Kick Off/ Lake Morena - Warner Springs - Lost Valley Spring
With a rough night's sleep due to be surrounded by people, I scoop up a free donut and make plans to leave early with a few other hikers whose company I've been enjoying.
I am the last one to leave the Warner Springs community center - it's been structured to accomodate hikers with computers and wireless internet as well as snacks and food for a resupply. It's staffed by volunteers and they rely on donations to make a profit. The resort that hikers used to stay at in this town has been closed so this is really the sole resource besides a gas station and a post office. It's a pretty admirable endeavor.
I hike briefly with the cousins (who really are cousins) and realize to my dismay that they are fast. Faster than me. I let them pull ahead and eventually meet up again on a ridgeline where everyone is setting up camp. It's nice to know despite feeling much slower, I show up just a few minutes after them. Bobcat, Maya, the cousins, Opus, and Joe and I all get to take in a wonderful sunset and share some food. There's a nice sense of camaraderie among all of these almost-strangers. I cowboy camp and sleep under the stars with no shelter. Letting go of any lingering worries about spiders crawling on me in my sleep is a great feeling, as is the complete lack of any need for privacy or shelter. I stare at the teeming masses of ants crawling under the clear plastic of my groundcloth and fall asleep.