May 11, 2015
Nance Canyon Tentsite (140.0) to Campsite at Tunnel Spring (158.4)
18.4 PCT miles today, 2.3 non-PCT miles today
163.2 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,982 ft, – 1,513 ft
This morning we woke up with one goal in mind: get to Paradise Valley Cafe in time for lunch. We had heard stories about their amazing burgers, and we were due for some indulgent off-trail eats. To prepare, we only ate pop tarts for breakfast, and then even though we had 12 hot, uphill miles to hike before lunch, Don refused to eat anything else, insistent that he wanted to be starving by the time we reached the road. His plan worked and when we got to HWY 74 at noon, we were desperate for food.
We walked the mile off-trail with a couple of our hiker friends, and met up with another 6 or so at the cafe. It was the perfect restaurant, and everything we could have hoped for. Comfortable outdoor seating with umbrellas to block the sun. Clean bathrooms, cute diner-style signs all over the walls, and a long menu that featured everything from burgers and shakes to burritos and salads. We all chose our poison and settled in for hours of glutinous feasting and uplifting conversation. We even had 4G so we were able to get some chores done and charge all our electronics.
Another highlight of our cafe stopover that we weren’t expecting was the acquisition of our trail names. On the PCT, one of the many traditions of the trail is that every hiker eventually gets given a “trail name” and that is the name they introduce themselves as for the rest of the hike. Ideally you don’t pick a name for yourself, you just wait for the trail to give you one, so up to this point we were still just Don and Rochelle. But then as everyone’s food started coming out, and all the burgers came with pickles on the side, and no one wanted their pickles so Don eagerly ate them all, he unknowingly earned the name “Pickles”. Everyone loved it and Don had no choice but to accept it as destiny. Just a little while later I was conversing with a group of people about the upcoming fire closure and the various alternates, reciting mile numbers and trail names, when Don suggested that I be called “MapQuest”. Again, this was received with much agreement and positivity, so I have accepted it as my name. From now on, out here at least, we are Pickles and MapQuest. Also, my mom has gotten quite popular among the hikers, which earned her a trail name too. Out on the trail she is being referred to as Mama Bear.
After lunch we made what we thought was a very easy decision. From the cafe there are a few options of how to get past the Mountain Fire Closure and back to Mile 178 on the PCT. Unfortunately, a lot of people just hitched the 17 miles from the cafe to Idyllwild, where they’ll hike back onto the trail, essentially skipping 27 miles of the PCT. We at least hoped we’d see more people choosing to walk the road, but “hike your own hike”. We got back on trail and hiked another 8 miles to the campsite we’re at now, on the PCT, in a little canyon, at a spring. Tomorrow we’ll hike all the way to Mile 162.6, where the trail actually closes, and then follow a series of detailed roads and trails to make our way to Idyllwild by foot and on trail. This, to us, is what makes our hike a “true thru” and offers us the entire PCT adventure. It adds some miles, and definitely isn’t the easy way out, but what good in life ever came easy?