A brief update from the Bake Shop Cafe in Idyllwild: sitting here in comfort with a hot chocolate and cookies it’s easy to forget the aches and blisters of the last few days. The weather has held a few surprises for us and resulted in some higher mileage days. After an idyllic night camped at San Ysidro Creek we had short hike into the tiny community of Warner Springs where we met up with our resupply box at the little post office. The supply box is a box we mail ahead to ourselves to mountain resorts, roadside diners, sometimes post offices, basically anywhere that will hold it for us where we pass through, places too small to resupply effectively from stores. We fill it in town with good lightweight food and things we’ll need, them mail it on to pick up when we are hungry and out of reach of town. In Warner Springs we camped out back of the village community centre. It’s part community centre, part museum for the cultural history of the first nation peoples that still live on reservations nearby. Staffed by volunteers through hiker season, they made WiFi and snacks available to us as well as much needed washing facilities.
In many ways it is the places and people who extend their kindness to us as we pass through that are most memorable. None more so than ‘Mikes place’. We only briefly saw the elusive Mike himself once, but couldn’t doubt his generosity. Little more than a small house with a scrubby yard in the desert, surrounded by run down trailers, outbuildings and various unidentifiable mechanical parts, on first approach it resembles a crime scene from the New Mexico based series ‘Breaking Bad’. Josh, a summer ‘caretaker’ employed by Mike to look after hikers passing through, showed us to the bunkhouse as a storm started to roll in off the hills. “we’ll be cosy in here” said Lisa, her face dropping slightly as I pointed to the roof, much of which was sufficiently missing as to allow a panoramic star gazing experience had the clouds not been rolling across.
Nonetheless, the bunkhouse provided an adequate resting place after we sat up late talking to Josh, round a roaring fire pit, along with one or two other hikers who sought retreat from the impending storm. Freeze-dried hiker meals were not needed that night as Josh kindly produced pizza after pizza from an amazing al fresco wood-fired pizza oven that had apparently been built and donated by a hiker last year.
The following day we set out early to do a long section in the heat of the new day.
Ever keen to learn about the flora and fauna of the areas we pass through, we spotted a fascinating bright red ‘ant’.
Glad I didn’t pick it up though: it turns out to be a female flightless wasp, locally referred to as a ‘cow-killer ant’, apparently because the sting is sufficiently painful to knock out a cow! Probably not true but not about to find out.
The following day the storm hadn’t entirely subsided and we walked in significantly gusty wind all day despite the hot sun. Not an issue during the day, but after almost twenty miles when we came to camp, getting the tent up proved to be a challenge. In sandy soils with little cover from the wind the tent was blown flat twice before we abandoned our attempts and agreed to hike down to the nearest road.
As darkness descended we still had several miles to go and the last section was road walk which was slightly nerve-wracking. We made it to the Paradise Café, a road-side diner which was closed by that time, just after eight and it promptly started to snow, hard. We huddled for an hour on their porch then
as the clouds passed over and a clear sky emerged we got the tent pitched in the rough ground out the back. We figured it would be great to be on the diner doorstep for breakfast and we could then hitch into Idyllwild. What we didn’t figure on was the temperature dropping below freezing. Our ultra-light cuben fibre tent has been great so far but one issue we have faced is condensation as the fabric is inherently water-proof. Combining that with sub- freezing temperatures meant ice, on the inside of the tent! We were very ready for a break and the hitch into Idyllwild meant home comforts for a day or two.