Next day, Far Out and I left a couple hours later than our friends. We pushed up the inevitable hill to Anza, him telling me distracting stories to take my mind off of the ankle. Pines and thick scrub oak took over for yucca and encelia. We rushed to make Paradise Cafe's 1045 deadline for breakfast. At the highway 74 crossing, we hobbled up an old powerline road, powered by the scent of breakfast grease. Just under the line. 1040. I promptly ordered an omelette breakfast, a hamsteak bigger than its plate, and a couple of IPAs. Just after I finished, Coach and First Class announced their intention to luncheon. How could I resist a José burger meal and a third IPA? Evidently, I set a new record for food consumed by a chick at the cafe.
Coach, Far Out and First Class invited me to join them for a night in Palm Desert at First Class' s sister's place. That afternoon, we packed ourselves and gear into her little car and rollled down the curves to the desert. I needed a little time to heal and reserved the next couple of nights in a hotel using Marriott points from my previous job.
Their modified doublewide was filled with taxidermied African game, rare magic and hunting books, and very comfortable furniture. I hid on the porch during group dinner, one of the most anxiety-inducing activities I can imagine. After they finished eating, I slipped into the shower and removed the grime. The porch swing was my bed for the night, rocking in a light, cool breeze.
Tennessee and Junior had called me a couple days before suggesting we all get a room. Now, with a room, I couldn't get ahold of them. Far Out wanted some downtime to heal his blisters, so the room could serve at least some further purpose than my damned ankle. Check in was an afternoon affair, though, so I spent several hours talking to Bill, First Class's brother in law, about hunting, collectibles, rare books, travel, and the travails of being adventurous souls.
Palm Desert provided me with an opportunity to see a biologist friend-Abby, get new insoles, buy new glasses, and resupply for the trail. I also did some icing and elevation on my ankle and drank a few beers with Far Out while watching bad television. Joys of downtime.
When it was time to rejoin the trail, another biologist, Rebecca, appeared like a genie in a Nissan Frontier and drove up to Idyllwild with us. At random, we stopped at the coffee shop containing Coyote (the other biologist) and her friend Grasshopper, and there was much rejoicing. Tentative plans were made to hike together.
Rebecca parked in a campground lot at around 1400 and we walked to Deer Springs trailhead, one of the two connectors being used to avoid the fire closure. My ankle and lungs began rebelling immediately, having come from 270' flat land below to well over 7000 to start hiking. The 5 miles to the PCT junction were brutal for me and Far Out, but simply cold for Rebecca, who spent most of the time waiting for us to catch up.
Three or four inches of snow had fallen the previous night, providing stunning views and a soft substrate. Deer Springs eventually came to a large intersection, which I lazily navigated using Halfmile's phone app. Didn't even look at a map. Rebecca waved goodbye at the junction, and I felt terrible for having been a disappointing hiking partner.
Far Out and I continued up for 4 more miles, becoming cold very quickly. Filling up at a small creek, my gatorade began to crystallize. Then Far Out's gravity water filter stopped flowing midstream. His camera froze, my almond butter followed suit. We realized our situation would become very uncomfortable as the sun sunk behind the mountains. We vowed to hike until we were out of the snow.
2am. We both had slipped, stumbled and sworn up and down interminable switchbacks. Trail had disappeared, reappeared and been obscured several times. Tired, we stopped occasionally, but our feet grew numb well before they'd rested enough. Finally, I toppled into a manzanita grove 17 miles from our starting point, just below the deep snow pack. Good enough. It was over 2000' of elevation gain followed by an almost equal amount of slippery, rocky, icy downhill. Not much sleep in the hurricane wind, but I finally stopped shivering a couple hours after sliding into my bivy.
I awoke invigorated after a couple hours of sleep, though Far Out was now the aching one. We completed the descent after hours more of switchbacks. Other hikers stopped and chatted near us at lunch, reminding me that I'd chosen excellent company in Far Out. Around 1500, a garter snake scooted across the trail. A bit further, I passed the 200 mile marker.
Finally, at the water spigot/drinking fountain at 1500', Far Out said something fairly crazy that I had to agree to. With both of us in great foot pain, he suggested we continue the 5 more miles to Ziggy and Bear. Why not? It was around 1900, the wind was picking up, and it was a fairly flat walk.
Heed wind advisories. My advice to all. We were sandblasted for 5 miles, barely able to see in front of us, losing our way several times. We took until 2300 to walk those 5 flat miles, wind in our faces. Ziggy's place was full of hikers, so I put up my bivy out of the way and endured a steady 45mph all night.
Morning included cereal, coffee, and avoiding the annoying voiced girl who had ruined the previous day's lunch. I hung out for the day, meeting friends like coyote and enjoying sitting rather than fleeing the weather. Billy Goat, a trail legend with 32k miles behind him, appeared before ice cream, and we took some photos and heard stories. I set out my bag again, with the intention of getting an early start on the Cabazon heat.