Day 7 - warner springs to somewhere In anza-borrego
April 3 | Miles 111.5 - 133.5 + 1 Mile church detour
I’m not gonna lie, I skipped a bit of trail today. 2 miles, precisely. Instead of returning to the trail where it meets with the community center (and needing to get a ride there in the first place), I opted to walk in the opposite direction, towards where the trail intersects a second time with Highway 79 at the northern edge of town.
And I am damn glad I did.
Before all that, though, I woke at the leisurely hour of 7, hopped in the shower to warm my bones, made a hotel room coffee that tasted like liquid gold, and headed to the Golf Grill, the town’s only restaurant. It was drizzling, so I was happy to delay the start to the hiking day. I was in prime shape, my blisters having been sanitized and aired out overnight. Toe socks and leukotape had given me a new lease on life.
Some friends and I grabbed a table and I promptly ordered my signature hiker hunger meal, which I concocted last year on the JMT: 2 poached eggs, hash browns with ketchup, and French toast. Hits the spot every time.
After that and two very heavily sugared cups of coffee (nuclear hiker fuel) I hit the pavement in the rain.
Almost immediately I came upon a small building atop a hill—a church.
It was empty on this Wednesday morning, so naturally I stepped in. Immediately I felt the presence of God in this little home of his, adorned as it was with tiny statues and icons. I blessed myself with holy water and wrote my prayer in the guest book before approaching the altar to genuflect (with my pack ON. Someone let me know if I get extra points for that). I was moved to tears as I examined every detail of the room, bathed in the soft gray morning light. I prayed for hikers, for the town, and for my family and friends. For protection on this journey. For peace.
Even fuller than I was before, I exited the church and took an equestrian trail that ran alongside the highway, not knowing where it would lead. All roads lead to Rome I guess, because it delivered me straight back to the PCT.
“California Dreamin’” echoed in my brain as I crossed sandy stream beds in the dewy mid-morning.
Stopped into a church I passed along the way...
It seemed as though I had the trail all to myself. Nature revealed itself in quiet ways as the sun hid behind thick clouds.
I played naturalist, observing flora and fauna in slow, dewy motion.
I came across an immediately recognizable wild sage plant, plucked a leaf and rubbed it on my hands and neck.
Then began the climb.
I climbed and climbed.
Today’s elevation gain total was something like 3700 feet, but I barely registered this as the overcast sky blew cool winds my way.
As I made vertical gains, the scenery became downright alpine. I had hiked into a diverse new biome full of tall, silent pines and pinkish-red rock.
At a road crossing, a Boy Scout Troop had left some trail magic in a cooler: oranges, hard candies, salt and pepper, and sugar (??). Too lazy to peel an orange, I popped a butterscotch something and kept making my way.
For having had such a late start, I was devouring miles. I ate miles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Three square meals of pure distance to satiate my hunger.
Somewhere down the road in the afternoon, I got a distinct feeling–as I tend to do when I’m approaching 20 miles and my endorphins say go while my feet say hell no–that I could do this. That I can go all the way. That I want to.
Shortly thereafter I was rewarded with panoramic views of the desert, the town of Anza just below me, and San Jacinto, snowy and cloudless and just about 40 miles away.
I ended up going further than I’d initially planned in order to find the perfect campsite. Which I did, because I am nothing if not well-versed in backcountry realty.
As the sun was setting, I prepared a very aptly named cold-soak veggie mix, which I then piled onto slices of potato bread that I folded in half to make little salad hot dogs. Instant new favorite trail recipe.
Gastronomy aside, many times today I thanked God for reminding me that I am where I am supposed to be. A simple fact, but one that I so often question with impatience, and one that was revealed to me in the quietude and mystery of the day.
Silence is often much more powerful than words.