Indian Flats Road to Warner Springs

8.626 miles including half-mile hike-in to the trail


Looking north at trail head near Indian Flats.

Looking north at trail head near Indian Flats.

Both of us were excited to get back on the trail. There was probably some sense of concern that if we didn’t get back to hiking that we might lose the momentum we created with earlier hikes. We felt that with the end-of-summer five-day 54-mile segment, which took us well over the 100-mile mark of the PCT, we had made good progress. With Patti’s recent diagnosis of breast cancer and the treatment plan that it requires, we were afraid that time on the trail will be limited. But 2 weeks after round one of chemo, Patti feels great, wants to get back to normal, and we had the time. So, off to the PCT we go, albeit briefly.

10/16/201211.36 miles including 1.5 mile hike-out to carNorthboundSide TripsAlong our way on the Pacific Crest Trail, we have come to see a few side-trips. Sometimes, we make a wrong turn. Sometimes, it's hard to find the trail and we end up walking a ways before we get back on track. We've learned and joked about needing to cross the roads we have encountered and not just turn on to them as if the road became the trail. It just seems instinctive to follow the road instead of crossing it. And sometimes, something, some kind of energy almost, pulls you away from the trail and you make a discovery like a great view of a valley or some other wonder of nature. We've come to realize that we have to accept the unplanned. We have to accept what we can't anticipate. We have to live with what happens. Sometimes, we just have to take a side trip.The hike from Pioneer Mail to Mason Valley Truck Trail was kind of a side trip. We hadn't really planned on hiking that day. But we suddenly found ourselves free on a Tuesday, the weather was spectacular and the time was right. It had been more than a month since our last hike and we were both ready to get back on the trail.Water at Pioneer Mail    Trail head at Pioneer Mail. We earlier indicated water was available at Pioneer Mail. But we found someone else's report indicating the opposite. We confirmed the water works. It was cold and tasted great.We left one car at the Pedro Fages Monument marker on Sunrise Highway and then headed south in the other car. Just a few minutes down the road was Pioneer Mail, a stopping point of an earlier segment. A sign warned us that the PCT was actually 1.5-miles east of the monument so we knew to plan the hike-out at the end of our day. It was just before 11:30 before we got a start.Ledge    Looking north on a concrete ledge, likely erected for safety. It's one of the only human-made construction of anything we've seen along the PCT excepting a bridge or two.This segment was much like our earlier hike leading into Pioneer Mail from Burnt Rancheria. We skirted the border between the Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the east and the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. While it was in the 80's and 90's in San Diego proper, we enjoyed high 70's through most of the afternoon. The terrain was also within a tight elevation range so the hike this day was easy. Very little shade along the way, but a nice breeze from the west face kept us mostly comfortable. The only wildlife we saw was while starting the hike at Pioneer Mail. A small bobcat checked us out from a shrub away from a picnic area. He quickly scooted away and was gone.On an earlier segment we once found a memorial off a bit from the trail. We posted a picture of the cross we found that bears the name of the guy whose life is being honored. Near this ledge pictured above, we found other memorials, many clustered together embedded into boulders. It made us wonder what their stories were. The plaques briefly describing the dead can't explain much. You don't really get a sense of who these people were. Were they hikers? Had they completed the trail? Was that their goal? Mother, father, brother, sister, each of them someone. But a note on a rock doesn't give the details, doesn't really tell you much. It did fuel some thinking about what such a memorial to one of us would say.Memorial    Several memorials overlook the desert just a quarter-mile north of Pioneer Mail.Memorials    As we walked around the boulders we found more plaques. In total we counted eight, but we're not sure we found them all.Unknown plant    Brother Brian, the family gardener, confirmed this is a Yucca Agavaceae,. We saw a lot of these plants along the way leading into the Mason Valley Truck area.Sadly, as pleasant and therapeutic this hike was, the fact is the day was tainted. Most of the time we awaited phone calls from people we didn't want to speak to. The words heard just the week before over the phone from the doctor were the most foreign and frightening words ever imaginable. "It is a horrible disease. It will not end you. This is treatable. Stay positive." Here on the mountain, five days later, we expected calls from radiologists, oncologists, concerned family members and colleagues at work wondering why we haven't answered e-mails. It was all much more than we could absorb. It was more than we could digest. But somehow, being out on the trial, not quite far enough away from reality but far enough that we still were too far, we sought solace and strength to deal with what lies ahead of us.On October 4, 2012, Patti was diagnosed with breast cancer. To come is chemo, radiation, hormone treatment, herceptin IV therapy for a year, possibly more surgery.It seems we have just come upon an unplanned side trip. Our intent is to continue on our goal of completing the Pacific Crest Trail. Our plans are certainly delayed. Our path certainly detoured. But our determination and intent to complete our Pacific Crest Trail goal remains unchanged.

View of our parked car from trail head near Indian Flats. We hiked-in a half-mile ascent before finding our way to the trail.

It was a perfect day to get away. It had rained quite a bit the day before in the San Diego region. But by the time we arrived at the Indian Flats trail head around noon, the ground was mostly dry and the sky mostly clear. We dropped one car off at Warner Springs, an ending spot of an earlier segment done this summer, and then drove our second car on Indian Flats Road to the walk-in to the PCT trail head. We believed the distance ahead of us was going to be about 7-miles. But when all was done as told it was closer to 9-miles. The trail was a nice easy path. No rocks or sand. Beautiful scenery. Even some fall colors. Plenty of shade.  Perfect weather.

Moisture from rain the day before resting on a cactus. We found several instances of this along the way but not on any other vegetation.

Moisture from rain the day before resting on a cactus. We found several instances of this along the way but not on any other vegetation.

Ultimately, this segment was likely more about getting back to normal than it was about hiking. With so much of our time recently spent with doctors and chemo nurses, multiple procedures and tests, and awaiting results, it just seemed like time to get away. We were both unbelievable grateful that we could enjoy the day.

Small airplane tugs a glider to altitude before releasing it. We saw several of these gliders through the day.

A small airplane tugs a glider to altitude before releasing it. We saw several of these gliders through the day.

Near the trail was a small glider port. We started to notice two small aircraft flying closely together but then we realized that one was actually a glider and was in fact, being towed by the small airplane. When the glider was released and it was flying on its own, we could hear a bizarre and haunting howl as it flew overhead. It sounded like the alien tripods in the movie “War of the Worlds.”

Clouds from the storm of the day earlier lingered but never really threatened. Mostly the sky was clear.

Clouds from the storm of the day earlier lingered but never really threatened. Mostly, the sky was clear.

So far, so good with balancing the needs of Patti’s health with our goal of continuing our hike. It felt like an easy hike. We could have gone on further. It was invigorating. Felt great. Just like a normal hike.

Happy to still have my hair!  My port placement was perfect for my backpack- as requested. The halter monitor is due to one of the chemo drugs.

Happy to still have my hair! My port placement was perfect for my backpack as I had requested. The halter monitor is due to one of the chemo drugs.

We will continue to update the blog as we are able. We both sincerely appreciate the huge amount of support we have received. Thanks to everyone.

Patti & Lynn


6 thoughts on “Indian Flats Road to Warner Springs

    • Thanks very much. We suspect the trail will be as much a part of the recovery as the chemo. We’ll try to get out there as often as possible. We’re real fans of your blog. We camped out in Angeles National Forest back in the 80’s when we lived in LA. Was actually the gateway to our camping/hiking. Who would have known?


    • Elena, thanks to you. She’s feeling and looking good, yes. So glad we had the chance to get back on the trail last weekend. Just in time to do another round of chemo and to start the whole cycle over again.


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