Sunday, December 12, 2021

PCT Day 15: Snow Creek Trailhead to Whitewater Canyon (Mile 207-218.6)

Dec 12, 2021
Snow Creek Trailhead to Whitewater Canyon
4:19 (moving) / 5:48 (total)
Max 3,275 feet (+2,496 / -1,449)
See Day 10 Section on YouTube

Pacific Crest Trail – Day 15

We got the gang back together for one last PCT hike in 2021.   We started hiking with our new friend OoBrianoo in Section B after I saw pictures on social media that he too had also just hiked the Eagle Rock section and was at the identical point on the PCT as Mai & I.   Joining forces with OoBrianoo was the biggest blessing of 2021 as there is high probability that we would have never made it to this point by now without him.   Together we've hiked our last 7 PCT hikes starting from mile 111.5 all the way thru mile 207 which is nearly 100 trail miles.  

Day 15 we will break the 100 mile barrier PCT trail miles together.   There are so many reasons Mai & I are thankful for our new friendship.   Just the fact that his character is second to no one is even worth mentioning.  It's reassuring knowing that you have trust in your trail companions.   Spending so much time together is even more special with someone you enjoy their company as well as companionship which helps make the long days go by faster.  Not only has OoBrianoo been instrumental with providing a 2nd vehicle which you can't do without when every hike is point to point, but also having a partner to help plan and strategize the next section has been an unbelievable help.  (and thus far we were only briefly lost once or twice...all on the same day once missing a switchback and once lost the trail in the snow)

In addition to being thankful for OoBrianoo really the person I'm most thankful is Mai.   It's hard to believe our 2nd date was starting at Southern Terminus and we've hiked all 207 miles together.  Each hike is a learning experience and all the trials and tribulations on the trail have brought us closer together.  We have a certain type of joy spending a day or weekend on the trail.  She has so much positive energy that anything we do together is fun.   Even when the days are long and the suffering is high she looks at you with that lovely smile and makes you want to keep coming back for more.   Our life's passed at just the perfect time for both of us and I think it's safe to say we fulfill each other.  Thanks for all the good times and great memories that will last a lifetime!

Our last two day PCT section (Day 13 & 14) was all the way back on October 9&10th so on December 3rd I texted OoBrianoo, "Mai is getting out of shape since our last hike.   Any date before Christmas you can start section 3?" but didn't hear back right away.   Of course I was joking and just looking for an excuse to get out of the house for the day for a hike!   Afterall, with the time change there are less opportunities to cycle, so maybe it was me that was the real one feeling out of shape.    A few days later on December 7th I finally got a reply and there was a glimmer of hope as he had the entire weekend of December 11-12 available.   A quick text to Mai and the ball was rolling to plan Day 15 on Sunday December 12th!   

Each new PCT hike is a learning experience and even though we had now 207 PCT miles since each hike starts where we left off there is still the element of the unknown beginning any hike.  The main guidebook we have been using is "Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California" has been so helpful when trying to figure out what to expect for our next hike.   We've pretty much followed it to the "T" excluding a short 6 mile Day 2 that we combined with Day 3 for a 23 mile uphill hike from sunrise to sunset.   

As much as I've studied the guide the beginning or ending of a new "Section" is something that we've only seen one time prior.   When we finished "Section A" in Warner Springs I don't recall any special signs or monuments, it was just another mile along the trail which intersected with a road.   The end of "Section B" was a BIG road, it's actually the I-10 crossing referred to in the book as San Gorgonio Pass.  Logistically for us, it made more sense to end Day 14 hike at Snow Creek, which is actually 2.5 miles before the I-10 Section divider.   We had run so many scenarios trying to figure the best way to tackle this 2.5 miles section and non of them worked out.   

Looking ahead to the first Section C hike it was only 9 miles, so it just made sense since there was easy (and familiar) trailhead parking at Snow Creek Trailhead just to begin there.   Tacking on the 2.5 miles to the 9 miles only made for a 11.6 mile hike which was well within our grasps of a winter hike on one of the shortest days of the year.   The trailhead was only 78 miles from home and probably the closest trailhead since the beginning of our PCT hikes beginning at the border of Mexico combined with a relatively short day we figured we could drive in the morning of the hike and drive home the same day without spending the night.      

Back in October after we finished Day 14, I did read ahead to see what we might expect from section C so I did have a general idea of what to expect.   We were basically going to hike across the Palm Springs basin and start our accent up on the north side of the next mountain chain.  While only 11.5 miles, we had a respectable 2,610 feet of climbing.   We also figured out that the ending trailhead is about 1-1.5 miles from the PCT, so at the end of our PCT hike we still had about another 20 or so minutes to make it back to our 2nd vehicle.  

OoBrianoo at first thought we might get an early start and was going to drive up to Palm Springs the night before and sleep in his car, but we settled for a later meeting time of 9:30 which also made it feasible for him to drive up from San Diego the morning of our hike.    Once again, I had a busy week and hadn't had a minute of time to do any pre-planning of where to meet, where to park at the end of the hike so fortunately OoBrianoo did all the research and set us the meeting locations GPS coordinates which were easy to find.

Only a few miles away we drove up Whitewater Canyon and easily found parking outside the Whitewater Preserve.  Already 10 a.m. we knew it would be getting close to sunset by the time we finished the hike and didn't want to have our car locked in the gates at the end of our day.    It was just a short drive back to our starting point at Snow Creek Trailhead and familiar territory where we left off last time.  

We always have a wager when we begin a hike how many people we will see on the trail.  At the trailhead there were two others that showed up the same time, but both were heading up the way we came down last time.   Juno my Australian shepherd was along for the days festivities and eager to get started.   My instinct was we would not see a soul in this section.   As we begin, we have to cross the desert floor and wasn't sure how easy the trail would be able to find and was surprised that someone else knew this could be a problem and there were wooden poles with yellow tops all across the valley each easily to spot ahead and would say they helped a lot as we would have been lost without them.  A few places rocks were arranged in the shape of a giant arrow pointing you in the right direction to the next post.  

Before long we were leaving San Jacinto behind as we passed under a couple of bridges under I-10.  A little graffiti and PCT signs on the walls were interesting to check out but after a couple pictures we kept moving.    As it ends up it probably would have been easy to find a parking spot near the underpass, but beginning our hike at Snow Creek Trailhead seemed a little safer than near the crossing of the interstate.  Immediately after the interstate crossing the trail began to climb.   Knowing where we parked the car it seemed as if we had to travel a long way west before the trail turned and began to head back eastward.

I didn't reset my GPS at the bridge, I will count the first 2.5 miles to the I-10 as part of our Section C.  There was a small village of homes after we crossed the I-10 that we passed close by before heading further up and soon looking back and seeing how much we had climbed.   Soon we reached "official" Section C signage which welcomed us to Section C and a few millage markers of intersections ahead.

The next section warned of a wind farm and "electrical and flying debris" whatever that means?   The trail skirted a road back to a few windmills but never too close that I felt like we were in any danger.   The trail continued upward the steepest section of the day as well as the highpoint of the hike of 3,222 ft.   We had perfect weather and sunny skies all day, but as the afternoon sun started to fall below the mountains to the west of us it immediately began to cool off and we had to dig out a light windbreaker for the rest of the afternoon.   At the highpoint we had our best vantage point back down toward Palm Springs and once again could see all the way to the Saltan Sea in the far distance.   It was also a great place with the last bit of sun and over halfway so we took a break and had out lunch.

We headed mostly down the rest of the day into Whitewater Canyon.   The route wasn't direct and we had a few switchbacks as it wound around until we eventually had our first glimpse of Whitewater Canyon which was simply magnificent.   Still we hadn't seen anyone all day on the trail but in the distance we saw a few hikers in the river area.   In case they were heading up I joked and said we needed to get to the end of the PCT where it intersects with the side trail back to the car and won the days contest of zero hikers.    

The 1.5 mile hike over the river back to the car was beautiful.  We had rain earlier in the week on Tuesday so there was a nice flow of water in the riverbed.   The area looks like there are times of massive flow of water, so would be interesting to come back and see after a big storm.    There were multiple trails and we didn't seem to be heading in the right direction of our car so OoBrianoo broke out our hiking app formerly called Guthook and now renamed Farout to confirm we were not heading back to the car so we had to make slight correction until we found another trail that took us back to the car.   

The Conservatory was about to close and lock the gates and we were greeted by the ranger who was helpful and let us know he can give us a code to get out of the gate when we come back next time.   We were happy to get one last hike of the year and it wasn't as torturous as most days on the PCT.   We found another person near our car just out sightseeing and he pointed out that the water in the rocks were in the shape of Buddah.   I really didn't see it but Mai and OoBrianoo seemed to make it out.   We made it back to my car with ease and said our goodbyes.

We had worked up an appetite and instead of a fast food stop we decided to stop by the Morongo Casino and check out there buffet.   Unfortunately, the buffet was closed because of Covid, but found an Asian fusion restaurant inside that hit the spot.   I've never headed home on a Sunday night from Palm Springs without a traffic jam, but our timing was perfect as traffic was light and we had a great drive home.  

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