May 15, 2015
Campsite near tributary of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (186.2) to Ziggy and The Bear’s (210.8)
24.6 PCT miles today
223.9 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,296 ft, – 8,926 ft
I could probably write an entire book about our day’s adventures, but it’s 9pm and I’m exhausted, so I’m going to try and keep it short. Last night it never stopped snowing. We got out of our tent at around 9pm to shovel the snow away from our walls using our Crazy Creek chairs as shovels (it was on the verge of collapsing in on us) and when we woke up this morning, there was almost a foot in some wind-blown places. And it was still snowing. It was beautiful, but daunting. After loading up on water, we began a very slow trudge through the snow, breaking trail and using our hiker-senses to try and find the trail among all the undulations of snow-covered bushes and ridges. Fortunately we have an app on our phone that shows our exact location along the trail (even on airplane mode), so we were able to depend on that in the 2 or 3 instances where the trail had become completely camouflaged.
After a couple hours of some steep (and slippery) climbs and descents, we checked our location and were discouraged to find we had only traveled about 2 miles. The going was slow, but we knew that somehow, if we kept moving, we would eventually find ourselves out of the snow, and unbelievably, back into the desert. Our route today took us over the infamous Fuller Ridge (covered in 10-12 inches of fresh snow), then down 20 miles of switchbacks that started at an elevation on 8,400 feet and ended near the town of Cabazon, at a little over 1,000 feet. There is this trail angels’ house called Ziggy and The Bears at the base of the decline that seemed to be our only refuge, so on we trudged, hopeful that at some point, we might find ourselves walking on dirt.
At around 6,000 feet, the snow finally gave way to large, slushy flakes, and eventually turned to rain, and once the dense fog started to clear, we found ourselves in a completely different world, this one filled with cactus, large boulders, and huge brush-covered mountains. The transition was mind-boggling and we hiked in a state of confusion for the first few miles. By the afternoon the rain finally let up and the idea of getting to Ziggy and The Bears became something of a reality. We used every ounce of that afternoon sun to begin the drying-out process and to load up on some much-needed calories that we had deprived ourselves of earlier in the day just because stopping for lunch would have meant frostbite or hypothermia. We never did change our soaking wet socks because all we could think of was getting to Ziggy’s and stopping was painful and time-consuming.
It was 7pm when we finally rolled into Ziggy and The Bear’s, over 24 miles from the snowstorm that we had woken up to. We were tired and a little soggy, but also feeling surprisingly okay considering the circumstances. This home, where trail angels Ziggy and The Bear welcome thousands of hikers every year, is more wonderful than we could have imagined. For us, it is truly a sanctuary. Within minutes of arriving, Don and I had met the angels themselves and were devouring an entire hot Little Caesars pizza between the two of us, and a welcome bottle of Gatorade. As we changed our clothes, laid out our beds on a sheltered, carpeted floor, and began stringing some items out to dry, Ziggy came around with ice cream and I poured myself some hot chocolate. I can’t imagine any ending to our day better than this one. It is true that the trail only gives you what you can handle, and then takes care of you when you need it most. Ziggy and her husband, The Bear, deserve so much more gratitude than I’m even able to offer right now. I think Pickles and I finally understand the true meaning of trail magic.
Tomorrow morning we’ll stick around the house for a bit and then hopefully hike 15 miles or so in the afternoon. It’s supposed to be sunny, so I think for now at least, the snow is finally behind us.