Start: somewhere in the northern Laguna Mountains, mile 62
End: Barrel Springs, mile 101
Stopover in Julian CA, with a hitch from mile 77
Highlights: finally got my money’s worth of desert sun; officially adopted a trail name; first hitching experience; delightful (though very touristy) trail town.
Lowlights: the desert sun actually sucks to hike in; soul wrenching descent out of the Laguna Mountains
Laguna Mountains to Scissors Crossing
After a somewhat restless night camping alone, I began hiking the 15 miles down into Scissors Crossing, a meeting of a few roads in between the Laguna Mountains and San Felipe Hills, where hikers often hitch a ride into nearby Julian.
The first few days of the trail had been at fairly high altitude and with cloudy whether, but 12 May was the day the desert heat returned, just as any semblance of shade disappeared from the trail as the elevation dropped below 3,000 feet. I finally had to break out my sunbrella, which ironically had gotten its first use the day before, but for rain.
The trail could have easily been 30% shorter, but for some reason, instead of going towards the road crossing, the trail insisted upon tracing the very bottom edge of the Laguna Mountains. Especially in the heat, it was pretty frustrating to be able to see the intended destination down and to the left, only for the trail to go up and to the right.
Some of the more desert-like scenery was cool, but overall it was a pretty tough day mentally.Around 3pm, I arrived at Scissors Crossing, I went into the dry riverbed beneath the road where a bunch of hikers who I didn’t know were congregated relaxing in the shade and drinking the water that was cached there. After hanging out with them for a bit, one of them suggested my trail name of American Pie. It being the second time someone suggested it, I figured I ought to adopt it. So forget Søren, I’m American Pie now. It feels really weird to introduce myself just as that, but them’s the rules.
A bit later on, another hiker and I hitched a ride into Julian, an old mining town which seems to be a major tourist attraction for the residents of San Diego County. For those of you from or very familiar with northern California, it reminded me a lot of Nevada City, but smaller.
Its tourist board evidently decided one day that its thing was going to be apple pies, because just about every third building was a pie shop. It’s also a very hiker-friendly town, and one of the pie shops gives out free slices tT hikers.
I found the local hotel and optimistically booked a room for four, assuming that I would find other hikers with whom to split it, and I told the front desk to refer any such hikers to me. Lo and behold, Jordan and Chelsea, whom I stayed with in Laguna, turned up in town about an hour after me, and called the hotel to find that a Søren was looking for roommates. I split with them and these twin brothers from New Mexico, after spending the evening at the Julian Beer Co, the local brew pub and restaurant.
There I also discovered that Chelsea had acquired a gnarly blister on her heel.
At some point during the evening, one of the twins bet me that there had been grizzly attacks in Yosemite in our lifetime I.e. since 1990). Obviously I know this to be false, so I took him up on it. He’ll have to walk a mile barefoot once we get to Yosemite and ask the first ranger we see.
We took it easy the next morning and mostly hung around town and the Beer Co, while I waited for Chris, who was a day behind me. I wanted to surprise him with an iced tea (his thing) as a morale boost, so I watched him on his GPS tracker as he walked into Scissors Crossing and hitched into town. He was happy and surprised to see me, though I’m still at least one day ahead of him as he was planning to take a full day off the next day.
We hung out at the beer co for a bit, where he acquired his trail name MIND FREAK, for his ability to make pizza slices disappear, then watched Game of Thrones on the TV in his hotel room with a few other hikers, then I hitched out to Scissors and hiked about five miles by moonlight. It looked like a god awful ascent, so wanted to do it out of the sunlight, if possible. I slept under the stars sans tent (“cowboy camping”) for the first time at around mile 82, which was pretty beautiful.On Day 7, I got up early and was hiking by 7 am. It was another 9 miles to water and the weather was supposed to be hot, so I wanted to get to the water early. We’re in a pretty dry section of trail, so this water source was actually a bunch of jugs of water left by PCT Association volunteers at the end of a truck road. It was quite a natural place to congregate, so there were several hikers there.After chilling there for a couple hours, I set off for the last ten miles of the day, for the next water source. Along the way, I caught up with Jordan, and we crossed the 100 mile marker. He’s already done the whole Appalachian Trail, but making the first 100 miles was obviously a big accomplishment for me, and doing so within one week bodes well for the rest of the trail.We eventually arrived into Barrel Springs, a natural source at mile 101, with a bunch of trees around, which aren’t very characteristic of the area.We were greeted by more trail magic at barrel springs, marking my third receipt of trail magic, all by the same dude Bill. His son is hiking about a day behind us, so he seems to be driving up with his RV to approximately where his son is, and giving out stuff to passing hikers, which has been me three times. This time it was beer and salted foot baths.And that’s it for now. I’m planning to do 20 miles on each of the next four days until my next stop in Idyllwild, though there’s a store I’ll be passing today for resupply.