So my thinking goes: ifff I stop at Mike’s at 127.3 I don’t have to bring extra water for dry camp and there might be soda and food and then I could technically get to Paradise Valley Cafe for allegedly the trail’s best burger the day after and maybe meet up with Pamplemousse/other people…….soooo? Ok, 26 miles it is.
The Aussie (now named Bootleg Tom, whether he likes it or not) who’s been laid up with an injury also is going to give it a go and we are both restless for the trail, we’re talking too fast and bobbing up and down. We get a ride to the trailhead and are walking by 7:30. I’m’a get there by 10; I put on my old band West Philadelphia Orchestra’s last release which gets ya movin’.
First 8 or so miles to Warner Springs is cruiser, fairly flat, taking me thru some open fields. Is this the desert now? Still pretty grassy. There’s a snake sprawled across the trail; I bang my sticks together and yell at it like a bear: ” Go away, snake! Scat!” Eventually it moves.
I come up to Eagle Rock and there are other people there; I am super bummed because I wanted to make a human zurna video for my friends. PS for those of you who don’t know, the zurna is the most loudest/awesomest instrument Ever. My friend Nick and I would play these in construction sites or in freeway underpasses to block the sound. I take a picture really quickly and race away from the people. When I’m a mile away I try to record some audio but I’m out of practice. So for your amusement, Jerry, Chris, Nick, and Aaron….
I then put on, in a similar vein, Kocani Orkestar. I laugh when there’s a big accordion solo; me and this guy Eric hung with that guy, Vinko (am not making this up that is actually his name for those of you who frequent the similarly named liquor store) in Macedonia a couple years ago, we had to cut off the party after going for borek at 4:30 in the morning. A story for another time….anyway I decided to put Ucime Majko on repeat and sing this until I get to Warner Springs, unfortunately there are no hikers around to frighten with this.
I get to Warner Springs precisely at 10, grab a slice of watermelon, eat snacks and camel up. I spend an hour and a half and I’m off. It’s heating up, but I finally figured out how to attach my umbrella to my pack without it digging into my shoulder. If anything I prefer this weather to the cold wind, though it seems most of the other hikers disagree.
I keep plugging on and at some point Whole and his girlfriend (I tried to name her Zanadu after her sponsor but she was not pleased) catch up. I convince them to go all the way to Mike’s, telling them there will be pizza and soda. They are into this, we all keep on mashing, albeit at a moderate pace. At some point I pass them and arrive at a boulder field. Startin’ to feel it, but there’s no way I’m stopping now. I look up to see Whole peering down at me from a campsite, are they giving up?
I ascend a bit more and finally arrive at the water tank for Mike’s. Yay, I made it! Even better, after a few minutes I hear the New Zealanders coming down the track. It’s quiet at the tanks, is anyone there down below?
We roll up and find a few hikers. Do we want cold colas and wood fired pizza? Hellyes.
I remove the cheese from mine and in true hikertrash form no one is bothered by this; instead team NZ is delighted to have extra cheese. I’m intrigued by this place 1. because it’s in the middle of nowhere 2. I have read numerous accounts that lady hikerd have gotten harassed whilst there. Thankfully this is not the case, at all, whilst I’m there. Someone mentions the have instruments and that some guy played the trumpet a few nights ago. Shut.the.fuck.up. Where is the trumpet? I go into the Hiker Box (a big room with dusty leftover gear) and find a toy drum set. Oh, the trumpet is inside the house.
They bring it out and it’s a student horn in decent condition. “Valves are sticky,” I say, “could use some oil.” I drip some water and they say, “Does gun oil work? We have that.” Welllll, I’m not exactly sure, never tried it, ya know? Actually it works quite well and I take a few requests- reville, first call from horse racing. I try to think of anything classical they might know, I play the Lone Ranger theme aka William Tell overture. Mike is out here by this point, do I know “Song for my father”? Biiig sigh, this is one of few jazz tunes I actually know, I play it. Speaking of jazz, Mike is super jazzed by this, invites me into the house “I have this on LP! Lemme put it on.” We go in the house to his room where the record player is. He shows me a bunch of records he picked up at an estate sale a few weekends ago for super cheap, nice stuff- jazz albums, the Beatles, the Doors, etc., as I notice a rifle strewn across the bed, you know, just casually. Maybe it was just to get the oil for the trumpet, I think (altho there’s no case). Doesn’t explain the other rifle just across from the bed tho. Ah, rural San Diego county. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise: it’s just as redneck as anywhere else in the US ’round these here parts. Mike has slowly been building an instrument collection for hiker jam sessions, he doesn’t actually play any of them.
I ask him about the history of him hosting hikers, he said a couple people a year showed up starting when he moved in 13 yrs ago. “What am I gonna do- say, no, you can’t have any water?” I ask if the PCTA helps support him with the water tank and he says no. Honestly? That’s a little messed up to me. It’s practically an official water source, there’s nothing for miles.
We all chat outside for a while. There’s a guy with a 5.8lb baseweight, the amazing thing is that his gear is basically all modded stuff from an REI garage sale or something. He is the first guy I met who also thru’ed the AT last year. “I’ve been a little cold lately, actually,” he admits. We all ask what his sleep setup is. He has a 30ish (he’s not sure) sleeping bag cut down to a quilt with no pad. Ah, to be young and not cold-blooded.
Eventually it’s time for bed and I head off to sleep in a trailer with another girl from Canada staying there that night.