Day 14: It’s Finally Cold! (Just in Time For Us to Be Indoors)

Our hike this morning was the strangest yet for this trip: it was cold! It’s the first morning yet that I actually wanted to leave my hoody on for a while after I started hiking, and, even hiking up hills with a big pack, there were times I was a little too chilly. It was wonderful.

Not only that, but the world was beautiful in a completely different way than it has been, too: it was actually cloudy and foggy all day long. Now, I know this isn’t news (or a particularly good thing) back to folks in San Francisco, but, in the Southern California desert in April, it’s a rare and wonderful thing. It isn’t just elevation, either: we were at about 5,500–6,000 feet all day long, where we’ve been for much of the past few days, and it was mostly incredibly hot and sunny that whole time.

Hiking in the fog makes the world feel mysterious and a little ethereal…almost as if you might round the next bend in the corner and meet Gandalf. (Who, hopefully, would let you pass.) It made it all the more ethereal that we’re still on the alternate route, detouring around the 2013 Mountain Fire closure of the PCT, and so we’ve been on back roads, little-used trails, and even far-out residential side streets all day long.

We spent the first half of the day making it into Idyllwild, CA, a planned resupply point and also the second zero for our trip. I didn’t know this before I got here, but it’s actually a bit of a tourist/resort/vacation-home kind of town, but one with charm — it’s not incredibly expensive, people do things like decorate their houses with totem poles, chainsaw bears, and gnomes, and it’s incredibly friendly. The inn we’re staying at has an enormous banner out front saying “Welcome, PCT Hikers!”, and, when you get to town, a woman runs out from a local restaurant and gives you free, homemade “Welcome to Idyllwild” cookies. (No, I’m not joking. And they’re awesome cookies, too.)

Just like the last time we stopped for a zero, being able to take showers (really, really long showers) and get our clothes cleaned feels just incredible. We checked into the inn (for two whole nights!), took said long showers, started our clothes in the laundry…and promptly ordered an large pizza with extra cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and bell peppers…plus garlic bread. And I more-or-less immediately devoured half of all of that. When our laundry came back clean to us a couple of hours later, I honestly just sort of felt like rolling around in it for a while. I know it’s hard to explain, but the level of dirt and stink to everything out here — think days spent out kicking up dust and sweating like crazy, all day long, with no way to wash anything at all — is so intense that being clean feels just so, so, so very good.

Best of all, though, hands down, was this: our friends Allie, Justa, and Shannon are in town! We thought we’d left them behind quite a few days ago, but it turns out they ran into some minor medical issues out here enough that they hitchhiked from Paradise Café to Idyllwild yesterday — meaning they were here waiting for us, today! It was so good to see them…and, even better, it seems like the feeling was mutual. Like I said a few posts ago, it’s impressive how fast you make friends on the trail, and it just made me so happy to see them again. We aren’t sure where we’ll all go from here — they’re planning to hitchhike back to Paradise Café and hike the detour route to get here — but, for now, I’m just really happy to have seen them again.

And happy that, tonight, instead of curling up in my sleeping bag in a tent, I get to fall asleep in a real bed, in a warm room. Most importantly of all, guess what awaits in the morning?

Real breakfast.

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