Mile 96.5 to mile 109.5
Sure enough, at 4am I hear Heidi leave. I don’t mind – she warned me she gets up early. Some people got to our campsite late last night after both Heidi and I were already asleep (and woke both of us up being loud, for the record) and they are all still sleeping. I halfheartedly think about getting up with Heidi but that’s not happening. I stare at the stars for awhile, then snooze some more until 5:30am.
It’s only 6:10am when I do hit the trail, and I’m quite proud of myself. My butt chafe has calmed down overnight and I apply copious amounts of Body Glide to try to mitigate the issue until I get to town. Today is the day I’m going to hit the 100 mile marker, get to Warner Springs, and finally see Cate, Mike, and Lynn! I’m hyper with excitement.
“If you can make it to Warner Springs you can make it to Canada!”
That’s what Ed, the kind man who gave me a ride from the trail to Julian a few days ago, said to me and the other hikers in his car as we drove down the winding roads away from the PCT and toward free pie and fun at Carmen’s. I think about that non-stop today: if I can make it to Warner Springs, I can make it to Canada! The words ring in my head like a spell, or a premonition.
The trail feels unusually busy; everyone is excited to get to Warner Springs. Many of us are planning to take zeros or neros there, and even if we’re not, it’s an exciting milestone on the trail. Just 9 miles past the 100 mile marker and the first place many people receive a resupply box. And for me, it will be the place I finally see my close friends again.
The morning air is still cool in the 6am hour and I tromp easily down the trail, excitedly looking out for the “100” that I know will be marked in stones on the side of the trail. I’m so close! I feel really excited and proud of myself; I’ve never hiked 100 miles consecutively before.
I’m walking as quickly as I can and then suddenly there it is! To my left, made out of large stones, the number 100 is marked on the trail! I feel emotional. I’m doing this! I’ve walked 100 miles! I’m gonna get to Warner Springs and I’m gonna get to Canada! I stop and take photos of my feet near the stones. I check to see if I have service and I do; I promptly send the photos to my mom and to Alley. Then I realize it’s already getting hot and I’ve got 9 more miles to hike. Time to keep moving.
Soon after that thrilling moment on the trail I get to Barrel Springs, today’s first water source. Tommy and his gang are all still there – it seems they haven’t started hiking yet. Tommy is leading his daily morning stretch class. They ask if I wanna join in but I don’t; instead, I take a short Instagram video of the group and filter my water out of the faucet attached to the container of water. I’m delighted that there’s a faucet.
My mistake today is dawdling once I get to the water source. I pause to chat with Alan and Tron, I stay and talk to some more folks. Then I start hiking out, toward Warner Springs and before that, Eagle Rock, and I feel slow and exhausted. Darn it. It’s hot, like it always is, and my body is craving the rest it will receive in Warner Springs. And of course my butt chafe is acting up. But I’ve still got 9 miles to go.
Eagle Rock is a rock formation on the PCT that looks like…you guessed it! A unicorn. No just kidding, Eagle Rock looks like an eagle. It’s just a few hundred feet off the PCT so almost all hikers stop to look at it. I didn’t realize this at first but it’s also a very popular destination for day hikers. When I arrive it’s very busy. Two women are posing on the eagle formation holding an American flag around them. It’s bizarre.
There’s a group of thru-hikers hanging around in a group waiting for the day hikers to finish taking their photos. The attitude some thru-hikers have towards day hikers irritates me – it’s a mix of superiority and disdain and it’s just bullshit. Day hikers are amazing and until two weeks ago I was one. Also, everyone deserves to enjoy outdoor spaces, not just people who wanna do it for five months in an intense way. Day hiking is rad and should be encouraged, not sneered at. All that said – the long photo shoot with an American flag was pretty weird.
Eventually we all get our photos taken with the rock. I wonder how it came to be; I have no idea. When I get home I’d like to do a better job of learning the history of the PCT and all of its magic and secrets.
After our own photo shoot it’s time to book it to Warner Springs. There’s only about 3 miles left but oh god, it feels like it’s millions of miles away.
I do my best to hustle. I stop and take a lot of water breaks. Some horses pass me (horses are allowed on the PCT). Every other hiker, it feels like, passes me. And then…the road! I’m here! Ahhhhhh!!!!
Warner Springs is a town, but the only real part of it that hikers see is the community center (and maybe also the post office and the one restaurant). The community center is set up to be a hub for hikers during Hiker Season, and it’s run entirely by amazing volunteers. I continue to be awed and humbled by the human beings who donate their time and resources to a bunch of weirdos who decided to walk from Mexico to Canada.
When I arrive at the center, which is just a few hundred feet off the trail, there are tons of packs outside the building and tons of hikers milling around. I drop my pack and walk inside, where a sweet woman at the front desk has me sign in and gives me the run down of the place. There’s a sign next to her that reminds hikers that Mother’s Day is coming up and says we can buy a card and have it mailed to Mom for $3 – I’m moved. That’s so sweet. I look behind the woman at the desk when she is finished explaining and it seems like every hiker I’ve ever met is sitting here in this room. Wow!
And then – I SEE MIKE AND CATE AND LYNN! They are so clean! I hug Mike anyway; I didn’t know I could feel so happy to see such a new friend. He laughs at me. “Well, I was so clean,” he says. Oh man, I’m so happy. I’m so happy.
My friends have been here for a day already and are hiking out tonight, which makes me really sad to hear, but I try to focus on being happy to see them. They repeat much of what the woman at the front desk has explained and show me where everything is.
There’s a huge lawn where hikers can set up their tents for free. Mike and Lynn help me set mine up in the intense wind and it’s the most perfect pitch I’ve achieved on this trip. There’s a bucket shower area in the back of the community center which is exactly what it sounds like – you fill a bucket and go into a stall and use a jug to dump water on your body. It reminds me of the baths I would give the toddlers I used to nanny, and it makes me miss them. (Hi Grayson and Finn and Jonathan!) Hikers can also do laundry in a bucket at the bucket shower station, and hang it on the chain link fence to dry. The center even has wifi! It’s like a perfect hiker oasis. I’m bummed that my friends are leaving but other than that I feel very happy.
Lots of stuff happens in the next few hours before they leave. Mike and Cate introduce me to Raw Hide, a girl from Portland who is remarkably similar to me. She’s been at Warner Springs recovering from blisters for a few days. She also experienced some horrible thigh chafing early on and suggests Vaseline to me for my own chafe issues. I like her immediately and we talk about hiking out together tomorrow.
I have been craving Diet Coke for what feels like forever so I attempt to purchase one. The fridge is stocked with soda but I don’t see any Diet Coke – like I’ve said, people don’t really think hikers want diet soda. It’s garbage. But it is all I want. I peer into the huge refrigerator filled with red cans of Coke and blue and green cans of Sprite. The volunteer helping me looks apologetic. But wait! I spy some silver at the back. “There are two cans of Diet Coke!” I say excitedly. The volunteer looks amused. “Wow, good eyes,” she says. I am so happy. I manifested myself Diet Coke! I buy one now and leave the other in the fridge so it remains cold. I hide it behind some cans of Coke so hopefully no one buys it before I get back to it. Now I am truly the happiest girl in the world.
The center has a closet stocked with donated clothes that hikers can “shop” so we can wear a clean outfit while we wash all our disgusting clothes. Cate helps me pick through the options and I we settle on something truly magical.
I shower, I do laundry, I chat with all the other hikers. I tend to my butt chafe. It seems to calm down as soon as I’m not hiking and not wearing spandex. I have a feeling I’m going to need new shorts.
Cate and Mike and Lynn keep trying to leave but they get held up when a volunteer starts cooking burgers and steaks! I pay $8 for a steak and potato dinner and I feel like a diva. I go back to the refrigerator to hopefully buy the second (hidden) Diet Coke and it is still there! Two Diet Cokes in one day! My friend Colleen’s dad meets her at the community center and brings a cooler of fruit for everyone. I have an apple for dessert and take two baby oranges for later. Life is good.
My friends finally hike out but we make plans to meet up in Idyllwild. It’s the next town on the trail, about 70 miles up. There is also a fire closure near the town so there are a few different ways one can hike or hitch there, covering different mileages and different portions of the actual PCT. My feet feel good and I feel healthy so I’m confident that I’ll be in Idyllwild on Friday, just like they will be. I’m so proud of myself for catching up with them. They say they will book a room for us for Friday and Saturday and I say that sounds perfect, count me in.
Then they leave and I check on my clothes that are drying on the fence and they’re mostly dry. I collect them and bring them to my tent and get cozy. There’s a lot of noise – the adage is if one hiker is awake, all hikers are awake. Many many hikers are definitely awake and having a rowdy time tonight, but I don’t mind. I’m spending the day here tomorrow before hiking out in the late afternoon, and I get to rest and eat and talk to Alley and my mom and everything is perfect. What a roller coaster this hiker life is, I think.
But I’m doing it. I made it to Warner Springs, the end of Section A on the Halfmile PCT maps. I think about Ed’s words again as I close my eyes. Canada. So far away. But attainable. If you make it to Warner Springs…