Day 20 – Wednesday May 3
Fuller Ridge Trailhead Campground Mile 190.5 to Interstate 10 Mile 209.5
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 19
Feet Ascended Today: 450
Feet Descended Today: 6900
Current Elevation: 1960
Today was another day of firsts for me. I hiked 19 miles for the first time, I hiked in a day of over 100 degrees heat, I got over 55,000 steps for the first time, and I hit the 200 mile marker!
I broke camp by 7:30 am, hoping to make it to Cabazon so I could stay in a hotel. That would be a 19-mile day – which would be my longest day so far. We were camped at 7750 feet and the hike would be entirely downhill – which is both good and bad for me. Good because it takes less effort, and bad because going downhill tends to trigger my foot pain. I proactively took some Ibuprofen before starting out.
The views as I descended off the mountain were stunning. I could see windfarms in the valley below and the snow-capped San Gorgonio mountains in the distance. A few miles down the hill, I followed a makeshift sign made from sticks and rocks to a water source about a quarter of a mile off the trail. The directions in Guthook’s PCT App were incorrect and I spent an extra 30 minutes wandering around trying to find the stream, but I was glad when I did find it and filtered 3 liters.
It was a hot day today – when I got off the mountain I found out it was over 100 degrees! I took lots of breaks and stayed hydrated, however, so the heat didn’t get to me as bad today.
Shortly after my water break, I had my third rattlesnake encounter on the trail. This time I was by myself and I saw the snake right on the side of the trail. It rattled at me and I screamed like a giant dork and jumped a foot in the air. By the time I got out my camera, it had slithered off the trail so I wasn’t able to get a good picture. I did get some good lizard pictures today however. After the snake encounter, I was pretty shaken up and I had to take a break to calm down before I could keep going.
My foot started hurting a little around noon so I took a lunch break in the shade. I changed my socks and massaged my feet and was back on the trail 45 minutes later feeling better.
I finally reached the bottom of the hill around 4:30 pm. PCT Hikers were gathered around a drinking fountain at mile 205.7, trying to escape the 100 degree heat (it actually got up to 106 degrees) and camel up on water. Many folks underestimated the distance between water sources and were thirsty today. Both Halfway and Sunkist missed the water source at Mile 193.5 as it was not obvious and ran out of water.
The big question was – where to stay tonight? There weren’t any official campsites near the water source but hikers were setting up tents anyway. Up ahead, the trail crossed under the Interstate 10 Overpass and I heard some folks were camping under the bridge like hobos. And there were really no “official” campsites after the bridge either.
Sunkist, Halfway and I elected to hike the extra 4 miles to the junction with Interstate 10 and get a ride to the nearest hotel in Cabazon, which happened to be a casino. That made for almost 20 miles today! Woop woop! Soon that will be the norm for me but right now it’s a big deal to go that many miles!
We waited by the water fountain for the hottest part of the day to pass, and then continued on to the Interstate. The last miles were on the valley floor and were sandy and hard to walk on. It was rough. We were walking into the wind and slightly uphill. As we got closer and closer to the bridge, the noise from traffic and passing trains got louder and louder.
I walked this section of trail with Sunkist, and it was fun getting to know her better. It turns out we are both signed up for the same Advanced Snow Skills class in June (which teaches skills to deal with the High Sierra Snow WHILE you are on the trail) so we are on a similar timetable.
When we reached the underpass, Cool Breeze was there! He was dealing with some back pain and was waiting out the heat of the day before continuing. I couldn’t talk long, however, as Trail Angel Anonymous happened to be just leaving and offered to give us a ride to our hotel. He and some other Trail Angels stock the overpass with water and supplies and give rides to PCT hikers. We were so grateful!
It was a strange juxtaposition to be in the wilderness one minute and at a casino hotel the next. It was jarring. We got a lot of weird looks as we crossed the casino floor to the reception desk. The casino patrons were seated at loud blinky machines with drinks in their hands, dressed for a night on the town. We were filthy and sunburned and hobbling with trekking poles in our hands. I had my pee rag hanging from my waist strap like a giant stinky flag. Although I’m sure none of them knew what it was LOL.
Soon we were all piled into a room to save costs and gratefully showering off the grime of the day. Sunkist and I shared one bed and Halfway had the other. A few weeks ago this would have been weird but now it doesn’t phase me at all. The trail has a way of bonding hikers into instant family.
After showers, we headed downstairs for dinner to the Tacos and Tequila bar. It was already passed 8:00 pm, “Hiker Bedtime”, and I was utterly exhausted. I was wearing my warm weather pants and insulating shirt and flip flops as they were my “cleanest clothes but at least *I* was clean. I had a vacant glazed look on my face and stared vaguely at across the casino floor as we waited for our food to arrive.
I had the carne asada and it was the best steak I’ve had on the trail so far. It was cooked the perfect medium rare. Sigh.