May 1, 2018

The Green Valley Fire Station at San Fransquito Canyon Rd makes a water spigot available to PCT hikers, and thus became our first objective of the day, even before breakfast. Our online map and water report informed us that we would have to hike nearly 15 miles before reaching the next reliable water on the PCT. With a sigh for weight, but grateful nonetheless for this water spigot, we each filled three liters.

A nine hundred foot climb, over the course of 1.5 miles, was the next job for the day, bringing us out of San Fransquito Canyon. Lowering clouds and cold wind, with a few spatters of raindrops, rewarded us at the top of the ‘highlands’.

Nothing can compare with hiking into the cloud ceiling!

Once again the trail wound up and down and around, following the contours of the landscape.

The clouds followed us into the sheltering oaks on the sides of the ridges.

As we hiked, the wind became stronger, bringing downright frigid temperatures sweeping across the terrain.

After seven miles, Jay began shivering, and admitted that he felt rather under the weather, with a persistent headache and deep-seated chill. Our planned destination, a back country campground at 5,000 feet in elevation, was 8 miles further. Suspiciously, I eyed the clouds wisping around us. Camping inside this fog seemed a recipe for illness.

A few days earlier, on Half Miles’s PCT notes, Jay had read about a place called The Rock Inn, a restaurant and bar that also rented a few upstairs rooms. We had discussed stopping there, but decided it sounded rather noisy, since it advertised live music every night.

But now, with chilled water spitting on us from clammy clouds, and Jay shiveringly miserable, it seemed time to reconsider. I checked the map, and realized we were only one mile from the road leading to this possible oasis of warmth. I checked my phone, and was delighted to find that I had coverage! I called the inn, and confirmed that they not only had room, but tonight was acoustic night, guaranteed, the lady told me, to be quieter than usual!

So Jay and I turned off the PCT at Hughes Lake Road, committing ourselves to a two mile road walk in hopes of finding warm shelter and hot food at the other end.

The Rock Inn, completely built of stone, provided a private room with a double bed, a shared bathroom, laundry, and a restaurant full of delicious food. The owner and waitresses were exceptionally friendly, encouraging us to choose our own room, then helpfully packing food to be carried upstairs for a quiet meal. I felt as if I had walked through a time warp, transitioning so suddenly from bone-chilling wind-swept countryside to old-fashioned, paint-chipped, luxurious comfort.

A postcard shows the incredible rock work that gave the Rock Inn its name. On this chilly night, the bar and restaurant were busy, but the upstairs had only ourselves and two other thru-hikers, a couple from Hong Kong.