Tonight I am in a soft, warm bed with lovely exposed beams over my head surrounded by friends. The day has changed quite a bit since waking up on the side of a mountain this morning.
I awoke to raindrops gently pattering on my tent, and by “awoke” I mean “rolled over for the 400th time because I still couldn’t sleep”. It was a cold night. My thermometer read 37 degrees and I couldn’t bring myself to get out of my sleeping bag. I tossed some more then finally started getting ready for the day. The rain became more insistant- I should have gotten up earlier.
Cyndi was mostly packed when I emerged from my chilly shelter, decked out in her rainbow of rain gear, moving methodically in the cold. Fine, I’ll get ready. We were on the trail by 7:30 and left Julia behind- she hikes faster than we do anyway. We followed the Tahquitz Alternate trail up to Saddle Junction, where we took the Devil’s Slide Trail toward Idyllwild.
The 2.6 mile Devil’s Slide Trail that connects the PCT to Idyllwild is aptly named. Parts of it are smooth and inviting, coaxing you along until you hit the next section which is rocks on top of rocks, followed by a steep drop that has been washed out by runoff. As Cyndi and I powered down this trail, the rain also powered down on us. The rocks got slippery. My glasses were hard to see through. I stopped for a moment and saw Squirrel powering UP the trail, heading into the storm. She said that Becky and Backtrack left the day before and that Nick and Zack were leaving town today too. I guess the bridge trolls are all split up now.
We finally got to Humber Park on the edge of Idyllwild and Cyndi, Julia and I started trudging along the side of the road in the pouring rain heading toward town. We were miserably wet and smelly but enjoying the conversation when a car pulled over for us. We practically danced in the street out of excitement.
The couple who stopped graciously moved all their stuff to the back, put our stuff in the back and us three sopping wet hikers in the middle. They cranked the heat and we immediately realized that we must smell like wet garbage but the couple insisted on keeping the windows shut and warming us up. They took us into town, gave us fruit from their cooler and were basically our saviors for the morning.
We got to the Idyllwild Inn only to find out they were full. Their receptionist called other places around town until finally finding one open room at the Idyllwild Bunkhouse. We thanked her and wandered next door, gravitating toward the smell of coffee.
The coffee shop was packed with locals and downtrodden hikers but was warm and dry. We all ordered something hot, washed our hands and faces in the washroom (running water and a mirror, oh my!) and dug into the fruit from the generous couple. We met AnnKristen (Sunshine Bandit) and Martin (Strider), both from Germany. We invited them to stay on the floor in our room so they didn’t have to camp and they graciously accepted. I am apparently the token American in our group now.
We stayed at the coffee shop for hours watching the rain come down outside and grateful that we weren’t out there. Hikers kept coming in, some I recognized, some not, all miserable. Then Zack walked in and I couldnt help but think how he looked like a sad dog that had been left outside in the rain all night, teeth chattering, his long curls glued to his face, dirt caking his legs and dripping muddy rainwater on the floor. I didn’t understand why he was out hiking, but apparently he took a day off and was catching back up. Again, ebb and flow.
We migrated to the laundromat where we were able to wash all of our nasty, dirty, salty clothes. The salt from your sweat is the worst-it crystallizes then rubs, giving you terrible chafe or pack burns. Not pleasant but unavoidable unless you can wash regularly. Of course, we were all washing pretty much everything we had, so we were wearing whatever was left, mostly rain gear or even tent togas. A few locals came in and chatted with us half-naked hikertrash, dealing with our stink in exchange for our stories.
When our clothes were clean, I wandered to a thrift store where I was able to find a pair of decent leggings. I had purchased some before the trail but hadn’t planned to need them until the Sierras. With this crazy weather, I’d rather have to carry a little extra weight than be freezing anymore!
I walked a 1/2 mile up a gradual hill to the bunkhouse and the room was lovely. Tiny, but rustic and clean. We all got settled in and split up to do our town chores of going to the post office, resupplying and showering. We all got back together in the late afternoon and shared a bottle of wine that was left by another guest before we all wandered to a restaurant down the street for dinner.
Ravenous from all the calories we’ve been burning, we ordered beers, burgers, salads, whatever we thought sounded interesting. We had so much fun hanging out today, laughing and relaxing without the weather or the miles (or our packs!) weighing us down
Trail magic: 1 (dry ride and fruit!)
Hiked with: Cyndi
Camped with: Cyndi, Julia, AnnKristen and Strider