Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 12 : Whitewater Preserve

25 miles today
2444 miles to go

Sun’s up on a brand new day. I'm up too. Braveheart has already left while I'm still trying to pack. I just haven't figured out how to pack fast, or maybe I don't care enough. With my pack loaded I head back to the trail. From here to the faucet it is basically downhill. Back and forth across seemingly endless switchbacks down, down, down. As I descend the temperature goes up, up, up. Braveheart and I arrive at the faucet around the same time. It's hot. I open my umbrella and eat a tuna and Fritos wrap in its friendly shade. I soak my towel, I soak my Buff, I soak my shirt. Stuff dries faster than I can keep it wet. Hot, hot, hot! The trail leads across the flats to Ziggy and the Bears. We load up with another liter of water and head across between the scrub brush. Little white lizards scurry away from my tread in all directions. It's comical how far they run, dodging this way and that between the bushes until they are and least fifty feet away. The smell is unique it reminds me of the smell of burning resistors back from the days when I repaired electronic equipment. It smells dry, the moisture is sucked out of my sinuses every time I inhale. I try to keep my mouth closed to keep my mouth moist. It's like being in a food dehydrator. I feel like a raisin, slowly shriveling up. Keep hiking, don't stop, Hike or die! I choose to hike. I follow the trail markers. Six foot posts with the tops painted yellow. One step at a time. I reach the highway overpass and pass into its shade. There is a indistinct lumpy mass sitting at the middle at the far end. I walk over and find a thru-hiker, or maybe a homeless guy, it's hard to tell. I say, “hi.” He says, “hello brother.” Homeless guy. I have yet to have a Thru-hiker call me brother. We take a short break and I switch out my water bag. One liter left, one mile to go. Should be no problem. 

Ziggy and the Bears, it still hot but there’s shade. There are Thru-hikers here. Waiting for a shuttle to Big Bear. Braveheart and I sit and talk to Ziggy. “What are our plans,” she wants to know. All I know and this point is that there are another twenty-six open trail miles north of here. They need to be hiked. Our plan is to end our day at whitewater preserve. That's our plan. Danger Muffin, the trail angel helping out here says, “watch out for the raccoons, they're super aggressive.” I check the temperature, one hundred and one degrees in the shade. We decide to sit in the shade and hang out until it starts to cool. I meet Rabies and he tells me that he printed out Magician’s forty-five mile bypass of the lake fire closure. He agrees to give it to me since he plans to shuttle around. Braveheart and I discuss our options and look up some of the Lat/Lons using google maps. They seem legit so we take screen captures of each of them for further reference in the future. We are seriously considering this walk around and imagine we can complete it in a couple of days. However, we are leaving our options open. We won't need to decide until we get to mile two twenty one. 

We hang out at Ziggy and the Bears till around four or so then we decide it's time to go. I load up with three liters of water which should be enough to get me the eight miles to Whitewater preserve. It's hot, very hot. The breeze is blowing from the east right out of the desert. So it's dry too. We plod out into the desert on a mission to hike a continuous footpath. One that very few others are choosing to do , the moment you shuttle past, it's no longer continuous. My reason is simple. To me it's the continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada that is important. Braveheart has her own reasons but we believe that if we stick together we can do this thing. 

We climb up and over the saddle past all of the windmills on the hill most of them standing like silent sentinels guarding a forbidden kingdom. I feel like a trespasser sneaking into it. Like Sam and Frodo. It's hot as blazes! We cross into the San Gorgonio Wilderness and move along the canyon and down into the whitewater drainage. The sun has moved behind the hills and we are in the twilight as we finally make it into Whitewater Preserve. Braveheart suggests we start cooking first then setup tents after, while our food steeps. This is an excellent idea. By the time our tents are setup it's dark. Just as we sit down to eat, two raccoons race up to the table. I run at them waving my arms like a crazy man. One scurries up the tree right over my tent and the picnic table we are sitting at. The other runs about twenty-five feet away and sits and watches us. This is not good. They don't fear us. I start picking up rocks and throwing them. I am missing by five feet or more. The  one in the tree hears to sound of the rocks hitting the trunk and scurries higher into the tree until he's out of sight. The other one runs into the ditch and hides in the bushes. I return to my food, I am dripping with sweat from my exertions and my hot food only makes it worse. The good thing about this place is they have running water. Sinks and flushing toilets. I console myself with the thought that I can towel myself down before bed. To make things more challenging the mosquitos are out in droves. They bite my hands and sweaty face. I can’t sit down, but pace back and forth while I eat, waving my hands between bites. I see the raccoon sneak out of the bushes and sit cockily on the bank watching us. I set down my food and grab my headlamp and a rock. Flicking on the light I rush him, he does little more then stand up. I let the rock fly and miss him by ten feet. He slowly wattles down the bank and sits in front of the bushes. I find another rock about the size of a golf ball. I fling it in his direction as hard as I can. Unbelievably, I hit him smack in the nose. He squeals with surprise and dives into a culvert pipe I hadn't seen before. I felt primal and powerful. A wild man protecting my kill from marauding thieves in black masks. Of course, my ‘kill’ is freeze dried corn chowder in an bag. After that we saw no more raccoons for the rest of dinner. After dinner I hung my food using the PCT method I had learned a few years back. So my food is hanging about fifteen feet off the ground and fifteen feet below the branch it's suspended from. Unless they are smart enough to chew through my spectra cord my food is safe. 

To the restroom and relief. I strip down and towel bathe myself until I feel cooler and cleaner. It's seems so counter-productive to get back into my dirty smelly hiking clothes but that's what I do to get back to my tent. It's warm here in the seventies or so. Way to hot for a sleeping bag. I lay in my tent in the dark. The frogs are singing to each other in the various ponds around me. I hear a single raccoon calling to the other one, “the coast is clear, come out and help steal the loot.” So far I only hear a single raccoon, so far it hasn't bothered my tent. It's late and I'm out of words.

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