Jackrabbit Hikes: PCT Day 8-10
Day 8 Aqua Caliente Creek (Mile 112.6 -> Concrete Cistern (Mile 139.5)
Woke up to the sound of the creek running beside me. The creek kept the temperature a little cooler overnight so sleep came that much easier.
Above 5000ft again after a long gradual climb all morning. West facing slope most of the walk so me and Graham avoided the morning sun’s gaze.
On this ridge you can see the spotted bushes of the dryer sections of desert form a green gradient.
We stopped at the first available water source for the day at around 9 miles in and got some water from a “spring”. A Far Out comment so accurately described it as “Shrek Piss”. If definitely smelled funky. But we filtered a liter or so and kept it in reserve.
We hiked on to the next water source where hikers were already piled up in the shade nearby. We dumped our Shrek piss and grabbed some fresher water. Graham said we probably killed the tree we poured it on, I didn’t disagree. We hydrated up and parked it for the next few hours.
After a making some new friends and some “old” friends catching up to hang for a bit, a few of us got antsy and decided to hike out.
Me, Graham, Austin, and Chef. 13 more miles.
We topped off our ascent from the morning and began the gradual descent in the sunset. The temperature was getting cooler by the minute and the miles came easier. The mountains glowed in the sunset and cast long shadows upon themselves. I was lost in the world. I looked up and Austin was sitting down just off the trail.
“What’s up, how close are we?” I asked.
Hell. Yeah. What a day. I was exhausted physically but so awake mentally. I still am as I write this long entry under the stars. I’ll be staring at them for a while. 26.8 miles, my first marathon day on the PCT. I feel invigorated.
The cistern we are sleeping on is a rain catch in the middle of nowhere filled with bugs and goodies. I could not care less. I filtered the water and it tastes like the nectar of the gods. The water source may not be perfect but it’s damn good tonight.
Day 9 – Concrete Cistern (Mile 139.5) – Tent Sites (Mile 155.9)
Our spot last night was so money. Other than sleeping on the the hard concrete of the rain catch of the cistern, perfect location. The sunrise came right over our heads and casted on the valley in front of us.
We all got out early and were North bound and down headed to Paradise Valley Cafe. “The best burger on trail”. It did not disappoint. That 1/2 lb patty on Texas toast was phat. With a p-h.
One of the very brief moments I sat my burger down, I looked out the window and did a double take. A face I recognized. And not from this side of the country.
I gave the hairy fella a big hug. I met Potato on the AT and we bumped into each other up and down the trail as we headed towards Katahdin. He’s a great guy and apparently got an itch for backpacking like me after the AT. I couldn’t believe I ran into him on the west coast.
We caught up for a few moments before my burger seduced me once more. We exchanged contact info and hugged one last time. It’s a wild feeling seeing someone you never expected to see again. It’s relief from a weight you didn’t know you were carrying.
Me, Graham, Ryan (Now Irwin after wrangling a “friendly” rosy Boa constrictor this morning”), Chef, Speaker and Austin all sat at the cafe all day. They closed the place down and we were left sitting against the outside walls, as hiker trash does. We sat against the walls for hours stalling our departure and yuckin’ it up.
Throughout the afternoon at PVC, super cars were flying by the intersection it was located at. Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Shelby’s, and every other high end brand. Apparently they were all doing a “midnight run” from San Diego to Las Vegas. As we sat outside we laughed about how much ground they were covering compared to us. Loitering with a show.
We hiked out around 5:00 and moseyed along as a group, talking about all sorts of subjects for the next hour. We scooped some sweet, sweet puddle water and made our way to camp. I’m writing this again under the California stars. This time with some tree canopy above me which is certainly new. Great cover from the bright waxing moon. I cowboy camped one time on the AT and I hated it; the desert and cowboy camping seem to go hand-in-hand though. One less thing to setup/take down and more time relaxing.
I’m thinking about that hot shower in a few days as I lay here tonight. That sweet, sweet hot shower.
Day 10 – Tent Sites (Mile 155.9) – Saddle Junction (Mile 179.4)
Up and att’em. Pack your shit. Eat something quick. Hit the trail.
The morning was really nice. A few of us got out of camp around the same time and walked up the mountain together. We had a long 8mi ascent up about 3000ft. So we hung together on the way up and got to know each other a bit better. It’s nice getting the perspective of strangers on your personal life, it’s often some of the most unbiased and wise advice I get. We all chimed in and shared some of our lives and next thing you knew we were 7000ft up and the first long gradual climb was over.
After a short walk on that ridge, I ran into the second descent of 1mi/1000ft. That’s Jackrabbit territory. I tightened up my pack and anything loose. I bombed the hill in about 10 minutes. A little flow and speed going down the mountains has always helped my joints and I’ll swear by that till I die.
Next was the first 1mi/1000ft ascent of the PCT. I was so fucking pumped to climb into the San Jacinto range. I practically danced up the mountain to some good music. Next thing you know I was looking at San Jacinto peak only a few miles in front of me as the crow flies. Almost at eye level with me. I noticed how thirsty I was and how chapped my lips were. Time to get some water.
The ridge before Apache Spring was full of blowdown and burn scars. This ridge had seen some shit. The whole mountain was telling a story as I went up. The old granite mountain showed the scars of the weather and disasters it has endured. Blow downs, snow, burn scars, rock slides. A new mountain relative to it’s ancestor Appalachia but an old soul of the Earth.
It was one of the most amazing mountains I’ve ever climbed (so far).
I ended up pushing from the tentsite just past Paradise Valley Cafe all the way down the Devil’s Slide Trail. It was 25.5 miles of PCT trail, but with the terrible water walk to Apache Spring and the descent down Devil’s Slide I finished the day just over 30 miles of hiking. Over 6000 ft of ascent and over 3500 ft of descent in one day. All the way up into the snow and back down.
I was fried. Physically and mentally. I have never experienced any symptoms related to altitude effects but after running down Devil’s Slide I was definitely out of it.
It was the most amazing hiking day I’ve ever had. San Jacinto was just mind blowing. Walking along the knife’s edge ridge 8500ft up with the wind ripping right through me to the other side of the mountain face. It was surreal. It made me feel so small yet so strong.
If you looked out you could see the end of the mountains flattening out into the desert valley. The topography of all the mountains below and around San Jacinto for miles and miles was completely visible. It was if the smaller mountains were roots of San Jacinto running through the desert valley and the San Jacinto peak sits as the canopy of the tree. Surrounded by other pyramids of stone, I was on the tallest ridge of them all. And I was heading towards the tallest peak of them all. Just not today.
I could go on and on about the beautiful views. I descended the final 2.5 miles down Devil’s Slide around 7 pm. I ran most of the last 2.5 miles to try and make it to the parking lot before sunset. I knew my chances of hitching were non-existent if I made it there in the dark.
I collapsed on the asphalt of the parking lot and just caught my breath. A trail runner ran right up to me and stood over me, “You good bro?” he asked. “Kinda.”
As he was looking down I asked him if I could pay him for a ride into town. He said no need to pay and hop in. What a legend. The trail provides.
I got into town at 8 pm in the dark and immediately tried to find some lodging. No luck. Idyllwild was all booked.
Thank God I ran into Carlos and Guru who helped let me stay with them at their place and out of the cold mountain air. Also shoutout Sprout and No-see-um for letting stray dog Jackrabbit in.
I took a shower and watched the end of an NBA game. Sports!!!
Finally a time to rest. The first 179 miles have been some of the best hiking of my life. Can’t wait for Graham, Speaker, Chef, Squalo and Irwin to make it into town. Life is good.
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