San Gorgonio Pass

PCT Halfmile 201.7 to Whitewater Preserve
(17.5 miles, +2,000/-5,000 feet).

I was so worried that it would be windy last night, given how much it howled during the day.  But the wind disappeared at sunset and it never came back, giving me a perfectly calm night and a great sleep.

My knees ached from yesterday’s descent, and I still had nearly a mile of down to do today, so I loaded up on ibuprofen and stretches once again before heading out.

Once again I started hiking right at that moment when you don’t (quite) need a headlamp.

Sunrise above Desert Hot Springs

After the fun of yesterday’s cross country, I decided to do some more.  I headed north from my campsite on trail for about half a mile and then headed 1000 feet down, straight to the bottom of the canyon.

Starting on trail
Good morning chaparral!
My off trail adventure

At the bottom I found the trail again and soon I was at the famous water fountain in Snow Canyon, the only reliable water for nearly 20 miles in both directions.

Back on trail, looking up at my cross country route
The Snow Canyon fountain
View from the fountain

The next bit of trail was a road walk through a restricted area for the Desert Water Agency.

Now that’s some trail maintenance!

I hobbled down the road, nursing my knees, and eventually passed the community of Snow Creek.  A house on the road helped guide me through the wilderness.

Not lost!

The PCT left the road and in spite of being near the 10 suddenly became quite beautiful, matching my experience with the 15 near Cajon Junction.  In both cases I was expecting an industrial wasteland, and both times I was surprised how lovely it was.

Gorgeous morning view
Sandy PCT heading to Gorgonio
Looking back on Jacinto
Pretty little desert flowers

San Gorgonio Pass is usually quite windy, so there are wind farms all around.  I spied my first when I was within about a mile of the 10.

Wind farm

By 9 I was at the 10.

The 10 bridge over the PCT
Leaving a trace to leave no trace?

I climbed up onto Tamarack Road and called an Uber to take me to Whitewater.  Ideally I would have hiked there, but there is no cell service in Whitewater Canyon, and so no way back to my car in Idyllwild.  Instead, I would hike back from Whitewater southbound to this same spot and get a second Uber to head home.

My driver was really nice — he came from Iran to San Francisco in the 1970s and he and his husband retired to Palm Springs a few years ago.

At Whitewater I refilled my water bottles and took the connector trail from there to the PCT.

Guardians of the Whitewater Preserve
Beautiful Whitewater Canyon
Crossing the river
The winding Whitewater
Back on the PCT

From the canyon there is a good climb that gives even more spectacular views

Getting higher
It really does look white
Wrinkly ridge and shrubby chapparal
Grassy and golden
Some late season blooms
Ensconced autumnal cottonwoods

My knees were really killing me so I slowed my pace dramatically as I made my way up to a pass at 3200 feet.  I took a long break at the top to admire views in both directions.

Looking south
Looking north

I don’t know if it was the break or the stretching or the ibuprofen, but my knees suddenly felt better, just in time for my last 1800 feet of descent.

Looking back at the pass

I passed through the Mesa Wind Farm and listened to the weird hum of the turbines.  Only a few of them were turning, which made them somehow even more eerie.

Mesa Wind Farm
This one was turning

The PCT follows along dirt roads all the way back to the 10, so I thought it would be a road walk.  But there is actually a nice trail that winds from one side of the road to the other, helping to keep the experience somewhat wild.

View from the trail
Cactus silhouette

By 2 I was back at the 10.  I got another Uber back to my car with a nice woman from Cabazon, and then headed home to rejoin my lovely family.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jawbone says:

    Ah, I live very close to the I-10/Snow Creek area. I hiked up out of Snow Creek recently, up to the water spigot.

    Liked by 1 person

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