4-24-17; 25 awful, shitty miles, PCT mile 218.5
Fuck. This. Wind. Seriously, it’s goddam enough already. Who needs it? “It’s necessary for pollentaion and there couldn’t be life without it”, you might say. To you I would reply: “You need to shut your mouth with that nonsense right now, because I don’t want to here a word of it.” The previous day had been beautiful but slow due to the precipitace terrain and the snow. Today would be the day to make up some miles, as the map indicated that the first several miles would be downhill followed by a mostly flat valley, then a bit of a climb up one ridge then down another to a nature preserve with flushing toilets, picnic tables and loads of green grass to camp in. A mere 25 miles away. First of all, the descent from Snow Canyon took forever as it was all exposed ridges and rocks. Descending the ridge one knee jarring step at a time we could see a vast field of wind turbines on the valley floor and up a ridge to the northwest. They were not there by accident. We filled up with water at a pipe once we had reached the valley. The wind began to pick up a little and would spray the water from the faucet everywhere with each gust, making filling our bottles difficult. We walked to the valley on a paved road, which is the worst surface on your feet if you have been backpacking a lot. Entering the valley, the trail turned west into a wash. A wash, if you are unfamiliar, is a depression where flood water runs each year in a desert environment. Walking in a wash is like walking on a sandy beach with all of the difficulty but none of the beauty. The west, of course, is where the prevailing winds blow from in the western U.S., and holy shit did they ever. I would guess it was 40 to 50 mile per hour sustained winds with gusts up to 60. Every step, our feet would sink in a half inch and the torrent of wind would do its best to blow us backwards and hurl the odd tumbleweed at us like it was shot out of a goddam cannon. The walk through the valley was unbearable, and slow. Very slow. One small bright spot: As we passed under Interstate 10, someone named DNA from Cabazon had left water jugs and several styrofoam coolers with candy and cheap beer. I had a bud light for the first time in a while and a handful of fruit chews. After coming out from the interstate the wind subsided, we walked along some subdivisions and gently climbed into the hills past a burned down probable meth trailer. We climbed a little while in a calmer area. During that time, we were passed by Boots, one of the kids we had met at Toggs hotel. “Not far to the preserve!” He said, eating up the desert with giant effortless strides, his foam sword still in tow as he climbed over the horizon and out of site. Not long after, his friend Rope Burn buzzed past us. He was all of 5’6″ but was somehow keeping up with the 6’2 Boots. The only thing keeping them in our orbit was their inability to get up before 10 a.m. The air was relatively calm now. “The worst is over” I thought. Wrong….Wrong. Not even close.
The last 9 miles turned into a canyon with yet more wind turbines. In not long the wind began to howl again, but this time we were not in a wash, we were on exposed ridge lines with two feet of trail and several hundred foot drops below us. The gusts blew so hard that it could move us a bit off of our feet. This was a troubling proposition given our surroundings. As we passed a steep rock gully, we saw that Boots and Rope Burn had taken shelter there. As we turned into the next ridge a giant gust blew over and we both fell uphill into the side hill for fear of being blown off. The entire canyon was a wind tunnel and it was legitimately dangerous. A few terror filled hours later, we dropped into the valley and the wind mercifully subsided. Rope Burn and Boots passed us again. Boots was waving his sword above his head and shouting “Excalibur!” Unsurprisingly, they were taking it all in stride. We made it to the Whitewater nature preserve just before dark. Two hours too late, we later learned, to have a free meal a trail angel had brought in. Boots and Ropeburn set up camp in a twelve foot structure made of sandbags and mud with two large openings on either side. “Oh man a yurt! I’ve never seen one of these!” Boots remarked. We headed past the Ranger station to sent up our tent near some picnic tables and large oak trees. As we ate dinner, a gust of wind knocked all of our belongings off the picnic table. We hurriedly put everything in the tent and crawled in hoping for a good night’s sleep to recover from what had turned out to be quite a miserable day.