Day 7- 18.3 miles from 3rd Gate Water Cache (91.2) to Warner Springs (109.5)

I wake up to my collapsed tarp. I get out by reaching down and pulling out the stakes and pulling the tarp behind my head. I pack up and pee, Regan still sleeping. Then I’m up, my feet feeling good and the miles gentle.

The trails continues to curve around the hills, rising up and down. The grade is so gentle it feels flat, though, and I only see one of the German hikers from last night all morning as we flip around each other. The trail traverses to the other side of the mountain and I judge each bend to remember which holds the 100 mile mark. I don’t stop except to drink water, and finally reach it.

The miles are flying by, and now I’m thinking about getting into Warner- I’ll be at Barrel Springs in an hour or two, and then if I don’t go to Warner today I’ll have to sit around today, do a really short day in tomorrow, sit around some more, zero in Warner Springs (more sitting), and then wait for the post office to open on Monday. Which is absolutely ridiculous and I would go wild. I check the time and mileage left until the PO closes at 1:30. It’s 10 miles and 4 ish hours. I think I can make it as long as I keep a 3 mph pace. I can bounce my box coming on Monday to Idyllwild. Then I’ll see Ziploc and Oldtimer and Drippy and maybe Maddy again.

I reach Barrel Springs and the bottom of the mountains at 9:30 with 8.5 miles left to go. It’s a big flat clearing under old-growth trees, with a big trough fed from the spring by a pipe. One of the Germans is sitting down on a log. I set my pack down and check that I have water, and pull some snacks from my bag. I stuff a fruit bar into my mouth. “I’m goffing to tfy and mak it to the posf office,” I explain, with hand gestures, and then head off.

I’m glad I measured my walking mph while training this spring, because now I know when I’m making 3 mph. I am. The trail wends though golden grassy fields with mountains in the distance and knolls of trees and hills in between them. I follow two hikers at a distance. My left knee is a little painful, but not too bad. I pause to drink water at the tops of the crests of each of the little hills, and check my time. I think I’m gaining.

I see eagle rock in the distance, the trail dipping up and down through a golden field sprinkled with bright orange poppies. The granite outcropping is congregated with dayhikers in bright colors. I stop by and get a picture and keep going.

Last year I asked whether people would go see Eagle Rock if eagles didn’t exist, I think to myself, but this year I ask- what if it was a rock that looked like a pigeon instead?

File that under, “Deep thoughts, Picnic 2018.”

I pass dayhikers and horse riders and a band of Boy Scouts on the last couple of miles in. The trail is shaded by trees and dropping down alongside a stream to the road. I walk up to the road, through a chained gate, along to the Community Center gates and the parking lot, and see Drippy and OT as they walk around near the camping field. I have 45 minutes to get to the PO. I register in the community center, and ask if there are rides. Nope. I set my pack down under the tree in the camping area and head down the path to the PO. I can’t figure out a latch on a gate and duck under the barbed wire instead, and alternate between walking and jogging. My knees are pretty sore.

I get to the PO and get my packages and bounce my Monday box with my sleeping bag and tent to Idyllwild, and then walk slowly back to the Community Center in a happy, tired daze, hugging my packages to my chest. The sun is bright and my eyes are half-closed, and I sing out loud as I walk. Mariachi by Ani Difranco, and Country Roads by James Taylor, and snatches of whatever comes to mind.

I get back and pick out some loaner clothes that look like they belonged to crotchety old men, and take a bucket bath out back, and rinse some of the grime out of my clothes. I walk with Maddy and OT and Ziploc back to the grill to eat dinner. We get back to the Community Center, full, and sit and talk at the picnic table. Apparently there’s a storm coming into Idyllwild. Pillsbury, the owner of the mobile gear shop here, 2 foot adventures, comes and chats. I go with Maddy to her airstream to get myself new shoes since mine have ~400 miles and we talk inside together about life and gear and belonging on trail and with people, until it’s dark out and Maddy and I head back and sit at the picnic table. I sort my resupply and set up my tarp and then we go to bed. I hope I get to hike around Maddy for quite a while. It’s really fun being around another young person, and even beyond that I feel like we get along pretty well.

I get in my quilt in my tarp. I can head the cars on the road. My neighbor is snoring. Birds are calling from the trees. Goodnight.