PCT CA Section A

Dec. 3: Mountain Valley Retreat

I woke up relatively early, but I knew I had no great reason to hurry, given I was only planning to go a few miles to Mountain Valley Retreat. Also, I didn’t need to conserve energy because I could plug in there. So I laid in bed for most of an hour with my phone.

At some point I received a text from Chery, the proprietor of MVR, saying that she couldn’t provide any services because SDG&E had turned off power to the region in response to the Santa Ana winds (a customary response ever since they lost a lawsuit a few years back over fires started when said winds took down power lines). In particular, she could not power her electric well, so neither showers nor laundry were possible, and toilet use was limited to exactly one flush. I eventually decided to come anyway but not stay the night. I texted her to let her know, and she said to text her when I got to the road and she would give me a ride.

I collected and filtered some water while packing in case she didn’t have enough and spent a couple of minutes sharpening the tips of my poles so that maybe they’d be more effective tent poles that night. An hour later, I was walking down the ravine following San Ysidro Creek into the open valley. As the ridges sloped down and moved away, the cold Santa Ana winds could more easily reach me. When it gusted, I had to lean into it or be knocked over.

When I reached the road, I texted Chery, then went ahead and continued walking towards her place. Out there on the open road, I had to tuck my visor under my backpack strap rather than wear it as the wind would otherwise tear it off my head.

Ten minutes later, an SUV did a U-Turn and stopped on the roadside across from me. I assumed it was Chery, and went to meet her. I tossed all my stuff in the back, and she drove me back to her compound.

The first order of business on arrival was to help her get her gas generator up and running. Once that was done, and she had plugged in her crock pot of soup and I had plugged in my phone, she gave me a tour of the hostel, what of it could be used, offered me a beer and told me to take whatever food I needed from her little hiker store and the fridge. She didn’t need the water I brought because she had had enough forewarning to fill up several bottles for her own use the previous night.

I sat outside in the sun working on this blog for a while until she brought me a bowl of soup for lunch. Eventually, though, the wind gusts had torn away so much of my body heat that I had to finish the blogging work inside in the one warm, sunny room.

Even though I didn’t strictly need it, I did take several food items from the store, including one bag of microwave rice (Uncle Ben’s) because I was likely to spend one more night on the trail than I had previously planned, plus an apple, a cookie, a Coke, and some Pop Tarts for immediate consumption. I got my blog posts scheduled, my trash emptied, and even managed to clean up a little bit using my own water, then was ready to go by 3:30. As I put all my stuff back together, I realized my visor was completely gone. I hadn’t stashed it in the SUV when I had gotten in. It had probably fallen on the ground. I sent Chery a text to let her know I was ready for a ride back to the trail and then hid a 20 dollar bill in the hostel for her in exchange for all the food I took and the mess I must have made just being there.

On the drive back to the trail, I had to keep an eye out for the place she had turned around to pick me up. Luckily, I was able to spot my visor on the roadside from the moving vehicle, so she stopped while I ran to get it. A minute later, she was dropping me off at the trailhead. I told her to look out for Owl and Phoenix coming in about a week. After she left, I texted Owl to let him know she was open and expecting them to which he would eventually respond with a great deal of excitement from the north side of San Jacinto.

There was a spring flowing into a trough right at the trailhead, and not far beyond that were the rocks spelling out 100 indicating I had only so many miles to the border.

The sun started setting within half an hour of my setting out again, as I had spent a solid 5 hours relaxing at the retreat, but I felt no need to hike nonstop for the rest of the evening. Of course, if I did stop, it was never for long thanks to those winds, and I kept my coat on the whole time.

I lost a good five minutes to a snack break in front of a small cave, probably another one of those gold mine test caves. The sun was gone by the time I emerged onto the ridgeside of the San Felipe Hills. I could tell it was a long way down to the valley below from the lights of the cars on the road, but I had hardly climbed to reach that height—the road had just dropped lower.

I kept going along the side of the ridge for another hour and a half or so until the trail came around a hill and someone turned on the refrigerator. It was a pocket of cold out of nowhere. But it was also the Third Gate PCT Campground, an area with a lot of tentsites and a water cache just a quarter-mile away off-trail. I found the flattest spot I could locate in the dark and set up. While I had hiked that day, the tips of my poles had worn down even further, and there was no evidence of the work I had done on them that morning. I used my modified erection strategy in hopes of still getting some strength against the wind.

I went ahead and cooked the rice I had just taken from the retreat because it was the heaviest of the dinner meals I was carrying. It was surely after 10pm by the time I fell asleep that night.

Total distance: 14 miles

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