I woke at dawn and packed up quickly, eager to get going. Hiking into the early morning chill was a relief – or it would have been were it not for me being almost too congested to breathe and suffering from cramps on top of it.
We hiked through a boulder field as the sun rose, and soon moved into a rolling plateau and some ridge walking. Our first ridge walk of the trail! We stopped often to admire the views and take photos. We talked about pancakes and family and which version of Pride and Prejudice was better.
“If we get a hotel at some point,” Rally said, “We are going to watch Pride and Prejudice. And eat ice cream.”
The last couple of miles were brutal rocky switchbacks in direct sun. Near the top I took a long break to recover from all the layers of bodily pain and discomfort that had been building all morning. Justa stayed behind with me, and by the time we reached the highway, Squatchie and Rally were gone.
“They must have already hitched a ride,” I said. “You want to just start walking?” I’d thought about hitching, but the Café was only a mile down the road. We hadn’t even walked 20 feet, however, before a white van pulled up beside us – it was the Café shuttle. The driver said he’d just dropped off our friends. Justa took the front seat and I hopped in the back, careful not to sit on the sheets of drywall that were layed out next to some tools. I guessed the guy was a contractor… who also shuttled PCT hikers to the Paradise Valley Café?
The back doors rattled loudly throughout the quick mile to the Café. I was so careful to remember my trekking poles that I hadn’t realized until the van had driven off that I left my sunglasses behind. I shrugged it off, reminding myself that I brought cheap glasses for that very reason.
We all ordered the famous Jose burger, and I instantly became a fan of the guacamole-burger combination. We talked about our plan for the rest of the day. Part of the PCT was closed due to forest fire, and many people were road walking in to Idyllwild, 17 miles away. I needed to see a doctor for my sinus thing. Rally also needed to see a doctor for her serious vertigo. We decided we’d hitch in that day and figure out our next steps once we were better.
After paying our bills we went across the highway to join the other hikers trying to hitch. The first person to pull over had a car packed to the brim aside from the front seat.
“I’m on my way back from Coachella,” he said, “I only got room for one. Give me the dirtiest, scariest looking dude. Not you girls – you’ll get rides.”
After a few more minutes another car pulled over. It had a personalized plate and a PCT bumper sticker. They said they could take three so I hopped on with two other guys, ending up pinned against the door with my pack and poles on my lap. The driver and passenger introduced themselves as past thru hikers. I realized the personalized plate was a trail name. They were also on their way back home from Coachella, hoping to spend some time in Idyllwild.
“Idyllwild is my favorite trail town,” the driver said. He asked where we were from.
“Canada,” I answered first. The guy next to me spoke up.
“We’re from Canada too! From Kitchener, Ontario.”
“That’s awesome!” I said, genuinely elated. “I’ve only met one other Canadian so far!”
We were dropped off in front of the Idyllwild Inn, where Squatchie and Rally had also just arrived. Almost the moment my feet touched the pavement, a lady briskly crossed the road toward us.
“Welcome to Idyllwild,” she said, “here are your welcome cookies.”
I knew then that Idyllwild would probably be my favorite trail town.
We booked a room for the night for the four of us at the very hiker friendly and beautiful Silver Pines Lodge. Afterward I went to the outfitter to buy new socks since one of my two pairs went missing at Warner Springs. I chatted with the owners at the outfitter, then with some firefighters who were shopping for a camp stove. Then I sat and talked with the landscaper at the visitor’s centre, who was a past PCT thru hiker.
Everyone in this town was super friendly. Plus it had a kind of Americana/Pioneer town thing going on. It was tiny and beautiful, nestled up in the mountains, and there were huge bushy grey squirrels everywhere, and pinecones the size of my head. I loved it.
Rally called the medical clinic and they said they’d call us back if they got any cancellations the next day. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something – especially on short notice.
We all did laundry and had showers that night. I nestled into bed, clean and warm, though still so ill, and fell asleep in seconds.