Date: May 5, 2017
Miles: 13.9 miles (22.4km), from Scissors Crossing to Third Gate water cache
Health: Flu is gone. Feet are really starting to swell in this heat. Legs are getting stronger and well rested after the rest in Julian.
Woke up fresh, in a clean bed, took a shover and went down for the breakfast. The plan was to head out soon after that and try to make it as far as possible to catch Blü and Neal who didn't stay for the night in Julian and instead hitched back to Scissors Crossing and hiked some way up the mountain.
It was going to be an 13.9 mile waterless hike up the mountain with no shade. While having the breakfast I got a message from Blü that they had reached the cache, and that there was water there, and also that the hike up was a loooooong climb.
I wasn't quite sure what to do. While the weather report had said that today should be a bit colder day, it was still very hot outside, even at the elevation where Julian is. And it's probably way hotter down at the valley.
I ditched the morning hike out plan and decided to hang back, checkout at noon, and then hitch to Scissors and wait out the heat under the highway bridge.
I went back to my room and finished uploading rest of the blog posts and scheduling them so that they would go live even if I had no internet connection for the next few days.
After checkout I headed to Carmen's to see if there were any hikers going down and if I could hitch out with them. As I got to Carmen's they were just taking orders and had the barbecue sizzling. Of course I couldn't say no to a pepper jack cheese burger so I put down my pack and delayed my departure a bit more.
There was a group of hikers leaving to Scissors at 4pm and we decided to hitch out together. It took us about 10 minutes to get rides. We got in two different cars. Ours was an Audi and we got a quick ride down the mountain road, the others in the older pickup had a more eventful ride. Apparently among other things, the steering wheel had fallen off while they were driving down the swirling mountain road.
At Scissors a bunch of us hikers waited under the highway bridge for the weather to cool down. One group headed out earlier, and me and Jordan, a hiker from Alaska, left together about an hour later.
Almost immediately the trail started to climb up hill. And it didn't look easy. We hiked up the endless switchbacks, slowly climbing higher from the valley floor. The wind had picked up, and with the setting sun, made for an nice and cool hiking weather.
We settled for a slow and steady rhythm. On an up hill, speed kills.
Rattlesnakes and spiders
We took a 5 minute break every hour and a half. After one of the breaks we got to a section where the sun was still warming the mountain side and as I walked looking at the scenery, I got interrupted by a very familiar and unnerving rattle right next to my left foot. I jump forward to get away from the snake and probably screamed like a little girl. I warned Jordan who was only few feet behind me.
The small rattlesnake was curled up on the side of the trail, right on the blind side of an bush, and I had walked right next to her. Thankful she didn't want anything to do with us and we respected her wish. We marked the trail a little down from the snake with a warning and went around her,e leaving her to enjoy her evening basking in the sun.
Yeah, my first rattlesnake experience. I was hoping for more of an "seen from afar" experience, not "almost stepped on one", but nevertheless. My heart was racing as we hiked on. Now I was on extra lookout for snakes as this was their prime hunting time and I really didn't wish to meet one any more closer.
After about an hour it started to get dark and we stopped at one of the switchbacks to get out our headlamps. At the same time a German hiker, who had been trailing us but was a much faster hiker, came over and we changed few words. I was sitting down, redoing my shoelaces. As I got up, felt something tickling behind my right knee, like movement going up towards my shorts. As an instinct I did a quick brush and felt my hand hit something that fell to the ground. I looked down and it was a spider.
My first instinct was to ask if Jordan new the species and if by any change it would be a poisonous one. He took a better look at the spider and said that, yep, it was indeed a poisonous spider. His words were, I think, "not the kind to kill you, but you'll lose a leg". (It was a Brown Recluse for those who're interested).
After some spider discussion and stories that were too detailed, the German hiker continued upwards. We trailed him by maybe 100 feet and switched on our headlamps.
The trail turned right and I stepped between two bushes and right at that moment my headlamp hit a figure right in front of me on the trail, another rattlesnake! This one was in the middle of the trail, smelling the air to the direction the other hiker had just gone.
As she was on such a narrow spot, we couldn't get around her, so instead we tried to talk to her to get her to more. She was big enough that we really didn't want to get any closer to her, and we were afraid that throwing rocks would get her angry and to curl up, prolonging her stay.
After a little while, she turned and disappeared in to the brush and we could continue our hike. Night hiking sure can be interesting!
The rest of the climb we just marveled at the beauty of the nightly desert, every now and then switching off our headlamps and looking at the stars.
Few hours in we met with the other group that had started before us. We joined forces and hiked the rest of the way up to the Third Gate Cache as a one big group, forming a line of lights that wiggled up the side of the mountain.
Near the end, the winds really picked up and it was getting strenuous to stay on the narrow path in the dark. The big drop to the darkness on the left of us made things even more interesting. With tired eyes and legs we finally reached the cache and setup our tents. The heavy gusts that kept swirling from all directions, made pitching the tent interesting. I've also been having a ton of trouble with my stakes not sticking to the ground and this was no exception. I need to buy different stakes.
I fell in sleep while listening to the wind blowing against my tarp. Tomorrow would be a push to Warner Springs.