Day 18: The Descent

Last night the wind from San Felipe sent its nasty uncle to torture us some more. He was wild with madness, getting bolder and bolder as the night wore on. At first, he merely flapped our tent’s fly, creating a “whap whap whap,” growing ever louder. Then he sent in the dust to annoy: a thin layer of glittering, gritty dust that coated our eye sockets, mouths, sleeping bag, everything. Lastly, not finding us the type to give up, he cut through the cord holding the fly to the stake on my side, plastering the fly right to my side, through the tent.

He next ripped Ant’s stake out and spent the night pressing himself against one or both of us. The sun vanquished him, and we shook the dirt away this morning, weary with the memory. 

 We rushed out of camp, visions of pancakes dancing in our heads. We were to meet my cousin Aimee in Palm Springs today! But first, we had ten miles to kill.

It is a strange paradox, this thru hiking thing. We have taken on the entire country, looking forward to a wilderness experience, but rush like madmen toward food and humanity at every chance.

Also, stranger still, is our desire to find meaning in Mother Nature’s actions. Last night, we moaned, “why us?” And Ant even admitted today to trying to invoke Archangel Michael, as we did the other day (obviously this time it didn’t quite work). 

 Today, as the wind kept kicking up, bending us over at right angles into it and forcing our entire pack weight onto our shoulders, I wondered what I did wrong. Later, as the trail seemed to try to show us every inch of the mountain’s base instead of letting us get off, I wondered again, “why me?”

It was a rough ten miles, causing Ant and I to never want to return to this side of this San Jancinto mountain again. And we made it tougher by refusing to stop to eat (because pancakes!) or rest (see above!). 

 After the trail finally ran out of mountain to traverse, it dropped us out at a paved road. There was a hilarious fountain for filling up bottles that shot straight up into the air in an unpredictable arc, making us giggle as we missed again and again. Then we road walked until the road gave way to crunchy desert and then gave way to deep, beach-worthy sand.

“Oof,” we thought as we dutifully, if not sadly, trudged on.

The windmills all around seemed to laugh as they spun madly in the never ending wind. 

 Finally we got to the highway underpass, where hikers are sometimes mugged. A dune buggy was parked in our path. I readied my trekking poles for maximum hurting power (“Go for the jugular,” my mom told me the other day…and “He had it coming…”). We passed, and I was frightened to look at them. Then I saw a sign on their buggy: “Tours $25.”

We were safe.

Aimee called, wondering where we could be. And we were under the highway, just like real hobos. She took up to IHOP and we ate chicken quesadillas, eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, hash browns, and an omelet, all washed down with real coffee. Aimee laughed at us for finishing it all.

We were proud. 

 After visiting my grandmother and playing with Aimee’s adorable kids, we headed to our Motel 6, showered, laundried, pretended to swim (because pool!), and ate some more.
Tomorrow we part ways for a few days, and that will be the strangest thing in the world.