Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Section B Complete

I am in Cabazon now, which is at the end of Section B. Part of the PCT was closed near Idyllwild because of a recent fire so I missed about 30 miles of the trail, but still with all the side trips and things I've walked about 200 miles now.

It has been an interesting section. I started off in oak woodland and chaparral, climbed into drier chaparral that looked a lot like how Mission Pine Springs will look in a few years after things start to grow back, then I dropped into low and hot chaparral and ended up at the Paradise Cafe, a famous hiker eating place, on Mother's Day.

I ate the hiker-famous Jose Burger which was about the best burger I've ever had. The meat was really good and had cheese, avocado, bacon, and jalapenos.

I leap-frogged a lot with the nice people I have met so far. Mike and Kat from San Diego, Tex and Karen who decided to hike the PCT through the burn area anyway, and Mark and Jean.

At the Paradise Cafe (wherever the heck it is, I'm not really sure, but about 17 miles from Idyllwild) I got a ride into Idyllwild which is another famous hiker hangout. There was a big sign in the middle of town saying "Welcome PCT Hikers." I got the $3 rate at the campground and free hot showers. Idyllwild is a great town in the forested mountains. You could really get sucked in and never leave. As soon as the Post Office was open I got my stuff and got the heck out. Don't want to sabotage the hike, you know.

From Idyllwild I hiked up the Devil's Slide trail to Saddle Junction which is a place where a bunch of trails meet, including the one to the top of San Jacinto. It felt great to climb a real mountain on a trail that has real climbing. The PCT is so level with switchbacks that go on forever. It's really only 1000 miles from Mexico to Canada but on the PCT it's 2700.

At Saddle Junction many people who have been hiking ahead of me since my 2nd day started to slow down, blaming the altitude. I don't notice altitude until about 12 or 13,000 feet or so, so I felt fabulous and continued on.

There was an option to skip a section of the PCT and climb San Jacinto. I took a pass on that. I can always return and do Cactus to Clouds for that.

I bumped into a guy I've met a few times on the trail named Gary. He hikes very fast. I can hardly keep up with him. I tried to keep up because we were talking. Before I knew it, we had passed the last reliable water source for the next 13 miles or so and were walking along Fuller Ridge in extreme winds and slippery snow. We ended up camping somewhere off the trail in the wind much later and further than I had wanted to go originally.

My tent, which is the Gossamer Gear "The One" is really noisy in the wind and flapped all night long. At least I've finally gotten better at setting it up so it won't fall down. It held, but the scary wind sound in the trees and the flapping of the sail fabric kept me up all night. At least I was warm. Hot actually. The tent, despite all the ventilation really stays warm inside.

In the morning I had only 3 sips of water left and was feeling dehydrated and very hungry since I barely ate the day before. Turned out we were only a few minutes from some water and a bunch of other guys who had camped in a nicer, yet still just as windy spot. I got some water and breakfast and said good-bye to Gary who went ahead to hike his own hike and began the arduous descent into the San Gorgonio Pass, which is the desert bottom.

What an awful decent. I think you lose something like 9000 feet of elevation on these horrible switchbacks that go on forever and ever. At the bottom your reward is a drinking faucet next to a boulder that offers about a foot of shade around it. Everybody cowered from the sun next to the boulder waiting to gain strength for the trek across the Desert Divide.

My feet were killing me. My hiking shoes do not breathe so my feet stink and get really tender when the ground gets hot. I had Tony send me my Chaco sandals and those really hurt my feet. The arches are too high so they feel bruised and I got blisters from the shape of the foot bed on the edges of my heels. I will have to send them home again.

At about 2:30 we began the hellish walk across the desert. You walk in sand following a bunch of posts rather than a real trail. Eventually you walk under Interstate 10 and some railroad tracks. Someone nice stashed some water under the bridge for another brief respite. If I had known, maybe I would not have lugged 4 liters of water across the desert.

At that point I said good-bye to the two guys I was walking with, Clockwork (who wears all orange clothes) and Darren. They went on and I was left to try to figure out how to get to Cabazon for my next Post Office stop.

Here's a tip: Don't go to Cabazon. There's no way to get there from the PCT. I started walking down a road but nobody gave me a ride. I could see the casino hotel from the road and figured it would go there. It ended in the middle of nowhere. I asked a lady if she would give me a ride but she said no and pointed to a dirt road behind a barbed wire fence on the Indian reservation and said that would probably take me there. I decided no thanks.

I hadn't intended to bring a phone but I've found it really handy. I took out my phone and called the casino hotel to see if they could connect me with a ride. I got connected to a taxi service (really low budget one) and they said they'd try to find me. I waited a while and nobody came.

I decided I'd walk back to the PCT because at least there was water and shade under the bridge. Back at the trail I called the cab again. I could see the freeway exit and figured maybe with better directions from me they could find me. As the sun was setting and I was thinking about sleeping under a bush, the taxi found me and took me to the casino at about 90 miles an hour with the car shimmying and smoking the whole way.

That is where I am. I now need to figure out how to get to the outlet mall to buy some breathable shoes and then the Post Office. I will use the taxi again to get back to the trail. All-in-all an expensive stop I wouldn't do again. Next time I'll make Big Bear my stop like everybody else. It only was one overnight from Idyllwild to Cabazon so it's pretty much a waste of my time, unless the outlet mall works out. Here's another tip: Don't put anything you can't live without in your resupply box. I put my guide book section in my box. I could have skipped the resupply if I hadn't done that.

I look forward to whatever comes next. Right away I will start climbing out of this hot desert into the mountains around San Gorgonio Peak, which is huge at over 10,000 feet. I'm not a big fan of the trees or the snow, preferring oak woodland and chaparral canyons with cute riparian oases but it'll be good to get back out on the trail again.

Thanks for reading my posts. If you are family or friends and know my email address, apparently my mailbox is full so I can't accept any email. I'm sorry. I only know how to fix that when I'm at home. And thanks for the comments. I keep moderation on and since I can only get online every now and then, that's why they don't show up quickly. I hope you understand.

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