About 2.5 miles down the canyon from where we were camped was the former site of the Golden Chariot Mine. Gold was discovered there in 1871, and nearly $1 million worth of the precious metal was removed from it.
Gold continued to be mined there until 1931, but various attempts have been made since then to restart mining.
We didn’t see any gold on our hike, but we saw a lot of golden yellow California poppies.
|Date||Friday, March 29, 2019|
|Weather||Winds diminish to light breeze; mostly sunny with temperatures in upper 40s to low 70s|
|Trail Conditions||A few short and steep climbs, otherwise easy |
I woke up this morning just before 6:00. The air wasn’t as chilly as yesterday, mostly because we had camped lower in elevation. We were also protected from wind at the bottom of the canyon by trees and large shrubs.
Tengo was the first to leave camp. I left with Captain and Gilligan at 7:45 a.m.
As we left, we stopped to talk to Outlier. She hadn’t yet finished packing and admitted she was still getting used to hiking big miles. For now she needed to go a little slower. We offered her some encouragement and then began walking.
Almost immediately the trail followed a rutted dirt road steeply up the side of the canyon.
I knew we were getting closer to a highway and the town of Julian, and I guessed that as I got near the top of the climb cell service would be available. This turned out to be true, so I sent a text message to Kim to let her know all was good.
I had to pay attention to my footsteps as I texted, though. The ruts in the road made walking more difficult. I also knew I was approaching a junction where the trail turned off the road and I didn’t want to miss it.
Soon after reaching the junction, the sun was finally high enough to put the trail fully in sunlight. I stopped to take off my jacket.
Hootenanny and MJ appeared just then, following me down the trail. I was surprised to see them behind me because they left camp several minutes before Captain, Gilligan and I had.
They sheepishly explained they had been talking on the way up the road, missed the trail junction, and kept walking on the road for an extra distance.
The trail was easy as we walked along the side of a ridge. We chatted as we walked, not worrying about how fast we were going because we knew we only planned to walk about 13 miles today.
The mountainside was dotted with poppies and other wildflowers.
At 10 a.m. we reached another dirt road. We were surprised by the speed we had walked, despite our leisurely pace.
A water tank was located there. This provided an opportunity to refill our water bottles, but I didn't. Water had been plentiful where we had camped, so I still had enough for the remainder of today’s short hike.
From here on to the highway and RV park, the trail was mostly downhill.
As we continued down the trail, we walked together in small groups. Outlier had not yet caught up to us.
This was a day of short breaks to enjoy the views. It was getting hotter, though, and the miles were not coming quite as easily.
Ravens playfully circled overhead. They had an advantage over us, being able to catch the light breeze.
Reaching the bottom of the descent, the trail took us in a nearly straight line across the desert floor. It was filled with yellow and blue wildflowers, as well as several varieties of cactus.
There were still many signs of a fire that swept through here in 2002.
I walked for a while with MJ, then with Hootenanny. The remainder of the hike was easy, and we soon caught up to other members of our group.
Now at under 2,400 feet in elevation, we were feeling the full effects of the midday sun in the desert. It was our warmest day on the trail so far.
This was also the first day that really felt like being in the desert. At higher elevations we were sometimes in trees or in cooler air. Until today, we hadn’t seen much cactus.
When we reached the road at 2:30 p.m., we left a note for Outlier to let her know we were all going to Stagecoach Trails RV Resort. Then we set about trying to get a ride for the four miles to the RV park.
Falls had hiked ahead of us, so including me there were eight of us trying to hitchhike. That seemed to be too many for any chance of a ride for all of us.
Almost right away, though, a young man pulled up in a pickup truck towing a trailer. He wasn’t planning to camp at the RV park, but he was glad to take all of there.
Tengo, Deva, Hootenany, Bookworm and I rode in the back of the truck. The rest were in front. Within minutes we were at the RV park.
Falls greeted us when we arrived. He said he had rented the last cabin, which cost $65 and provided room for four people. Tengo, Bookworm and I agreed to share it with him.
The cabin was nothing more than a small box of corrugated metal containing four cots. At least it had an air conditioner and electrical outlets. Showers were located in one nearby building and a laundry room was in another.
Falls offered to do our laundry while we took our showers. I put my clothes in the Dyneema Cuben Fiber stuff sack I use to carry my sleeping quilt.
After I finished my shower I went to the laundry room to check on my clothes. Unfortunately, my stuff sack was nowhere to be found in the laundry room.
Falls said he had left it on top of the washing machine, so I hoped another hiker had picked it up. I then walked down to the tenting area, where most of the hikers were camped, and asked around.
A hiker named Eric said he had found the stuff sack in a hiker box in the laundry room. A hiker box is a place where hikers can leave their surplus food and other supplies. Other hikers are then free to take whatever they find in the box.
It wasn’t clear how my stuff sack had landed in the hiker box, but at least Eric returned it to me. It was not a cheap stuff sack and I needed it to keep my quilt dry.
While I was at the tenting area I showed the tramily my dog bite from yesterday. It was still sore and red, and they were appropriately sympathetic.
We talked of trying to get a ride into Julian for dinner, but decided there was a good chance we’d have difficulty getting back to the RV park after dark. We were planning to go there tomorrow anyway, so we decided instead to relax and stay where we were.
Outlier arrived at the RV park later in the day. By then the campground store was closed, so there was no way for her to get change for the laundry. Deva went around to the other hikers to collect loose change for Outlier.
That was just one more way everyone in this group cares about each other.