May 13, 2012
We have a complicated morning. With her run in with the heat yesterday, Natalie wants to get going early and avoid hiking in the hottest part of the day. Blaze is icing a sore ankle and isn’t in much of a hurry. None of us want to stay another day. There’s a bit of snippiness.
Ziggy and the Bear provide a generous breakfast spread. Cereal, milk, fruit, hot drinks, and the sort. Ziggy reminds everyone to call their mothers because it’s Mothers’ Day. She even has a phone for hikers to use. We already took care of this using Skype on my gadget. Thank you Ziggy and the Bear.
Midmorning and we start walking. It’s hot. Really hot. After a couple miles we take a break in the shade under some creosote. The girls have a sister moment. It happens.
Mesa Wind Farm
We muster on in the heat a couple more miles to the Mesa Wind Farm. The employees here have built a palm thatch roofed, earth berm walled hut for shade for hikers. And they stock it with water. Shade and water are a relief. The girls work out their sister moment.
A Mesa employees drives up to their main building. I walk over to thank him for the water and shade. He invites us in for “ice cold” water. Not only is there ice cold water, but also air conditioning and flush toilets. Natalie donates to their hiker fund and buys us each Klondike ice creams from their freezer. They’ve got a freezer stocked with break room foods like microwave burritos and pizza, and ice cream. And water in the fridge. Thanks Mesa crew. And thanks for the ice cream Natalie.
Eventually we go back to the heat and hiking. The trail is steep again.
After a couple more miles, I find Natalie’s trekking pole stuck upright in the trail. Ah, a sign. I look left and right. There they are under some brush on the side of the canyon. I join them. It’s not even noon and my zipper thermometer tells met its about 100ºF in the shade. Siesta time. We catch up on journals. Nat reads Ed Abbey to us. Napping in the heat isn’t very successful. I watch a few fellow hikers trudge on in the heat. They don’t seem to notice us up the hill and in the brush. Or don’t have the energy to acknowledge that they notice us. It is really hot.
San Gorgonio Wilderness
Later in the afternoon it cools down to 90ºF. We start walking. Just looking at the map, you wouldn’t think it. But this bit of trail is steep. I finally struggle to the top of the rise. Ahead of the girls even. Whew!
The landscape changes. Less desert brush and cacti, more grass. Big, open country and I can see the trail go on for miles. As we enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness, the trail goes some up and some down and mostly follows the contour. This is a welcome change and we make good time.
We get to the edge of the canyon and start our descent to the Whitewater River. We meet Shutterburst who has been leaving signs in the trail dirt telling Gator which way he’s going. He asks us if we’ve seen Gator. We tell him we haven’t seen anyone for awhile and haven’t yet met a Gator. Shutterburst shrugs, “He’s walking his own trail now.”
We decide to go the half mile off trail and camp at the Whitewater Preserve. What an oasis in the desert. The Preserve is a 2,826-acre area owned by the Wildlands Conservancy. In addition to wildland and riparian conservation and rennovation, they have transformed an old trout farm into a ranger station, day use and camping areas, and some of the old fish ponds into wading pools. PCT hikers are allowed to camp gratis, which includes access to potable water, flush toilets, picnic tables, and shade.
Our friends Beaver Cheeks and Two Bagels are camped out. They’ve spent the day swimming in the river (rather wading and laying in its deeper channels). We soak our feet in a creek by the camping “field.” Not sure if it’s a channel from the river, or something built for the old trout farm. The water is cold, which feels oh so good on trail aching feet.
We also meet Gator. His tent had fallen out of or off his pack and he had to go back looking for it. All the way back to the Mesa Wind Farm to find it. Bummer.
We all have dinner together. It’s a bring your own meal affair, and trail stories are shared.
PCT Day 26: 8.5 miles hiked. Camped at Whitewater Preserve a half mile from trail mile 219.