Shortly after midnight we awake to gusts of wind knocking our tent around like a piñata. The tent flops and twists with each blast of nature’s breath. Then it’s as if the foot of the desert god is pressing down on our tent, threatening to crush our little home. The rain fly flaps against our walls.
We pop outside to rerig our stakes then cozy back inside our fabric home. The desert god keeps up his antics, and we eventually learn to ignore them, barely drifting off to sleep as nature’s tantrum settles. We sleep in until 8:30, then we hit the trail. The other two hikers near us have already left.
We hike about 3 miles to the bridge at Scissors Crossing. Legend shuttles people back and forth from the trail here about three times per day. There are three hikers hanging out under the bridge when we arrive, gathered around a large propane camp stove. Tents are pitched under the bridge. One of the hikers, eating a breakfast burrito, greets us. Legend dropped them off here yesterday afternoon from Julian, and they’re planning to stay here today, hesitant to head out with the wind and forecasted rain.
We ask how it was under the bridge last night. One of the hikers says it was like heaven. He says he’s been cold, wet, or in the wind every night since starting the trail, so the bridge provided a needed refuge. He’s in no hurry to leave.
We recognize another hiker, who we past a couple of days ago. He and his friends were camping in a day park, the afternoon before the wind and rain hit hard. He says he woke up in a pool the next morning. Another girl that was with them got drenched and bought herself a new tent the next day. I laugh, “Life is rough on the trail” and others nod in unison.
We’re discussing the last few water caches, and mention the one at the day park. The hiker who had stayed there looks confused. “I didn’t know there was a water cache there.”
“Wait, you mean to tell me, the whole time you were staying there you didn’t refill on water?” Rachel asks.
“No! We’ve been carrying so much water this whole trip!”
We all errupt in laughter. He tells us that him and his friends are all accident prone so they’ve come prepared. “We started on the 5th!” he exclaims, “and now we’re here under this bridge.” We all laugh again. Thats about 20 days ago, and 13 days more than we’ve been on trail.
I like these guys. They’re fun.
Rachel asks if anyone has any cortisone cream. She has what appears to be a reaction to poison oak.
“I think I have some stuff with that in it” says the hiker previously eating a breakfast burrito. “I got it for this rash I have.”
He wanders over. I first notice the minor rash on his ankle. Then I notice he has two large red patches on the inner side of each knee and thigh. That doesn’t look good I think. That looks way worse than what Rachel has. We first think poison oak, but it does look slightly different. He’s overwhelmed when he realizes he has to wash everything he has if it is poison oak. The poison is in the plant oil which can spread to your clothes until you thoroughly wash them in warm water. That task is difficult when you’re living on the trail.
I feel bad for him. He says another person said it didn’t look like poison oak, but possibly heat rash. I hope for his sake it’s not poison oak, but heat rash would be awful as well because it’s not even April, and the heat has yet to arrive.
After breakfast and two cups of coffee Rachel and I decide to head out. One of the hikers says there’s a spot about 9 miles up that’s sheltered from the wind. We hope to make it there before the rain starts, which was forecast to begin already. The clouds boil behind us as we bid farewell and good luck to our friends.
“We will see you guys later” Rachel says.
“Maybe sooner if it begins to rain soon and we turn around” I say. It’s a shame to leave our new trail friends.
We hike up into the hills, the wind again gusting at our faces, buckling our knees, bullying us with nature’s trickery.
As we hike upward we pass a couple and their young son. He has a small pack and appears unfazed by the weather.
“Brave kid” I remark to Rachel.
“Yeah, brave parents” she responds to me.
More interesting desert plants appear out of the sand, bouncing in the wind. One projects stocks toward the sky in crooked lines, like lightning bolting upward from the ground.
I look at the clouds in the distance become darker and hope it’s not a premonition of what’s to come.
We push hard down the trail, only briefly stopping for a morsel of lunch. We don’t have time to dally. We want to get far as we can, and find a spot sheltered from the wind before we set camp. So we hike on, pushing further into the wind.
Near the top of the ridge the wind mellows out. We spot a flat place for our tent and set it up expecting the clouds approaching to open in any moment.
The sound of water begins to gently tap on our jackets as we set up our tent. We escape the rain, slinking into our shelter. It’s still early and we listen to podcasts and the taps of rain drops. We go to sleep without a proper dinner, unmotivated to cook in the rain. Instead we eat snacks. Night time comes and the rain taps rhythmically on our tent wall. The wind, although gentler than the nights before, reminds us of it’s presence, occasionally twisting the tent with a show of force.
I look forward to tomorrow and I hope for the sun.