A glimpse of windmills as we set
out from I-10.
A desert tortoise demonstrates
his ability to blend into the
Mt. San Jacinto looms up from
behind a windmill-laden hill.
A peek south at the mouth
of the Cochella valley and
the eastern side of the San
Jacintos from the head of
Hey! It's scenery not unlike
Death Valley! The trail
disappears around the bend into
Whitewater Canyon, providing a
view of the Trout Farm...get
ready to stick out your tongue.
Vincie cooked us breakfast and then Carmen drove us back to the trail.
The San Gorgonio Pass, at 1188 feet, is the lowest point on the PCT south of the
Columbia Gorge on the Oregon/Washington border. Interstate 10 runs down the center
of the pass, providing a man made divider between the two mountain ranges.
We had come down... It was time to go back up.
We set off hiking. We crossed under I-10 and soon the sounds of the freeway began to fade. After the decent from the San Jacintos, I would have found it difficult to believe that there were hills more barren than those. Once again, it seemed that I was in error. These hills were nearly devoid of any vegetation at all.
After about 10 minutes, we came upon a tortoise in the trail. Scott was very impressed with the tortoise and decided to take his portrait. The tortoise was not cooperating with these efforts, i.e.: standing in the shadows, in front of an ugly bush, etc. so Scott picked up a blunt stick and gently attempted to herd the tortoise into a better area. Well, I haven't spent a lot of time with tortoises and didn't realize the range of facial expressions they have. Not being a herd animal, he was unfamiliar with Scott's round-up attempts and kept looking up at Scott as if to say, "For crying out loud, buddy, what are you doing?"
He came and stood by me, for sanctuary, I think, and we exchanged a long pained look before Scott herded him off again. Then I heard Scott exclaim, "Oh, no! He's going into his shell!" (Well, wouldn't you?) With a bit of coaxing, Scott finally got his shot and we were off on the trail again.
Presently, we entered a canyon and came upon the Mesa Wind Farm. A multitude of windmills stood on the low hills above us. We had never been this close to windmills, and hadn't realized what noisy creatures they are. As they turned, they moaned and wailed, and all together, sounded like a chorus of lost souls pleading with us as we walked through the canyon below them. I was glad we were not passing through at night.
We left them behind and walked on, the hills becoming even more barren as we proceeded. The guidebook described the scenery as "not unlike Death Valley." With those words of inspiration to stimulate us, we eagerly continued on.
The temperature reached 102 and continued to climb. Luckily there was a strong breeze. Unluckily, the strong breeze blew stinging sand in our eyes, but we persisted bravely.
From high on the canyon wall, we were able to feast our eyes on the verdant valley where the Whitewater Trout Farm was located. We had been warned that hikers are NOT welcome in this promised land. Just looking down at the grass and trees was a form of torture. We consoled ourselves by saying things like "There are PROBABLY mosquitos down there" and thumbing our noses in the general direction. I can't say this helped a lot, but in dire situations, you take comfort where you can.
Finally, we came upon the Whitewater River, which was a relief. After walking for a long way up a dry rocky wash, we were beginning to wonder where the water was. In early season, we've been told that it is really a torrent, but now, it was more like a babbling brook, but it was enough to comfort us. It is a strange and wonderful sight to seen water gushing from the mountains in the middle of the desert. We soaked our feet in the warm water. Pure bliss.
The remainder of the day consisted of walking through miles of canyons and then up upon ridges, seeming to make little progress, at times traveling every direction but North. We would gain altitude only to lose it again. On the bright side, as the sun went down, the weather became very pleasant and we walked quite a ways until eventually we came upon Mission Creek and camped near it.