Day 4: Trail Angel Mary’s to Paradise Valley Cafe
Trail miles 145.5-151.9
May 6, 2019
In the morning, everything was wet. I peeked out to find a low-hanging mist blowing through camp, and promptly zipped my tent shut again.
I spent the next few minutes contorting my body to change into rain gear, deflate my sleeping pad, and stuff my quilt into my pack from the dry comfort of my tent. Of course this was simply a way of delaying the inevitable, so when everything was packed away, I donned my Goretex mittens and wriggled out of my tent.
I typically struggle to pack up my wet gear in the morning because my fingers chill so thoroughly that they become nearly immobile. But my waterproof mittens coupled surprisingly well with my sun gloves to keep my hands functional, and after a quick stop at the Muir John (Trail Angel Mary’s outhouse), I set out on the trail.
Paradise Valley Cafe was only seven miles from camp, so everyone had their minds on breakfast. T-Pain caught up with me and asked where I thought we were. “Hang on,” I said. “I’ve got a map in my pocket. I’ll check.”
He paused for a moment. “Wait, do you mean a paper map?” he asked incredulously.
Unlike the majority of hikers on the trail this season (and in recent years), I do carry paper maps and a compass (although I have never needed the compass). Most hikers, especially younger ones, rely on a series of apps that provide information about water sources, campsites, and mileage. While this technology can be helpful, it also has shortcomings (a few that spring readily to my mind include the risk of phone malfunction/damage, the threat of overuse or exploitation of delicate natural features that are tagged frequently, and the jarring effect of consulting a phone screen throughout the day when you are on a trip in the outdoors). My personal preference is for a paper-dominated navigation strategy supplemented by pdf maps and water reports stored on my phone. But through fellow hikers who use the apps exclusively, I have found that some information on the apps can sometimes be more up to date, especially regarding seasonal water sources.
Using my paper map, I informed T-Pain of our location (5 miles to breakfast), and we hiked on, chatting about jobs we’d held while off the trail.
As we neared Paradise Valley, the rain lifted, and the sun began to shine into the drainages we were traversing. “I watched you guys walk THROUGH a rainbow!” Evan exclaimed, as T-Pain and I crested a rise.
At the cafe, I ordered a monstrous plate of scrambled eggs with jalapenos and chorizo, too many slices of rye toast, and a large glass of milk. While we ate, I talked with Hot Hands and Brightside about taking a zero in Idyllwild. Considering my unidentified leg pains and my desire to make a slow start on this hike, their plan sounded very appealing.
T-Pain, Chris, Danish and I booked a room at the Silver Pines Lodge, which offers free laundry service for hikers (a huuuge selling point). Then we stood on the side of Highway 74 wagging our thumbs at passing cars until a very generous tourist from Germany picked us up and drove us all the way into Idyllwild.
For the rest of the day, we ate fresh broccoli and bananas from the grocery store, laughed at each other in the baggy loaner clothes offered by the front desk while our laundry was being washed, and marveled at the soft, warm beds we’d be sleeping in that night.