Devil’s Slide Trail is about 2.5 miles, which lands you at mile 179.4 of the PCT. Since the trail was closed due to a fire closure, this is where we ended up getting back on.
Today was a pretty rough day. Devil’s Slide Trail goes up about 1600+ feet in 2.5 miles. It was quite the workout for the legs, especially that early in the morning.
After Devil’s Slide Trail, the climbing of course, continued.
A lot of us had previously been a bit concerned regarding snow levels on Mt San Jacinto, and whether microspikes were needed. Prior to the last week of increased temperatures, I believe that microspikes would have been useful. However, when we went up San Jacinto, microspikes would have been more of a pain in the butt to put them on and take them off continuously, than they would be useful.
There was maybe a mile or so of snow patches, and a couple of almost falling on my butt times, but in the long run, I am glad I forwarded my microspikes on to the next stop. Microspikes would have definitely been extra, unnecessary weight for this part of the trail.
Per usual, the climb was worth the panoramic views. There were parts of the trail, which surrounded us with tree coverage today, but for the most part, we had such awesome views of mountain range, after mountain range.
We camped with a closeup view of Mt San Jacinto, a colorful, and quite unforgettable sunset, but also a very very windy night. At times, the flapping of my tent in the wind, abruptly woke me up, and I wondered if the winds might be strong enough to take me, and my tent, right off the edge of this mountain. Thankfully, I’m still able to write my thoughts, concluding that neither my tent, nor myself, were taken by the wind that night.
This morning was all down hill… actually for 20 miles, we went down 7,000 feet (starting the day prior). After the descent, we made a side trip to In and Out Burger before continuing on with the rest of the afternoon hike.
We started hiking at 3pm and were climbing in the hot sun for what seemed like an eternity.
However, today was the first time my trekking poles actually came in handy. I relied on them to hold my weight with each burning step. Yes, there were switchbacks, but they were very steep switchbacks.
After the steep ascent, came a very steep descent into a gorgeous valley. Most people I’ve spoken with prefer the uphill climbs, verse downhill, which are hard on the knees. When I’m climbing up, thousands of feet, my body yearns for downhill stretches. When my upper body is trying to stay caught up with my running legs on the downhill stretches, my knees are dreaming of going uphill. So, I think I prefer both… when I’m doing one, I prefer the other!
Whitewater is the largest river that PCT hikers cross in the desert. The valley in which the river runs, is so surreal. Red rock mountains, a beautiful strong flowing river, with a panoramic view of Mount San Jacinto.
There are PCT hikers and car campers sharing the campground. As we were making our backpackers meals, I looked over at some of the car campers and their coolers and started daydreaming about what might be in those giant coolers. I ever so kindly approached these wonderful people and asked if they happened to have a soda I could buy off of them. They generously gave us fresh fruit, cookies and lemonade. I never imaged that a banana, or a mandarin orange, could taste this good. The flavors awakening my tastebuds, as if it were the first time I was tasting each of these fruits. It seemed like such an exotic taste, one in which felt like I hadn’t tasted in decades, if ever. It’s quite amazing how eating a piece of fruit on the PCT can be a new experience for your taste buds, even though it really isn’t. Thank you to all of the car campers who were so kind and generous. I hope one day each of those individuals reads this and knows what a difference they made… probably one I’ll never forget in my lifetime.
As my mind quickly grew as tired as my body, I sluggishly made my way back to my tent, while the rest of the gang stayed up and partied a bit.
In 21.6 miles, I ascended 7,000 feet. I hiked alone on day 14 and had a much needed solo day. Although I’ve learned to love hiking with new friends, it’s also nice to go at my own pace, stop and take photos when I want and take breaks as I desire. I did see the boys a few times throughout the day, but I was in struggle town with all of the uphill climbs, so it was best to struggle alone.
Day 14 was the first time I questioned my ability to complete this trail. Although only 21.6 miles, the accent was at least 7,000 feet. Maybe I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I never look at the elevation gain or loss the day before. Sometimes, I feel it is best not knowing.
The climb out of Whitewater Preserve, was quite gradual at first…. until it wasn’t. Half way through the day, I was taking breaks every couple of steps, which I hate doing. By the end of the day, I was completely relying on my trekking poles to get me up the climb. My calves were screaming at me to stop. I thought the muscles were breaking down in my thighs. I really don’t think I’ve ever climbed that much in one day. I am sure there will be many more tough climbs in my trail future. This is what left me thinking that maybe my legs aren’t strong enough. What happens when I get to the actual mountains, and I have climbs like this every day?
Hopefully I will have trail legs by then, and it will be a walk in the park.
I met a new friend, as we kept crossing paths throughout the tough day. We ended up eating and camping together. It wasn’t long before hitting camp, that we both retired to our tents. This was the last time I was to see my new friend, as he went ahead of me and I zeroed at Big Bear.
The first 8 or so miles, were dry, but after that, there was a stretch which I only had to carry 1-2 liters at a time. A lot of the climb in the afternoon, was in the woods, which made it a bit more tolerable. I hadn’t actually even thought about how much I had climbed, until a fellow hiker brought up we climbed 7,000 feet that day.
My legs and right hip wouldn’t allow me to sleep much that night. The pain kept me awake and no matter the position, the pain throbbed. I imaged I did eventually get some sleep, but not enough to comfortably make it through the 26 mile day that waited for me, the following day.
After the previous day’s climb, I honestly just wanted to get to Big Bear, get a giant cheeseburger and ice cold soda. My mind was up for the 26 mile day, but my body, initially, was not up for any movement at all. I went from my average 3 miles per hour, to about 2.25 miles per hour, for the entire morning. I was very very sluggish, and then it dawned on me…
The day prior, I had burned over 5,000 calories and had only consumed maybe, 2500. So, despite my lack of hunger due to heat and exhaustion, I ate. I ate at least 40 grams of protein and 800 calories. I drank some water and forced my tired legs to start moving again. Within a half hour, I was back to my 3 miles per hour. As obvious as this would have been for some, I’ve always been one to eat when I’m hungry and have often accidentally missed a meal, but it has never really effected my body. So, obvious to some, wasn’t so obvious to me. Since then, I have been doing nothing but eating… and eating tons of calories.
The climbs weren’t terrible, and my self confidence regarding my ability to complete the trail, was lifted up off the worn trail. I can do this. I will do this.
Lessons of the day: eat, even when you aren’t hungry, eat. 2. Hitchhiking is so much easier as a woman, without men.
Day 16: Big Bear City Zero Day
Stay tuned for details on my most challenging week this far. Until next week friends!