Day Eighteen started covered in grit from the windstorm the night before… and still windy. We headed across the desert floor towards Interstate 10, and it felt like walking through a wind tunnel operated by an angry, meth-addled god. The scenery was enjoyably un-scenic—we walked under high-voltage power lines, along a trash-strewn washed-out road parallel to the freeway, and then under four lanes of I-10.
Up a hill and under an imposing bank of clouds we came to Ziggy and The Bear’s, a legendary trail angel house where hikers are welcomed into a remarkably well-organized carpeted backyard, fed, and given access to a shower, couch, wifi, hot coffee, etc—all for the low low price of promising to send a postcard from the end of their journeys.
We arrived in the morning and planned to leave early afternoon, but sprinkles turned into rain and we decided the prudent decision was to not battle a repeat of last night’s wind, this time with the addition of rain—that would have been a great way to soak our down bags and end up in real trouble.
More and more hikers showed up seeking refuge from more and more rain, and as the hikers filled the lawn chairs the rain started to pool and flow under the carpet—right where everyone would normally sleep. Once there were 30 hikers and a small lake in the middle of the sleeping area, with Ziggy and The Bear desperately searching for dry places to put everyone (the garage, the shower room), we took the lower-chaos option and got a motel room one town over. Three friends—Rally, Squatchie, and PT, soaked after a 20-mile hike—joined us and we packed a room full of dirty hikers.
Traveling by foot has brought me into more intimate contact not just with the physical landscape but also with the auditory landscape—the crunch of gravel underfoot, the hundreds of birds that we hear but never see. The human-made sounds have been the most unexpected: whirring wind turbines and the hiss and crackle of high tension lines. Airplanes pass overhead constantly, but in some places their sound rushes in suddenly—perhaps an artifact of bouncing off of valleys and ridge lines—before disappearing with the same whooshing flourish.
That night we camped by water, a rare luxury so far on this trip, sharing our site with a hiker named Dude who was on his fifth PCT start after an AT hike and two successful PCT hikes. A bartender in his pre-trail life, he said he was only making about ten miles a day because he stopped and had so many conversations.
Day 18: 5.1 miles, Mile 205.8 to 210.9 Ziggy and the Bear’s, then Banning motel
Day 19: 18.6 miles, Mile 210.9 to 229.5, Mission Creek campsite