I hadn’t planned on going to Julian. Circumstances, however, mandated that I make the trip; namely, waking up at 3 a.m. last night, looking in my food bag, and realizing I was a day short. I had also decided that certain first aid items were needed and others should be dumped to treat my sweat and sun-chafed skin. So there I stood this morning after walking three miles down into San Felipe Valley, thumb in the air on California Route 78 hoping to catch a lift into Julian.
Julian is a small town perched in the hills high above the arid San Felipe Valley. Even this far south in California, Julian gets winter snow and the occasional below zero day on account of its high altitude (74,000 feet). People native to Julian (are they Julianians?) consistently recall the wildfire of 2003, caused by a lost hunter sending signal fires and flares. Fire fighters surrounded the town, but could not prevent some homes from burning down. In the summertime, streets are crowded with tourists, but at this time of year, only the occasional hiker is the only person who looks like he doesn’t live here.
After 10 minutes of half-assed thumbing, I was able to catch a lift with a man who has invented a way to make jackhammers easier to operate. Just as I was climbing into the cab of the truck, another hiker, a 63 year old ultramarathoner who calls himself “Dad’s Grin” hopped aboard. He chose the name in remembrance of his late father. Through most of the 12-mile steep winding road we talked to our ride about the PCT. He was baffled by the concept of: (1) a continuous trail to Canada; and (2) how anyone could walk it.
We were deposited in front of the Julian Cafe, right on Julian’s main drag. Every store there is the Julian something-or-other and the town has a throwback, Main Street America feel to it. After taking down breakfast at the cafe, we walked across the street and plopped down on the benches in front of the town store.
I spent most of the day there, giving my feet a rest and doing a little resupply, picking up one more day of food and the following items: Zinc Oxide lotion, Gold Bond powder, Huggies wipes. Eliminated from the backpack: 6” ACE wrap, vaseline, extra large Ziploc bag. Other highlights of the day: (1) getting showers and a free pair of cushioned insoles at the home of the owner of the Julian Cafe; (2) being joined later in the day by other hikers: NAFTA, A-Train, Postcard, Allegheny.
I got back out to the trail around 5 p.m. and, since I hadn’t covered much ground for the day, hiked well into the night under a full moon, stopping after 14 miles at a water cache at 11:30 p.m.
Note; Night hiking was kind of a drag. A full moon definitely has mystique, but tripping over rocks, yawning, and wondering if a mountain lion is stalking you decidedly does not.