A reasonable start again, probably hiking around 8. I still had a full bag of water from the restaurant and many miles to go before I would reach any reliable water.
The terrain of Anza-Borrego State Park remained the same as it had before, although private land and houses and buildings were frequently visible as unacquired lots encroached on the state park lands. It was up onto a rocky chapparal ridge one minute, winding a short way across the top, then down into a dry creek bed to reach the next one, just the same. I passed a dry concrete cistern at the top of one hill, broken and directly exposed to the sun so as to ensure it dried up early in the season.
I wanted to stop every time I found a shady spot with not too much wind, but I urged myself to keep going and get the miles done. At lunch, I built a rock seat beside the trail and managed to get just enough shade from the short bushes even as the sun moved the shadows around. After my last break of the daylight hours in the deepest, coldest dry creek, I began the most long and strenuous climb up the side of Combs Mountain and reached the trail’s highest point passing over its shoulder just as the sun was starting to set.
It was all downhill to the road from there, and I was racing the sun. By the time I reached the dirt road leading to Mike’s Place, it was already dark. My first order of business upon skipping down the driveway to his hiker water tank was to put on my headlamp. Then, plug my phone into my battery so I could keep the podcasts going the rest of the evening. Then finally to dispense some cool, cool water into my collection bag and gravity filter it again into my water bag. I also took the opportunity to get my rice started soaking because I still had some hiking to do.
Knowing I had a lot of miles to go without water ahead, I filled my bag completely, dropped a donation in the box, and went to find the connector trail that would take me down to the PCT without having to backtrack. Interestingly, when I met the PCT again, I found a sign lit by Christmas lights directing northbounders to the only water in the area. It was just before 6pm.
The next four miles were some of the most interesting terrain I had seen all day with the way the rocks were arranged near the trail. I was a bit disappointed I was doing it in the dark. Finally, I tracked down a hidden little campsite cloaked in bushes and very protected from the wind. It was warm enough out that I started cooking before setting up my tent and ate outside sitting on a rock. It was probably almost 8 by the time I got in bed.
Total distance: 21 miles