Tonight we slumped under San Jacinto, a stark contrast to last night. We are once again back in our tents. The wind is still with us, but it’s warmer, there is dirt instead of snow and we are once again gearing up to carry water for quite some distance tomorrow.
Back track many hours: Picture waking up in a hut bursting with 11 sleeping bodies, 11 bodies which all wake at 5.30 and begin to pack up their things. Our morning slumber turned into a slow rumble of letting out mats, stuffing sleeping bags, small chit chat, and the occasional serenade from a hiker who is carrying his guitar. The sun rose pink over San Jacinto, it was beautiful and still. We waited like horses about to head out for our party to be ready. Stamping our cold feet, the condensation of our breath visible we donned our microspikes and headed out into the morning. The cold night had turned the slushy snow icy and walking was easy. Majority of the first section of today’s walk was straight down hill. No path was apparent and we navigated our way down switch backs always checking we were headed in the right direction. Dave and fibs navigated and I led the others down less steep gradient routes. Pine trees look particularly nice in the snow. When there isn’t snow there is often only dirt as understory, but in the snow the pines look beautiful and stately. We were aiming to join up with another track on the mountain and along the way passed a portaloo standing lonely in the snow. It was half buried and filled with snow inside.
Walking in snow is slow going and exhausting. You focus much more on each foot fall and when the snow is soft it can really take it out of you. Each foot step requires judgement, and tentativeness. You often slip and slide and have to use your walking polls as extra balancing arms.
Eventually we met the fuller ridge trail. This had been quite an adventure often heading steeply down off the white mountain. We crossed a few creeks and one larger river. While crossing I (meg) pegholed, my foot went down through some soft hole and hit the water. I pulled up my sodden shoe and kept going.
Fuller ridge would take us over the San Jacinto range and down to meet a road which the path crossed to leave the mountain area. It consisted mainly of gradual downs with snow drifts in which we would walk across using our microspikes. After the ruggedness of yesterday Fuller Ridge was easier than I expected. About half way along we walked down to the largest river we have crossed so far. Icy cold water raged down over granite boulders and the flanks of the river were heavy with snow. We stopped here briefly to filter water and kept walking.
At one point I led us off the trail and while the others turned around I scrambled up through some trees, grabbing their trunks and pulling myself up. My pack broke branches and I finally got myself up over the boulders and back to the track. Now long after as we crossed a snow drift Harriet took a big step onto a muddy patch and fell on her bum. She let out a little shriek, got quite a muddy butt cheek but was thankfully okay. She remedied her dirty behind by crouching down and using the snow to get some mud off. It worked, kind of. About a mile before the fuller ridge car park we took a long lunch break.
There was no snow after the car park, and we found out selves once again in the low chapparell. We had our first view of the i10 highway. A big scar running through the desert. Exposed again to the sun and the wind we walked steadily for 5 kms to the hikers coliseum. It’s a cute campsite by a stream with a big old oak and lots of pines. I can’t imagine any gladiatorial battles taking place here.
During the day we stuck together mainly in the snow. I stopped to fix something on my pack at one stage and was left behind. There is beauty in the silence of the snow and at this point I appreciated while people enjoy solo hiking. The forest opens up. Little birds come onto the trail, you can hear their songs. The breeze whispers in the canopy and for me it is a time of being absorbed in all that’s going on around you.
Note from Phoebe – I found walking in the soft snow really quite scary, pretty much after I postholed while traversing a really steep slope and then really struggled to get out. I was quite anxious last night about walking in the snow again not realising that in the morning it would be hard and easy to grip to. Meg and Pinecone made a plan to walk as a group early the next morning and stick together and that really helped me.