After hiking more than 550 miles on the Arizona Trail, I need a break. I’m spending some time in Flagstaff and then I’m traveling to California for a long weekend.
I’ve been pushing myself a lot on the Arizona Trail for the past week and I’m very tired during my days in Flagstaff. Although I really enjoy hiking this trail, I need some rest. It’s mainly physical, my body just needs a break and a lot of food. I have lost a lot of weight and I’m currently experiencing the well-known “hiker hunger”. I eat huge amounts of food and I’m hungry again three hours later.
Luckily, I still have some energy left to visit downtown Flagstaff and that’s a great place to explore. Route 66 runs right through it and it is full of beautiful historic buildings with breweries and coffee shops. A great place to explore and I definitely want to come back someday to discover more.
I also have drinks with Dave to say goodbye. Because I’m going off trail for a few days, I won’t see him again. A weird feeling, because I’ve known him since day three of my hike on the Arizona Trail.
An adventurous Greyhound ride
The next morning it is time for a new adventure. I’m going to San Diego for a weekend and will travel to California there by Greyhound bus. That doesn’t have the best reputation here, I heard, among other things, that mainly confused Europeans and people who have just come out of prison use these buses as transport. So, my expectations are pretty low.
The bus station in Flagstaff doesn’t feel bad or unsafe to me, there’s plenty of space to wait. This is convenient because the bus is already an hour late. No problem, this happens everywhere.
The bus is packed when I finally get in, but I manage to get a seat in the front next to an older man. When we are driving on the highway, I see the door of the bus banging hard, it is clearly not closed properly. The man next to me wants to help and holds the door while driving, quite scary on the highway! Finally, the driver has had enough, puts the bus to the side of the road, and fixes the problem in a few minutes.
Off to Phoenix! In Phoenix, we are delayed by an extra hour, because they have to reset (?) the bus. It’s all very unclear. We get zero information.
When we finally get out of Phoenix, the bus starts to smell like weed. Someone decided that the bus is a great place to smoke some. The bus driver is furious and refuses to continue driving. This delay lasts another half hour. Do you think I’ll even get to California at some point? It is even suggested to return to Phoenix, but no one is happy about that.
Anyway, we drive on again until a loud beep is heard. Again we are at the side of the road. The bus has overheated. Not surprisingly, we’re driving through the desert and it is 95 degrees. The driver gives us a choice; wait for help (which can take up to 8 hours) or continue driving with the heating on (“it will be hot as hell”). Everyone wants to move on, so we’re on a sweltering bus in the direction of California. We have to stop a few more times, but fortunately, things are going well and we are fairly quickly in Blythe, a town just across the border in California. Yes!
I have meanwhile been in contact with Paulo who will pick me up in Indio and at this point, I’m thinking that it would be better for him to continue to Blythe. However, that will also take a couple of hours, so I decide to get back on the bus. During the drive from Blythe to Indio, I have a good conversation with my American neighbor who has been through a lot in her life. Despite our different backgrounds, we get along quite well. I love to get to know people this way.
Back on the Pacific Crest Trail
With a three-hour delay, we arrive in Indio around a quarter past ten, where Paulo is waiting for me. So glad he’s coming to pick me up! We eat something at Applebees and then quickly hit the road. We camp overnight at a primitive campground near the Pacific Crest Trail.
The next morning I have to take a closer look at it, it’s so crazy to be here again after three years! Obviously, the PCT is much, much busier than the Arizona Trail. Within ten minutes we meet at least six hikers on the trail. The nearby Paradise Valley Cafe, where we have breakfast, is completely full of hikers.
We give a few hikers a ride to Idyllwild and walk around there for a while. I love this little town and it’s on my list of lesser-known places in the USA for a reason.
On the way back we stop for a quick drink at Paradise Valley Cafe. There are a few Dutch hikers there that I know. It was really nice to catch up and hear about their experiences on the PCT.
We’re having lunch in Temecula, a town with a beautiful historic center full of old wooden buildings.
It is six o’clock when we finally arrive in San Diego and we’re done for the day. I’m so tired!
Sightseeing in San Diego
After a good night’s rest, it’s time to turn on tourist mode in San Diego. We eat donuts at Nomad Donuts and then go to the La Jolla neighborhood. Here is a beautiful viewpoint (Mt. Soledad) where you have a very gorgeous (360!) view of San Diego.
Then we go down a road full of luxury villas to the beach. The surrounding rocks are full of sea lions and pelicans. Really awesome to see!
For lunch, we go to the dock at Point Loma (Americas Cup Harbor). There are many fishing boats here and some fish restaurants with very tasty seafood. We take our lunch to the adjacent brewery and eat the fish with a nice beer in the sun. From our spot in the beer garden, I can see the sea lions swimming around in the harbor. What a beautiful day!
After that, I have to go shopping at REI for a new pair of shoes. While I don’t need to replace them right night, I’m sure they’re not going to last another 200+ miles, and after Flagstaff, there aren’t really any outdoor stores where I can buy new shoes. So I’ll hike the last 200 miles of the AZT in a brand new pair of hoka’s.
My last day in San Diego is all about catching up with family and work. In the past 1.5 months, I have not done anything to my administration and as a freelancer, I really need to keep track. In addition, I have to do my taxes. And that’s a lot of work!
I also do some shopping for the trail and send postcards to the Netherlands. A busy day that we end with a nice picnic in Balboa Park during sunset.
This weekend in San Diego really flew by. Before I know it, I’m on a plane to Phoenix on Tuesday morning. It is a special day because it is the first day that masks are no longer obliged. It’s a party on the plane (at 7 a.m.), with music during takeoff and the flight attendant keeps on saying that she’s “so happy to see these beautiful smiles again”.
Forest fire in Flagstaff
From Phoenix, I travel back to Flagstaff by Greyhound bus. Luckily I’m just in time and the ride on this bus is a completely different experience than the previous one. The bus is clean, almost empty, and on time. Not a bad experience at all!
When we’re arriving in Flagstaff, all phones start ringing at the same time. Emergency alerts! There is a big forest fire, can I still continue with the trail?
You can read more about this in the next travel journal.
Next journal: Hiking from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon | Mile 560-683 | Arizona Trail #10
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