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Day 6 – April 9, 2022

Mile 77.3 (Scissors Crossing/Julian, CA) to 83.1

5.8 trail miles | 5.7 tracked miles | 1,313 ft elevation gain | 87.8 F / 31 °C

Today was my first partial rest day or “nero”—also known as “near zero”, or in plain English a day during which few miles were hiked.

Joe and I woke up after sunrise at the Apple Tree Inn (what a luxury), and I made instant coffee, for medicinal purposes. We packed up our gear, triple checked that we we weren’t leaving anything behind (a constant worry when backpacking), and stepped outside.

I noticed, to my surprise, a bus stop right across the hotel. As it turns out, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System reaches Julian, and there is even a one-seat ride between our hotel and the PCT at Scissors Crossing. The schedule might be thin, but the service is available. The friendly lady who drove us from the trail to Julian yesterday and laughed at my question about bus routes just didn’t know. Such is the tragedy of rural transit service in the US—most people don’t even realize that it exists.

In any case, I had made arrangements with a local trail angel, who kindly picked us up at our hotel on his way to work. Moments later, we were back in Julian’s bustling downtown, and joined the rest of the crew for lunch at Miner’s Diner.

Miner’s is an institution whose claims to fame include a kitschy décor complete with a model railroad, and, naturally, ginormous portions. I ordered a salad in order to load up on much-needed vegetables.

Miner’s Diner, Julian, CA

We shared stories of our night in Julian. My unplanned late-night four-mile hike turned out to be pretty tame. A few folks who elected to stay with local “trail angels” had a true adventure. Highlights include an RV that was so filthy that they ended up pitching their tents in the yard, and a washing machine that was so nasty that their clothes came out dirtier, if that’s even possible. To add insult to injury, they had to do chores as compensation for their host’s hospitality.

And thus, the inevitable happened already: the family split up, as Carolyn, Ky, and Willow needed more rest and decided to stay another night in Julian. We’re hoping to reunite soon.

I also got wind of a few minor injuries, massive blisters, and knee issues. I feel fortunate—I am feeling great. I suppose that my training and shakedown hikes are paying off. Plus, I had the foresight to pre-tape my feet with Leukotape—I learned the hard way last summer.

A few of us hopped on the first “shuttle” back to Scissors Crossing, then hung out for about an hour at the highway underpass while waiting for the early afternoon heat to abate—a clear sign that we’re well on our way to hobo status.

Hanging out at the Scissors Crossing highway underpass

Shortly after 3pm, we resumed our hike and promptly gained 1,300 feet, thus earning a slight reprieve from the heat. The trail offered expansive views over the dramatic albeit mostly inhospitable San Felipe Valley.

Overlooking the San Felipe Valley

The diversity of desert wildflowers in full bloom was incredible. And I saw my first snake! It wasn’t particularly impressive, but I’m definitely okay with that. Knowing myself, I’ll be the first to step on a rattlesnake should there ever be one in my way.

Well, hello there!

After a brisk two-hour hike, we settled for the night at a clearing near mile 83.1. It’s a dry and exposed site, with virtually no protection from the elements, but the sunset was gorgeous. For dinner, I made beef ramen with tuna, my backpacker version of surf and turf!

The Big Picture

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