Leaving Julian was harder than expected, not just because it is always difficult to give up a comfy bed and easy access to good food, but because we’d heard that the section out of Julian would be the toughest yet. Without a water cache, that had been left by a kind trail volunteer, it would have been 33 waterless miles across three days over the San Felipe hills to Warner Springs. In the event it became one of our favourite trail sections so far. In a bid to beat the scorching heat we set out at 5pm and walked late into the evening. We were particularly fortunate that our decision coincided with a full moon and we sauntered through much of the ‘difficult’ section bathed in silvery moonlight.
The desert had already given us sight of many of the birds and animals that call it home: jack-rabbits, lizards, an (increasingly rare due to the drought) horned lizard, trapdoor spiders and several birds of prey. The morning was to give us another new experience, with a rattlesnake. To be honest it was the fastest yet I’d seen Lisa move under load. One minute she was out in front, striding away, next she was somewhere behind me! After a short time, and with just a little encouragement, the snake went his way and we went ours.
The following day brought us to our first significant milestone, one hundred trail miles covered. The celebration was brief as we still had a long way to go but it felt like a small achievement.
As we descended from the higher hills we found grass plains. This was cattle country. Although still quite arid, they supported a rich variety of grasslands from lush green to deep red. As we walked into the evening we were treated to a fantastic sunset and unusual cloud display.