PCT CA Section C

Nov. 25: Whitewater River

I probably could have gotten going earlier this morning. It was pretty cold. I was going back and forth to the river, filtering water at the same time as packing. It was probably after 8:30 by the time I started walking for real.

The trail was a lot like the last few hours of the previous day at first. It stayed down in the bottom of the Mission Creek canyon, frequently disappearing in washed out sand piles, marked by cairn supporting painted posts. In one place, it narrowed to less than a hundred feet wide with thick brush growing between. The only trail to follow seemed to be in the creek itself.

Fortunately, this only lasted a couple hours more before the canyon spread out and the trail turned to the right to climb over a ridge with lots of great views. At the top of the first hill was a little hump with a perfect rock to stop and sit in the sun and have a snack.

Then it was back down again towards some kind of dam or retaining wall. A girl was relaxing at the corner of a ridge here reading a book next to the trail. I had to pass her to reach the trail sloping down off the ridge and finally entering the next canyon over.

A mile or so down this side canyon, I arrived at the wash from the Whitewater River. I stopped just before the river itself and found a shady spot beside a dirt wall to have lunch. The girl passed me just as I was finishing up, and I crossed the river itself just behind her. I stopped there, though, in the shade of a spine of rock jutting out of the ground beside the river, to collect and filter some water. While I was here, an enormous family, spanning at least three generations and possibly five immediate families, came up the trail, stopped, took a look around the river area, then turned back to return whence they came. I caught up with them on their way out, but I was only going marginally faster, so I had to leave the trail and slowly pass the whole group beside the trail over the course of a minute. I kept my pace, though, and didn’t get caught behind them again. In a mile, when the trail to Whitewater Preserve turned off, they took that way and were no longer following me.

Meanwhile, the PCT took a hard turn out of the canyon and started to climb straight up over the ridge again. This was a much steeper climb, but it was also much more interesting. Halfway up to the top of the ridge, the trail levelled out and went around a corner to enter a narrow box canyon protecting a deep, currently dry tributary to the Whitewater. There was a strange steeply sloping ridge reaching across it that the trail went diagonally over before reaching the back of the pocket canyon where a steep series of stairs and platforms began the final climb out.

Finally, after this last climb, I had finished the last uphill for the day. I had only another 12 miles to the next marked tentsite, most of it flat or barely sloping! Unfortunately, it was already nearly 4 o’clock, which meant a lot of night hiking would be needed to make that happen.

I worked my way down the hill toward the wind farm and onto the road. Here the trail paralleled the road the rest of the way down the hill, but I just stayed on the road since it was easier walking and I didn’t see the point of working harder to walk a dozen feet away from it.

Near the end of the road, the trail left it and went across country between roads and into the Cottonwood Canyon Wash. It was getting dusky enough that I was getting cold, so I stopped to get out my coat and headlamp. I was immediately disappointed and frustrated to find that the main high-powered spotlight had turned on in my pack somewhere along the way and the batteries on the headlamp were nearly dead. Just a few hours of very dim light left. So night-hiking was no longer on the table. I stopped right there in the wash halfway between two roads and set up my tent while the twilight faded. It ended up being a very good decision.

Total distance: 20 miles

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