Day Eight

Today's miles: 23
Total miles: 109

We were up before the sun this morning, having slept pleasantly under the stars last night. Cowboy camping means less to pack up in the morning, so we were on the trail by 5am. The first hour tends to be difficult for me: my legs and feet are still waking up, and my joints are stiff and awkward. But once I get into my groove, the miles move by much faster.

Today the weather was a little more temperate. It didn't get unbearably hot until closer to 10am, and by then we had already covered 10 miles. We are starting to love early morning and late night hiking most of all.

The San Felipe hills by daylight were quite beautiful, and very stark. They had recently been burned by wildfire, so the blackened cacti and shrubs were a sight to see. Soft sand and charcoal covered the ground, and soon our legs. 

This was a long waterless stretch for hikers, but since we had filled up 5 liters each in Julian, we were doing fine. The next water cache was at 91 miles, and we stopped to find over 300 gallons of water left for hikers by dedicated trail angels. We stopped in the morning shade to talk to Nate and Games, and kept walking with them for a while.

Today the heat wasn't as brutal, but after 10 miles my feet were in poor shape. Last night's quick pace gave me a new blister, and I was soon hobbling carefully along, using my poles more as crutches than trekking poles. We traversed from mountain to mountain, and the sight of the trail meandering into oblivion in front of us was a little daunting. 

We hit a significant mile marker today: 100 miles! A very exciting milestone in a very long journey.

We pushed on, wanting to get to Barrel  Springs, at 102 miles, for our afternoon siesta. We had hiked 15 miles by noon when I started seeing signs posted on trees:
"PCT hikers! Feet hurt? Dirt in your eye?"
"Yes!" I cried.
The next said, "want a free chili dog?"
"Yes!!" I said.
"And a cold beverage?"
"Yes! Yes!"
"God, I hope this isn't a joke," Katie said.

We reached Barrel Springs at the same time we discovered the trail magic; a huge RV camp with four trail angels who set up a hiker haven, complete with washing station, first aid station, chairs, shade, fruit, cold drinks, and homemade chili. I wanted to cry. It was glorious. And even better? We caught up with Papa Bear, Tony, Jesse and Tumbleweed!

Our new friends were there, too: Games, Nate, Hitch, Happy Hour, TJ, Andrew, Giddyup, and Julia. Katie and I gave Julia a trail name as we sat and talked with her: Wocka Wocka, due to her Fozzie Bear pin and love of the Muppets.

Trail Angels in chairs. Hikers, back row: Nate, Hitch, Games, TJ
Hikers, front row: Giddyup, Happy Hour

We stayed in the shade socializing for four hours, and then decided to get as close to Warner Springs as possible so we could pick up our mail drops tomorrow. We ended up hiking another eight miles after 5pm. This stretch of trail was uniquely different - it was the first time we were walking such flat terrain, with expansive views over lush cow pastures and wide-open fields. Sunset was upon us, and Katie and I decided the dusk was our absolute favorite time to hike. Nicer weather, pretty views, and the calm of the desert before nightfall.

We were hiking with Nate, Games and Happy Hour when we came upon Eagle Rock, a formation of rocks that looks just like the bird. With the beauty of sunset upon us, we couldn't help but stop and take photos in the fading daylight. Nate, Games and Happy Hour decided to camp for the night, but Katie and I pushed on. We walked with Andrew until we got to a beachy campsite right next to Warner Springs. Papa Bear was camping there, too, which solidified our decision to stay.

Both Katie and I were still full from our chili trail magic, so we split a dinner and celebrated a 23 mile hiking day and the 100 mile mark before turning in for bed.