Harpo’s PCT Journal: October 17-19

day 127-129: onyx summit to idylwild/paradise cafe

Miles hiked this section: 50 something

Miles skipped for fire closures: 30ish… From onyx summit to white water preserve + 17 south of Idyllwild

PCT hiked or skipped for fire closure so far: mile 2660 – 152

Miles hiked so far: 2450+ ish


The desert is designed to destroy us. This is my mantra today as we climb from 1300 to 7000 feet over exposed rock on the face of San Jacinto in sweltering heat carrying 4 liters (8.8 lbs) of water since there are no natural sources to be found. Amidst the tarantulas, lizards, spiky cacti and rough chaparral we tromped uphill in the mid afternoon heat. 

But first… Bug drives us 30 miles around a fire closure. Not an active fire… But a terrain that they haven’t repaired or deemed safe for hikers since July of 2015. It’s a 2 hour drive. 

Then we climb over a hill to start the day. It’s so hot at 8am my scrunscreen melts off my face. At 11am we find a hose near a wind farm administrative building and hope it isn’t poisoned. We really need the water. We descend down to a community of homes… Here … clinging in the valley of this yellow dessert… lies the home of Ziggy and the bear. Famous trail Angels. But we don’t really need to stop so we press on breaking under the only oasis available… The underpass. Covered in graffiti it offers us delicious cool shade. We dry out our sleeping sacks… Soaked from last night’s dew and then start our long trek thru the desert meadow to the base of San Jacinto. 

The desert water authority has installed a fountain here. Possibly to curb hiker deaths as it really is so hot that my head bandanna is soaked thru. I never sweat this way. 

And then at 3pm we climb. Up and up and up. Huck sees tarantulas on trail moments after I have passed the same terrain. We all see a tiny baby rattlesnake coiled right by the trail. We hear these are the most deadly because they lack a warning rattle, emit a special neurotoxin, and are unable to conserve their poison… If they give-they give it their all. Again… The desert is designed for death. 

We promised to meet Bug at camp tonight so despite this toughest hiking day of the trail we press on way past dark- huffing it up and up until finally at 9:15pm, we get to camp.  Future dad is there and we quickly catch up before passing out. 

We Wake in the trees of San Jacinto cOld and dewey. Although it is all uphill… The group hikes together, fast and cheerful. Group dynamics are good. But because of yesterday’s heat, the altitude and/or dehydration I suffer from headaches today. The summit of San Jacinto is a side trail off the PCT.. A thousand more feet or so. Groucho and Future Dad are commited to this but Huck and I opt to head down to Idyllwild. Bug and Sprout head back to the car. I love my conversation with Huck -aDane- about American politics, surveillance and gun control. In Idyllwild I have an excellent vegan Reuben at the natural food store. We buy groceries and cook dinner at the Bluebird hotel. Watching stupid movies well into the night. 

Today feels traumatic. I wake at 7. Ready to roll. I make coffee. By 9am others are up and chatting. Future Dad is especially raring to go … Another fire closure I am gonna skip but he decides to road walk around. I feel befuddled that the official PCT reroute is a *freaking* road walk on a narrow, windy road with no shoulder. Given the second highest instance of hiker death on the PCT is by car… You’d think they’d find a better way. Since I was hit by a car 18 months ago I still have a hard time with traffic… So no way will I road walk. 

But hardy future Dad needs to get going which inspires conversation about our “plan.”  And here we go again. I start to ask around… so we can all hit The road… And Bug is preoccupied with her studying, Huck is on his phone and Groucho is in the toilet. I am talking to Future Dad about the next week… We are only a week from Campo and suddenly Huck quietly says “I think I’m gonna hike in my own awhile. I don’t want to plan.”  I am suddenly very sad… But again- this is expected- the end of the hike often brings out people’s anxiety and desire to be free…or not, or sad… or happy, or alone… or together. This is natural. But now Bug also seems unsure about what she’s doing. And Future Dad is ready to go. 

I realize I’m tired of trying to hear or guess other people’s desires and build consensus. I am sacrificing my own happiness to glue together a group that maybe doesn’t want to be glued. 

So Groucho and I drop off future dad and go to the Post Office. There are enough snacks in packages from Lynn and my brother, Neice and nephew that we don’t have to buy anything else at the store. A miracle. Also heartwarming cards from Kate and Ross, Tania, and Kyle. They make me teary and thankful. I can do this. 

We return to the hotel and pack. Bug announces she may return to Seattle. I’m not sure if to believe it… This will be the third teary goodbye. I feel crestfallen again. Huck and she and Twinless will sleep in Idyllwild tonight. Future Dad is ahead. Huck wants to hike alone. I guess me and Groucho are on our own… Ending as we began? 
 Huck drives us around the closure and Groucho and I start to hike. This is the first we’ve been alone in… A Month  or so? It’s kinda nice. Groucho worries he’s been drinking too much … The current environment provides ample drinking opps: steady whiskey supply + town visits + care packages from home + social anxiety about group decisions.   Just as we are sadly coming to peace with our sudden aloneness… Future dad texts me. “Meet at road?” He’s willing to wait. The wrong way gang hobbles back to life, getting to the road at sunset and hiking in the dark to the first available site. 

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