March 30, 2018
The next day was spent hiking around the mountains that would eventually drop down and across the desert floor toward Scissors Crossing, which is where most people hitch into Julian. It was the longest, hottest, and most frustrating day on the trail for me so far. The small mountains ran around in a wide circle filled with PUDS (Pointless Ups and Down) before finally dropping down into a straight line across the hot, flat desert, and I thanked God continuously for my sun umbrella.
When we finally reached the bridge, we found horse troughs filled with icy water, not to drink, but to keep all the water bottles, beer, and sodas cold for us hikers! The Cling-On immediately reached for a beer, but I was too hot and exhausted and grabbed a cold water instead, then I shed my pack and walked a ways down the dry riverbed under the pretense of needing to make a phone call.
The truth was, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and just needed some space from this guy I couldn’t seem to get away from. It was late in the day, the sun was setting, and it seemed my only option was to pitch my tent under the bridge with the Cling-On and whoever else might show up, which could easily include the camper van creeper. We were right by the highway and I had literally seen his camper van parked not far away. I felt trapped and vulnerable. I was afraid if I decided to continue hiking, the Cling-On would just follow me! I wanted to call my mom and just cry, but there was no way I was going to give her cause to worry about me. I would just need to figure this out somehow.
Like I said, I didn’t feel personally threatened by the young man who’d decided to tag along with me. But the camper van creeper was a big dude. Like, a BIG dude. I was outclassed by weight alone, but if I had to camp under a bridge, so be it. I had cell service. I could call the police if I had to. I also had a pocket knife and a decent working knowledge of self-defense. I’d be OK.
When I got back to the bridge I was met with an unexpected blessing.
A young woman and her parents were standing by a large SUV up on top of the bridge. The young woman, Shannon, was hiking the trail with her twin brothers and her parents were there to take them into town for the night. They were just waiting for her brothers to arrive. They said they’d be happy to give me a lift into town if I needed anything, but they only had one extra seat.
“That’d be awesome,” I said enthusiastically, “thank you!”
I scurried down the path to grab my pack.
“Are you gonna hitch into Julian?” The Cling-On asked.
“I’m already gone.” I said with a smile, waving to the few hikers resting under the bridge before hurrying back up the hill. I think I may have even given him a fist-bump in farewell. I didn’t want to make it too obvious that I was literally ditching him.
This would turn out to be one of the best decisions I made on trail. I chatted with Shannons’ family the whole way to Julian. She and her twin brothers were hiking the PCT together and their parents were supporting them for a short part of the Southern California section. Not only did they take me to Julian, where I enjoyed another delicious salad at Carmen’s and a free night sleeping on the floor of the air-conditioned restaurant (as opposed to sleeping beneath a sketchy highway overpass), but Shannon’s parents picked me up early the next morning and Shannon and I hiked out of Scissors Crossing together. Her brothers had opted to get a few extra hours’ sleep and would catch up to us later.
Shannon liked to be on the trail before the sun was up to beat the heat, and I was more than willing to get up a few hours earlier to hike with her. We seemed pretty compatible, and maybe by hiking out early I could get well ahead of the Cling-On and lose him at last.