When 4am rolls around, a pickup truck rolls up to Paradise Valley Cafe, lights off – so I assume he knows there’s a smattering of hikers sleeping on the porch. But he and his buddy pop out of the truck and, I shit you not, one of them starts giving a tour to the other. And not like an inebriated tour, with slurring and overly annoying attempts to keep quiet, which would’ve almost been forgivable. Nono, these two sound stone cold sober. Apparently, I just need to get up, so I do so, refraining from throwing dirty looks in the direction of the tour, though only just.
Sasha and I are off around 5, still unable to find the trail from the cafe to the trailhead, so it’s down the road we go again, headlamps on for safety. We don’t really need them for ourselves, though – 5am is bright enough to see.
Soon enough, the sun comes up, lights up a different world from the one we walked yesterday.
Seriously, who put Utah in Southern California?
It’s a neat little mini-world, even if it is over too soon.
And then we’re headed up. Such up. Very up. So up. Wow.
We opt not to get water at Tunnel Spring to make the up more bearable. It’s about 8-ish miles to the next water – I’ve got about a liter and a half, Sasha has a liter, says she’ll be okay. Okay then.
Up, up, until the green gives way to desert and we can see for miles and miles around. I’ve been sucking down water in the heat of the up; I’m on my last liter. I wonder where Sasha is with hers.
There are several false summits, and then, near a nice, shady bench, our actual summit.
Then it’s 1.3 miles of pretty wicked switchbacks down into the valley, which we start basically running – we know there’s water at the bottom, and Sasha runs out; I’ve had more than she has, so I give her my last couple of swigs.
We hit the bottom, but have a hard time finding the water source – at least, until I notice a path of crushed grass leading somewhere. Of course, it’s to the spring, and even though it’s being monitored1 we break out the Sawyers and drink our fill.
Ryan fears he’s stayed too long and gets put fast; Sasha and I are a little more wistful about it. Once I frolic off to pee and find a human poo just sitting out in the open, though, I’m more than ready to go2.
We walk down “The Trail” out to a paved road, then down-up the paved road to an unpaved road. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but there is a lot of roadwalking. We avoid the highway when we come to it, crossing and dirt roadwalking underneath some power lines instead. We talk to distract ourselves – about our boyfriends, the trail, our lives.
Then we come to the 1.5 miles of highway walking, our last of the day. We take a break to steel ourselves, and then it’s off down the road.
But then, Lake Hemet Campground! A store with ice cream! And chips! Which we eat for the last half mile to Hurkey Campground, our final destination for the evening.
There’s a free campsite for hikers, and we sit around the picnic table being enthusiastic about town tomorrow with the others until the dark chases us to bed.
Start: 151.9 • End: 21.7, Trail + Detour • Day: 22.8 with roadwalk from Paradise Valley Café
Notable Accomplishments: Left before dawn! • Carried enough water • Roadwalked without jellying my knees
 Sasha: “What’s that?” Me: “Either it’s an explosive…” *pokes it with a trekking pole* “…Or it’s meant to monitor the animals who come to drink here. In this case, us.”
 THIS IS WHY WE AS A SPECIES CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Shitting all over everything and thinking someone else will take care of it, or at least you don’t need to. Humanity. Stahp.