March 30 (~07:30 – ~18:00)
Tentsite before Third Gate – just before Warner Springs (21.5 mi / Total: 109.2 mi)
Weather: Increasingly warm.
I wake up in the most perfect tiny campsite, right next to the trail. It’s the best way to start the day: in nature, in solitude. I continue the path along the mountain range as it slopes down to a side trail that leads to a water cache. Many gallons of water are carefully arranged and stacked up high to help hikes to get through these long waterless stretches. It’s pretty wonderful and makes a huge difference. I couldn’t even be carrying the pack I have if I had to haul more than a few litres with me every day.
As I progress, the bush around the trail has grown more abundant and more green, as opposed to the sun bleached plants and cacti from before. I run into two snakes, roasting on the path in the sun, and I carefully walk around them, although I’m sure they’re harmless. Then the trail seems to elongate, and slopes painfully slow as it passes the 100 mile point, and moves towards a small forest. Suddenly I am surrounded by trees, the sand turns to soil and leafs ruffle in the wind. I have missed this. I take a short break and run into my first trail angels.
Legs and Butterfly hiked the PCT in 2017 and have a van with goodies – cookies, apples, pizza and beer. I’m only the third hiker who’s passed that day, but I know many more are a little behind me. We talk for a while, but I feel too awkward to actively take their food, even though it’s there for me, for all of us hikers. I take an apple, then two big cars drive up – even more trail magic! A bunch of people have brought a barbecue and plan to prepare all sorts of burgers and sausages for passing hikers. I leave without any of the food, and dream of pizza for the rest of the day.
The trail then passes through a long section of exposed farmland until it hits a small forest, where a group of scouts have set up camp. I sit under a tree next to a stream, hiding in the shade, when a southbound hiker approaches, leaves her poles against a rock and runs back to the open space behind me where I watch her pee.
When I continue, Speedy catches up, and we walk through the fields towards Warner Springs. We plan on camping close to town, and visiting the community center the next day, which offers hikers all sorts of amenities: food for resupply, bucket showers and laundry, and outlets to charge our electronics. It will be our first proper stop along the trail, and we can’t wait to clean up and recharge, mentally and physically.
We just have one stop along the way: eagle rock – the famous rock formation just off the PCT, that resembles an eagle flapping its wings. We desperately want a picture with it, but when we get near, a family on a day trip from San Diego is perched on a rock right in front, and we feel too awkward to take any real pictures with them right there. When we leave, we feel stupid we didn’t just do it. We came all the way to the US to hike a 2650 mile trail, but are too embarrassed to take our pictures with a rock. How typical. With our heads bowed we continue to town, and select some camping spots just outside, affording us views of the first few buildings on the edge of town.