I left late in the morning on account of having to walk back to the town square to use the ATM. When I returned to the hotel, Honeybear told me that everyone else had left for the trail. He had errands to do and would catch up later.
It was raining only lightly, but the cool air was heavy with mist and moisture. The trailhead to the Devil’s Slide – which connected to the PCT – was nearly three miles through town, and uphill.
Twice, I got lost and friendly locals helped redirect me to the trail. The second lady even drove slowly ahead of me to lead me to the right road. Every person I encountered either offered help or a friendly welcome to town. It left me with the warm fuzzies, which was nice since the rest of me was mist-soaked and freezing.
The road kept getting steeper and there was no sight of the girls. Had they hitched a ride to the trailhead? I thought the whole point of us road walking the past two days was to make sure we had continuous footsteps to Canada.
I considered accepting a ride if anyone pulled over and offered. It was early, though, and the roads were bare aside from the fat grey squirrels scampering back and forth across the street. When I finally reached the trailhead at Humber Park, I was drenched in dew and sweat, and the girls were waiting for me at the trailhead.
“You must be an alien,” Squatchie called out. “You must have teleported or something because we just got here!”
I never saw them ahead of me, but they must have been just around the corner each time.
“I really booked it,” I said, breathing heavily. “I thought you guys got a ride.”
As we ate breakfast at the trailhead we watched some hikers hop out of a van and head up into the forest.
“Look at all these people hitching through town,” we said to ourselves. “We just walked up here in the rain! That is so badass!”
The Devil’s Slide trail proved to be easier than the road walk to the trailhead. At the PCT junction we sat down for second breakfast. I pulled out a full sized bag of fruit loops.
“This seemed like a good idea at the time,” I said to the group. “But it’s taking up a lot of space. Wanna help me out?”
We worked through half the bag before heading back up the trail. After some climbing I saw a patch of snow by the trail. Snow! I lied in it face-down, trying to mentally absorb the coldness.
“I’m going to remember this feeling when we’re back in the desert,” I mumbled to Rally.
There was a detour to the peak of San Jacinto which we decided against hiking due to the weather. We were rewarded with amazing views from the PCT route of craggy mountainside and walking through thick, fast-moving clouds that climbed up to the peak.
As we approached Fuller Ridge, however, the weather took a more serious turn. As the sun went down, the wind and rain picked up. It was cold and wet, threatening to drop below freezing. My morale turned to worry. I would be fine, I thought. But what about everyone else on the mountain?
We reached a campsite at Fuller Ridge where many tents rested next to trees and boulders to shelter the silent hikers inside from the oncoming storm. I fumbled with my tent, trying to set it up in a hurry while my cold, stiff fingers refused to cooperate.
When I finally crawled inside, I shivered in my wet clothes, wrapped in my quilt and staring at the rain fly of my tent as it flapped and shook in the wind which roared like a passing train. A strong light cast shadows from the tree above me. What was that, I wondered. It was too cloudy for the moon to shine through. I thought about all the stories about aliens in the desert. I thought about how Squatchie called me an alien that morning. Maybe they were coming for me. Giddy from exhaustion, I laughed at myself for the idea. Somehow, in my distracting thoughts, I forgot about being cold and damp and I slept straight through the night.