Water: 3 from a fire tank, 2 from Scissors Cache
The trail winds around and down toward the desert far below. Green hills give way to cacti in bloom, the path drier and drier until I walk through sand and vegetation half alive and yesterday’s snow seems impossible.
Hikers gather at a water tank. Northbound Water Alert! Reads my map. Next water may be Barrel Springs in 32.7 miles. We talk about how much to carry and the dangers of relying on caches that may or may not be stocked. Two sisters who should be here are not. We worry they have missed a turn, and hope they did not get too far off track. Already looking out for one another.
I walk across the desert floor where it seems not a drop from the storms has made it. The locals on Mount Laguna did say that the storm would do little more than make the ground wet up top. Which is probably a good thing in terms of I slept overly close to a river bed last night. Less good though, in terms of the drought.
I can see the trail far in the distance switchbacks up a dry mountainside way across the valley floor. I start to feel kind of delirious, but push on to scissors a crossing – a dry river underpass under the 78. As the trail nears the road I pass several dry water caches, empty plastic jugs looped around trail signposts and stacked in boxes.
Then there are people in the concrete shade, taking refuge at midday. There must be water under the bridge, I think. And there is. Also a cooler. And snacks. Doug (Wrong Way) is doing trail magic. I open the cooler and close it again, overwhelmed. Cold soda and carrot sticks. And organic curry tofu! I decide to rest here for the afternoon to brave the hill when it’s cooler. But mostly I want to sit in the shade forever. I guard packs as others get rides to and from Julian ( more thanks to Doug) for pie. We make Mother’s Day calls. I leave a message: Happy Mother’s Day. I am hanging out under a bridge in the desert eating food from strangers.
In the cooler air and reddish tinge of the later afternoon, I head up the big hill with Audrey. We pass through another strange micro ecosystem. So much diversity in so few miles. There are barrel cactuses and strange tall yellow flowers sprouting out of what appears to be agave. Higher still, there are ocotillo, with their strange red-tipped tentacles reaching skyward.
We walk past sunset, walk past our intended campsite (unintentionally) and finally cowboy camp out under the stars, with sweeping views of the desert below.