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Pacific Crest Trail... photos and journal

Summer of 2001... The Desert continued...

(Page 5 of 10 pages)

Besides rattlesnakes there are more varieties of lizzards in the desert than any other serpent-like creatures.

After a very hot descent from Fuller Ridge down into a scorching San Gorgonio Pass, there is this wonderful water fountain which taps a water pipe put in specifically for hiker's. Needless to say, I spent a half hour here drinking and drinking and drinking. Also, note the contrast of snow capped mountains in the background with the scorching desert below.

A few miles into the desert crossing of San Gorgonio Pass here is where the PCT comes out of the tunnel under Insterstate 15. I spent a couple of hours resting here out of the direct sun under that clump of trees to the right, but finally I was glad to get moving with all the noise of traffic. It is also near this point where at only 1,188 above sea level, the PCT is at it's lowest point south of the Columbia river gorge on the Oregon/Washington border.

San Gorgonio Pass is also home to the first endless hills of wind turbines busy generating precious electricity for power hungry California. From here to Tehachapi is prime wind turbine country and one seemingly informed hiker explained that it is here where the cool Sierra air continiously clashes with the hot dry air of the desert which creates all the wind. Makes sense to me.

From my journal(May 7, Day-12)..."I was up and gone before Roadrunner as I really savor hiking alone in the early morning hours. For several hours it has been a long continual descent from the snow covered Fuller Ridge back into the hot desert where I plan to cross Interstate 10 at San Gorgonio Pass sometime this afternoon. I crossed my fourth rattlesnake on the trail which moved on out of the way quicker than the others. For lunch I found a hot solid shade under a huge granite boulder where I also waited out some of the blistering midday heat. After two hours in this tiny yet solid shade I continue my descent toward Cottonwood Creek down a seemingly never ending set of switchbacks. Finally at the bottom a water fountain suddenly and unexpectedly appears atop the main water pipe coming out of the canyon.In the near 100 degree (F) temperature it was nice to wet my shirt and drink all that I wanted. Eventually I loaded up with three and a half liters of water and headed out across the soaring heat of the sandy desert floor to the I-10 bridge where I sat out the heat again under some pines while hating all the noise of the traffic.

Mid afternoon I move on away from the interstate which is the second lowest spot on the entire PCT. Continuing across the hot desert sand, all the time I'm getting closer and closer to the huge fields of wind turbines generating electricity in the Mesa Wind Farm. The power of those blades cutting through wind is amazing in both sight and sound! The last late evening rays of the sun were making some good photography when suddenly I hear Larry "G.T." yelling "LIGHTNINGBOLT!" , who had seen me pass by the famous Pink Motel miles back and had come to catch me! It was good to see him again and we hiked until we could push it no more thus camping in a small canyon still in sight and sound of the mighty wind turbines. "

Here's "G.T." coming up behind me one evening while I was busy snapping off photos of the wind turbines in the late evening sun. He had caught glimpse of me as I passed by the Pink Motel a few miles past Interstate 15, then took chase after me. I hadn't seen Larry in several days so we got caught up with all our stories as we hiked to a camp spot amidst the field of turbines.

A few miles after crossing the wide Whitewater river you reach the Mission Creek canyon here over the next ridge. It was nice following the cool creek for several miles, but that just barely made up for such a scorching hot canyon that really tested our commitment to thru-hike.

From my journal(May 8, Day-13)..."Larry was up, packed and gone by 5:30 a.m.... a smart move considering that 108 degrees (F) was the expected high today. Also, he was almost run over last night by some night hiker's (the 3 Amigo's) trying to beat the heat of day since the only flat spot that he could find last night was directly on the trail itself. I had found a semi-flat spot in a gully about 15 feet away. Anyhow, I was awaken by a loud scream produced by the leading hiker from the sudden discovery of Larry sleeping on the trail. Everyone quickly realized what was going on and after a short cordial midnight conversation everyone was on their way again. I must admit that I had a hard time keeping myself together and almost broke into uncontrollable laughter as it happened, but I eventually managed to calm down enough to get back to sleep amid the swooshing of wind turbines.

It has been a beautiful but extremely hot morning to be hiking but there was water in both theWhitewater river and Mission Creek which helped a lot. I stopped in the shade of a tree near the first crossing of Mission creek and had to cook my meal on an open fire since I under packed fuel tablets at my last town stop. It is 94 (F) in the shade here as I debate when to pull out.About 1:30 p.m. I had decided to move on since there was a nice breeze coming down the canyon plus the guidebook indicated that water was flowing for several miles. Just as I was leaving I met another thru-hiker named Citrus who gladly took over my shade. For the next two hours the creek did flow in one of the most beautiful canyons thus far with a lot of cottonwood trees which provided a constant oasis of shade in the midst of an unrelenting desert. Every half hour I would stop to drink up and to soak my shirt wet which worked wonders on beating the heat. I desperately wanted to get back into the high country so I pushed onward.

Along the way I came across Larry who was sitting under a shade tree with the 3 Amigo's and Anna who had almost plowed over him last night. I stopped for a few laughs and conversation then began hiking north again. At some point the water in Mission Creek ceased to flow but I kept going with just a half liter for several more miles. Finally I became very concerned as the sun soared hard and I hadn't found new water. I thought that I'd misread the guidebook and now in a frenzy I began hiking south from where I'd come with the frustrating intentions of gettin water from a few miles back. After walking south for a couple hundred yards I then decided to turn around and just go for it! Fortunately, the spring was only a quarter mile ahead. "

That's G.T. again in the distance as we were looking for a suitable campsite.

From my journal(May 9, Day-14)..."Up and hiking early. Mice ate my radio receiver lines during the night scaring me greatly a few times as a mysterious sound. After hiking up Mission Creek it was a good trail all day today and I made a lot of miles. There was also several patches of snow along the way so I didn't have to carry a lot of water, but instead packed my cup with snow like a snow cone several times. At Deer Springs I run into Larry so we hike until dark just nine miles from the road into Big Bear City and set up camp near the trail. "

Big Bear City

This is Detective Michael K. Follett of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. He just happened to be investigating a wrecked jeep at the time and was gracious enough to give Larry and me a ride down the long gravel road to the Big Bear Fire Department who allows hiker's to camp on their lawn. Officer Follett was also an avid outdoorsman who told us stories about his love of kayaking and it was also his dream to one day thru-hike the PCT.

From my journal(May 10, Day-15)..."After hiking to the little traveled gravel road a San Bernadino County detective who was investingating an overturned jeep gave us a ride all the way to the Big Bear City Fire Station which has traditionally allowed hiker's to camp on their lawn. I first took a shower then we ate a big lunch at Thelma's and then caught the city bus for a ride several miles down the road to shopping center's for $1.00 each way. My camera had been giving me trouble so I bought a new one and also got a new am/fm radion headset to replace the one destroyed by menacing mice a few nights ago. It was just nice being in a town again, seeing a lot of people, eating a lot of good food, and walking through a big grocery store.

After getting my pack ready for the trail again and sending my drift box ahead to Agua Dulce, I was able to enjoy the evening... just eating a lot of fresh fruit and a good share of ice cream, then having too much good conversation with all the hiker's. The 3 Amigos and Anna spent a lot of time reorganizing their packs on the lawn and Mike Pook along with the Raven's were in late this afternoon. After dark I walked to the milkshake place with Larry then we stopped by Thelma's to get me an order of french fries to go. We all enjoyed a late night on the lawn enjoying one anothers company while knowing that tomorrow we'd probably be back on the long trail to Canada again! "

This is Larry, Anna, and the Three Amigo's relaxing on the fire department's lawn.

This is "Fannypack" who is the only hiker I know that can take 20 photos of you while not flinching a word of his conversation with you. You can visit his website at Hiker where you can view a huge photo collection of our 2001 hike plus a lot more. (Also, there is a fairly good view of my blue TarpTent set up behind "FannyPack".)

Thelma's was my favorite place to eat on all of the PCT, located about a block from the fire station. These folks are very hiker friendly and always served huge hiker portions of food at a very decent price. They also gave us a complimentary cup of freshly squeezed California orange juice with every meal... better than cotton candy too!

From my journal(May 11, Day-16)..."Larry and I had a fantastic breakfast at Thelma's just after the sun produced a new morning. Back at the fire station I dried the dew from all my gear in the sun then caught a bus back to Bear Lake for groceries. Back at the fire station "Whiteroot" and a couple other hiker's asked if anyone wanted to share the cost of a taxi to the trailhead which ended up being my signal to get back on the trail, so I busied myself during the next 2 hours doing last minute packing, eating as much food as possible, and taking one last shower. At 2:45 p.m. the taxi came and we were once again pumping out the miles. Everyone but me went on to camp near Bear Springs, but needing a night alone I chose to stop a couple miles short to camp on the ridge. After being around people so much during the last 24 hours I suddenly felt somewhat lonely, but still knew that this is where I should be for now. "

Join me on the next page as I pass through San Gabriel Pass.