get a picture?” but the snake looked like it was actually waiting in ambush for just that opportunity!
I try a few small rocks to get the big sucker to move, then some larger ones but he responded by coiling tighter into the bush. With a dog and 2 horses that still needed to pass I decided he has to go. I figure him at around 5 feet, a monster to be sure but he’s no match for a pair of trekking poles. So after trying to coax him along by tapping the ground to no avail, I use the poles like chopsticks, scooping and tossing over and over until he is well off trail.
Trying to learn from the last trip, I was determined to reel in Kelly’s hunger for big mileage days until our feet were in better shape. But it was only 2:30 in the afternoon when we got to Cattle Gate at 16.7 miles so we agreed to keep moving until it got to 4:30 or 5pm and start looking for a good place to camp.
Needless to say, 5pm came and went as we checked out every possible spot along the trail. As the afternoon got later and I was looking over a small sandy wash, searching for any spots that looked level, Zach began to yip like crazy. After a few minutes, we realized that he had figured out that we were looking for a campsite and was voicing his opinion! At this point it was only 4 more miles to Barrel Springs where it was supposed to be really nice AND there was water. So we continued on, poor Zach.
So much for the idea of starting this trip by hiking reasonable distances at the start! Barrel Springs was nice and almost everyone we hiked with (except the riders) were there. (even Backfire came in a little while after us) The soft sandy camp area was huge but the BeeGees called us over and invited us to setup next to them. I tried again (and failed) to patch Kelly’s sleeping pad. At least this time I got it to be a slow leak so she just had to blow it back up every hour – all night long.
The series continue here: Agua Caliente