Day 14: A San Jacinto Wilderness PSA
Day 14: 14.6 Miles
Today was my first day on the PCT. Yes, a technicality would suggest I started walking from Mexico to Canada two weeks ago. But today might have been my first real day on trail. An ass kicking, to say the least, today was some fucked up shit. I don’t normally write with curse words, but Mother Nature threw down the gauntlet. They seem fitting.
How many miles did we hike? I’ll have to do the math. But what I know right now is that almost every step of those (14.6) miles was covered in snow, and positioned at an angle on a mountain side or ridgeline. Today is the first day that things felt fucking hard.
I woke with the rest of The Walking Dead. In a clearing at 8,000+ feet, we watched a beautiful sunrise over Palm Springs and began our hike with the intention of hiking 15 miles. Within minutes we were facing microspike conditions. Little did we know what lay ahead.
Today was a day of climbing. We traversed more than 5,000 feet of elevation change, in challenging and dangerous conditions. If you are a thru-hiker, do not leave Idyllwild without (at least) microspikes and trekking poles. Fuller Ridge requires an intense amount of focus, and we spent a good amount of time postholing at a snail’s pace.
I can’t fathom what today would have been like without tools. I saw two friends self-arrest, even in the face of taking things slow and being quite careful. At one point I saw a man who told me he hadn’t put his microspikes on at all, even though they were in his pack. I remember thinking he was either the bravest or the dumbest person I’d ever met. (And I’m leaning toward the latter.)
Right now I am too tired to get out of my tent to pee. I just made ramen, devoured it, and want to eat more but I can’t because I didn’t pack enough food for this stretch and need to save it. We’re only 19 miles from Cabazon. There is an In-N-Out Burger there, and we’ve been trying to explain the secret menu to the Dutch members of our gang. We’re all pretty stoked to get there. Everyone has been fantasizing about burgers as we hike.
Meanwhile, I am busy impaling myself with tiny branches, bleeding along the trail, and swearing to the man behind me that I don’t have any blood diseases.
Staying positive in the face of difficulty seems to come naturally to this group. To be sure, conditions could have been so, so much worse. The weather was nice, the wind comfortable. I wasn’t hiking alone and felt 1,000 times more secure handling the elements with a team. Tomorrow we descend for a very long time and I’m sure our knees will be feeling it.
Today reminded me that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Perhaps I’ve been taking it too lightly, enamored by the desert superbloom and the subculture of hopeful hikers. Mountain hiking is no joke. It can be dangerous, and requires your full attention. Tonight both my body and mind are tired and will rest well, preparing for whatever is in front of us tomorrow.
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