- Started: Mile 93.2, 4052 ft
- Stopped: Mile 105, 3370 ft
- Miles: 11.8
- Elevation Gain: 300 ft
I woke up on Day 7 with just eight miles to go to the next water at Barrel Springs at mile 101. This is a spring that often flows through a pipe into a cement cattle trough. When it isn't flowing, you have to just get your water out of the trough. After Barrel Springs, water would be available regularly for the 8.5 miles to the end of Section A, Warner Springs. I wanted to hike as far as I could that day, maybe even all the way to Warner Springs.
As usual, I got a late start, not waking up until 8am. I got on the trail and continued hiking along the contours of the hills in the snakelike fashion the trail winds around. It meanders gradually up until about mile 96 and then starts to go down again to Barrel Springs.
As you begin your descent, you can see roads and buildings in the distance. The last miles into Warner Springs are through meadows and cattle pasture, so I knew I was not truly near the end until the chaparral gave way to meadows. Throughout this section, wildflowers were everywhere.
I took note of the appearance of Baby Blue Eyes, a flower I first saw at Warner Springs and have never observed in the desert. Was that a sign I was getting close?
Baby Blue Eyes
At last, the trail descended into Barrel Springs. The spring was running, and there was trail magic!!!!!!
I excitedly rushed to it and saw it was Coors, apples, and candy. Unlike PCTers who burn 4000 calories a day and eat or drink anything, I was not doing the kind of miles to eat anything I liked. Also... I want to find a way to say this properly. I was SO grateful to the kind, kind people who left the trail magic. I wanted to write a thank you note. I felt such joy at seeing it. Not only was it so extremely generous and thoughtful, it also made me feel like a "real" PCTer to be the recipient of the kindness. And yet... Coors is disgusting. Even when hot and tired, I wasn't interested. But that did not decrease the amount of gratitude I felt. Most PCTers would probably drink anything, so it's unfair to impose my picky beer standards on beer left for them.
In any case, I went over to the spring and felt like the constant flow of water was an incredible luxury after relying on caches for several days. I refilled my water, made and ate dinner, did my laundry, bathed myself, and washed my dishes.
I sat there for two hours waiting for my clothes to dry, resting, and watching a wild turkey scratch and peck around nearby. I only washed one of my two shirts, pairs of socks, and pairs of underwear, but I washed my only pants and I was afraid hiking in them wet would lead to chafing. They dry quickly but not instantly.
Finally, impatient, I put on my damp pants and got going. I have hiked a few miles SOBO from Warner Springs before, so at some point I would join up with a part of the trail I was familiar with. I considered whether to attempt to go all the way to Warner Springs that night and decided against it. I would have to call a friend to come get me from there, and I wasn't going to call her late at night. Nor did I want to call her first thing the next morning. I decided to camp a few miles short of Warner Springs so that when I arrived and called her, it would not be too late in the day, but I wouldn't be waking her or inconveniencing her before she had a chance to have breakfast and coffee.
The trail south of the road (S-22) was not all meadows as I'd expected. It still went up into some chaparral and then back down into meadows. I might have considered camping in the meadows, which you absolutely are not supposed to do, but there was cow manure everywhere. Where the heck could I camp to avoid cow manure?
The answer presented itself at mile 105. The trail descends to San Ysidro Creek and there is a beach-like area of exposed sandy soil with room for several tents. Leave No Trace principles say no to camping near water just like it says camping in meadows - you should be 100 feet from the water - but I didn't feel like I had a whole lot of options.
So I resolved to camp near the water but behave myself... no going to the bathroom within 100 feet of the water, or bathing, or doing laundry, or anything else that should be done away from water.
There was one other camper there with me, a man from Europe on a thru-hike who I did not find very friendly. At dusk, a very loud chorus of Pacific Tree Frogs started up. "Are they going to do this all night?" he asked. "Yep. Bring earplugs?" I replied.
I love the sound of frogs. They don't keep me from sleeping at all. But I privately thought that if a couple of noisy frogs bother him, well... he's going to find bigger challenges than that on the trail.
I was surprised after the fact to do the math and realize I'd gone almost 12 miles. My feet hurt but I felt fine otherwise. I could have kept going. Maybe I felt so good because I mostly went down hill? Who knows. (I can go more than 12 miles when I'm in shape, but prior to this trip I'd done no training. I guess I was getting my trail legs back!)
In any case, having already eaten dinner and done everything that needed to be done at Barrel Springs, I changed into my clean, dry clothes, got in my cozy sleeping bag, and went to bed.