April 23, 2019
Warner Springs, mile 109.5 to mile 126.9, “Mike’s Place,” 17.4 PCT miles, + 0.4 miles off trail for water, + 0.4 miles off trail to Mike’s Place, 18.2 miles total
Anyone know what this is?!
Starting up again around 9, we began our day-long, 14 mile ascent in the desert heat. It was actually a welcome change from the wind we had during our last few hiking days- when it was windy, at times it felt like somebody was standing on either side of me, pushing my backpack back and forth- so how nice it was to just walk, even if it was up and in the heat!
As we came to mile 118 we decided fill up our water at a small creek about .2 mile off trail. It was a welcomed change from the desert heat- definitely a few degrees cooler down there! And even cooler when my foot slipped off of a rock and landed in the water! Oops…
When we finished with the water, we walked back to the trail to eat lunch, where we chatted with a guy named Kevin- we had heard about him from Preston and Corey & knew it was him before he introduced himself! Kevin tries to sleep during the day and hikes during the night- possible trail name Night Crawler? (Although Preston and Corey wanted to name him Cheapskate…) Kevin is a character!
After lunch Matt and I started a hot and miserable climb- I was slightly nauseous after having chugged 1/2L water and burping up 3/4 of my lunch (ewww, and yes I had to share!) but eventually a small cloud cover and breeze gave us some relief from the heat and I felt better.
We hiked through a pretty neat boulder/rock field and Matt became a lizard king, spotting and announcing every lizard he saw, which was probably a hundred. “Lizard. Another lizard. Four lizards. Lizard. Big lizard. Small lizard. Lizard.” So many lizards!As we continued to climb, my mind drifted to a girl we had met on our second day of the hike- I didn’t even get her name! But she was SO tiny with a pack that weighed more than ours! We passed her that day and never saw her again- I was wondering if she was still on trail or what…
Some time before 5 we rolled into Mike’s Place, this funky little house/property seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Owned by a man named Mike but run by a man named Strange, PCT “hiker trash” are invited to stop by for some frequent trail magic, a place to pitch a tent, and a WATER TANK! As we were entering the property we passed some hikers who informed us Strange had JUST started the pizza oven- we were getting trail magic tonight!
Cyclops, another partial caretaker, gave us a little tour of the land: “beer and soda cooler here (I had my first real, non-diet soda in about 20 years!!), shitter’s over there- #1 to the left, two to the right, hang the “occupied” sign up if you want privacy, and drinking water there. Table weed on the table. Pitch your tent anywhere, behind the house blocks the wind. And grab your camping pots and spork, I just finished up some steamed veggies.”
Before doing anything I needed water, and he said DRINKING water!! I ditched my filtered stream-water and poured myself a liter of their drinking water, chugged half, then threw the bottle in a pile with our other bottles, ready to eat up some veggies! As I looked around, though, I saw that everyone else was filtering their water. I asked a few people and everyone agreed that we should be filtering it. Fuck. But he said drinking water!!! I grew anxious and mad and sad and I lost my appetite and I was imagining a future of explosive diarrhea in the woods for the next few days- it was terrible! Damnit Ali! Another stupid mistake today! First the poison oak, now this.I was telling Smokey, another helper at the property, all about my wilderness anxiety and everything I have done wrong or everything that might just kill me, and in this beautiful state of California, where marijuana is completely legal, Smokey sits back, packs a bowl, and hands it to me. (I politely declined…)I sulked back to our tent, still upset about my doomed future, where I realized that I had NO idea which of the 4 half-full waters was the “dirty” one. In the backpacking world, you have a bottle or bag to collect the dirty water, and a clean bottle or bag to filter the dirty water into so you can drink it- you don’t mix and match. And now, out of our 11 bottles, 3 were previously “dirty” and now 4 more were??!! I was really feeling shitty when I looked up on our tent and saw this lil 🐞- for some reason that put me at ease. Maybe luck was on my side?? (PS, I did corner Strange, Cyclops, AND Smokey, all separately, to ask about the need to filter- all said it’s well water and filtered under the house, but most people get worried about cross-contamination with other people’s bottles touching the spout so they filter….phew, at least it’s not known to be bacteria filled, like the e-coli water at Lake Morena!) Water/diarrhea crisis averted, now on to food!
Oh. My. Goodness. The veggie/potato stew was delish!! Cyclops is originally from New Orleans, and that’s where his inspiration for flavor comes from- it was such a magical creation. Days later and I’m still craving more! While we were eating the hikers kept talking about the hiker Mantra- was she gonna make it to Mike’s Place tonight? Of course she was, she always pulls through! Sometime later this Mantra character strolls in- turns out it was that girl from the second day!! We excitedly caught up on our last few days as we waited for pizza, while others did some yoga!
PizZA!! Strange had enlisted the help of a few hikers to activate the yeast, make/knead the dough, and prepare some veggies. Smokey put the pizzas together- first, 2 vegan pies for the vegans in the group, then 2 vegetarian pies for the non-meat eaters, then a few pies for everyone else! They were loaded with veggies and tasted so good!!
Most people retired to bed after the pizza but we stayed up a little later- and thank goodness because DESSERT PIZZAS!!! Mmm Strange is a bit…uh..strange (like, he has a tail…) but damn he’s brilliant in the kitchen!
Happiness is: the people at Mike’s Place. Such an interesting spot to stumble upon with hosts that just want you to relax and enjoy. They cook dinners for hikers on most nights and breakfasts some mornings (before we left they had made tortillas with eggs and sausage AND had some oranges and bananas out for grabs), they keep water in the tank(*must be filtered*), weed on the table, and cold soda and beer stocked. It’s a thru-hikers paradise, apparently funded by donations from thru-hikers past. Very cool!