PCT 2019: Day 11, Mike’s Place to Mary’s Place

Going where the wind don't blow so strange

The wind blew all night long. With it came occasional bursts of rain.

When I looked outside my tent in the morning it was hard for me to tell if it was still raining or if clouds had settled down upon us at Mike’s Place. Then I looked across 100 yards toward the house.

What the...? Was that a tail on the guy who just walked by?

DateThursday, April 4, 2019
WeatherMisty, windy morning, then clearing to partly cloudy; gradually warming to upper 60s
Trail ConditionsMany gradual ups and downs, some with rocks
Today's Miles18.5
Trip Miles145.4

After I emerged from my tent I walked to the house and found MJ. She told me Strange Bird had arrived last night after I had gone to bed. And yes, he was wearing a tail.

Now I understood the “strange” part of his name, but why was it “Strange Bird?”

When I had an opportunity to talk to him, I discovered that Strange Bird was intelligent and engaging. Except for the tail, he didn’t seem strange at all.

He said he likes to wear it in public, mostly for the reaction it gets. But also, it was his way of hiding his anxieties.

Strange Bird had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago and got his name from a shirt he wore. He said he designed it so that when he raised his arms, they looked like wings of a large bird.

Now the picture was becoming more clear.

As we talked, he wore the tail slung over his shoulder. That seemed to be a practical way to keep it out of the way.

Strange Bird told us about Mike’s Place. He explained the property was surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The state had tried to purchase Mike’s land to fill in the missing block, but he refused to sell it.

Mike was an heir to a tortilla machine company, and used the property to get away from the city. He allowed Strange Bird to live there for free in exchange for keeping an eye on the place.

Strange Bird said he had gone into town yesterday to buy food for our breakfast. A kitchen was set up in one of the sheds, and it was available for hikers. Pizzas are often made in the evening, but we missed out on that last night because Strange Bird wasn't here.

Bookworm cooked breakfast and a few other hikers pitched in to help. We ate breakfast burritos, pancakes and bacon.

I made sure to put some money in a donation jar. It was a big breakfast and a good way to warm up on this blustery, wet morning.

Clouds were still hanging low as I left Mike’s Place and entered the state park. Though not exactly raining, the air was still damp enough to wear my rain jacket.

As the trail began to climb the side of Bucksnort Mountain, the sun tried to push away the low clouds. They were stubborn, though, and hung around more than an hour longer.

No one is sure how the mountain got its name, but it’s speculated that deer hunters named it.

The higher I went the thicker the clouds became.

The trail went as high as 5,600 feet near Combs Peak, but did not go over the summit, which was at 6,193 feet in elevation.

Combs Peak is the highest point in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the eighth highest point in San Diego County. It is named for Jim Combs, a miner who operated a camp nearby in the 1890s.

Finally, the clouds began to lift at 9:30 a.m. I could see northeast of the trail the Santa Rosa Mountains and Toro Peak.

When I stopped for a snack, I saw several of my friends hiking in the distance.

Once I began walking again I decided to listen to “A Walk in Woods” a second time to catch what I missed after falling asleep last night.

The farther I hiked the better the San Jacinto Mountains could be viewed. They had snow on top and I wondered how much of it I would have to walk on, because I knew the trail went over those mountains.

At 1 p.m. I found the rest of the tramily had stopped for lunch near a stream.

The water in the stream had a lot of dirt, so Tengo and I used my bandana as a pre-filter for collecting some.

This stop was a good opportunity to let my quilt air out. Though my tent didn’t leak, last night's mist and rain had made the air damp enough to make my quilt damp.

The dry desert air dried it quickly.

Tengo and I walked together for most of the afternoon. Initially, the trail was flat and easy, but became more difficult as the day went on.

We passed a concrete cistern used for livestock. It didn’t look like a good spot to get water and we still had plenty from our stop at the stream, so we kept walking.

Soon the trail became more difficult as it climbed more steeply. It was steepest we had experienced for most of the trip so far.

The trail remained very scenic through this section, so that made the climb go better.

There were several blooming flowers, including Canterbury bells. They were a wildflower here, but they’re often found domesticated in residential gardens.

There were also plenty of interesting cacti to look at.

Tengo and I reached a water cache at 5:30 p.m. The water was left here by volunteers and there wasn’t a lot of it, so we only took a little to help us get to our campsite, where we knew there would be more water.

An hour later the sun was sinking near the horizon. The air was getting chilly, but I knew we were near our destination, so I didn't stop to put on a jacket.

Tengo got ahead of me on the last section to the campsite, which was called Mary’s Place. I was the last to arrive at 7 p.m. All of the other tramily members were already there, and as I approached they let out a loud cheer, "Gravity!"

I told them I was going to purposefully be the last to arrive so they can do that every day.

Mary’s Place was the exact opposite of Mike’s Place in every way. Instead of a collection of junk, the place was tidy. Instead of a few random chairs, we had two large picnic tables to sit at and eat.

Instead of a cruddy RV and no clear place to camp, we had a nice, flat spot to pitch our tents.

Instead of a clump of bushes that were the designated toilet area, we had a classy privy. It was so classy it even had a clever name, Muir John.

But the ultimate proof that this place was nothing like Mike’s Place was a small library. Inside were reprints of works by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Walt Whitman.

To be sure, this was a unique and special place. I had never seen a campsite like it, and it was all provided for free by a woman who lived nearby.

Bookworm wasn't here because he stayed behind at Mike's Place to finish cleaning up after breakfast. Besides the rest of the tramily, the other hikers who were here tonight included Just Awesome, Steel Belted, and Dan.

At dinner Deva said she had decided to change the trail name Hootenanny gave her because she didn’t feel it was a good fit. She was now Spamalot. She liked to eat spam and lots of it, so the name made sense.

I was glad she changed it. "Deva" was too close to "diva," and she was too sweet a person to be a diva.

Going where the wind don't blow so strange
Maybe off on some high cold mountain range
Lost one round but the price wasn't anything
A knife in the back and more of the same

From “He’s Gone” by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.