When Sir Isaac Newton first described the effects of gravity, little did he know that this principle would conveniently apply to both the physical and emotional reality of the PCT.
After a dizzying, exhausting, but overall gratifying day climbing San Jacinto, we were riding that high as we started our descent from the mountain the next morning. It probably should have been a harbinger of what was to come that our bodies felt sore and tired as soon as we started hiking, but we felt optimistic nonetheless. Cute. Before long, someone had cranked the thermostat as we wound our way down to the fiery depths of hell (which for those of you who are unfamiliar with the PCT, or hell for that matter, is the valley where the I-10 runs between Cabazon and Palm Springs). I tried to occupy my mind with the view, silly songs and taking photos, but I soon found my thoughts degenerating into a downward spiral of negativity. The dry heat was relentless. We could see our destination and hear the traffic from the highway all day without it seeming to get any nearer. To add insult to injury, I noticed that the army of windmills on the desert floor were still; there was not so much as a breeze to cool us. I was utterly demoralized. There was no way I would be able to complete this trail! I searched for a spot of shade on my descent, but each one I found had a dusty, exhausted hiker squatting in it. I counted 8 occupied shady spots before I finally came across an empty one where I could cower out of the sun’s glare and have a good cry. It was a terrible waste of water when I was down to half a liter.
We finally made it to the bottom of the hill where there was a water fountain!! As I crouched in a slice of shade behind a boulder and drank some water I started to come back to my senses. We had made it down the hill, and the worst was over. It had to be. We were absolutely exhausted. With a hot road walk ahead of us towards the I-10, we made the decision to head to town for the night for a good meal and a shower. Within 20 minutes, Everett and our hiking buddy, Martyn (never Marty!), had arranged a hotel and an Uber to take us to Palm Springs. I count this as one of the best decisions we have made yet.
That evening consisted of showers, steaks, and a float in the pool after the sun went down. The next day, we were absolutely new people. With above average temperatures in the forecast though, we decided to save hiking for the evening hours (when it would still be 40 degrees, but the sun would be less intense). We caught a ride back to the trail around 4:15 pm and enjoyed a very warm but beautiful 9 mile hike to the Whitewater Preserve. Everett was so rejuvenated by our stay in Palm Springs that he ran the final 4 or 5 miles. We were treated to a beautiful campspot near the whitewater creek – the site even had a wading pool to soothe our feet! We camped under tree cover and felt lucky to be on this journey. We still had another three days of hiking before we would arrive in Big Bear Lake for our next resupply, but we were looking forward to heading back into the mountains.