Today was brutal in so many ways. The wind blew relentlessly all night, but it was generally tolerable with earplugs so I was able to get at least some sleep. The moon was bright in the sky the few times I woke up, but by the time the sun was returning, the sky was full of clouds and once again dumping rain.
By the time I emerged from my tent, everyone that I knew except Cyndi was gone. A few scattered unknown tents remained as we headed out into the rain, packs heavy with wet gear. As we continued our steady descent out of the mountains, the rain seemed undecided on each switchback. San Jacinto was cloaked in dark clouds, its peak completely hidden from view. We stopped for a “wardrobe change” almost every half mile, either removing rain gear or putting it back on as the mountain sent us reminders of its unpredictability.
We eventually made it to the base of the mountains, where the state has set up a water source for hikers. It was quite windy here but sunny and not raining (at the moment) so we opened our tents and ground sheets in an attempt to shed a bit of water weight. My knees were aching from the constant descent of the last 2 days, so I took a little extra time to rest here along with some Tylenol. I was the last to head out, and thus began the windy despair that was the rest of my day.
The trail followed a narrow paved road down to a small private community before veering off into a flat, open valley where the wind blew relentlessly. My hip began aching again and despite the sunny blue skies ahead, I was still getting rained on. I trudged on, alone and frustrated, waiting for the Tylenol to kick in but it never did. The trail dropped into a large old riverbed, long dry. The deep sand sucked at my feet, increasing the effort necessary for each and every step, while the wind picked up to unprecedented levels.
It was a direct headwind at this point, and there were many moments where I just hung in the wind- trying to step forward but the wind exerting the same amount of force and not allowing me to proceed. This couple of miles was absolutely exhausting. Just when I thought that I couldn’t take another step, I reached the I-10 overpass, just outside of Cabazon, and there was trail magic.
Unfortunately, many hikers had come through already today, and the cooler that once held sodas or maybe even beer now just had ice, and there were just a few snacks left. I took a pack of peanut butter crackers and sat down on an old tire under the bridge to enjoy them and talk briefly to another hiker, Rueben, who planned to go into town.
I filled my water and continued my trudging, wondering if I shouldn’t also be heading into town. There are very few (read: zero) marked camp sites in the next TEN miles, and Cabazon has a Chipotle… Despite the temptation, I hiked on.
The trail began to very gradually climb up out of the valley into the foothills on the other side. A sign was posted saying that the place I was heading to camp and get water was closed due to spring flooding. This IS still the desert, right?! Not knowing where to camp now, I began looking for decent spots. There is a large wind farm (Mesa Wind Farm) that the trail actually passes through, so I watched the windmills get larger and larger as I tried not to let the wind blow me off the trail.
Looking back over my shoulder, I saw that rain clouds were filling the valley. The wind was brutal. My joints felt like they should belong to an elderly person with no cartilage left. I found a camp site and set up at 4pm, feeling a little guilty about stopping early and having no way to let the others know I was ok. Once I was inside my tent, big rocks piled on each stake, five other hikers tromped by. Should I have continued? I began massaging my knee and suddenly it began to rain. It was coming down in sheets and had soon formed pools on every side of my tent which was flapping violently in the wind. I felt confident about stopping now and hoped the others had made camp before the rain as well.
I am working on stretching and massaging my poor body but exhaustion keeps taking over each night. I am falling asleep while writing these journal entries and falling behind. This journey takes so much out of you. I’m starting to get a little down on myself, but I’ve already come a long way. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Trail magic: 1
Hiked with: Cyndi, mostly alone
Camped with: No one