Today officially marks two weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail and I am at mile 232.5 camped on top of a rather large hill. If I open my tent door you can see Mount San Jacinto straight in front with Palm Springs to the left and the mountains going into Big Bear to the right.
Views of Mount San Jacinto from camp featuring Union Jack’s tent.
Yesterday Union Jack and I made it down San Jacinto. About 15.7 miles of all down hill trail with no shade for the last 10 of it. Thankfully we brought 6 liters of water because by the time we got to the bottom we each had half a liter left.
We weren’t the only ones who needed a lot of water. As we came down the mountain we passed a man and woman who were sitting in the shade on the phone. We nodded and smiled but they didn’t say anything to us. About a mile later downhill fire fighters were making their way up in extremely hot, heavy gear.
It turns out that the man we had passed was in an emergency situation and needed help. We told the fire fighters about how much further up they were and they pondered whether it would be safe enough for them to continue on. Helicopters circled above.
They decided to go on and we continued our way down the mountain. We were only a mile away from the water now and the heat was baking us relentlessly. When we got to the bottom we spoke with the fire fighters waiting for their crew and they gifted us both an ice cold Gatorade and water. It was the best Gatorade I’ve ever had in my life….but something tells me I will continue to say that.
The flat, hot, desert floor after descending the Snow Creek trail area.
The Fireman were pretty impressed with what we are doing and hinted that there was an In-N-Out burger in Cabazon, though they didn’t offer us a ride as we really hoped they would. Driven by the thought of Cheeseburgers we got an Uber into Cabazon where Union Jack had his first In-N-Out burger and I downed a 4×4 with fries.
The best In-N-Out burger of my life.
As we sat outside of the restaurant a lady came over to us and asked us what we were doing.
“Hiking the PCT.”
“Well, I know that! But where are you camping tonight?” She said.
When we explained that our best plan was to camp under the I-10 she exclaimed that it was a bad idea and that she was trail angel Mama Bear who is a trail angel in the area. She explained that there’s another trail angel named Hillbilly who takes in hikers overnight and that she would call him.
Next thing I know we are on our way to Hillbilly’s house with two other German hikers. When we get there he gives us the “Hillbilly initiation” which is a shot of real Ever clear alcohol. He then had me sign the guest book and gifted me a custom made Buff designed by Mama Bear specifically for the PCT.
He smoked sausages on the grill and we ate with the other hikers who were also staying with Hillbilly. It was quite an interesting place, really.
I slept on the floor and awoke at 6am to get ready to head back to the trail. I packed up all of my things and Union Jack and I waited for Hillbilly to give us a ride back to the trail. Though it took longer than we had hoped, we were grateful for the hospitality and ride to and fro.
The goal of the day was to make it 10 miles to the Whitewater Preserve, a river that was rumoured to be quite nice. We climbed the trail as it steadily headed upward and past Mesa Wind Farm, full of wind turbines. It was around here that I saw my first rattlesnake of the trail. I heard it’s rattle before I saw it and jumped backwards before stepping around.
Views of the Mesa Wind Farm from further up the trail.
We met flowers and Buddy nearing the top of the climb and continued on after a short break in the shade.It was steep but as soon as we made it to the top the trail gracefully wound its way down into a Canyon where we entered San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. This part of the trail was probably my favorite to date. It was barren and yet quite beautiful as the trail wound up and down with ease.
Coming down to the White Water Preserve. What an amazing thing it is to see a flowing river after hiking through dry, barren desert.
Finally we made our way down to the river, passing several day hikers as we went down. It was the most exciting thing I think I have come across on the trail so far. We went down to the river and to the right where there was shade and pools of water. I immediately stripped down to my sports bra and shorts and sat in the cold, flowing water.
It was reliving after hiking in the heat. After sitting for a moment I ran back to my pack to grab a packet of tuna with some mayo and olive oil. I ate lunch sitting in the river leaning against a rock. It felt so good!
It was just so absolutely beautiful!
The plan was to stay here until the sun started to go down, showing us remorse. As we sat Flower and Buddy came hiking down and joined us. We all sat in the water munching and making videos for a couple hours. After a bit they hiked on and Union Jack and I took a nice siesta through the hottest part of the day.
As we slept on the shore of the river several people passed us and it kind of made me giggle. We must have looked pretty funny laying on the shore snoring slightly.
Around 4:30 we had our stuff packed up and we made our way back to the PCT and onward. The trail was flat at first but after about 2.5 miles it began to climb steadily up the hills. We trekked on, making good time.
We did about 6 more miles and made it to our goal campsite. The views are phenomenal, though it was quite windy when I started to set up my tent. I noticed a rip in the socket that holds my trekking Pole in place and I plan on fixing it during siesta time tomorrow.
I feel good but extremely exhausted. That sun really knows how to give you a beating. My left ankle is swollen and stiff regardless of the cold soaking I gave it and so I took an Advil. It doesn’t hurt when I move it which is nice but I can feel the restriction of movement from the swelling. I’ve also gained another blister.
There’s a lot of “crappy” things that happen on the trail. Your feet hurt, you get blisters, you get sunburnt, and maybe even heat stroke. But at the end of the day I’m always grateful for being able to experience this for what it is, and for the great friends I have made along the way.