Summiting Mt. San Jacinto had been quite the experience, but it was one I was glad to put in the rear view mirror. I got a taste of hiking in the snow and it honestly made me a little more nervous about the Sierra Nevada. I was glad to have tested my microspikes and ice axe, though. Every little bit of practice helps!
I had heard for a few weeks how scary Fuller Ridge would be to descend from Mt. San Jacinto. Everyone said it would be snow covered, extremely icy and that traversing the downhill side might even be worse than conditions were going up.
Clearly the people who warned us of those conditions did not summit Mt. San Jacinto before making that assessment. Sure, there was snow blanketing the ground, and we kept losing the trail, but it wasn’t near as intimidating as the steep, snowy slope we had ascended the day before.
Coming down the mountain we searched for decent campsites, but many were buried under snow pack. When we finally reached a small patch of ground with no snow, we decided to make camp for the night since we had no clue what conditions we might be faced with in the coming miles. Perk and Tony managed to set up slightly off trail, but I ended up smack dab in the middle of the trail.
Setting up on trail isn’t necessarily the best idea because animals also tend to use the path of least resistance and might end up barreling into the obstruction, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Luckily, no deer, bears or mountain lions ended up charging my tent that night.
The next morning we continued our downhill trek. We lost the trail repeatedly, but were able to continue locating it by using Guthooks app. This app is amazing and I highly recommend it for PCT thru-hikers and section hikers. You can use it to navigate the trail, find water sources, view the elevation profile, leave comments for other hikers, and to review information about lodging and restaurants in town, all while keeping your phone in airplane mode.
After dropping down a few thousand feet in elevation, we stopped taking careful steps due to snow and returned to being on rattlesnake alert. Throughout the span of the day, we lost almost 7,000 ft of elevation; It was interesting to walk from what felt like a winter wonderland to the blazing heat of the arid desert floor in just a matter of hours.
After a 22.2 mile day (in which we crossed mile 200!), we reached our destination, the I-10 bridge just east of Cabazon, CA. Luckily, Uber is available in that area and we had a driver take us to an In-N-Out Burger that is located just a few minutes from the Pacific Crest Trail. This had been the biggest day for Perk, Tony and me so far, but it was worth all of the hard work!
While eating dinner, I noticed there was a casino right near the burger joint. I’m no gambler, but I thought it could be fun to stop in a try a slot machine or two. “How funny would it be for our stinky, dirty hiker trash selves to walk into that casino over there,” I asked Perk and Tony. We all laughed and agreed, “why not?”
After three pulls of the handle, I won $100,000 decided to cut the thru-hike short and live it up on a Caribbean island instead, so this is where this blog ends.
Just kidding. I spent $5 and didn’t win a thing. That didn’t stop me from imagining what drink I might be sipping on the beach if it had happened. Sigh.
We stayed at a Motel 6 that night, and left all of our errands to be dealt with the next day. I was happy to shed a little weight by sending my ice axe and microspikes ahead since I wouldn’t need them for a while. I felt some strange looks being cast upon me while I waltzed through town, ice axe in hand. I reckon it’s a pretty odd object to see a person toting around the desert floor.
We didn’t really intend to zero that day, but after all was said and done, we found ourselves back at the I-10 bridge just after dark. We decided that the bridge offered good shelter, despite the sound of traffic, and set up camp.
The next morning, I was pretty excited to walk through my first windmill farm. I had seen the from the road before, but seeing them much more closely made me feel small. Regardless of one’s stance on wind farms, it’s hard not to stand before such massive structures and marvel at the ingenuity of humans.
Because the wind farm was so exposed, the sun took it’s toll on my energy throughout the day. I found a rather refreshing river to soak in that afternoon, though. I finished the day with an amazing sunset, and strategically set up my tent to view a matching sunrise from my sleeping bag the following morning.
As if the week hadn’t been exciting enough with summiting Mt. San Jacinto, crossing mile 200, hiking my biggest day on the PCT, and stinking up a casino, right around this stretch I received a call from a friend saying he was thinking about hiking a section on the PCT. Well, he was sort of a friend..maybe more of a “crush” if you still call it that when you’re 31 years old.
I met Kyle, better known on trail as “Mayor,” in person about a month before starting my PCT thru-hike, but we became connected through the backpacking community the previous year. He had reached out to me to discuss self-publishing, as we both wrote and published books pertaining to the Appalachian Trail (Kyle’s book: Lost on the Appalachian Trail). Kyle thru-hiked the AT in 2014 (one year before me), and had just finished the PCT about a month before we started talking. I was excited to hear all about his trip and have him as a resource for information because I had just begun to really dig in and prep for my thru-hike.
The months passed and conversations continued, but I never thought I’d actually meet him before my thru-hike. He called me one day and said he was heading up from his home in Florida to see a friend in Virginia and I realized he would be passing through Opelika (my hometown), so I told him to stop in and say hello at the restaurant I was bartending at part-time. We hung out a couple times after that first meeting, but in April I left to hike the PCT and he was set to set to begin his southbound journey on the CDT in late June. Sure, we had a lot in common and enjoyed each other’s company, but neither of us had time to dwell on any of that, right? Right. We both made a new friend in the backpacking world and anything beyond that would just have to wait a year or more.
So, when I received his call mentioning a section hike on the PCT to “warm-up” for the CDT, I was pleasantly surprised. I excitedly (but not too excitedly–I had to keep my cool) told him I’d be happy for him to join me and Perk, unless he wanted to hike alone. Kyle said he had thought of doing a section of the AT, but he missed the PCT a lot and he would love to join us if I really didn’t mind. We finalized some details and decided we would see each other in a week or so.
When I hung up the phone, I wondered if what he had said was the entirety of it. Did he really just miss the PCT? Did he actually prefer sectioning the PCT over the AT? Was he potentially interested in seeing me? I really wasn’t quite sure, but either way I was thrilled he would be joining me. One might even say I had an extra little pep in my step as I awaited his arrival for the next few days.
Well, I suppose that’s enough gossip for one post, but here are some extra photos I was able to capture during this stretch of trail:
Thanks for following my journey! Until next time–