4/18/14 – 4/20/14
Mileage driven 195
This trip was a powerhouse challenge in a short time. The plan was two days and nights for 30 or so miles. Ziggy and the Bear graciously offered again to let us park our car at their place. We picked up a cab from there to the bottom of the tram and rode the tram up to the top. From there, we planned to hike San Jacinto Peak and then come down the other side to meet up with the PCT where we left it on our earlier trip in July of 2013.
Right away, we encountered some challenges. While it was around 70-degrees and partly cloudy on the desert floor at Ziggy and the Bear’s, the top of the tram was closer to 35-degrees and it was snowing. We figured it might be cold if for no other reason than the altitude of San Jacinto (about 10,900-feet). We hadn’t figured on precipitation, however. We intentionally left our ponchos at home, tempting fate, and we lost. But luckily the snow – it was more sleet, really, or mini hail – did pass. We hiked in only two miles and set up camp where we stayed until morning when we woke to clear blue skies and cool, crisp air.
San Jacinto was roughly an 1800-foot climb from where we started. We scaled that pretty well. The path was very steep at times and we both struggled at the steepest points. Two hikers, each hiking separately, came up from behind and passed us as if we were staked down and not moving. We move slowly, apparently. But we have recently agreed that on going up, we just do better if we do it slowly.
Atop San Jacinto is a small stone cabin with two bunk beds and a fireplace that has been cemented shut. The cabin has probably taken in many thru-hikers over the years, despite the fact, as the sign on the door points out, it often is warmer outside in a good tent than inside the cabin. There was a certain reverence felt walking through the door, knowing that many hikers of the PCT have likely passed the same doorway. It was a little trashy and certainly dirty. But pretty cool place.
We knew that once we left San Jacinto Peak we would have things pretty easy. The peak was the highest point of our itinerary and it was almost entirely down from there. We both felt energized for having finished San Jacinto. We hiked passed and collected water from two different streams. We found a decent stopping point near mile 195 in a shallow valley between two small hillsides. We overlooked the world like it were a movie. But we stayed mostly in our tent. It was cold and windy.
Amazing was the shift in weather. The elevation change in our hike took us from 9100 at Round Valley to 10,900 at San Jacinto Peak to 1000 feet in Cabazon. The shift in temperature was 65-degrees.
We got an early start the following morning and saw the 200-mile trail marker by 9:30. And then we hiked down. Down. Down and down some more. It was steep and long and it was getting hot and dry. We stopped to rest and another hiker approached. Twice, from Alaska, on his second attempt at a thru-hike. Nice guy and he’ll make it. He hiked fast and we leaped frogged until he left us in the sand on our way to Ziggy and the Bear’s.
We have struggled often while hiking the heat of day, and know better. But we came off the mountain just five miles from Cabazon and we knew we could make it. However, after collecting water from a faucet in the middle of the desert, and still believing that we can easily do the last five miles, Lynn especially, felt the heat and experienced dehydration despite all efforts. We commented about the irony of having just 24-hours earlier hiking through small snow banks at 35-degrees.
The micro-climates seen in these different elevations brought interesting contrasts. It was bittersweet to be cold one day and then to be hot and in desert-dry air the next. As we got closer to the car, it was almost getting harder to get there. The sun was beating down. The sand was deep, just as Twice had warned. And the five miles seemed like ten.
Next month, we will do one last bit that once completed, will connect the entire distance between the Mexico border and Hiker Town. From there we move onward and northward. Looking forward to the Sierra’s, but we have 100 more miles of the desert first.
By the way, a couple of things we learned from this trip: The cab company, BBT taxi was fabulous. Definitely hiker friendly. When the credit charge app wasn’t getting service, they completely trusted us, just like old school. 951-581-3509.
On an opposite note, the Palm Springs Tram experience couldn’t have been more UNFRIENDLY to hikers. We bought a one way ticket down when we traveled through last time. But were not able to buy a one way ticket up. We were given an excuse that they have too many people to check on the way down, unless you are a hiker. Does that make any sense? At the security checkpoint, as the packs were being checked, Patti commented to Lynn, about the ticket fiasco, how stupid it was, and walked off. The guard made a comment calling out to Patti,” It’d be stupid if the tram blew up.” Lynn explained Patti was upset about the tickets not the pack inspection. But the guard seemed uninterested and entirely indifferent.