PCT Day 14 – Thursday April 27
Mile 145.4 to Mile 159.7
PCT Miles hiked today : 14.3
Feet Ascended Today: 3019
Feet Descended Today: 1444
Current Elevation: 6318
I broke camp at 7:30 am on a mission for burgers! The junction to highway 74 which leads to the Paradise Valley Cafe was only 6.4 miles from our campsite, and we were all motivated to get there as quickly as possible. The Paradise Valley Cafe is renowned for its burgers and is one of those famed rights of passage for all PCT through-hikers.
I had stretched and massaged my feet last night and was feeling pretty good today. It’s amazing how a good night of sleep can help to erase those aches and pains. I had no foot pain at all this morning until the last mile as we descended towards highway 74.
This morning I hiked and chatted with Stefan. His knee was hurting him today so I was actually a little faster than him for once. We’ve been trying to think of a trail name for him but haven’t figured one out yet. We passed the 150 mile marker on the way into town.
Once on the highway it’s a mile-long walk to the cafe. Hikers were gathered on the patio eating burgers with gusto. Cool Breeze was there waiting for us and soon I was happily eating a bacon cheeseburger with a Sprite.
I don’t know how he does it but Cool Breeze always manages to act like a refined gentleman, even when he is filthy. He put his napkin on his lap and ate his burger with a knife and a fork. I’ve forgotten how to eat properly somehow during the last couple of weeks and I shovel food into my mouth with some of it falling right back out again between mouthfuls.
At the Paradise Cafe, I parted ways with Stefan, Garnet Turtle and Cool Breeze. The next section of trail into Idyllwild includes a part that is closed due to a wildfire that happened several years ago. Hikers handle the closure several different ways. Some elect to hitchhike from Paradise Valley Cafe straight to Idyllwild and skip the section altogether. I want to have a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada, so I decided to follow the officially designated Mountain Fire Alternate Route. This means that I had to go back highway 76 and pick up hiking the PCT where I left off and hike until the Fobes Ranch Trail at PCT mile 166.6. From there I would walk along a combination of Forest Service roads and highways until Idyllwild.
Back on highway 76, a truck pulled over and offered me a ride to the trailhead. It was filled with other PCT hikers and a friendly local named Gus who gave PCT hikers rides. I was happy to have been saved the road walk.
The afternoon went quickly. It was a fun change to be by myself again. Dont’t get me wrong, I like hiking with my friends – but it’s fun to mix it up every once in a while.
I hiked slowly as I was experiencing some foot pain. After about 7 miles I stopped at a trail junction which led to two different springs. Neither option seemed that appealing as both required walking quite a ways off trail. However I knew I’d be dry camping and needed more water, so I left my pack on the ground near the PCT and followed the shortest trail. It was extremely steep and led a quarter mile off the trail to a spring that was piped into a trough. I noticed a camera pointed at the spring hidden by some branches. It was a research camera meant to photograph raccoons and foxes when they came to drink at the spring. I waved at the camera after filling up on water and headed back to the PCT.
At this point I was about ready to stop for the day but the camping spots in this area were very exposed and the wind was whipping up. The map showed some other campsites about 1.5 miles up the trail so I elected to keep going. When I made it to the campsite I found Potato Volcano, Apocalypse, and Josh! They invited me to camp with them for the evening. I was exhausted and soon I had my tent up and was eating dinner inside.