Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Part 3: Escape from Planet Julian

Carmen McNerney and Brian Dunning on the morning I made my Escape from Julian.

Escape from Planet Julian


After the complimentary apple pie was consumed, it was back to the lovely Julian Lodge, where after just a bit, Mr. Brian Dunning came for me. Since he refused gas money, I needed to fuel the man up somehow – with some lunch! So before we blew town, we were off to Carmen's Place – my favorite for several reasons.

First is Carmen. The woman exudes good vibes, offers all PCT hikers a free Tecate, remembers your name, and, no matter how busy her place is, she sits down, looks you in the eye and asks how you're doing. Then there's her food. The portions are scaled up to address hiker hunger, and rock beyond words. I really shouldn't have kept eating hiker-sized Carmen food after I stopped hiking, but I couldn't help myself. 

(While I didn't try all of Julian's eateries, I was there long enough to have two negative experiences. One place's grub was oily, congealed, blaringly cheap and all but inedible. There I resolved to never again eat at any restaurant that has a gift shop that stocks pennants and stuffed animals. The other restaurant was one I tried on a Saturday night. It was to close at 9:30 p.m., but when I got there at 8:50 p.m., the place was deserted. I inquired about pizza, and the employee made it clear that at that point, he wasn't interested in doing anything but getting ready to close. So I left.)

Following brunch, Brian and I hit the road. On the way to Scott Chatfield's house, we came up on the 15-mile side road to Warner Springs, where I had a resupply box waiting. It had been sent before my feet overruled my dreams, and while I could simply have had the postmaster forward it elsewhere with a phone call, Brian insisted on swinging by to pick it up – a 30-mile side trip.
Brian waits patiently while I buy my duffel. 

En route and at the Warner Springs PO, I saw several PCT hikers headed in for their boxes. I felt terrible, because I should have been among them. But my morale lifted a bit when, along with my ill-fated hiker box, I also picked up a wonderfully supportive and unexpected letter from my friend Julia Green. It certainly buoyed my spirits in that moment. Between her and Brian and Scott, I definitely felt supported in my time of woe.

En route to Scott's, I made a dozen or so phone calls to thrift stores along the way for a cheap duffel bag in which I could enclose my backpack for the bus and train rides to Martinez. Surprisingly, none of them had any in stock. Finally, I reached a shop in Encinitas, not far from Scott's, that did! A bright blue one, and just $6.

Soon we hung a left, hung a right and I was at Scott's, nursing my aching feet, sorting out my camping crap and waiting for Scott, who wouldn't be in until later. So for a few hours, I sat poolside in Leucadia, organizing my stuff for the next day's train ride and beholding the sunset. Now does this view suggest, oh I don't know, any particular Eagles album cover?

Poolside at Chatfield Manor. Such a lovely place...
If there was any musical justice in the world, everyone would be humming Mike Keneally's colossal ode to Scott's place, "Chatfield Manor." Because apart from amenities like the pool, Bennett the wonderful dog and my cordial host himself, Scott's abode also houses Mike's recording studio.

My bunk in Mike's studio.
Eventually, Scott and Bennett came home. We then spent a pleasant evening visiting, solving life, the universe and everything. Scott had set up an air-mattress bunk for me in Mike's studio, which I had previously viewed during a live webcast of a recording session there. While a more capacious bedroom was available, Scott knew that I would want to crash in the studio, "because it has Keneally on it."
And it was true. I'll probably never get to inhabit Frank's Utility Muffin Research Kitchen or Abbey Road Studios, but cutting Z's in the room where Mike iterated out some of his genius musical insights is certainly good enough for me! It immediately captured the imagination of my musician friends, the kinds of folks among whom Mike is a superstar.

That night in the studio, little Bennett came in and checked me out. First a noncommittal sniff at the side of the air mattress, then a tentative foray onto the quilt, and soon the little fellow was curled up beside me. It's always affirming when people's pets accept you, and I was honored! Especially because it was the famous Bennett, a superpooch with a huge following. There's a picture on his Facebook page that shows him staring out heartbreakingly from behind bars at the shelter the day Scott and Claudia adopted him, when his future and very existence was arguably iffy. But Bennett has gone on to a sterling canine career.

Scott and Bennett sharing breakfast.

The next morning, Scott and Bennett delivered me to the Solana Beach Amtrak station, and from there I made my way to the Bay Area, foot recovery and the now-imminent relaunch of my suspended Pacific Crest Trail hike.

1 comment:

Kristy Clark said...

When you hit Kennedy meadows and stop into the general store tell the owners to give a shout out to the Harmon's from their daughter way up in Humboldt. They typically swing by the store to visit with the owners and hikers. They have several beds and full amenities if you need a place to rest your busted up feet or even a hot shower. Good luck on your adventures.