Day 15 & 16

Day 15

We initially thought of going up to the San Jacinto peak (3202m) for the sunrise but then decided that we wanted to sleep longer. So instead we woke up at 5 so that we could start walking by six. We were six hikers: us two, the team Seattle, the Ramen Shaman and Bible. We packed our stuff and ate and then walked a couple of hundred meters to the peak trail junction and hid our packs into the bushes. We just took some water, snacks and warmer clothes with us plus Team Seattle and Ramen Shaman also had microspikes with.

We had to ascend ca 600m within 2,5 kilometers but it turned out to be much easier than we all had anticipated – especially without the packs. The trail was mainly good but maybe 20% was still snow and ice covered. The weather was clear and sunny, not too cold and not too hot. It took us less than two hours to get to the hut right before the peak – we checked it out and then scrambled our way to the top over some big rocks. The peak was pretty windy but we celebrated together, took all the necessary photos and then descended to get warm again.

The way down was a bit more dangerous because by now the snow had started melting again and things had gotten a fair bit more slippery. Me and Bible ended up falling once but other than that everything was pretty ok. I guess you can say that having microspikes was better but if you feel safe on snow and ice then it was totally doable without.

Once we got back to the junction we recovered our packs from the bushes and then the four of us (Team Seattle plus us) hiked a mile towards the Fuller Ridge (back on the PCT) to the water source and had our lunch. We took up as much water as possible as the next source was very far and we wouldn’t be making it there until noon the next day.

We then hiked onwards, planning to get as far as possible that day. The weather was really great throughout the day and the nature absolutely stunning. Hiking the Fuller Ridge was especially breathtaking. We hiked in two pairs – the guys and the girls – having some stops inbetween. We had such great conversations with Sarah/Full Sail – this was one of the first times that I’ve been hiking & conversing at the same time on the PCT because hiking with Kristians is just more like “work, work, work” trying to get to the tentsite as fast as possible so that we could rest up. Anyway, i think we ended up doing maybe like 25 kilometers that day – this included the ascent of the morning and a lot of descent during the rest of the day.

In the evening, however, we read the weather alert about rising winds and of course the worst impact was to be on desert hillsides and mountains (exactly where we were). Being at about 1450m didn’t help either. The whole night the tent kept rattling and bending in the wind – on multiple occasions I could’ve sworn that one of the poles of the frame had snapped into two. The forecast said there would be gusts of 45-50 mph. But somehow we managed to sleep ok, the tent didn’t break and none of the stakes came out.

Day 16

In the morning we packed our tent in the wind and then found out that Team Seattle, who had camped maybe 80m further, had had a much worse night than us. They had to readjust the stakes and the tent on maybe 6 occasions during the night and the tent had been incredibly noisy.

But we had to get going – it would be 13km to the next water source, then a longer flat valley section (with possible trail magic under the highway pass) and then a slow ascent towards the hills again.

As we descended the wind kept getting stronger. We winded on the path down for a long time and then suddenly Full Sail stopped because there was a big rattlesnake (as thick as a wrist and maybe a meter long) right on the path – looking right at us. It took forever for Kristians to get the selfie stick out – by the time he had it the snake had crawled into the rocks and bushes so that only the rattler was visible.

In disappointment we hiked on but within 10 meters Kristians shouted “there’s another one!” This one was more black and gray whereas the previous one was more sand-coloured. I don’t know how Kristians had even noticed it because it was between some rocks above our heads to the left – a perfect camouflage for its colour. The snake was as big as the previous one so Kristians this time got the stick out faster – he managed to take some photos and a short video before the snake crawled away into the bushes.

We finally got down into the valley, to the water source, and had a snack and filled in our bottles. As we continued hiking across the valley the winds grew incredibly strong and the air was just full of flying sand particles. The path being made of soft sand also didn’t make it easy to move fast. But somehow – through struggles – we all managed to get to the highway underpass where there was a bit of shade from the wind and some sodas for trail magic. But later we found out from hikers half an hour after us that, basically, as we left some ladies brought a lot of fresh fruit, cakes and other goods. Yea, sucks to be us.

Next up was a very boring, flat, windy 13km section across the rest of the valley and a bit up to the Mesa Wind Farm. Here we got some more water and had a small break – the Team Law Enforcement also caught up with us. After a chat and rest we all hiked maybe just a kilometer further and then tried to find was windfree camping spots and big rocks as possible. Honestly – there were no windfree places and so on our first try the tent just twisted, lifted up and nearly flew away if it hadn’t been for one stake. Same happened to Team Seattle.

We then both found new spots and tried to set our tents up as bulletproof as possible. The Law Enforcement couple had apparently just purchased an extra set of windstakes so their tent was standing like a concrete building. Anyway, we got the tent up, ate and then went to chill out with team Seattle. As we got back to the tent later to get some water and a jacket our tent was somehow laying flat on the ground, still held by all the stakes. “Well, the frame is definitely broken now,” we thought…but somehow we just gave it a nudge and it popped right up again. Then a gale came in from the other side and the tent again twisted down flat. We decided we needed to reinforce the tent so we got out all the guylines and used some big rocks instead of stakes to add some more tension to hold the ends of the tent. Kristians even used a rock and a hiking pole to add a center support in the middle of the tent.

This new system seemed to work because when we later returned to the tent everything was still standing as it should. Some of these gusts just feel as if someone was just smashing down at the side of the tent. And the fact that we camped in the middle of a wind farm made the wind howl even more and there was never a quiet moment.

But the winds are supposed to carry on until late Saturday so we will see how the night goes…

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