Sunday, October 10, 2021

PCT Day 14: Fuller Ridge Trailhead to Snow Creek Trailhead (Mile 190.5-207)

Oct 10, 2021
Fuller Ridge Trailhead to Snow Creek Trailhead
6:38 (moving) / 7:51 (total)
Max 7,764 feet (+105 / -6,587)
See Day 14 Section on YouTube

Pacific Crest Trail – Day 14

Finally the last day of Section B.   It's been quite a journey with a monumental milestone of our 200th mile on the PCT in store for today!   Most hikes we've had to figure out how to get to the trailhead, where to park the cars at each of of our point to point hike, but this day started out like none other because for the first time we camped two nights at the same place so literally all we had to do is step out of our sleeping bags and we would be on the trail.   Lets just say that was a good thing because although morning logistics were super simple after our hike would take several hours to recover all three vehicles. 

The one lingering loose end of Day 14 is where to stop for the day.   The guidebook we had been following took us all the way to what they described as the "San Gorgonio Pass" (i.e. where the PCT intersects with I-10) at mile 209.5.   There is a 2.5 mile stretch at the end of of Day 14 that we would end up passing our car and having to hike 2.5 back to our car.   We visited Palm Spring in May for a weekend out of town and had already talked about trying to do this flat section on it's own, perhaps as just a morning run.    

Looking ahead to Day 15 which is only 12 miles, so instead of adding an extra 5 miles to our 16.7 mile hike it just seemed to make more sense to add the 2.5 miles onto our next visit the PCT.   Unanimously when the three of us made it to the car after two days and over 30 miles on the trail we were all ready to call it quits for the day.

Friday and Saturday camping at the Fuller Ridge Trailhead were night and day.   Yes both nights were a little cold, tho after we had retired early into the comfort of our warm sleeping bags several cars we could hear driving up the truck trail and parking nearby unloading many young kids who were less than considerate that others were camping in nearby.   They soon had their campsite setup and things quieted down for the rest of the evening, well that is, at least until morning.  Once again at sunrise once one of the awoke so did their entire clan.   So much for the peaceful serenity we had only one night prior.   

Eventually the troop leader came over to apologize and we learned that it was a boy scout troop from the Irvine area that had gathered for a new badge which entailed hiking 21 miles.   What better way to achieve this distance than by choosing a trail that was literally downhill from start to finish.   I really expected to have the entire PCT Sunday however all 30 or more of them were heading the same direction as we were down to the Palm Springs desert floor.   

We had a similar breakfast to the morning before of oatmeal and hot chocolate, refilled our packs with lunch and fluids for the day.   We decided not to tear down our camp until our return later in the afternoon.  We knew where we left the trail the night before in the dark but weren't exactly sure where to pick it up in the morning, but using common sense it had to go "down" which there was really only one way to go.   We found the trail behind another small campsite that had looked as if they had also spent both nights like us camping at the trailhead.   Wouldn't you know the scout troop took a few group photos and ended up starting immediately after us.   It didn't take them long to catch us and their pace was little faster so we couldn't hold them off and and to pull over and let them all pass.

There easily was 30 or more kids, their troop lead, and a handful of parents.   For a 21 mile hike they all seemed to have backpacks and be prepared for their long day, however, a few of the parents were hiking without any supplies which immediately seemed like a concern because there was no where to stop along the long way down.   About 1 mile into our hike down we saw the parents were able to take all the great views of the very first part of the hike and were turning around to head back to their cars.  They didn't seem like they were in the best of shape and we wished them well on their long 1 mile back up hill to their cars.    

The troop leader allowed the large group to break up into different smaller groups but asked that every half hour they wait for the entire group.   The first of these stops is where this time we passed all the kids.   We would play hopscotch the first half of the day and only the fastest group of them would catch us again, but after their 2nd group stop we passed them again and didn't see them the remainder of the day.    I just figured that they did some long hikes to prepare for 21 miles, but talking to a couple of the scouts we learned, nope, they hadn't trained and were just going to try to finish.    Although downhill, 21 miles (of rugged terrain) would mean a long day for all of them. 

Saturday morning there was a pretty cloud cover below us, but Sunday the skies were 100% clear and we had epic views of the desert as well as the mountains on the other side of the I-10 all day long.   It started out cold and remembering the heavy winds Friday night below when we dropped off our car at our endpoint, I way overdressed.   I had many layers that I quickly shed and even thought about not bringing along a pair of shorts, but very glad as it heated up that I could change into them.    After all the hard work Saturday and elevation gain, Sunday was completely different and just a gentle decline from start to finish. 

I've seen many trails in S. California and this had to be amongst my favorite.  Granted it was a lot of work to get to the trailhead to start up the 6 mile truck trail as well as return to the same point to recover the car at the end of the day, but all the extra work for the cars was well worth it with the spectacular views/scenery all day.     

Our first big excitement mid hike was approaching PCT mile 200.   We knew about 10 miles after our start we should reach mile 200.   We recalled our last 100 milestone and there were some painted white rocks alongside the trail that marked 100 miles.  We really didn't know what to expect at mile 200 but was hoping there would at least be something to mark our achievement.    Looking at my GPS watch we were at 9 miles, so hopefully less than 1 mile to go.   When 10 miles came and went we started to become concerned literally in the middle of nowhere that there would be no sign.   Oobrianoo even broke out this Guthook app and it showed that we were already past mile 200 and still nothing.  However, I vividly remembered on the map a very large/sharp switchback at the 200 mark and we were mostly going in a straight line so my hunch is that we hadn't quite reached the 200 mile mark yet.  

All a sudden we found a rock outcropping that was ideal for photos and sure enough there were once again rocks placed in a clear "200" pattern.   There was a little rain a couple days prior and seemed as they were slightly out of place but Mai stepped right up reorganizing them to make them even more clear.   It seems like we took dozens of photos sitting, standing, arms raised, etc.   It also seemed like a great spot for lunch, so we got to enjoy the view a little longer.   As we carried on further down the trail it was the first time where we nearly lost the trail, but quickly discovered our error as we starting walking down a small wash where we should have crossed directly across.

Shortly after the wash, we came upon some white flowers that OoBrianoo recognized as a wild flower that grows in S. California that has some hallucination properties.   We passed through an area with many of the the plants on both sides of the trail.   As we were admiring their beauty we came across and "official" post marking 200 miles, probably a half a mile past where we had just celebrated.   The outcropping we first celebrated was much more scenic, so this time we only briefly stopped for just a couple of photos with the sign. 

At the beginning of the day we really were not sure where our car was as our view was obstructed to the north.   We had a couple openings and could clearly see the car with more than 10 miles to go.   Most of the day we could also see a big wash where all the water runs off the mountains but didn't know where it was in relation to our car.   It ends up the trail would take us all the way down to the wash after we had to negotiate several switchbacks on both the North and East side of the mountain.    

We hadn't had any more expectations for excitement until we would finish Section B at mile 207, but to our big surprise about 203 miles into our journey we were scared to death by our first rattlesnake right next to the trail.   Living in S. California for 15 years I've seen snakes only a handful of times.  I've seen rattlesnakes close up at least 3 times, however, I've never actually heard one "rattle".   The sound, especially right next to it was extremely loud.   This one was too close for comfort and there was no mistaken it's rattle as it was probably as excited to be spotted in the desolate area of the PCT as we were to almost have stepped on it.   Mai and I were ahead of OoBrianooo and we each screamed "snake" and ran on ahead.   There was no mistaken that it was clearly ready for busines as it was coiled up with it's head and tail both raised.   We got far enough away that we were safe and warned OoBrianoo of the peril ahead but I think we had scared it away as it took cover out of sight.   Whoa 203 miles of the PCT and through the all the desert areas near the Mexico boarder and not a single snake.  Even 50 yards behind OoBrianoo clearly heard the rattle and was also surprised how loud it was. 

About 14 miles into our hike we were ready for another rest and found a couple rocks to perch upon and enjoy the view.   OoBrianoo we let lead the next section and as I stopped for many more photos he quickly was a switchback ahead and we could see him below just as he leaped three feet into the air and his turn to scream "snake".   Whoa, two in one day and only about a mile apart.   This one was just a baby and honestly we couldn't make out what it might be.  It laid motionless and we got close enough to take a few photos.   

The dirt trail eventually ends and connects to Fall Creeks Road right after passing and old rusted out waterpipe as well as new pipe close by.   There were a few PCT signs along the road back down to Snow Creek and there was much jubilation when we finally met back with Mai's car.   The nearly 17 miles hike took us close to 8 hours and nearly 5pm.   After being on the trail for 2 days something greasy sounded like it would hit the spot.   Our first exit along the I-10 was close to Cabazon and we found a Burger King with a giant pink dinosaur near the parking lot.   We all fumbled out of the car with hopes of using the washroom and getting some grub only to find that the doors were locked and our only choice was the drive thru.  There is nothing I hate more than a drive through but this was our only option.  The line took what seemed like forever then they screwed up our order and were were missing a sandwich so had to wait along even longer.  We also figured out that Mai and I had left our wallet in my car at the trailhead so much thanks to OooBrianoo for treating us to dinner.

I had hoped we could make it back up to the truck trail and recover our camp gear before dark so back up the mountain we headed.   Mai's car is rear wheel drive so the final test was to see if it could get us back up the dirt road.  We took it slow and another 45 miles up the truck trail we arrived and found our tents in the same condition as we had left them.   We quickly tore down our gear and loaded back into our two vehicles with our last stop to drop OoBrianoo at this car at Saturday morning's trailhead at Humber Park.   The sun was now mostly setting and on the way down I jumped out of the car for one last photo of the valley below with a beautiful sunset.   Mai decided she would follow me down and drive herself with OoBrianoo as a co-pilot.  After another 45 minutes back down to to the main road we were almost home free.   The extra 2-3 hours of retrieving our cars seemed to take forever but eventually we said our goodbyes and started the long drive home.         

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