20.5 miles (205.7 to 226.2)
My sleeping bag stays in its stuff sack all night. At some point the temperature drops a bit, and I drape my rain jacket over my legs and my capilene hoody over my torso. That’s all I need. My alarm is set for 4am. We’re out of camp just before 5:00 by the light of our headlamps.
The valley is surrounded by wind turbines. Where there are turbines, I expect wind, and lots of it. And wind has delivered: two stakes pulled out of Dad’s tent overnight. As we leave camp – wham! Wind bodyslams us, a wind that makes our previous Duplex-defeating wind feel like a mere breeze. This wind won’t let me walk. I bend and lean and trip over myself and expend massive effort for little ground gained.
We cross the valley as the sun rises over San Jacinto. Sand flies into my eyes. Sand pelts my cheeks. Walking in deep sand is tough enough without warrior wind thwarting every step.
At last, weary and sandblasted, we arrive at the I-10 underpass. Here we throw off our packs and rest in relative calm under the railroad tracks. We eat breakfast. Then we head back into battle.
We climb slowly to Mesa Wind Farm. We cross into San Gorgonio Wilderness. I check our mileage. We’re going to pull off a 10 by 10! A 10 by 10 occurs when a hiker covers 10 miles by 10am. Until today, I’ve never achieved this feat. We do 10 miles by 9:30. Then we immediately stop for a rest and snacks in the shade of a huge boulder. My foot has decided to act up for the first time since our zero day. I massage it and switch insoles. The pain vanishes.
Back on the trail, we fight the wind for forward progress. Where the mountain drops off steeply, every step is precarious. I don’t want to get blown off the mountain, and right now I just might.
We stop for lunch at the crossing of Whitewater River. It’s a beautiful spot, though still ridiculously windy. We rinse our shirts and soak our feet and stock up on water for the next few miles.
After lunch I attempt to use my sun umbrella but soon have to tuck it away. Wind thrashes us as we climb to the top of a ridge where we receive an excellent view of San Jacinto. The wind finally diminishes as we descend to Mission Creek.
We set up camp where we can hear the creek burbling. We’ve just completed our first 20 mile day of the trip. However, we should have looked at the map before we unloaded our packs. Tomorrow we have to gain over 5,000 feet, and will probably end up doing another 20+ miles. A few more miles this evening would have made tomorrow easier. Oh well.
After dinner we soak our tired feet in the creek. We put away our dinner things, and who should appear but Rusty. “What are you doing here?” we shout. He’s supposed to be miles ahead of us by now.
Turns out Rusty had a rough night. The 65mph wind tore down his tent, and he only got about an hour of sleep. He took the detour to Whitewater Preserve and spent some time there napping in the shade. He’s going to put in a couple more miles tonight.
As we get ready for bed, a few more hikers trickle into camp, then a few more. There’s space here for probably 20 tents. Typing these words in my tent, I hear the creek and the ribbets of frogs. The wind has left us. I think it’s going to be a peaceful night.
*More photos on Instagram.