I wake up and realize I definitely did not sleep in. Nirvana is cooking things in the kitchen. I try to stay half-asleep as long as I can, until Nirvana announces that he’s made us breakfast and it’s ready. A fried egg each, potato pancakes made from the mashed potatoes, toast from the loaf of sourdough someone left here last night, and then leftover roasted veggies poured on the side. We have way too much food left over and we try to gorge ourselves; we need the calories and we don’t want to waste. I finish mine and then go over to the fridge and pull out my ice cream and pizza. Second course! I’m so full.
We pack up slowly, extricating our things from corners of the cabin. Nirvana listens to music as he takes a shower.
I go to ask if I can borrow the hotel’s printer to print out the next section of the water report, then we pack up and leave. I bump into Rawhide and Colleen along the Main Street and they’re catching a ride from Hurk, a local trail angel, to the Devil’s Slide Trailhead. We catch him as he’s just leaving with a full load of hikers, but he says he’ll be back in an hour, so we wait. It will kill my continuous footpath, but there aren’t sidewalks in Idyllwild and I don’t feel like walking several miles uphill while dodging cars.
I sit in the front and talk to Hurk during the drive with everyone else in the covered truck bed in back. We get to the trailhead and all of the trees are heavy with snow, and it’s chilly. The snow is melting and big globs of slush fall onto me. I stop to put on my rain jacket.
I’m so slow, and I’m continuing whatever bad mood I had coming into Idyllwild. I feel depressed. Everyone is ahead of except for Colleen and sometimes Rawhide, and I cry a bit and feel bad about myself. Being down sometimes is normal, though, when you’re hiking for 5 months.
I come up behind a day hiker, who is walking slowly and looking around as if to soak it all in. I look around, too, and it’s beautiful. I feel better for a while, using my inchworm pace to appreciate the beauty. I’m walking through a tunnel of white-robed trees, snow plopping down everywhere. It’s magical. Thank you, day hiker.
I think I’m struggling with trying to balance my loneliness and my need to belong with my need to be alone by myself. I’ve been around people a lot so far. Hiking with a group is definitely hard because I compare my hiking speeds with theirs, and I think it isolates me from meeting new people and getting to know them. I realize I’ve been more or less only with Karma and Nirvana for 5 full days, and while I love them, it’s pretty intense being around two other people so much for so long. I don’t know, but I thought about it all a lot today. I hiked with Colleen on and off and talked to her about it a little bit.
I get to the junction where I have to decide to go up the Mt. San Jacinto alternate or stay on the PCT. Colleen is with me. We decide that two in the afternoon is too late to hike it, especially since we’re both feeling very slow today and San Jacinto is known for people getting lost on the trail down. Immediately after the junction, the PCT becomes even more beautiful, golden, open slopes of manzanita dotted with snow-laden pines. We don’t regret not summitting.
After a break to eat a bit of lunch with Colleen, I start hitting my groove. The trail starts being spotted with patches of snow and slush, with places across the trail covered for a couple hundred feet. There are several points where roaring snowmelt comes down in a creek across the path and I have to rock-hop across. They’re easy streams, and I think of the swollen rivers I’ll have to cross in the Sierra. Practice for the Sierra, I laugh to myself dryly.
There’s a sign pointing to Fuller Ridge where the San Jacinto alternate and the PCT rejoin. It starts getting snowier and I focus on my footing. The trail goes along the sunny side of the ridge at first, rising and dropping to avoid rock outcrops. Then it crests the ridge and now the sun is hidden and the trail becomes all snow and slush. It’s not dangerous, but it’s definitely slow and I don’t want to be forced to night-hike it alone if I can’t find a piece of flat and snow-free ground to camp on. I’m glad I have my trekking poles to catch me if I slip on a slushy or steep patch.
I want to get to a campsite at mile 190, but the light is getting gray and I find a good, dry campsite at 189. I’m just setting up camp when a large group of people hike up. I hurry up to them and ask if they’re hiking on. They say yes.
“I would have hiked on but I didn’t want to be forced to night-hike alone,” I say.
They say they’ll wait, so I rush back and shove everything into my pack. It feels good to hike in the dusk with other people, and to not have to camp alone in the cold and snow. We get into the campsite, a large flat space under pine trees littered with tents. Everyone is here- Scissors, Shipwreck and Iguana, Mousetrap, Rawhide… I set up my tent and go to the picnic table to cook some dinner (curry lentil soup) with a French hiker named Francois. Mousetrap is in his tent nearby and he says that Tarantino got altitude sickness as he was hiking out from the trailhead, and had to turn back… that really sucks. He might be hitching to Cabazon.
I eat my dinner in the cold and dark in my short-shorts and rain jacket. A full moon is rising above the trees. Colleen night hikes in- she says she thought she was going to die alone in the dark. I feel really bad about abandoning her before Fuller Ridge.
I go back to my tent and shiver in my sleeping bag, listening to people rustling on their air pads, as well as the odd fart.