Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Warner Springs, Mile 110, April 22

We made it! We are here in Warner Springs trying to relax, and enjoying the hospitality of Rachel's parents. It has been a tough five days since Mt. Laguna, and we are thankful to be here, safe and sound.

We left Mt. Laguna late on April 18th after walking to the store and Post Office. We bought our lunch supplies from the store and begged the use of a telephone jack from the store keep so that we could send off our first journal update, but after many attempts and much time we gave up and decided to carry on with the next leg of our hike. (We apologize for not getting these updates out in a more timely fashion, but sometimes technical problems do arise.)

The first day's hike out of Mt. Laguna was extremely scenic. We were hiking along the eastern rim of the mountain, and as we walked we were able to look down into the desert, many thousands of feet below us. It really was very spectacular. The contrast was stunning. Here we were in the high hills with pine trees around us, and yet, we were looking below at a desert where life is more severe and harsh.

What the trail offered in beauty, it did not offer in water. We were in for another long stretch without a water source. Our guide book listed many potential sources, but they were all about 1.5 miles off-route, amounting to a 3 mile detour, not something that we were eager to do. Fortunately, Rachel's parents offered to meet us about ten miles down the trail with a couple of gallons of water to replenish our stores. After the late start of the morning, this meant that we met up with them around 3:30 PM.

Once again carrying 9 liters of water each, we hit the trail to put in another couple of miles before stopping for the day. Our packs felt as though we were carrying gold bullion as we had just resupplied with food as well as water, so we began to search for a place to camp. It soon became apparent that we were traversing a steep hillside with little on either side of us other than chaparral bushes. The trail itself was about the most level spot to be found, if you could even call it that. At last, we passed a jeep track and decided to level out a spot big enough to pitch our tent. Not long after we did so, the wind picked up and we realized that we were in for a dusty night. We staked the tent down and tried to enclose our vestibules to protect us from the blowing sand, to which we were only partly successful..

That night we lay in our sleeping bags, unable to sleep through the shaking of the tent and the whipping of the rain fly. The windstorm raged around us, making our tent dance a jig and leaving us wondering if our little tent would withstand nature's fury. We dozed fitfully until about 4 AM, when the winds finally abated, and then we were up with the dawn at six. The restless night had worn on our nerves.

The next day saw us descending from the ridge line of Mt. Laguna, heading down, northeast towards the desert. It was sometime that afternoon when we encountered problems. It was either on the 1.3-mile "bone jarring descent" or the next 1.7-mile "business-like descent" in which Scott hurt his knee. Mild at first, it has been persistent and it has been getting worse. This knee pain has slowed up our pace and been cause for much concern, but as of yet, we are still making headway, albeit, much more slowly.

On the wake of that "business-like decent", we were forced to pitch our tent rather abruptly as some large black storm clouds came rolling over us. Fortunately we were at the head of a canyon in a nice level area and we were able to take refuge in the tent before the heavens really unleashed upon us. We spent the remainder of the evening relaxing, eating, and then fell into a deep slumber as the sun set.

Up with the dawn again the next morning, we hit he trail quickly, determined to make some good time as we were heading down into the valley below and the desert. We didn't want to dawdle as the day would only get hotter and we had many sweaty miles to cover. We began by descending a frustrating 6 miles to the valley floor. We weaved in and out of drainages and meandered our way down the hillside. The trail took a long way about getting down, as we had to detour 4 miles to the east, to stay on public lands, only to return westward once on the valley floor.

The trip across the valley only lasted for a few miles and we soon found ourselves looking up at the steep, dry, rugged San Felipe hills. We were looking at a 23-mile journey along the ridgeline of these desert hills, without any water sources.

As we were about to head up into the hills, we met a "Trail Angel", at the side of the road. A "Trail Angel" is someone who looks out for hikers along the trail and does what they can to assist them in our journey. In this case, our Trail Angel was Bill Jennings and he was out from San Diego to leave water at the beginning of our ascent. It would be appropriate to note that we have come across the blessings of other Trail Angels prior to this point, but so far we hadn't needed to use any of the water that they had left behind. In this case, however, we picked up a 1.5 liter bottle of water and made our way up onto the San Felipe hillside.

It was about 1:30 PM as we started up the hills, during the hottest part of the day. We were making good time, but the path just kept on going up, undulating in and out of steep drainages. We stopped to rest a couple of times, but then had to keep pushing on as there were nowhere to camp. These hills were so steep that we rarely took our eyes off the trail for fear of losing our balance and falling (in many places to a sure death).

We were about 4 miles up this hillside when Scott's knee began to give him some real problems. He had been all right so far as we had been going uphill, but now the fatigue of the day's mileage was beginning to get to him. For the next four miles we shuffled along at a slower, but steady pace, looking for anywhere that we could pitch the tent. The guidebook listed suitable camping about 9.1 miles in, but we had no idea how far we had come.. At last we found ourselves on a bit of a ridge with a small sandy patch just barely large enough for the tent. We set up camp and settled in for the night.

This mountain range had been very isolated, barren and bleak, but to our amazement we came around a turn to find the bounty of another Trail Angel. 60 one-gallon jugs of water had been left along the trail along with a note telling us that the spring at the bottom of the range was flowing. We looked at each other in utter amazement that somebody would go to the trouble to transport that much water up onto this dry mountain-side. For many, we are sure it was a life-saver, and for us, it was a greatly appreciated opportunity to top up our supplies.

We were now up on the ridgeline of the San Felipe range. We only had a few more miles of traversing along the steep ridge before we had a 5.6-mile descent into Warner Valley.. While the grade down the back side of the range was relatively gentle, it was still wearing on both of us. The length of the descent was brutal on Scott's already aching knee and we were relieved to have it behind us..

At this point we were unsure about whether Scott would be able to go on the next day. We decided to hitch a ride into Warner Springs to where Rachel's parents were camping. We stood on the side of the road with our thumbs out until finally we were offered a ride by a couple (Steve and Erin) who had been out jogging along the trail and had just returned to their vehicle. We managed to squeeze ourselves in, along with our packs and made our way down the road to Warner Springs. When we got to the campground that we thought that we were to meet at, we were dismayed to find that the campground was closed. Steve and Erin drove us back into town again, where we found a note outside the mini-mart telling us that Rachel's parents were another 13 miles further on. Fortunately for us, Steve and Erin were going that way anyway, and they dropped us off right in front of Rachel's parent's trailer. After a wonderful dinner of barbecued chicken we put our heads to rest.

This morning we got up, sorted though our next supply boxes, packaged them up to be mailed on ahead, and then Syd and Judith (Rachel's parents) drove us back to Barrel Springs where we had pulled out yesterday. It was only 8.7 miles from Barrel Springs to Warner Springs and we had decided to hike it without our packs in order to give Scott's knee a break. It was about 11 am by the time we got started and the sun was high. It was a hot day and we were making our way across low rolling hills without any shade. While we were able to cover the miles without too many problems, we were both amazed to realize that hiking without our packs was of no great benefit to how our legs and feet were feeling. Scott's knee was still acting up, and we were both experiencing the same foot fatigue that we do with our fully laden packs.

The highlight of today's hike was that we saw our first rattlesnake. It was just a baby, and it was so small that it hadn't even gotten it's first rattle yet. We stopped and watched it for a few minutes, while it returned the interest in us, but both parties were respectful of each other's space.

While Scott's knee is still giving him a great deal of trouble and pain, we have decided that we will continue on with our adventure. We will take it slow and easy, and we will remain hopeful that his knee will be able to heal while we are hiking. If, however, we find that it is getting worse or not showing any signs of improvement, we may have to consider pulling off the trail for a while to allow it to heal. This is not an option that either of us want to exercise, but we recognize that it may have to happen. In the meantime, we will remain hopeful for a recovery on-trail.