Miles 218.5- 235
Legend came back in the morning to make pancakes for everyone who stayed overnight (at least 20 of us!). He has a very specific method of serving the pancakes. 10 people at a time sit around a table, and each one slides closer to the end until it’s their turn for a pancake. You can eat as many as you want, and when you’re done you have to get up, wash your plate and fork, and hand it off to someone whose waiting.
He also had a thermos full of instant coffee, and we were both slightly embarrassed by how much we liked the coffee! Maybe our standards are lower, but I prefer to believe Legend has been at this for so long he’s come up with a perfect recipe for delicious coffee. Or maybe it’s just that when it comes down to it, a hot drink on a cold morning is really all we ever want.
After snarfing down pancakes that were the size of our plates, we threw our packs on and headed out. The wind had picked up again, and it was COLD- around 40°. We were still down in a valley too, so there wasn’t much sunlight to warm us- we adjusted by hiking a little faster with our layers on till we warmed up.
Not long after we finally got warm we came across the Whitewater River- our first actual ford! A couple people had boulder hopped it, but it wasn’t running too hard and it was only about shin-high, so we just pulled our shoes and socks off and walked through it. It was cold, but kinda fun! Definitely took any of the remaining sleepiness we were feeling right out of our systems.
From there the trail meandered pretty casually along the river for a while, before cutting away towards Mission Creek, which we would be following for the rest of the day. We were really happy to be following a water source all day, as it meant we wouldn’t ever need to carry more than 2L at a time. We stopped after a while for lunch, and we were soon joined by our friends Magellan and Turtle. We’d been leapfrogging them for a while, and it was nice to be able to sit down and chat about our hikes so far. It turned out they got engaged on the 2nd day of their hike, and it was Magellans birthday today! They were waiting to celebrate till Big Bear though, so we made plans to meet up for drinks there and continued on.
The trail started climbing, albeit casually, as we continued along Mission Creek. We had our eyes on a campsite about 8 miles from where we took lunch, and as we chatted with more hikers it sounded like everyone else was planning on the same thing. Most of the time it’s great to be around other hikers, but it does get tough sometimes when we all camp in the same spot because it feels really crowded. Tonight everyone wanted to camp right outside a 20 mile area where camping wasn’t allowed, so we couldn’t get too mad about it.
For the last couple miles into camp we hiked with a guy named Grizzly, from Alaska. We usually let other hikers pass us if they come up behind us, but he said he liked our pace and seemed to want to have some people to chat with, so we happily obliged. It can definitely become monotonous to hike for hours on end without talking to anybody.
Once we got to camp we immediately pitched our tent in what seemed like the last available spot- it was quite crowded! We were bummed because our other friends would have to look elsewhere, but there was some space down by the creek so we held out hope they would get there quickly and grab that space, and luckily they did!
Tonight was one of the first nights we had a little “dinner circle”, where we all cook our dinners together, and chat about the days events and what would be coming up. It’s the moments like these that I really enjoy about the trail- it makes us feel more like a community instead of a bunch of individuals, and that’s something that I was hoping for when we started out.
We also met our first SOBO hiker today! She started around Mile 500, and was heading south to the border before going back up to where she started to continue her hike north. Seemed like an interesting approach – she said it was due to permit availability, but she’s enjoyed it. Good for her! We told her what to expect in the next few days, including a nasty climb up San Jacinto, and she warned us that the 20 mile section we were planning on tomorrow was really, really cold.
We finally retired to our tent, slightly nervous about what would be our highest mileage day tomorrow, but happy to know we wouldn’t be suffering through it alone.