I didn’t get up as early as I would have liked given all that I needed to get done. I always get to bed late my first (and usually only) night in town, so I set an alarm. But I was so groggy and dried out when it went off, it took me most of an hour just to get going. Nonetheless, I had a sizeable stack of pancakes made by shortly after 8am, when the laundromat opened, and was able to gather up the clothes that needed washing and get to the laundromat to get the first load in the washer by 9.
While that was washing, I popped over to the hardware store for some duct tape and Gorilla Gel (as I had accidentally sent my old bottle home from Burbank) then hit up a small sporting goods store for some Nuun Hydration and a new canister of fuel since I doubted the single can I had would make it to the end of the trip. After that, I went back to the cabin to hurriedly pack up my pack. I couldn’t get it all back together, but I did get it onto the front porch in only a few pieces. I didn’t have enough time to shave, so I just packed up the razors I had bought. I went back to the laundromat a bit after 11, then carried some of it to the bathroom at the hardware store to change into it. I put what I had been wearing into the wash around 11:15 and learned that the laundromat would be closing at noon. Fortunately, my clothes don’t take long to dry.
I walked quickly back to the cabin again. I had just enough time to squeeze what I hadn’t yet into my pack and change into my hiking boots and get back to the laundromat with my pack, my uneaten grapes, and the rest of my 2L of root beer just as the washer was finishing up. I threw the contents into the dryer with a fifteen minute timer at 11:45, then sat down at the table outside to try to upload a blog post or two while finishing off the grapes and root beer.
Finally, just after noon, I had everything packed up, and walked over to the pharmacy. Here I managed to find a small bottle of Emergen-C Immune Plus in chewable tablet form. I sat outside the pharmacy for an hour or so, getting the rest of my blog posts posted, then I was ready to start walking out of town.
I was headed for a different trail that would meet the PCT further south than where I left it, and it took almost two hours of climbing on paved and dirt roads just to reach the trailhead. I passed the time by chatting with my dad on the phone the whole way.
It was a couple more miles from the trailhead to the top of Tahquitz Peak. A lot of views of the setting sun and the distant city and tons of day hikers. But as soon as I hit the peak—after dark, just about moonrise—the trail condition plummeted. The north side of the peak was covered with snow, hard-packed by previous hikers into slippery ice. A lot of times, I could find deep boot prints to stick my feet into, or dry uncoated rocks on the edge of the trail, but the slick patches got even worse as I got down towards where the trail actually met the PCT. There were places where I had to stop and carve out cut-outs in the slick ice with my heel just to be able to take another step without sliding down a heel. I was really regretting having sent my microspikes home with my old pack.
Once I was down in the hollow and on the PCT, the conditions improved a bit, and it only took a couple more hours to reach a reasonable campsite. I found a spot at a hilltop under some trees that would be hard to notice from the trail since I was very much breaking the law by camping anywhere on the mountain. While I was moving some of my things up to the hilltop, I met a group of some 20 odd men coming over the mountain, maybe an hour’s hike from their intended destination to complete a 30-mile day. I discussed the trail ahead for both of us with them and confirmed their directions, then motivated them to get going. I did not envy their day, especially on the following day when I saw the nature of the trail they had come up.
Although I had started cooking the rice as soon as I reached that camping area, and recooked it twice once I was in my tent, that Mahatma rice still came out a wee bit crunchy. The Knorr Sides rice cooks much faster. Perhaps it is more thoroughly precooked, or perhaps its just that they mix it with pasta. I don’t know. But I learned that the Mahatma was not the best substitute for my usual routine and I was going to have to work out some adjustments to make it work for the next few days.
Other than that, everything was fine. In spite of all the snow around, it wasn’t actually too terribly cold. The shape of the mountain managed to block most of the cold north winds I had been experiencing the past few days on trail.
Total distance: 7 miles