Total Miles: 332.3
Our usual start time of 6am came, and off Proton and I went. At 7:15 we came to the crossing of a little used road and parked there was an RV, of sorts. Out popped Coppertone, a former PCT thru-hiker turned trail angel (pictured in the red hat below) asking us whether we'd like a root beer float or pie ala mode. Not exactly your typical breakfast, but in hiker-land, anytime is the right time for pie. After 310 miles, this was truly our first trail magic. Coppertone has been doing this in various places for 4 seasons on the PCT, spending a week at a time in a single place before moving a week or two up the trail to perform yet more trail magic. After traveling the world, thru-hiking various trails, and working as a missionary in Peru, I asked him where he lived now, to which he replied by pointing a finger at his homemade RV and replying "Right there." A fascinating guy that I wished we had more time to chat with, but we had miles to make before the heat of the day set in.
After 15 miles of sun-drenched trail and with little sign of the desert breeze we'd enjoyed at times, we finally climbed over a rise to Silverwood Lake--the first actual lake the trail has passed, and a perfect spot to rest in the shade. We had hoped that Gazelle and XC would catch up at some point, and just as we were getting ready to hit the trail again Gazelle came around the bend to find us at the edge of the lake. An hour break turned into a two and a half hour break as Gazelle caught us up on a surprising amount of trail news for only having been separated for 12 hours. The worst bit of news was that a fellow thru-hiker named Billy, who shared a camp with us just two nights earlier, had gotten off the trail due to Achilles tendinitis, the same injury that had ended her thru-hike last year. She's the first thru-hiker we've seen multiple times these first few hundred miles who's been forced to end their hike, and it served as a sad reminder to the four of us that a complete thru-hike is often a precarious thing, at times hanging by a thread tied directly to being injury-free. In large measure, it comes down to luck.
Late in the afternoon heat, we saw a snake I've yet to see--a 3 foot long gopher snake. Without a rattle, I wasn't too startled to see him stretched across the trail until he started to move somewhat like a sidewinder while making a surprisingly loud hissing sound. Still coiled in a defensive posture as he slunk into the brush next to the trail, we tiptoed quickly around him even though gopher snakes are apparently harmless. Basically, they imitate rattle snakes--quite well, I might add.