I didn’t sleep in again. It wasn’t as cold, and I had good reason to get going. It was 11 miles to the road to Paradise Valley Cafe, and the restaurant closed at 3pm on Mondays. No way was I missing out on a hot burger and a beer for lunch.
The trail ahead was what I had wanted it to be like the previous day. Mostly downhill, clear, and not too rugged. Just a mile in, I came to a shady trail junction where someone had set down a full, unopened jar of Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter. Of course I packed it out.
I dropped into the canyon where there was occasionally some water. There were some deep stagnant puddles near the trail. Not too appetizing. I was pretty much empty, but I decided to push on to the road anyway. From the canyon to the road, I passed at least three different day hikers, so I could have asked for water if desparate. There were also plenty of interesting views of the valley despite my having shed some 5,000 feet of elevation in the last 24 hours and being only a couple hundred feet above it.
At the road, I turned right and hiked a mile along the roadside to Paradise Valley Cafe, where business was jumping. After some negotiation, I plugged my devices into an outlet just outside the door and took a seat at a nearby table in the shade.
The outlet on the opposite side of the door was occupied by a power strip into which was plugged a keyboard, an amp, and some other electronics operated by an octogenarian Indian who said his name was Phoenix Feather something. He was covering blues standards and pop songs made to sound more bluesy. Meanwhile, he was simultaneously playing the keyboard and guitar. He didn’t have much of a voice left to sing, but the whole thing came together in a very worthwhile way.
The cold wind blowing across the valley soon made the shade of the porch uncomfortably chilly, so I relocated to a table directly in the sunshine behind Phoenix just in time for my beer and root beer to arrive. My Benz Burger, fries, and horseradish potato salad followed shortly thereafter. I chilled for an hour or so with another beer and several more root beers before ordering a BMW burger wrapped to go. When that arrived, I packed it into my bear can, emptied my trash, and grabbed some water from the bathroom. I walked out again just 15 minutes before the 3pm closing time—Phoenix was taking his gear inside too. On the way out, I passed a light up sign explaining that not only was dispersed camping banned, not even contained camp stoves were permitted for use at the moment. Yet more rules to pretend I didn’t see.
Back on the trail, the way south went onto the edge of another ridge without climbing—the road had been on a plateau whose edge was not visible from it, and instead, the value just dropped out from underneath me on one side.
There wasn’t one continuous ridge to follow the way there had been before. The whole park was made out of a collection of small hills, so the trail frequently had to drop into a slot and climb out again. And, as per usual, the sun started disappearing within just a few miles. But that cold wind didn’t go away. I walked faster to keep warm.
Not too long after dark, I arrived at “Hiker’s Paradise,” a water tank, picnic table, and Little Library tucked into a corner of private land that pushed the park boundary right up against the trail. There was a little monument to Walt Whitman (including some of his poetry in the LL) and, of course, John Muir. The trail register put here by Trail Angel Mary, who takes care of the cache, was unique in that it asked signers to write a short essay explaining why they decided to hike. I obliged.
Although this would probably have been about the only place I would not have been prosecuted for camping (as it’s on private land and not “dispersed”), I couldn’t let myself off the hook for a few additional miles left in my legs.
A couple of hours later, I turned aside into a clearing surrounded by a castle of towering boulders. There was no perfectly level spot to pitch my tent, but it was somewhat protected from the wind. I crawled into my tent before pulling out the burger and leftover fries to eat. It was a bit dry, but it sure beat having to cook.
Total distance: 21 miles
Trail progress: 19 miles