7/3 – 7/6/2013
45.8 miles, including 11.6 miles off trail
Mileage driven 235
A tale of a late start, sticky heat, being dobled, straddling a mountain, getting trammed, officially tagged and almost sabotaged
We tried to get to the trail by 7:00. But July 4th holiday traffic made the planned three-hour trip more like four. It was 8:15 before we got onto the trail. We got 4.8-miles in before 10:00 pm. We’ve come to like night hiking. Especially in the hot months, it makes a lot of sense. It brings a different experience to the PCT. Shadows are incredible against our headlamps. There is a lot more rustling around in the bush alive with wildlife we know is there but never see anyway. We heard a howling coyote as we started.
We’ve also learned to love cowboy camping. We found a nice little undeveloped site just on the trail, laid our sleeping bags out, and slept well. The sky was clear and stars bright making for a perfect night.
We woke up at 5:30 and were on the go by 6:15, sipping Via coffee while getting ready. Making hot coffee or breakfast takes too much time. Now we make cold coffee (even us coffee snobs agree the Via isn’t too bad). We then simply grab some hearty cranberry bread for breakfast and go.
It was hot and humid on the trail. By 8:00 the sun was beating down on us hard. There were lots of trees, deceptive trees, in that, in the distance we hoped for shade but as we neared, there was very little. At 11:30 we did find a nice tree-lined area and stopped for PB and J on tortillas, then napped for an hour. After, we had a bit of coffee, packed up and plodded on, finishing the day at 8:15, having completed 14.2-miles.
Water was a big part of our day. We passed two seasonal sources of water that were likely dry as we never found them. Knowing we had to be careful, we rationed our water and never ran out. We needed to get to Tunnel Spring to keep an adequate supply. Maps indicated the Tunnel Spring was .3-miles down a ravine. But it was .5-miles by our pedometer. It was steep, rocky, overgrown and slick at times. And the rewards were dubious. The water was just a drip at a time out of a moldy PVC pipe, about 10-inches above the greenest and buggiest water in a rusty trough that we’ve ever seen. It took roughly 45-minutes to get about 3/4 of a gallon before we gave up and simply hoped for the best with the next water source. We knocked out for another nap after our stressful water collection escapade, then had dinner before moving on. Once we got to the campsite, we decided we would use the tent. It was windy and late.
On Friday we got an early and quick start. We still had water but not enough to go much more than five miles. The maps indicated we would find water 2.3 miles from our camp site, either at Eagle Spring, 0.25 miles from the trail, or, at Cedar Spring about one-mile off trail with a 500-foot elevation drop, with water reported to come through corroded pipes or a green cattle trough. We opted for Eagle Spring.
The prospect of being Dobled at Eagle Spring didn’t dawn on us until we saw the note: “stagnate water.” The PCTA water reports indicated clean water could be grabbed from an underground pool, behind the trough full of lousy water, and under a 9″ x 9″ rock. We found the rock and slid it free from the hole, only to find lots of mud. Digging into the mud yielded some water but nothing that was clean and nothing we felt comfortable enough to even filter. It still would have been mud. Dobled again by the trail! We were now pretty much out of water.
So, now we had another day that was going to be largely about water. Neither of us feel more dependent on water than when we don’t have any. Without water, we are quickly reduced to scavengers. We moved on to the next published source, Fobes Saddle, 3.9-miles away with just a little over a liter of water between us. We took small sips as we needed and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. We were, in some respects, lucky, in that it was partly cloudy and not hot. We arrived at a great flat area full of camp sites with a sign indicating H2O down a path. The path down was about 0.3 miles and greeted us with a natural spring of cold, clean, clear water that was delicious. We drank and drank some more as we filled our water containers. The hike back out from the spring was hard with all the water we collected, but worth it knowing we were set for the day and beyond. We even had enough for afternoon coffee, a real treat. Later, mild elevation sickness took over Lynn. But spirits were lifted when we met southbound segment hikers, Leah and Josue and we chatted as we rested. Fortunately, they were able to confirm water at the next source, putting us at ease. The rest of the day was filled with climbing to about 7000-ft to arrive at an amazing camp site at mile 172. We straddled the top of the mountain, looking to the east to Palm Springs and to the west at Lake Hemet. It was very possibly the nicest site we’ve ever had. The night view was of the city lights of Palm Springs and the sunset to the west was rich with reds, yellows and grays.
It was there we realized an error in our planning. A 50-mile hike plus some water-searching miles suddenly looked like it was really a 64-mile trek. We both misread the mileage. We couldn’t do an extra day of hiking or make up the difference in the time left. We poured over the options, and decided we could walk into Idyllwild or we could take Wellman’s Divide trail to the Palm Springs Tram. The tram would get us closer to our car parked at Cabazon. From there we could get a taxi to take us the 10-miles down the road to get to our drop-off car.
On Saturday we trekked through about two tough miles of climbing. But that all relented to a smooth sandy, nicely shaded forest trail leading us to Tahquitz area. At Tahquitz Creek we collected another batch of water that was clean and wonderfully clear. We filtered it through our Sawyer and drank for an hour. From there we took the alternate (and gorgeous) trail Tahquitz Meadows, saving us 0.7 miles and 500 feet elevation climb.
Once we left the meadow we climbed a bit into the San Jacinto Wilderness Park. The highest elevation we reached was 9700 feet. It was checkerboard rich with amazing fern groves and alternating tall trees. We learned where there were trees (and shade) the ferns can’t grow. But where sun shines the ferns grow tall, in some places up past our waists.
The climb to the tram was rocky and steep. Portions of the hike were harder than anything yet on the PCT. But it was lush, green and beautiful. We finally made it to the back side of the tram around 4:30. We paid for two one-way tickets to the bottom. We called a cab. And we went home.
Whenever we do these hikes, we always take a bit of a risk by parking our cars in unfamiliar areas. We leave notes on the car indicating we are PCT hikers along with a cell or home number. We got a kind of double jeopardy when we were notified by the California Highway Patrol that our drop off car was “tagged” for being parked on a county road. This came as a message when we could pick up cell service close to Palm Springs. Luckily it was there when we arrived.
Then, after driving to pick up our second car, and without any real reason for looking, we found very large rocks behind both front tires of our car. The car was positioned such that all we could do was back up, so these rocks were strategically placed. When we got home and checked the phone for messages, a tersely worded tirade was left for us to enjoy: we had, apparently, parked on private property, although there were no signs saying so. The place was not friendly looking but did say PCT hikers were o.k. so we assumed we were o.k. too. Does being almost sabotaged with potentially a big cost to the car pay for parking on private property?