October 24th, 2018
Muirwood mm 145.5 to Warner Springs Community Center mm 109.5
Distance: 36 miles
0630 – 2030
What a long, hot, and happening day! First, it was a new record for longest distance hiked in a single day. I am inching my way towards 40 miles but I’m not sure its going to happen in the short time I have left. I know that I could do it but with the limited daylight hours, it’s hard. As it was, I walked for a couple hours in the dark on this night. My goal was to get to Warner Springs so that I could camp at the community center, where there are bathrooms, outlets, and picnic tables.
I started in the dark, too. I love early mornings on the trail because I get to greet the sunrise. It was a grand one, along with a pretty moonset.
I shortly caught up to where Zappy had camped, after he hiked on a bit further last night. He likes to walk until 9 or 10 pm (when I am already asleep). Then he sleeps in some while I am up way too early. We have different schedules but are twins when it comes to gear. We both have the exact same backpack and tent. His tent is even camo and he got it at a discount because of a blemish. It’s a little uncanny.
I hiked into an area that looked very deserty, what with all the cacti. There was just about every kind of thorny or spiky plant in the world. I would hate to have to bushbash off trail around here.
Further down the trail, I met Raven and Freebird, section hikers and trailebrities. I hadn’t heard of Freebird before but he is a triple triple crowner and knows everyone in long-distance hiking. I was especially interested to hear that he hiked the TA in 2011, the first year it was officially opened. He had it way harder and there was more road walking at that time. It was great to get to talk to them, even if it took up a lot of daylight telling hiker stories. Oh well, I was already resigned to walking in the dark.
The trail began a gradual climb for 7 miles and I was pulling off my water more than usual. It was probably one of the hottest days in this section so far. I wondered that I would have enough to make it to the next source. I did but had to walk about half a mile off trail to get to Mike Herrera’s water tank. He is a trail angel that has been supplying water and other trail magic to hikers for years. I rested and drank in the shade for a bit.
Stellar caught up and meanwhile, Zappy passed by the tanks, going for the next source. We had heard rumors of people getting sick from the tank water, so I made sure to filter it and he decided to skip it altogether. When I caught up to Zappy, he barely had any water left but ended up being fine. There was a spring running about 6 miles further.
It started getting dark just as I was passing through a dry river valley. I had about 6 miles to go and wished for the moon to come up to light my way. I had to use my headlamp for awhile. Good thing, because I almost stepped on a toad in the trail. I picked it up to move it off the trail and it never even moved, like it was frozen solid. It was a bit chilly in the valley. The toad reminded me of my friend Squish that I hiked with in Oregon. He got his trail name because of this same situation…that didn’t end as well for the toad.
At the intersection with the highway, I walked a short distance to the Warner Springs community center. The trail is generally easy to follow in the dark, except where it intersects other features. Thankfully the moon was up and making it easier. I wondered around the facilities, trying to figure out where I could camp. I heard a tree talking, then realized the voice was coming from a tent behind the tree. I would learn later that it was another SOBO, Snowman. And here I was, that person arriving late and disturbing him in his sleep.
I went to the other side of the field where there was nice grass and a picnic table. In the desert, one should always question why the grass is green. But I pitched there anyways. Later, Stellar and Zappy arrived and told me about guthooks comments saying beware the sprinklers. Uh oh. Sure enough, a sprinkler reared its ugly, wet head right after midnight and I had to quickly close up my tent. It sprayed me for about 20 minutes. Does that count as a night of rain? Well, at least I got to rinse off my tent.