PCT Day 21 – Thursday May 4
Interstate 10 Mile 209.5 to 221.6
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 12.2
Feet Ascended Today: 3002
Feet Descended Today: 1312
Current Elevation: 2895
Our Trail Angel, Anonymous, offered to give us a ride to the trail this morning. He works in Palm Springs as an Elementary School Principal and we were on his way to work. Sunkist and I packed up quietly, trying not to wake up Halfway who was taking a zero day today. His foot was feeling sore and he’s being extra cautious not to push it too much after the stress fracture he had last year.
Anonymous dropped us off under the bridge and brought several bags of bananas for the hungry hikers congregated there. We ate breakfast under the highway underpass and started hiking by 8:00 am. Right away I realized we should have started much sooner. It was already over 90 degrees by 9:00 am on the valley floor near the Interstate.
Around 10:00 am we hit the Mesa Windfarm office. They are very welcoming to PCT Hikers and offered water, shade, and ice cream with fresh fruit. We spent about 45 minutes there, relaxing in their air conditioned break room and chatting with their employees. They even fed us lunch.
The Wind Farm had a scale in the bathroom so I weighed myself for the first time since I’ve been on the trail. I’ve lost seven pounds so far, assuming the scale is calibrated similarly to the one we have at home. This seems about right, as I’ve had to take in the waist of my hiking skirt with safety pins as it has gotten too loose. Some hikers lose too much weight when they are on the trail to the point that it can become a health issue. I suspect this won’t be a problem for me but I’ll be monitoring my weight just in case.
At this point I probably should have stayed at the Wind Farm offices and layed low in the shade so as to miss the hottest part of the day. However the Whitewater Preserve was only about 5 miles up the trail. I’d heard good things about this place, namely that it was really beautiful and you could swim in the river. It seemed like a better place to wait out the hot part of the day. So, I decided to push on at around 11:00 am.
I was miserable the rest of the afternoon as I slogged up the trail. It was 100 degrees and I was hiking through rolling hills with no shade. I took frequent breaks and walked slower and slower. By the time I reached the Whitewater Preserve it was about 4:00 pm and I had only hiked 9 miles so far. Instead of waiting out the hottest part of the day, I hiked during the worst heat of the day.
I was utterly exhausted and dehydrated.
The Whitewater Preserve is a lovely oasis in the desert, and lots of hikers were congregated there escaping the heat. The park had picnic tables, mowed green grass, flush toilets, a wading pool and the river to swim in. I found Cool Breeze there, lounging on his sleeping pad under a tree. I flopped down next to him, too exhausted to form a coherent sentence. Eventually I made my way over to the river and sat right down in it. Ahhh!
Most hikers started packing up to leave by 5:00 to 6:00 pm. I took a little longer, heating up some dinner and catching up with Cool Breeze. I finally hiked out around 7:00 pm, wanting to get in a few extra miles today.
It was my first time hiking at night on this trip and I enjoyed it. The trail paralleled the river and I could hear the sound of the rushing just to my right. The frogs came out as dusk fell, and I could hear them ribbeting as I walked. I was at least 5 or 10 different frogs, jumping on and off the trail. The moon was bright but eventually I had to get out my headlamp so I wouldn’t trip.
Around 8:30 pm the trail crossed over the Whitewater River and it was too big for me to hop over. I was going to have to get my feet wet. I put on my headlamp, removed my shoes and socks, and waded across using my hiking poles for balance.
After the river crossing I continued on, and the trail rose out of the valley. It was still super hot outside, so I hiked in a tank top and sweated profusely. Eventually I was too tired to walk anymore so I found a patch of grass to camp on right next to the trail. I layed down my tent and put my sleeping bag directly on top of it without setting it up so that I was directly under the stars. Sleeping without a tent is called cowboy camping – I’d never done it before but it seemed like the right thing to do tonight.