Week 3: Push and Pull
The trail is about challengeing yourself for most people. Certainly very few people come out here 100% ready for high mileages, nonideal conditions, and whatever else nature has to throw at us. This week, I embraced that challenge in an expected way – pushing my mileages higher – and in an unexpected way – dealing with vortexes.
A vortex was a new piece of trail lingo to me this week. It refers to a place on trail that entices you to stay longer than you meant to.
My week started out with the vortex that is Richards place, where I ended last week. A true trail angel, donations for whatever you feel is appropriate are accepted, but no firm payment is required. He has the amenities you need and not much you don’t. His place pulled me in and I definitely could have hung out there petting dogs and chickens for at least a full day more. But I pushed myself out the door.
Then came Idyllwild. I planned on taking a day off (a “zero”) there, so was ready with my little cabin rental booked and ready for me.
Then I saw a flyer for a Celtic fair that began the day I was supposed to hike out of Idyllwild. It was temptation enough for me to ask about the availability of my Airbnb the next night. I was getting pulled into the vortex. The Airbnb wasn’t available for another night though, and the pictures of the fair looked a bit more like any other renaissance fair, so I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth staying for. I pushed on, out of Idyllwild.
The final vortex, where I ended my week, was the Whitewater preserve. I hadn’t been planning on going in, but I didn’t think that my other camp site options were going to offer much shade or wind protection. I also wanted to get to know some of the folks who would be there better, so I took a gamble and went in. Thank goodness I did – I got to meet some cool new folks, and the partner of one of the hikers did an In-n-Out run that I tagged along for. My very first In-n-Out burger was fabulous, and was a pick me up that I sorely needed after two gruelingly hot days in the desert.
The cool river, wading pools, running potable water, and shade were inviting and could have kept me at the preserve for a while but I knew that the next morning the crowds would be back, and I had made friends with whom I could do my first significant river crossing with in the morning.
Although I havent got to the benchmark of 20 miles yet, I did push bigger miles this week. Out of Richards place, I hiked the furthest I ever have in a day yet – 17 miles. Not all of it qualified as PCT miles though. I had a mile to get back to the trail and then a water source was a mile off trail. I didn’t make it to the tent site that I wanted to, but found a great, super wind protected site from which I woke up to the lights of Palm Desert the next morning.
Then I pushed another high mileage day to get into Idyllwild and my zero day. This push had me hiking through constant snow cover that had the texture of mashed potatos for about the last 4 miles.
It was definitely a good testing ground for how I want to approach this very high snow year. Although it was a fun challenge for half a day, further contemplation during my zero in Idyllwild brought me to the decision not to do the rest of the San Jacintos. I was capable of doing the rest of the San Jacintos, but the stress of knowing I was taking a risk without the proper training and gear (i.e. an ice axe and training on how to use it) on top of the mental challenge of navigation in the snow and how physically taxing it is to walk in mashed potatoes meant that doing the rest was not the right decision for me.
So, I resupplied my food,
hand washed my very dirty clothes in the bath tub, had some ice baths, and then got a ride from a trail angel to the base of the black mountain road. This road is the recommended snow alternate for the San Jacintos.
The following couple days weren’t pushed beacuse I was doing high mileages, but rather becasue it was hot. High 90s, some folks said in the 100s even. I did not move quickly, and siestas kept me sane until I could get to the aforementioned Whitewater preserve.
The next day it had cooled off significantly, so I pushed another 17 mile day in order to keep up with various other folks to see if I could mesh with one of the many trail families around me. It was definitely refreshing to hike intentionally with other people instead of intentionally alone. Maybe that is what I will pursue for next week!
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