Last night we made a plan: sleep early, rise early, and make it into Idyllwild (where there are inns, a coffee shop, and other signs of civilized civilization) as quickly as possible — and certainly before the midday sun (which has been getting hotter with each step north, it seems) fries us alive.
We spent the afternoon chatting with Rainbow Dash, learning about Kentucky, Unitarians, the AT, conservation, and more (she is highly talented). We nommed on our increasingly delicious rehydrated meals, and zippered ourselves into the safety of our tent. We didn’t even change clothes and I refused to get inside my sleeping bag — using it as a quilt through the night instead (we are DIRTY, people!).
I woke at 2am and finally convinced Ant to rise at 3.15 (Ant isn’t a morning person with a strong love of night hiking, like I am). We struck camp at 4am, and headed out into the dark.
Ant was so nervous about snakes and coyotes and other monsters that go bite in the night that I was too. We walked and jumped and wildly flashed our lights around. Was that someone following us? Was that bark the sign of a pack of mad coyotes? What moved in that clump of bushes?
Despite it all, the night was gloriously cool, ideal hiking weather. At 4.15 the sun began sending up ripples of its arrival at the edges of our world — little burstings of gold came up around the mountains that cradled us. The outlines of our surroundings started appearing too, beautiful huge boulders (more like Nature’s sculptures in their emotive shape), fluffy leaves puffing up a tree (the only soft tree we’ve seen in the desert), and interesting twists and turns of the trail (we never know where it will take us, and are always surprised).
Then the sun threw an array of blues and purples and pinks and golds straight up into the sky, stacking them haphazardly behind smooth horizontal clouds close to the horizon. And with the sun came Ant’s pain.
Plantar Fasciitis is (to the best of my knowledge) when something goes horribly wrong to the tendon along the base of the foot that is responsible for shock absorption. Ant describes a ripping off of the heel sensation with most every step, once it begins. This sensation is causing us to crawl ever faster toward a rest in Idyllwild (there are no roads to hitch out where we are).
We climbed and climbed, Ant listening to the Young Turks and becoming educated about the happenings of the world outside our bubble, and I listening to Great Expectations and becoming seeped in the incredible storytelling and language carefully assigned to those pages. Every now and then it was too much, and we’d flop down and Ant would rub and I would worry.
We took some of the heavy stuff out of Ant’s bag, and that helped a little. Then we went down and down and down into a small valley. But we knew what that meant.
The uphill exit of the valley was bizarrely steep for this trail — almost straight up with no switchbacks. We started up it, and retreated down to try and hide in the shade, unwilling to take on that monster in the midday heat. But, after eating and unintentionally both falling asleep immediately, the shade evaporated around us (despite the fact that we had lodged ourselves inside the tree).
So we picked ourselves up, and trudged along, each mile seeming longer than the last.
But then we were at the road, and we met two other hikers (Katie and One of Us), who had already called the Paradise Valley Cafe for a ride. We got in the back of a rape van, and we’re hurdled at incredible speeds toward two giant burgers and enough sweet potato fries to feed the entire table of hungry hikers.
Then, taking leave of all our friends who were continuing on the strange detour around the wildfire miles we are missing (from 151.9 to 177), we stood out with our faces in big smiles, our little sign “HIKERS (PCT) TO TOWN” unfurled, and our thumbs out.
We stood their for forty minutes, fancy men in gorgeous cars refusing to look our way, our elders peering at our sign, and plenty of others smiling and driving away.
“Archangel Michael, I invoke you!” I yelled at the hot pavement, as a lasts resort.
A sweet man pulled over five minutes later, and drove us all the way there, refusing to take gas money, and pointing out all the points of interest along the way. Thank you universe!
We got the last room in the inn (with a massive jacuzzi tub), some plantar insoles, and a big dinner. On our way to dinner, a man stopped us to apologize for not giving us a ride, because he was in his company car. I wanted to give him a huge hug for being so sweet.
This small mountain town is excited about us hikers — people pulling over, waitresses squatting down, cashiers wishing us a good journey. And we are excited about it — so much larger, friendlier, cuter than we could have ever dreamed up. The perfect place for a rest.