Day 5 – Carmen’s Garden

Scissors Crossing to Barrel Springs
Mile 77.3 – Mile 101.1

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An unlocked for oasis in Julian

“Good luck out there” says Steven in his thick New York accent and as we shake hands, he pulls me in for a hug. “We hug here in Julian” he explains enthusiastically over my protest about not smelling my best. He had just finished telling me how his brother had taken his own life late last year and to find his way out of a deep depression, Steven started being of service to others. It would become the theme of my brief stay in the tourist town of Julian, CA.

Not knowing what to expect, I mosied over to the local market and was quickly redirected to a place across the street called Carmen’s Garden owned by another famous trail angel. Having lived in town for 43 years, Carmen exudes a boisterous and maternal propriety over her domain. She closed her Mexican restaurant a few years back and now only opens the door for PCT hikers known affectionately as ‘hiker trash’. i wandered in and soon had my feet soaking in warm soapy water and munching a slice of pizza. Tables are moved aside and all comers are welcome to flop on the restaurant floor, do laundry, and/or ‘shower’ in the commercial dishwashing sink. Deprivation makes these scant comforts seem like bliss.

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The stars of our peripatetic drama are not ready for their close-up

After a night filled with cacophonous snoring, it was time to return the trail but not before a breakfast at Granny’s Cafe. Wolfing down her delicious French toast made with cinnamon pull apart bread, I realize that I had walked out of Carmen’s without donating something for my stay. So it’s a walk back to Carmen’s and along the way I realize I forgot to tip Granny. So after revisting Carmen’s, it’s a walk back to Granny’s and to disprove a fundamental law of electromagnetism, positives attract! Doing the right thing rebounded immediately in the form of an instant hitch 12 miles back to the trail. Jerry, a young Mexican kid with a taped-together blue pickup was happy to give me a ride and refused antything for his trouble. Never doubt the kindness of strangers.

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Hiker fuel

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I took off from Scissor’s Crossing at about 8:30am with 6 liters of water intent on making it the 23 miles to thr next reliable source. The trail climbed steadily out of the San Felipe Valley, scoring its way across the dry, shadeless hills of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. I could often see the trail miles ahead of me encircling the hillsides ever upward until at last it transiitioned into a descent into the next valley puntuated by crossing the minor milestone (literally) of PCT mile 100.

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Weary but happy to arrive, I pulled into Barrel Springs at around 6:30 p.m. and could not get off my feet fast enough. Camp chores complete I settled in to listen to the chuckling spring accompanied by frog song and an occasioal owl as I drifted off to sleep, a tough day complete.

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