We all woke as the cloud-covered sky lightened outside the restaurant porch, and packed our bags before hanging out to wait for the cafe to open. With the rain coming down and the trail ahead closed due to a fire several years back, we’d all decided to hitchhike into Idyllwild rather than walk 17 miles along the road. It was to be my first “zero day,” and I looked forward to a day of eating, laundry, and wandering the town.
Paradise Valley Cafe opened at 8, though it took a little time to get the kitchen up and running. We all took seats, and I sat with Mama Goose and Tony who had lucked into sleeping in the bathroom the night before instead of braving the elements like the rest of us. I ordered a massive breakfast burrito and hot chocolate and devoured it shortly after it arrived. The hike had already increased my appetite, it seemed, and I don’t remember much of the meal other than that I liked it.
We talked for a time, and Mama Goose invited me to join the Warrior Hikes group at a house they’d rented in Idyllwild. With enough people, it would cost far less than a hotel, and would be considerably dryer than the campground. A shower and warm bed would be a welcome change from the trail, and I was looking forward to meeting my girlfriend in the morning for a day hike of San Jacinto. I accepted gladly.
We finished our food and arranged rides. A trail angel named Stacey offered myself and Supertramp, a Warrior Hiker, rides into town, and we jumped at the opportunity. She drove us in, telling us her story along the way. It was my first real face to face encounter with a trail angel, and one which I was most grateful for. Several years retired, she spent her Springs helping hikers around Idyllwild, showing them around and driving them to and from the trail heads. We talked for a time and she drove us around town once before dropping us off at the Warrior Hikes house, showing us the post office, laundromat, and grocery store, in addition to other local places of interest.
At the Warrior Hikes house we met up with Mama Goose, Tony, Eric and Ryan, Joel and Anne, and I took a room with Tony and Joel. I plugged in my electronics and readied my laundry, and we all walked back into town, me dressed only in my rain gear, as all my other clothes were going to be washed shortly. The thought of clean clothes was exciting, dry socks, no smelly shirt…it was almost too good to be true.
Tony, Ryan, and I split off from the main group and attended to our laundry. I ran into Stacey, who I’d last seen at Warner Springs, and chatted for a bit with her. She’d taken the name Miso Strong and was looking at leaving the next day, despite the impending snowstorm. I wished her luck and we went our separate ways, but it was very good to see her.
After the laundromat we wandered to the gear store where Ryan stopped to get new shoes, and Tony and I went to a bakery next door owned by a pair of former through-hikers. There we got massive cinnamon rolls and hot chocolates, and separated, Tony returning to the house for a nap and I going to the Post Office to collect my resupply.
Sadly, the U.S. Postal Service failed me and my resupply box had gone to the wrong post office. With no food for the upcoming 6 day leg up to Big Bear, I grew concerned, to say the least, but opted to go with a no-cook solution for the coming hike. It would save water through the heat of the desert pass, and potentially weight down from San Jacinto and then up to Big Bear. I also was looking forward to trying it out for a leg, as I’d heard many positives about doing so.
I went to the library and blogged for a bit, then bought food for dinner. The Warrior Hikers were planning a pasta meal, and loving to cook, I thought it would be nice to make up some sausage and peppers to accompany the spaghetti. It was the least I could do for the kindness they showed me, and I was looking forward to the calm that cooking would bring me.
I walked back to the house and arrived as everyone was settling in, and set to cooking. Though others offered help, I declined, and took over the entire operation. I made a huge pot of spaghetti bolognese, and sausage and peppers that had the whole house smelling of garlic and sauteed onions. This would prove to be the topic of conversation for some time about me, it turns out, as there was a debate it started about whether I was a professional chef in disguise. Apparently my vegetables were perfectly cut, though I felt I could’ve done better. Either way, it was good food, and great company, and we laughed and joked and ate until we were beyond full.
After dinner, I showered and we all sat in the living room, telling jokes and chatting, and I felt completely at home. I felt I belonged with those people, there at a rental house in Idyllwild, with the trail both ahead and behind. I went to bed happy, and happier still for what the next day would bring, a hike in the rain with my girlfriend to the 11000 foot summit of Mt San Jacinto.