We woke up before dawn after cowboy camping in the Warner Springs Community Center parking lot and carried all our gear about 100 yards away to pack up, in hopes of not disturbing everyone else with our crinkly air mattresses and loud Tyvek groundsheet. We ate breakfast and packed our packs at a picnic table behind the Community Center bathrooms, which have a family of bunnies living underneath them. The bunnies venture out to nibble grass and then scurry back under the building whenever anyone approaches. What’s the cutest kind of infestation? A bunny infestation.
Big news, y’all. After various suggestions over the past few days, we’ve got trail names. A trail name is the name that you go by on a long hike—it can come from something you do (“Etch-a-Sketch” draws pictures in the trail registers), some physical object (“Cribbage” carries a cribbage board)), or really just about anything—a comment, a story, anything that causes a fellow hiker to say “That should be your trail name!”
There’s a tradition of receiving a trail name from other hikers, though you’re “allowed” to reject suggestions, and plenty of people just name themselves. A sampling of people we’ve met so far includes: Daydreamer, Moist, Foolhardy, Dino DNA, Sarge, Stump, Eskimo, Mountain Goat, Klutz, Jorge (a woman), Goat, and Lucky. There’s definitely a bit of insider-outsider, legit-newbie dynamic around trail names—Oh, you already have a trail name? You must have thru-hiked before… There are already many people who we only know by their trail names—and we’ll most likely never know their “real,” off-trail names (or as one hiker put it, “slave names”).
So Andrew was putting on his rain pants at Warner Springs, and I said “Those are some fancy pants!” in admiration of their zippers and velcro tabs. His hiking pants are also pretty schmancy, with zippered ventilation panels up the legs, so “Fancypants” it is. I’ve got a pretty sweet homemade water bucket that I constructed from leftover silnylon tarp scraps and an aluminum oven tray, so my name is “Bucket.” So now we’re legit! The first few times we introduced ourselves as Fancypants and Bucket rather than Andrew and Clare felt odd, but it has quickly become totally natural.
Today’s hiking was tough—everyone we saw was feeling the heat and the elevation gain and the lack of a breeze. The terrain is also… not the most exciting. The trail is sandy and exposed and follows the hills in big s-curves that mean you can see exactly where you’re going on the opposite hillsides—but before you get there you’re going to have to make a long detour into the bend? armpit? crotch? between the two. My vote would be to install zip-lines across the canyons, but the Forest Service may not be into that.
I’ve realized I have a strong preference for not being able to see the trail ahead of me. If I can’t see where it goes, then anything could be over the next hill or around the next bend: a waterfall! a taco truck! an ice cream stand! Or, more realistically: a great view! some nice shade! trail friends!
At the end of our 17.3 mile day today, we had one of those miracle moments: we got to the water tank at Mile 126.8 and discovered that Mike’s Hiker House, described in the guides/apps as “sometimes open, sometimes with food” was very open and very much serving spaghetti for dinner. We arrived to applause and beers and about two dozen equally tired and subsequently relieved hikers.
17.3 miles hiked, Mile 109.5 to 126.8, Mike’s Hiker House