Wednesday, January 21 – Warner Springs, CA

We break camp and pack up the vehicles – our fairly faithful “wagons.” Our son Jon and Terry Wirth leave us for San Diego and home. Another division of our Trek personnel. One can better appreciate the original Battalion’s concerns when they were divided – small groups being sent into the wilderness with little food, equipment or protection. “Traumatic” seems too strong a word for us today, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s how it felt to them.

It’s all downhill from here. We’re descending from the mountains towards the coastal region and into San Diego. Peter starts hiking at Warner Pass all alone. The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow says “buckets of rain.” Our planned camp for tonight is on dirt roads in Warner’s valley so we’re worried about getting stuck with the heavy vehicles. Having to be towed out of a pasture at Pawnee Rock in Kansas has made us mud shy.

Denny, Jerry and I go looking for an alternate place to put the RV tonight. There are few RV parks in the area for us vagabonds. Back and forth we go, up one road then another. We talk to locals. We call (when the phones work) various parks and camps. Jerry and I wait while Denny checks a side canyon ten miles in the opposite direction from where we’re headed. Frustrating.

Colonel Cooke wrote about his days like this – the guides not sure about the best route, not knowing where to find water or forage for the animals. You can camp almost anywhere, but finding a “great” camp is no easy task while finding one “on the fly” is probably more than doubly hard.

Eventually, Denny arranges for the big rigs to proceed to the next planned camp down the road while Peter and I will do our primitive camp at Warners’.

It’s one of those days we REALLY needed a volunteer to help revise our arrangements. It pulls us off the trail and the opportunity to make some sense of things. Happily, the trail is known through here, so we’re not crippled in our efforts to find it. Peter is hiking the route, maintaining our Trek’s continuity.

By the time we get things puzzled out, Peter has nearly arrived at our period camp for tonight. It was a straight shot down S-2 to the crossing. The valley is broad, grassy and I think this is another area that looks substantially as it did in 1847. Herds of cattle are here as back then. Fewer natives though. We didn’t see any today. To the north, Mount Palomar catches some sun between the gathering gray clouds, the observatory domes bright in sunlight.

Once Peter arrives, we unload our equipment from the yellow Henski truck, then Denny drives it away, leaving Peter and I quite alone out in the pasture. We place the tent on a high spot with the door downwind. With its’ US flag flying in the breeze the tent looks very small out here. One can image about forty tents and nearly 400 men making a much more imposing presence in this place. They were down to just eight wagons.

For fun, I decide to use cow pies as our fuel to cook dinner. I’d wanted to do this ever since entering Kansas, but the opportunity just never arose at a convenient time. Tonight is the LAST opportunity on the trail to pull off this “experiment”, so I get motivated, gather a bunch of chips and start them burning.

The “old ways” – sometimes called “primitive technology” – isn’t something I think we should all “go back to.” At the same time, I always marvel at the simple answers that exist for most of our needs. The cow pies – even though not completely desiccated as buffalo chips would have been on the plains – burn hot and make short work of cooking. They were faster than charcoal. I’d intellectually expected them to work, but I’m surprised they work so well and they weren’t even “optimum” examples. Goes to show how “in touch with nature” our ancestors were.

The night promises to be cold and wet, so Peter and I wrap up in our blankets and snuggle down into our bags for the night.

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