April 27, 2016
Mile 201.66 – Whitewater Preserve (201.66 – 218.55)
The wind did not die down before 10pm. The tent collapsed on me once early in the night, and was still being blasted by gale force gusts past midnight. I started hearing night hikers go by, seeking refuge, and then saw Gummies’ headlamp bobbing by as he left the site. I debated whether I should stay or go. I wasn’t getting any sleep, and wasn’t going to get any while the wind kept up. I decided if the tent collapsed again, that would be my cue to leave. A couple of minutes later, it collapsed.
Packing up in the dark with hurricane-level winds blowing everything around was an epic struggle. When everything was packed up, I started walking. Night hiking alone was a bit creepy. I tried not to think about stalking cougars and other nocturnal creatures. I could see the lights of Palm Springs and the wind farm far below, which was pretty cool. The wind gusts continued as I hiked through the dark, making winding along the steep and rocky ridges somewhat frightening. I passed Cougar and Dr. McDirty’s tent, but pressed on. There was another campsite in 3 miles, and I just hoped it would be somewhat more sheltered from the wind.
When I reached the other campsite, the wind was still howling fiercely. I didn’t want to night hike alone anymore, so I threw down my stuff, not bothering to even try pitching my tent, and curled up inside my quilt on the ground. I just needed to wait out the night. The wind whipped my quilt around wildly. I think I finally managed to fall asleep around 3:30, and a couple of hours later my alarm was going off.
The desert trying to redeem itself with an awesome sunrise.
The morning light revealed my surroundings. I was still under San Jacinto, and the desert still stretched away below me. As I was finishing packing up, Cougar and Dr. McDirty came hiking down the switchbacks. They had also eventually given up on their tent and slept huddled against a boulder. We walked together a mile down into the desert, where a ton of hikers were gathered around a water faucet. Many (including Gummies) had ended up camping there last night, after hiking through the night in an attempt to escape the wind.
After leaving the faucet, we had to traverse a few miles of flat, sandy wasteland. We were walking head first into the still gusting wind, and our feet sank into the sandy ground, the sun beating down. It was a tough few miles. We met a guy who worked for the water company that provides the faucet, and he said it’s normally windy but that last night was insane. Apparently his house was shaking. When we finally reached the I-10 underpass, we found TRAIL MAGIC! It was exactly what we all needed after the night from hell. All I had wanted was to sit down in a somewhat sheltered location to have second breakfast, but there were coolers of fresh fruit and pop. It was amazing. Then another hiker came by and gave us little sticks of cheddar cheese. Best highway underpass ever.
A balanced breakfast under the highway
After I finally convinced myself to leave the shelter of the bridge, I started trekking through the hot desert. We were passing through the wind farm, which was pretty cool. There was a sign pointing to water and shade, and we found that the wind farm had constructed a little hut with a roof of palm fronds, and inside were some cases of bottled water. We sat and drank. I only walked another mile before I found a patch of shade to lie down in for a lunch break.
Enjoying shade and water at the wind farm
After my break, the trail started its inevitable climb up into the desert hills. It was the heat of the day, and my legs felt like lead. I stopped to catch my breath every couple of minutes. But when I finally reached the top, I was greeted with an indescribably beautiful view of the desert mountains. I could see the trail winding down far below, dotted with tiny hikers. I had my music on, and I suddenly got super emotional. Maybe it was partially because I was overtired, but I was just so happy and grateful to be there. It was so gorgeous.
The trail wound down and around and back up the desert ridges. I started feeling nauseous, and was worrying about why when I realized I had been hiking in the heat all day on essentially zero sleep. Duh. The last mile or so was rough, but it was all worth it when we reached Whitewater Creek. Gummies and I stopped to wash our socks and dunk our heads in the water, and it felt soooooo good. There was a half mile side trail to Whitewater Preserve, that wound through the creek bed.
Whitewater Preserve is a legitimate paradise. It’s also apparently an accessible tourist destination, which I was not expecting, and there were tons of cars and day trippers. The rangers allow PCT hikers to camp here for free, and there are bathrooms, picnic tables, and water faucets. There’s a whole city of hikers camped out on the lawn here. After setting up our tents, Gummies and I walked over to the river to wash ourselves and our clothes a bit. It felt so nice. Cougar and Dr. McDirty arrived, and we all sat around a picnic table to have dinner. A strong wind has come up again, and it’s making me nervous. It’s nowhere near as bad as last night, but I still wish it would just calm down. I don’t know if I can take my tent collapsing for a third night in a row. Speaking of which, when I went to set up my tent tonight, I realized I was missing a stake. I knew it would be a miracle for me to get out of that campsite in the wind and dark without leaving something behind. Then when I was pitching my tent tonight, I was pounding the stakes into the hard ground with a rock, and one of them actually broke! I’m down to only two of my good stakes now. Hopefully I’ll be able to buy some more in Big Bear in a couple of days.
The rock face that the rams were on! (Couldn’t get a good photo of them)
As I was laying in my tent after dinner, Gummies pointed out that there were a bunch of rams up on the rock face behind our tents. It was soooo cool to get to see them! It was like something from Planet Earth, but it was real. I’m so tired after my sleepless night last night, and I really hope the wind goes down so I can really rest tonight. Although I might be so exhausted that I’ll pass out anyway. Fingers crossed.