We left quietly the next morning, eager to beat the heat of the day and cover as many of the 25 miles to the Paradise Cafe as we could. I had read that they made the best burger on the trail. There was no motivator like good food when it came to thru-hiking.
The terrain was more of the same from yesterday – contours, one side of the trail steep up, the other side a fairly perilous drop into chapparal and prickly cacti. We passed the time by talking, with periods of silence as we spread apart on the trail.
At the water source ten miles in we saw many of the same faces as previous days. The water came from a hose attached to a spigot connected underground to a feeder tank slightly uphill. The spigot was is one of the few shady spots in the area, so Rally and I sat in front of it, watching everyone who came by to fill their water or wet down their hair.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Rally cheered as Scott – now Snackmaster – lifted the hose over his head, “make sure you get it all!”
“I never thought watching water being poured would be so interesting,” I said. “It’s like the fireplace channel in the winter, but opposite.”
When it was time to leave we carried out extra water to dry camp. We wouldn’t make it to the Café that night, but we aimed to get as close as possible so that we could make it for breakfast.
We spread out a bit and I hiked with Squatchie for the remaining miles. We planned to set up camp in a dry creek bed marked on our map, but when we got there it was taken by two other hikers. We walked up and out of the ravine to find an acceptable spot to camp.
“I could kinda keep going for a couple more miles,” I said. The next marked campsite was over two miles away. “What about you?”
“Let’s do it!” She agreed.
The following miles were steep and precarious, the trail cut into the rocky cliffside with a sharp drop. I was glad we were tackling it that evening and not in the morning.
At the top, the terrain evened out and as the sun set I could see the town of Anza in the distance. The trail paralleled a dirt road for a while and we passed an RV set up just off the road with dogs tied up outside. Soon after we came across Francis and Lisa in their tents, so we joined them. There weren’t any spaces large enough for my tent, so I chose a flat spot among the prickly pear cacti and layed out my ground sheet, pad and quilt. The night was warm, and I looked forward to sleeping under the stars again.
Shortly later, Justa and Rally arrived and joined our camp. We were all too tired to talk much. I had service, so I checked messages on my phone until the rest of the camp fell silent, reminding me to get to sleep; tomorrow would be rough – 10 miles to the Café. It closed at 3. We probably wouldn’t make it for breakfast… but I was determined to have a burger, even if I had to run all the way there.