Day 7- Changing Terrain

I actually slept through my alarm this morning which means that I actually SLEPT! Woohoo! My tent was wet so it must have rained and it was still windy and chilly. I ate my cold oatmeal, tended to my blistered feet, packed everything up and was on the trail by 7 as usual.

The morning view from my campsite was lovely but it didn’t compare to the sun coming through the clouds over the valley about 30 minutes later. I felt really good despite the blisters and made great time. I passed Billy Goat Cave, just big enough for a hiker to sleep inside, on the side of a ridge.

As I walked, I noticed tiny paw prints on the trail ahead of me. The animals use the trail too since it provides a path of least resistance when needed. There is often a huge variety (and sometimes volume) of animal scat on the trail and “identify that scat” can be an interesting way to pass the time. Looking across the valley, I could see the trail snake back and forth, inefficiently winding its way along the edge of the mountains. Paths like these used to be the main passageways for Native Americans and pioneers, long before infrastructure like roads and bridges efficiently connected two places with a straight line between them. So much about the land and the journey is lost when you are watching it fly past at 60mph from the comfort of your vehicle. Anyway, back to day 6…

I passed a REAL milestone! The first hundred miles done, only 2550 to go!! These first miles have NOT been easy but have been incredibly rewarding.

The trail descended quite a bit before coming into a large camp area with a water trough and LOTS of poison oak (with labels!). I took a picture to remind me what it looks like- REMIND ME TO LOOK AT IT OFTEN. It grows out here like poison ivy grows back home- everywhere. I filtered water from the trough and was on my way.

Poison Oak… hiker bane..

After the water source, the terrain changed drastically. Suddenly there were big trees growing in the sandy soil, cactuses and grasses mingling and a winding stream bringing even more life to the desert.

I crested a small ridge and the terrain changed again just as suddenly: the trail was now passing through large prairie-like areas with waist-high grasses and softly rolling hills. These areas were my favorite of the day. They felt desolate in their vastness but exquisitely beautiful in their inherent simplicity. The grasses swayed in the wind under the moody sky as I wound my way along the 12 inch wide dirt highway cutting through them.

My hip had been bothering me most of the day and was starting to get really painful. I still hadn’t seen another person all day. I was getting cranky and needed to take a nice peaceful lunch break, air out my feet and rest. I came over a hill and was greeted by yet another grassy expanse, but could see a landmark in the distance- Eagle Rock. This is a natural rock formation that is aptly named and is a popular attraction for day hikers. It looked like there were people there so I hiked a little faster- maybe it was my group! As I got closer, I saw that there a bunch of them, somewhat loud, no packs in sight. Day hikers. Ugh.

Thru hikers have a bit of a strange culture to outsiders- we are comfortable with not showering for many days, eating whatever we can get, talking openly about poo and generally abandoning all tenets of civilized culture. Being around other thru hikers is comfortable, but being around NORMAL people? That gets a little unnerving. Please stand upwind of me, sorry for the smell. There is also the “carnival sideshow” aspect, where people look at you like some crazy thing that cannot possibly be understood. Or you’re a celebrity, doing some superhuman thing that they wish they could do but responsibilities, adulting, blah blah blah. You really don’t know what you’ll get with day hikers and I sadly just wasn’t in the mood.

I got to Eagle Rock and plopped down immediately. Day hikers were climbing on the rocks, taking lots of pictures. I pulled out my food bag and started stuffing my face with whatever was left, not caring about how grubby my hands were. A couple came over with their dog and marveled at the undertaking of walking from Mexico to Canada. They took my picture with the eagle and left.

A young man about my age came over from the other group and introduced himself, enthusiastic about my adventure. It turns out they were a group of park rangers exploring a bunch of cool places they had never been. My mood suddenly turned upside down and I was super happy to talk to them. They each wandered over one by one and introduced themselves, chatting about random things. As you probably know, I would LOVE to work in the parks, especially as a ranger, so having the opportunity to chat with some from different parks was awesome. If you guys read this, please know that you totally made my day!

I continued on with renewed energy, only 3.5 miles to Warner Springs, where a community center takes care of weary hikers. My hip pain immediately returned, followed shortly by a new blister on my toe. I didn’t care and just kept trudging- I was too close to stop. The trail meandered through more wooded areas, following a creek all the way to the road, where I saw a local with his dog who pointed me toward the community center. I made it!

I plan to take either a zero (zero miles) or a nero (nearly zero miles) tomorrow, so I will write about the community center in my down time while I rest this hip. Tonight Becky, Backtrack, Zack, Nick and Squirrel are all here and we have our little tent city set up once again. It is raining lighty and windy, as seems to be normal now. Time to rest.

Miles: 14.5

Trail magic: 0

Blisters: 1 (new)

Items lost: 0 (new)

Hiked with: no one

Camped with: Backtrack, Becky, Squirrel, Nick, Zack, Andreas, and many other weary thruhikers.

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