Wind Advisory & Decisions To Make

Mile 214

After a long afternoon posted up at the Cabazon Chipotle, we headed back onto trail. Around 5 miles in we decided it must be time to set up camp, inconveniently, sleeping on a slant. When there are dozens of concerning holes around, a hole free chunk of earth is welcomed! Tarantula holes? Rodent holes? Disagreement on which. Agreement that this sleep will be an uncomfortable sleep.

Agreement that this is a special place to share together, cowboy camping slumber party of sorts.

I journal the following: 

It isn't the blues fading into yellows fading into oranges 

Glowing like a spotlight 

On those mountains over there. 

"What mountains are they?" "The ones we were just on, or the ones we are going to?" 

It isn't the sunset or the mountains 

So I refrain from taking a photo 

Of the sunset and the mountains

This time at least 

I make space to sit in this

In this moment with them 

It's the Jackie and the Tavi 

It's the people who waited up for me to roll into camp at 830, listened to my burst of emotion the next day, and walked by my side in and out of another town stop. 

Wind & Decisions That Roll In

At 3 am I awoke to a whirl of wind so loud it rang through my earplugs and synthetic puffy hood. Over the next two hours, I awoke to less and less stars above head. I was sure it was sprinkling but I was also sure I couldn’t be bothered to address it until absolutely necessary. I considered starting my day early but golly g was that wind so strong, I couldn’t imagine packing my things up. Around 530 Jackie and Tavi we’re stirring as well. Jackie shares she has cell service and sees there is a wind advisory for speeds of 50-65 mph until 2 am. We’ve experienced wind but nothing that fast yet. Yesterday, on the walk into Cabazon it felt like we were moving in slow motion, with sand whipping and stinging our legs and faces and eyes. That was apparently only 40 miles per hour. We talk about the Whitewater Preserve that is up ahead, around 5 miles. We know there lies the promise of running water, bathrooms and possibly a shelter or at least a building we could sit beside. 

We each share our own comfort and needs moving forward leading to the conclusion: Jackie will turn around and walk towards the road, staying the night at hotel in Banning. Tavi and I will continue forward, seeking shelter at the preserve if necessary. We all embrace and wish each other well, with the hope of seeing each other in the next day or two. 

As Tavi and I continue forward I think: there’s no way I can ever tell my parents that someone got off trail for safety while I chose to continue on. 


Creating The Plan 

I point out dozens of large tree shrubs that we could nestle ourselves within. The sweet security that lies at Whitewater pushes me forward. I can sleep in a bathroom tonight! That must be a thru-hiker milestone. We pass Adam who slept overnight at Whitewater. He confirms the resources at the site, and even adds there is a wading pool you can lay in! It’s so windy I can’t even imagine indulging in this treat. Adam says he is going to continue onward, not feeling too concerned about the wind. I ask the scoop on the bathrooms and we all agree they must be sleep-able. 

At Whitewater Preserve we meet 6 other hikers. There we discuss the knowns and consult Ranger Lucas on the unknowns surrounding the wind. Here’s what we learn: It could stay about the same or get worse, we will continue gaining elevation, there is no rain predicted. We will gain and lose elevation. The canyon area could serve as protection or act as a wind funnel. Lucas confirms: I can sleep in the bathroom. It seems almost every hiker is deciding to head back into town and stay at a hotel. Bodega and Picnic offer to split a ride and share their hotel room. Picnic has points from work for a free stay! 

Here Tavi is cooking underneath a table to avoid the wind. It’s breakfast but we eat macaroni, tuna and avocado.

The Internal Dialogue Within My Head 

You’re out here to be with the elements. What would you do if you were 20 miles away from the road? You couldn’t just turn around. There is a bathroom here you can sleep in! Running water, outlets to charge, what other added luxuries could you possibly need? You just left Cabazon… Really to go back into town? When you think town you remember: awkward hitches or expensive Ubers, long winding roads that leave you nauseous, splurging on eating out, and all the humming appliances and artificial light. You can sleep in the bathroom! But people are also talking about wind flinging us off of a ridge. Flinging and flying? Is this possible?!


The Conversation With Tavi

She brings up some decent points, definitely taking the devil’s advocate approach here. We have 6 months to challenge ourselves. She reminds me: you don’t have to prove yourself capable of every challenge. There will be countless times full of struggle and lacking in generous offers promising rest. Our feet! We haven’t taken a zero yet (zero=a rest day, hiking 0 miles). We can ice our ankles and lay in bed. 


The Decision

Steve the trail angel rolled up and shuttled the first round of hikers out. He said he would return for us! True to his word, he showed even though it meant he would be late to brunch with his wife. We loaded up in his car and headed to Banning with Bodega and Picnic. Picnic had been on a very long phone call working to cash in his points. Once we are in the car, Bodega shares that the points didn’t go through but we could split the room at $25/person. Is that okay, she asks? Yeah, we are already in the car.

Riding the wave, letting go of the rigidity, the mantras I remind myself. 


Banning. The Experience. 

Steve drops us off at Quality Inn. He inquires about our price. $117, I discover. I notice Bodega and Picnic are paying extra than an even 4 way split, I assume to make up for the point confusion.  Oh… next door they are only charging $87. But, we have laundry! Laundry costs $8 and after thinking about it, we weren’t planning on even having this option.  Rinsing socks in the sink it is! We can’t check into the hotel for another 5 hours so we stop by the motel next door to visit Update. She has an injured ankle and is laying on the bed. She tells us the story about how when Steve dropped her off he spoke with the hotel staff to ensure she had a bottom floor room. We all comment on how thoughtful this gesture is. 

We have a couple hours to fill until check in time. How will we spend it? 

The Sizzler. A Mother’s Day Sunday Feast. 

There aren’t many options on this road. Luckily for us, the Sizzler buffet is next door! Tavi mentions a Full House reference and we assume this must be a Cali chain. The line is out the door. OUT THE DOOR. We realize it’s not only Sunday but also Mother’s Day! We chuckle at our luck but welcome the reminder to call our moms. $16.99 unlimited salad buffet. Jackie joins us in sweet reunion. We all ended up in Banning after all! Finally, the heaping serving of veggies our bodies so desperately long for. Speaking of nourishment, I go for 3 rounds at the ice cream station. Balance, right? 

Wrapping Up Banning 

We settle in at the hotel then head down for dinner ingredients. It looks like Family Dollar is the option we have. I load up on microwavable frozen fixings: egg roll, pizza and snack foods galore. We skip an invitation to hang out with more hikers and drink beers and head straight to our bed. Dinner in bed, reality tv, and icing body parts is how the evening goes. We are asleep by 8. 

Heading Back To The Trail 

We planned ahead and booked an Uber for 6:10 AM pick up. Tavi, Jackie, and I all ride with Jan, our kind driver. She comments on how exciting it is to pick up three women hikers. We get dropped off back at Whitewater Preserve and get to hiking around 7. 

Reflections & Values 

While Tavi and I laid in bed at the hotel, she said, “I understand now.” It felt validating, not in the “You were right” way but in the “I understand your perspective and we now have this shared experience” kind of way. A couple of days later we processed the whole situation thoroughly. She expressed regret at getting off trail, at spending unnecessary money, at getting behind other hikers. We now know that we could’ve stayed on trail and been safe. The choice to leave was a choice for comfort. We could have bunkered down at Whitewater, showing Ranger Lucas photos of lizards to identify, but we chose to fill that idle time. We spend so much time walking that it’s clear we, as hikers, aren’t sure what to do with ourselves with ample “free time”. 

I shared that I feel gratitude for our decision, for her speaking her mind and even having a role in convincing me to get off the trail. It is through this experience that my own values felt reinforced. 

I am hiking this trail to lean into the discomfort. The promised comforts of town life are not always comfortable for me. There is more there for me to lean into, certainly. (I will one day return to “town life”, after all.) 

The final cost? I calculated the wind detour cost me around $110. I find it helpful to look at this. The price of comfort, the price of learning, the price of rest and a memory. There are so many decisions we have to make. Every day and every moment feels chocked full of decisions. How will we know we make the right one? How do we make decisions as a community, as individuals? How do I make decisions that sit right with me?

I think it’s a feeling in the gut, a feeling I will come to understand more through this experience. This is just the beginning. I offer myself grace to learn. 

As for sleeping in a bathroom, well, I hope I still have 5+ months to lean into that possibility.

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