Scissors Crossing to 3rd Gate
Miles: 77 to 91 (14)
Cisco, Brendan, and I hitch a ride from the third car that rolls down the blacktop. We hop into the small sedan and fill it with the pungent aroma of dirt. sweat, and adventure. I roll my window down and watch the landscape change from brown to green. Twelve miles later, we’re delivered to a small town called Julian, best known for its Apple pie.
We have breakfast at Miners Diner and learn about a Mexican restaurant that offers to wash hiker laundry. We bring them our small stuff sacks, filled with sandy socks and smelly polyester. Compensation for cleaning our clothes is denied, the food is discounted, an an invitation to loiter on the patio is extended. The Julian locals are kind and hospitable, conscious of our arduous journey. The tourists here are curious, ask lots of questions and treat us like another element of this arid landscape that they came to visit. We’re perceived to be on some sort of pilgrimage.A stream of hikers filters through the patio all day. Trampon talks about a hiker that was covered with lizards while cowboy camping. 8 Track tells a story about the cougar that came by her campsite a few nights ago. “I threw my food bag at it and it growled, so I just sat in my tent and sang really loud.” So many stories to be shared, and we’ve just begun.
I’m wandering down the street, chatting with a couple hikers, when a car pulls over abruptly. Heather and her ecstatic dog, Layla, assumed we wanted a ride back to the trail. “She loves hikers,” heather says. “Don’t you, guuurl? You found three hikers all by yourself. Good guuurl.” We load our dusty packs into her hatchback and off we go, back to the land of sand and dirt.
Layla is licking my dirty, sunburnt hands, drooling all over everything, and Heather is explaining how wild turkeys were introduced to the area. “They’re an invasive species. Some of the local hunters were upset about the dwindling deer population, so they complained that they needed something else to shoot.” The huntets got their wish, something new to kill, and the entire community got a tweaked ecosystem. Sice the turkeys eat so many of the small lizards and rodents, the insect population has exploded. The lack of foresight is impressive.
I wait for Cisco and Brendan in the shady underpass by Scissors Crossing, but they never show. The sun is sinking, and I’m feeling antsy. 8 track, Trampon, and Stick are heading up the ridge. I grab a Rice Krispie Treat from a box of trail magic, stuff it in my hip pocket, and tag along. It’s time to cruise.I climb fourteen miles of dusty switchbacks, on my way to Third Gate. One range of mountains swallows the sun, as another releases the moon. I turn around and see my hiking partners far below, tiny specs on a distant switchback. I keep pushing, riding the hiker high, up and over one ridge after another. I round a bend and a torrent of wind tugs at me. I round another and the air is still again. A coyote howls, from somewhere in the distant shadows, and the trail suddenly narrows. I stop and loose gravel falls over the ledge to my left, clicking against rock walls as it goes. CLICK, CLIck, click, silence.
Full moon hikes in the desert are so rad.