Pacific Crest Trail Week 2: Desert Floor to San Jacinto Summit

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A surprise box for me

The Warner Springs Post Office is where many hikers send a resupply box because there aren’t many options for buying food there. When I did a few restocking boxes in San Diego, I was still very jet lagged and could barely remember what I put in the box. A surprise box! It was like Christmas. A happy hiker faces the post office exit with boxes full of food. I was proud of my jet-lagged brain and the food choices I made. Luckily, I repacked my bag by posting the photo of Eagle Rock I took that morning.

Yoga on Eagle Rock

The morning was cold and foggy. The worst time for my hands. I want to be honest about the track, so here goes. I suffer from Reynaud’s disease, which is a disorder of the blood vessels, mainly in the hands and feet. It causes blood vessels to narrow when you are cold or feeling stressed. When this happens the blood cannot reach the surface of the skin and my hands and toes turn white and blue. When I leave the warm comfort of my comforter, I have about 10 minutes until my hands are so cold and sore that I can’t use them, even with gloves on. My toes are fine here, they can stay warm in their socks, but cold mornings are a struggle for my hands. Come to think of it, maybe I should pull my tent pegs out with my toes? Shared pain is half the pain, right? 😉 I tried to move as fast as possible to warm up. The misty landscape was nothing I had seen before. A beautiful meadow and cows. I love cows! After about an hour Eagle Rock came out of the fog. So majestic! As a real yoga teacher, I had to do a yoga pose on it, obviously the eagle pose, Garudasana, the king of birds. The coldness was quickly forgotten and the adrenaline of balancing on the huge boulder in the wind restored my blood circulation.

Rattlesnake and Cowboy Camping

My first encounter with a rattlesnake was this week! It was a wee bit scary. A huge rattlesnake wanted to cross the trail just as a couple of hikers and I wanted to cross. Monkey hands were walking in front, he didn’t even see the snake coming and I guess the snake was shaken off (hehe) by us. It rolled up and started making this weird noise. Now what? We waited, B and I had to pass the snake again. The problem was that on one side of the trail there was a ravine and on the other rocks and a steep hill so it wasn’t that easy to get around the big boy. We waited a few minutes but the snake didn’t move. We also didn’t want to push the snake because it looked like it was in a bad mood, still coiled up. B and I decided to climb into the bush and up the steep hill around the snake. The snake stayed put and we fled. That night was my first 23 mile hike and I was so tired I camped a cowboy without even thinking about snakes. That’s the beauty of being here, you learn to live with everything around you. A snake will never just attack, it will only do so when it feels in danger. So many shooting stars that night. That’s life!

Welcome to America baby!

‘Do you want a refill on that?’ The waitress at Paradise Valley Café asked for me. A reload ? On this already huge coke? I was thinking. “Of course,” was my response. At home, you never get free top-ups. The waitresses saw my puzzled face and said, ‘Welcome to America, baby!’ A cold coke never tasted better after the last long hot stretch. The (vegan) burger and fries were as everyone exclaimed: amazing! From coffee we took a trip to Idyllwild which I liked much better than Julian. The smell of pines! The caretaker (trail name, very appropriate) found a cute little cabin on Airbnb for our little trail family to have a home. Being in a supermarket again was overwhelming, so much choice!

From scorching heat to snow and ice

After a zero day (no miles) in Idyllwild, I left the desert floor to enter the first sky island; the San Jacinto Mountains. What a change of scenery! What a climb! Although there was a dangerous wind warning we decided to go but stick together, if either of us didn’t trust it we would turn back. And boy, the wind was blowing! But it was still doable. The first night we cowboy camped on the mountain, just sheltered enough from the wind. No tent could stay up in these winds! Epic sunset! The next morning the climb continued to the top of Sant Jacinto. The peak is not part of the official PCT, but since we were so close, I didn’t want to miss it. We slept in the emergency cabin at the top of the mountain after reaching the top with the wind howling around the cabin. What a couple of days! The views! Over the clouds. And after the summit? Back to the desert floor again.

It’s the People

The morning at the top of the mountain was cold. So cold my hands were useless. I needed help putting on my backpack as I couldn’t close the buckles. Also the hand warmers didn’t help which was a big disappointment. When I started the hike I needed to filter the water for the next 30km dry stretch, but the thought of putting my hands in freezing cold water almost brought me to tears. When I reached the waterfall, my friends were there and without a word started filling my water bottles! So sweet! I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help and that I’m not a burden to others. I learn and grow here. Also in awe of the people around me. This hiking community is the best!

Longest day to date

Descending San Jacinto, from 3400 meters to 300 meters in one day, was difficult. I passed the 200 mile mark! Especially the last kilometers were difficult. I saw rocks and warned myself not to trip over them, ending up tripping anyway. But I had to go to the next source of water. When I got there I was exhausted but felt invincible. Miso and I couldn’t help but laugh at how tired we looked. Turned out to be the longest day on the trail so far. Twenty-five miles (40 km!) Am I getting stronger or am I stupid? I will know tomorrow! Too tired to pitch our tents, we decided to camp cowboys. The sand was still warm when we made our beds. The sun was setting. Miso put on a song and it sounded like the red lights of the windmills in front of us were flashing in sync with the music. What a day! When I woke up in the middle of the night to pee, the bright half moon cast a shadow when I crouched down. O wonderful world! And if I’m still able to squat, my legs will be fine tomorrow! 😉

Until the next beautiful people! Let me know if you have any ideas or questions. Have a wonderful weekend!

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