I woke up this morning at 5:00. There was no need to wake up that early. I just did it out of habit. Today was going to be a zero day, as in a day of zero hiking miles. That term is a bit of a misnomer, though. A zero day usually involves a lot walking and many activities because shopping and other chores need to be done.
All of my tramily friends slept last night in the rundown cabin. I was the only one who thought the cabin would be chilly and drafty, so I slept in my tent. This morning they said they were cold and didn’t sleep well. I stayed warm and comfortable all night long. I was sorry they had a bad night, but I liked being right.
The Pacific Crest Trail doesn’t always allow for a flexible hiking plan. That's different than the Appalachian Trail, where water and campsites are usually more evenly spaced. It's easier to hike enough miles to fill a day on the AT than it is on the PCT. In the first three weeks on this trail, we've had to sometimes stop earlier than we wished because there were too many miles ahead to reasonably reach another camping spot or water source. I’ve also discovered that hiking with a group takes away some flexibility. I might be willing and able to hike farther, but if I wish to stay with the Woo-hoo Crew I have to stop where they stop.
If you were to look at the elevation profile of the trail segment I walked today you would see that it involved climbing more than 4,600 feet. You might presume that made for a tiring day. Indeed, it was tiring, but not because of the climb.
Maybe staying in a motel off the interstate made us feel far removed from the trail. Maybe we were still in recovery mode. Some of us had just finished hiking a tough section of trail and the rest were getting over the flu. For whatever reason, we were in no particular hurry this morning to return to the trail. For certain, the reason we were slow wasn’t because we lingered over a deluxe breakfast. That’s not to say the breakfast at the Rodeway Inn was bad. At least it was free with the room. We’re thru-hikers and therefore not especially discriminating, so we did our best to fill up on cold cereal and prepackaged pastries.
Day 18, Fuller Ridge to Interstate 10
Now everybody has got the choice between hotdogs and hamburgers
The last four days had been challenging. The trail had climbed from 4,000 feet to 9,000 feet in elevation, where we then walked through several miles of snow. Along the way we were battered by wind. Today would be our reward. The trail was either downhill or flat the entire way. Waiting for us at the end were all the conveniences of modern life: fast food and Walmart, Ubers and motel rooms. We were going to have it all.
Day 17, Stealth Tentsite at Mile 187.3 to Fuller Ridge
Just then the wind came squalling through the door
Though Tengo Hambre and I had tucked our tents tightly among rocks, trees and shrubs, we weren’t completely protected from the blast of wind that hit us overnight. My tent began to flap and shudder as the wind picked up. The wind became increasingly gusty by morning, which I estimated to be up to 40 mph at times. It was a good thing I had anchored my tent well, but I didn’t really have much choice for that. The space for our tents was so tight and the ground was so rocky I had to use rocks and tree branches to tie off the tent ropes instead of using stakes.
Day 16, Tentsite at Mile 176.4 to Stealth Tentsite at Mile 187.3
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills ‘til the landslide brought me down
After a difficult day of hiking yesterday, I thought today might be a little easier. Nearly all of our discussion about snow in the San Jacinto Mountains was about the segment of trail along Apache Peak, which is what we walked yesterday. I thought, and I think everyone thought, the snow we might see today would be relatively limited.
The first two weeks of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail could not be called hard days. That’s not to say there weren’t a few difficult miles here and there, but overall, I never felt I was being pushed too hard. I wanted to hike this trail because I was looking for a challenge after I finished my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2017. So far, the trail has been mostly easy. That changed today. The trail was hard.
For nearly two weeks, I had been hiking with the same group of people. They were fun, intelligent and inclusive. Now the tramily was shrinking and it didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt as if the tramily was breaking up, but that may have just been because I had not seen much of the whole group while in Idyllwild. Tengo Hambre, Bookworm and I stayed in a different building than the rest of the group.
Our night at Mary’s Place was very comfortable. There were occasional wind gusts, but they didn’t interrupt my sleep much. The temperature dipped to the low 40s. The other hikers here told me they met Mary last night. I arrived after that so I missed her. This disappointed me because I wanted to thank her for providing such a nice place to stay.
The wind blew all night long. With it came occasional bursts of rain. When I looked outside my tent in the morning it was hard for me to tell if it was still raining or if clouds had settled down upon us at Mike’s Place. Then I looked across 100 yards toward the house. What the...? Was that a tail on the guy who just walked by?
Every day on the trail so far has been interesting, but for today that would be an incomplete description. The word just doesn’t do it justice. Different, maybe? Unusual? Strange? Yes, definitely strange.
I had been anticipating this day for a long time. I knew I would pass by Eagle Rock, which was a unique rock formation in the middle of a wide desert plain.