Day 9- 18.5 miles from Mike’s Place (126.9) to Mary’s Place/Walden (145.4)

I wake up to Ziploc and Maddy conversing with each other from their tents. I was surprisingly warm last night, pinned under my tarp. I lift the edge of my tarp to see Maddy’s face and a sliver of incredibly gray sky. “Hello, good morning,” I say.

“Good morning,” she says, and laughs.

Apparently condensation has pooled into two little puddles at the base of my sad little tarp’s pitch. When I feel the outside of my quilt, its is a little bit damp on the outside from the internal condensation, but it’s not too bad. I finally gather myself to wriggle up out of my cave and onto the concrete slab.

The entire world is gray, but it didn’t rain. Ziploc thinks we’re just in a cloud. I pull my quilt out and pat it dry with my sleep socks and leave it to dry on the table on the front porch. I slowly pack up. Off-Trail announces there’s hot dogs and coffee in the food hut, so I get my pot out and get some hot coffee to warm my hands. Later I’ll make myself drink it. I don’t particularly care for coffee and it doesn’t look like it’s particularly good. I cook some couscous for breakfast, which is absolutely gross. I force down half of it and dump the rest of it in the food pile of banana peels in the field.

Ziploc and OT head out. Someone starts a drum solo on the drum set inside, I finish packing up and head out with Maddy into the cloud. At first it’s all grey and cold, but within a couple of minutes the cloud starts clearing and the the sun shines down on us, clouds shifting across the chaparral hills and faraway mountains like white, lumbering, ponderous giant snakes.

We stop and strip off our extra layers. It’s so pretty!! Last year this section was so hot, that it was 90 degrees by 10 in the morning. It was also early enough that the sun was too bright to see much. I can see what I assume is San Jacinto in the distance.

We hike together, Yogi and Boo Boo, chatting occasionally and taking pictures of the view. We hike with a guy named Clayton who we’ve been calling No-knees, since he has a technique of walking he says doesn’t use his knees. He also has rigged magnets to his trekking poles and pack so that he can just attach them up when he’s hiking.

“Magic Man, or Magician, or Magic Trick,” I say, “What’s better? Wait. What about Magneto?” I say.

Maddy likes it, and he doesn’t have any complaints. “Mag-no-knee-to!” she says. He’s funny and gets our humor and is fun to hike with.

We take a long break at the clearing above Tule Springs. Several people come back up without getting any water because it’s so bad. It’s probably the worst source in the desert, so maybe the entire trail, so we all skipped it.

Then onwards! I talk about ecology and I identify more of the plants around us. We look at agave plants and I postulate about their possible evolution, the way if looks like there were once several leaves that fused together. It’s cloudy and getting chilly. We listen to music on our phones and sing out loud on the downhills.

I briefly get behind her and catch up to her and Magneto at the water cache at the dirt road. We talk and hike to Walden, aka Mary’s Place, a section of her property that a local named Mary lets hikers sleep on and that she’s set up with an outhouse, picnic tables, a Little Free Library, and a water cache that Mary maintains herself. She comes in as we’re setting up our tents against the wind, and Ziploc stops by to talk to her and thank her.

We all sit at the picnic table to eat our dinner. Ziploc and OT and Magneto and Maddy and a section hiker/PCT veteran Girl Scout. It’s going to be a cold night and we’re all preparing for rain. The sky is gray with fast-moving clouds that don’t look like too much rain, but you never know. Whatever happens it will be chilly and I will be damp with condensation in the morning. I crawl into my tarp, which I’ve pitched low at the end with a stick I’ve found. I’m pretty sure my pitch will hold.