Day 6 & 7

Day – 6

After two very frosty nights up high in the mountains, we spent this night at a lower elevation, which made the night much more pleasant and enjoyable temperature-wise. Especially pleasant was the beautiful view down to the very wide valley right below us.

We started the morning as always: slowly and with no rush, getting ready to go at around 9:00. The hike continued further around the Granite Mountain and down into the valley. As we descended more and more there was less and less greenery around us and the terrain changed within an hour: from relatively green hills to dry grass, cactus and desert bush. We were walking across the very deserty valley to the hills on the other side. The path was dusty and it seemed like a rattle snake might jump out from behind every rock that we passed. Unfortunately we didn’t see any.

We stopped at the Scissors Crossing water cache to camel up and refill our tanks; luckily some good people had also left some cold beer there. It tasted like heaven, even though I am not sure how heaven tastes like, I am sure it would taste like cold beer on a scorchingly hot day in a desert. And as Xavier said: “Beer is the proof that god loves us!” A short snack and we moved on.

The hills across the valley (that we saw earlier) looked dry and covered only with rocks, but as we went up them they were actually covered with a surprising amount of vegetation, though mainly cactus, it looked so biodiverse that at least I have never seen so many different cacti in one place. As we went higher the colder breeze became more and more frequent, in the end making the whole deal of climbing a mountain in a desert during midday sun not that bad of a deal. We spent the next few hours following the snake-like contour of the mountain, going in and out of it.

For every km/mi we moved northward we walked one km/mi eastward and westward; the progress was slow but as always: the beautiful views saved the day. We had a short break before our final push to our desired location of the camp, which was a few miles away. The highlight of the day happened as we started the decent towards the campsite on a sort of a plateau of the mountain. We saw a few quite large rabbits jumping around, but then suddenly out of the bush, around 30m / 100ft away from us, a much bigger animal came out. It didn’t seem to be in any hurry or bothered by our presence, it just casually jogged in the direction we were heading. At first I thought it was a wolf, but it was kind of smaller than I would imagine a wolf, and it was also alone. Then I thought it was a fox, but I have seen those and it was definitely bigger than a fox, so we concluded that we just saw a wild coyote, which was pretty awesome and lifted our spirits.

As we decended to the field we saw some tents pitched already. At first we met our trail buddies, “Team Seattle” as we call them. Lee and Sarah (Full sail) are from Seattle and we started our hike on day one together with them, but as they came much more prepared for the event, especially physically, they are always ahead of us – plus they are early birds and are already hiking by the time we only open our eyes. Once we pitched our tent in the neighborhood one bush away from Team Seattle, we got to cooking our well earned dinner.

We were a grand total of four tents in the whole wide area. As we finished our dinner, one of our neighbours further away made a fire: a circle from rocks around 20 cm tall, so we invited ourselves and Team Seattle to join the fire and share some trail tales. I proposed that we each bring a bunch of firewood to offer for the seat around the fire. There we met three other hikers: the fireplace owners/builders John Wayne and Hummingbird, and the neighbour from even further away: Garry The broken arrow.

Sidenote – the weird names are the hikers’ trail names, you often don’t even know their real names as the trail name is just as valid. Trail name is usually given to you by somebody else.

So John Wayne was a retired special agent and his wife Hummingbird worked for the state attorneys office, also retired. They were pretty much Team Law Enforcement from Florida, very nice people and after hearing John Wayne’s heroic and very funny stories of throwing bad guys in jail and battling a snow storm in order to make it to the start of the PCT, we concluded his trail name definitely suited him well.

The broken arrow was another awesome and smart character, someone should write a book or make a movie about him – that guy is a legend. However, I will only introduce him more on day 7 as that’s when he did something really cool and we talked more with him.

The evening ended at around 20:00, which is considered the hikers’ midnight as usually every hiker is sleeping around that time. We went back to our tent, but this time there was a big difference as the sky promised to remain crystal clear for the night, we decided to sleep without the top cover of the tent. Oh it was an amazing experience, I can tell you that. To fall asleep while staring at the stars right under the Ursa Major and the bright moon right above our heads, the night was beautiful.

Day – 7

The morning was just as beautiful as the night: you open your eyes and the first thing you see is a blue sky. Well, of course, there is still a mosquito net of the tent, but it’s pretty much transparent – therefore it doesn’t count. This morning it was around an hour earlier than we usually wake up as the day promised to be hot and we wanted to start earlier. Breakfast was as per usual: oats with some other bits and bobs and we were ready to hike an hour earlier than usual: at 8:00. I even called it out loud as the new guiness world record, but as it often happens while I am with Stiina, I am the only one entertained by my own joke (honestly I don’t mind as long as I am still entertained).

Anyway, the hike started with an uphill for the first few hours, the path winding and switching back and forth on the back of the hill, which is on the mountain between the two valleys.

After the first hour of the hike we reached the water cache where we had to refill our water. I ran out just as we aproached the cache – quite a lucky place to run out of water. We continued on and the path went to the larger valley that we had been overlooking the night before. We followed this path with a rather steep drop on our left until it was lunch time and we were lucky to find a perfect lunch spot with plenty of space to lay flat on our mats and enjoy the view while enjoying the lunch.

The path went on and switched to a new valley that we saw for the first time. We passed by an interesting cave and it looked like it’s going to be an easy decent from there, but if something looks easy be prepared that most likely it won’t be anywhere near that. It looked much shorter, but again following the serpent path that follows the shape of the mountain the progress was slow.

Walking more in the various other directions than in the one we wanted to go, but then again such are mountains and that’s why we came here to hike. On the way down we reached the hundred mile (160km) mark, yaai! Twenty six times more to go. It was made out of stones by someone so we had to take a celebratory selfie with the achievement and as we moved on a small snake crossed our path. According to Xavier it probably was a good spirit that wished us luck for the remaining hike.

Once we got down it was time to refill our water once again. While we did that I saved a bee from drowning, it had somehow accidentally fallen in the water tank and couldn’t get out so I helped it out with a stick. The good karma points gotta come from somewhere. By that point we had already reached our 15 mile (24km) per day goal, but we wanted to move on as we had planned a zero or nero (near zero) day the day after in Warner Springs.

As we moved on we were lucky again to meet the same trail angel we met at Lake Morena on Day 2. Possum was waiting there for his son Jumanji and his nephew to arrive. We chatted for a bit and were back on the trail, but not even after 10 minutes of hiking we met our buddies Team Seattle, so we decided to have a break and share some trail tales of the day and gossip a little bit.

Once that was done we were on the move again, but not for long as we met The Broken Arrow that we had already passed earlier today, but this time we stopped to chat a bit more.

So here I have to tell you more about Garry: he is an awesome dude in his 60ies or 70ies. An ex-military navy diver, Vietnam veteran, freediver, hunter, electrical engineer, marine biologist, writer, cello player, wildlife photographer and much more. His stories are incredible and believe me he is legit. A very nice and humble person, I wish everyone could meet him. His father is German and mother is from the Philippines, so when he went to visit his grandma somewhere in the Philippines sometime in the seventies in one of the villages he passed through, he was the first white man everyone had ever seen so the town mayor made an official “Garry day” in the town. I mean how cool you have to be to have your own day somewhere in the Philippines?

So while we were chatting Garry told us about a diary he had found hidden in the wall in an old sheep barn. It belonged to the person who pretty much hunted all the wolves of the US in the ninteen twenties, so Garry is writing a book about it. But the book is more aimed towards the psychological aspect of it: he wants people to understand the wolves and bridge the gap between the sheep herders and the wolves, to stop them from making the same mistake again as it has now become legal again to shoot the wolves. As I already said he is a very interesting person and to meet people like him it’s worth alone hiking 2600 miles.

So the story ended with him giving me my trail name – Coyote. The evening before we had told him that we came to the US from Mexico, so he said that as I brought this young girl Stiina with me over the border I remind him of a Coyote. Coyote is what the locals in Southern California call the Mexicans that are very sneaky and smart and bring people over the border.

Garry also taught us how to greet Native Americans if we meet any on the trail, you say: “Yetaheei”, which means “hello, good friend” and he gave us his good luck talisman, which was an actual arrowhead he found in the Native American land somewhere in the Mojave Desert. It’s from the times when people respected animals, especially the wolves, and lived in harmony with them.

After our very productive and slightly spiritual chat we continued on hiking for another hour or so over the beautiful Warner Spring meadow. If you would be a cow you would want to live in a place like this. We finally found a very nice spot to set our tent up. Garry came a little after, we lit the fire and enjoyed another evening under the clear sky, sitting and chatting by the fire.

Another day done; week – 1 done; 105 miles (169km) done and many more to come. Tomorrow an easy day, four miles/seven and a half kilometers to Warner Springs. Looking forward to finally taking a proper shower and washing the clothes – almost feels like Christmas, so excited!

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