Day 5 – 13.5 miles to Julian

Crossing a desert bowl and getting spiked by a cactus.

I slept well – no pee trips! – and actually left camp just after 6:30am. I was aiming for a road crossing in 13.5 miles where I could hopefully get a ride into the town of Julian which is tiny but has all the essential services including the now-required Urgent Care. I’d budgeted 6 hours for the section and didn’t want to be caught out there during the hottest part of the day.

A quick steep 250’ climb warmed me up and soon after I caught sight of the desert bowl I would cross later. For now the trail was content to skirt around the outside and it was breezy as it ranged from 3500-4200’.


I caught and passed the three hikers who had left camp before me – another frustrating part of the injury is how well I’m hiking despite it – and eventually took a mid-section break in the shade. Several hikers tripped past until one positively crawled up. Time for a break? I suggested. “Yeah! Mind if I join you?” Sure. His name was Evan and it was his first long hike since he was a rubber ball teenager. We discussed how robust and energetic kids are and how science ought to figure out the reason and give the rest of us a shot of it. Evan says some older rich people are already getting injected with kids’ blood and it’s working. We speculated about harvesting the blood of battery farmed kids and I said I’d take two boys if he ran a Kickstarter campaign. We also discussed other futuristic developments like the perils of self-driving cars – what if you called a car to take you home from drunk from a party but woke up in Tijuana? What would that cost? Would it involve roaming charges? Another funny thing was that his family live in SoCal so told him not to bother sharing pictures of the desert. But he said things were different up at this altitude away from the roads, like how you didn’t see flowering cacti down there. And finally we had a serious talk about hunting and trapping and his experiences. Always good to share views without being discourteous.

Based on my chat with Evan I resolved to capture some pictures of the flowering cacti along today’s route.

Trouble was, I forgot cacti are spiky and got too close. I had to pick 16 quills one by one out of my arm. Each was anchored under the skin with a hook. Ouch.

The trail had one more small bump in elevation which offered a final view of the next section.

Descending 2000’ to the desert floor brought up a nice flat section crossing over to be totally surrounded by flat desert 360 degrees. The sun was hot now but the trail was super easy and I quickly crossed while enjoying the kind of scenery I haven’t experienced before and may not again.

I reached Scissors Crossing at 11:30 – again, 13.5 miles in 5 hours with a heavy limp while passing 10-12 hikers, what could I have done when fit? – and was surprised to be greeted with a cold beer by Pepper who had been helping at Scout and Frodo’s. He chose to do trail magic on his day off! Under the cooler underpass was quite the Saturday trail magic set up with Korean barbecue, beers a-plenty and a live chicken.

But I immediately found an angel called Ghost who was just about to take people the twelve miles into Julian so I just hopped aboard with five other hikers including Scooter – appropriate that my first and possibly my last rides should be with him. Another hiker onboard was Rob, a section hiker doing the trail over 10 years, who I first met in Lake Morena and have crossed over with several times since.

Ghost dropped us off at the back of Carmen’s restaurant, a legendary trail angel who greets all hikers with a hug, gives them a beer, lets them use the restaurant laundry machines and charge devices, lets them sleep on the floor and still finds time to run a Main Street restaurant. She’s all about hugs and love.

I got a room in the central motel and headed back to do laundry and have lunch at Carmen’s. It was actually the last day it will be a hiker haven as the place changes hands tomorrow. I made sure to sign the hiker register, probably to be one of the last few signatures ever. Rob wanted a shower so I tossed him my room key and carried on eating lunch.

Unfortunately the town’s Urgent Care facility is closed all weekend so I’ll have to lay low here for a zero tomorrow (Sunday) and get my foot looked at on Monday. It’s ballooned up further and I can’t flex it downwards, turn it outside or put any pressure of the outside.

I can barely walk around the 3-block town so spent most of the rest of the day in my room catching up on the NFL Draft that just took place. Dinner at the Julian Cafe was the inevitable half pound cheeseburger, chocolate malt and apple pie.

3 thoughts on “Day 5 – 13.5 miles to Julian

  1. Whoa – that’s some swelling you got there dude. Impressive trail angels on this section! Nice flower pics – surely it must be some kind of right of passage to get spiked by a PCT cactus? Hope the doc is useful when you get there and the trail is welcoming you back soon after the foot is rested :)

  2. Rest Ice Compress ELEVATE! Likely your shower, warmed everything up, and drained into the ankle there. Try and get the swelling down so they can do a proper evaluation. Hoping for the best!

  3. Gosh, do you have an ankle under all that swelling? I’m amazed you can walk at all. Hope you can have it looked at and something can be done. Keeping fingers crossed it is “just” a sprain and nothing more serious. Keep resting it.
    Those cactus prickles sound horrendous, but the flowers are pretty. Lol

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