Mt. Laguna to Warner Springs (41.5 – 109.5)

Leaving Mt. Laguna began the Windstorm From Hell. Winds of up to 70 mph (120 kph) were recorded in the area, and the high was only 40F/4C. I wanted to stop for a break but couldn’t because it was so cold, windy, and periodically raining. I ate lunch inside an outhouse after almost getting pushed to my knees so many times from the wind. Having done 20 miles (33 km) by 4pm, I found a semi sheltered spot in the middle of some bushes and set up my tent. My feet didn’t want to take me any further. I’d planned on doing 12 to 15 miles each day, but so much for plans!

The wind was ferocious and didn’t let up, but my tent stayed up surprisingly well. The large, heavy rocks I tied it to helped. I slept decently that night, but stayed in my tent for 15 hours only leaving to go to the bathroom or reset up my tent twice after it partially collapsed. On my kindle I was reading a trail log about how some woman just a few miles from my spot was sweating in her sleeping bag because it was so hot back in 2013. I distinctly remember yelling “fuck you!” (in an “I’m happy for you but go to hell” manner) and switched to my sci fi novel. Brittany later said she went into her bivy tarp and just cried. Lots of others did similar things. Spider, a former AT hiker, said that was worse than any day he ever did on the AT.

Trail rumor attributed that storm to being related to a massive Hawaiian tsunami. The rumors out here get really insane, and I’ve heard everything from the bearcat stalking the San Jacinto mountains to the guy who lives in the Sierra Nevada and takes pictures of people sleeping while they’re inside their tent. At Yellowstone my favorite trail rumor regarded the “lantern people”. It involved Phil, the friendly retired high school biology teacher who ran the backcountry ranger office, being part of a vast conspiracy covering up the existence of a band of lantern-carrying serial killers roaming Yellowstone and murdering hikers. Our rec center director was nuts.

near scissors crossing

Descending to Scissors Crossing shortly before the black clouds of death appeared.

The next day was almost as bad as the windy previous, with black clouds of death looming down over me as I descended to the valley and Scissors Crossing. One of the benefits of Kick Off was that they gave hikers these nifty bandanas. One side says “HIKER TO TRAIL” and the other “HIKER TO TOWN” in neon yellow against a black background. After 25 minutes I was able to hitch a ride to an RV park with this very sweet elderly couple who knew the owners. Best $20 I spent all week was to get a cabin that sheltered me from that night’s rain storm, and also got me a hot shower and laundry. Brittany, who I’ve been hiking with for a few days, slept under the Highway 78 overpass with six others during the storm. Everybody’s been calling them the Trolls. Genie, this obnoxious guy who is consistently high and can’t take social cues, spent the night with two others in an outhouse/privy. They’ve been known as the Pit Crew.

After the Storm, very atypical weather for that time of year, we all emerged from our hiding spots. During storms the hiker community disperses, and afterwards we all find each other again. I hitched a ride back to the trail in just four minutes thanks to my useful “hiker trash” bandana, in reference to the pejorative term used by many who don’t like us vagrants. There were fun reunions on the mountain, and I met new people. One of them was Nate, who asked Brittany if Panda was her brother. After he left, she sarcastically intoned, “Yeah, because that massive Japanese dude is my brother. We look so much alike.” Nate always looks like he’s lost and confused. He likely is.

She and I tried out cowboy camping last night, and are doing it again tonight. It’s pretty popular out in the desert because of the lack of condensation and bugs. It involves just laying out on your tarp, sleeping under the stars, and hoping you don’t wake up at night covered in ants (the last part is crucial). At midnight some couple started walking through our campsite yelling “this is a bad campsite, the trees are so low and the wind will destroy everything! Let’s go find another spot.” I just turned over, too tired to respond, and figured if something happened Brittany would deal with it. It was kind of weird. From what I’ve heard, others were visited by the night hikers too.

brittany before warner springs

Brittany looking towards Warner Springs.

It was just 16 miles from there to Warner Springs, where Genie unfortunately followed us. He can’t seem to take the hint that Brittany has a partner and isn’t interested in him. Warner Springs has this little building with computers, an inexpensive fixed menu restaurant, and free camping all just for hikers. It’s a fund raiser for the local school, and is run by a group of retirees who seem to really enjoy hanging out with the hikers. They shuttle hikers back and forth to the post office, and have ice cream.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to hang out here a bit, and maybe hike for just five or six miles in the afternoon. The route from here on out is a bit tricky, since a fire in 2013 closed a section of trail that requires following a reroute that isn’t official.

I’m having a great time out here and hope my feet keep hanging in there! There’s a snorer in the campsite, but not the oinker I’ve been hearing about. There’s some guy on the trail who sounds like a pig when he snores. It freaked out the people he camped with because they thought a wild pig was in the area and about to steal their food.

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