After leaving my shady perch yesterday afternoon, it took about four hours to get down to the bottom, where a few hikers crowded around a water faucet, provided by the Desert Water Agency. Having run out of water halfway down, the faucet was a heaven-sent gift. I normally don’t like the taste of water, but after descending 5,000 feet in the late afternoon in the desert, water never tasted so good!
Too tired for words, I made a quick meal of Lipton Alfredo Pasta, threw out my sleeping pad and bag, and went to sleep, sans tent. (This is known as cowboy camping.) I wasn’t a very tough cowboy, though, as it was hell getting to sleep. The desert wind blew strong and every time I rolled to my left I got a blast of dry wind mixed with a little sand. Finally, tired of the constant wind, I set up my bivy, closing out the planetarium of stars above me but allowing for a little shuteye. It was the by far the warmest night of sleep as the heat from the day still radiated from the rocks next to me.
I was up at five am the next morning with Greg, a red-headed guy about my age who was out here hiking north for a month period. I met him a few days ago as he was resting with his feet up on some rocks.
After taking a quick snapshot of the sunrise over San Jacinto Peak, I walked the 3-4 miles to the frontage road along I-10 with Greg in hopes of catching a ride into Cabazon to resupply, which Greg needed to do as well. This was probably the worst hitch ever. There are only two ways to get into Cabazon. One is by interstate, out of the question for us. The other way is by the seldom-traveled frontage road. After standing out in the hot sun with thumbs in the air for
about 30 minutes, Greg and I decided to start walking the 4 1/2 miles into Cabazon, with thoughts of a full, relaxing breakfast over orange juice and coffee. To better inform our potential rides, I made up a sign that read, “CABAZON” and held it up while Greg thumbed the air for each passing car. No luck. About a mile and a half down the frontage road, with the interstate on our right and freight trains passing on the left, I saw a brown car approaching from our direction. I immediately held up the sign and removed my hat. Once the flashers on top of the car came into view, I wanted to put the sign down, but it was too late.
If you’ve never been in the back of a police car, you’re in for a treat. There’s leg room if you’re three feet tall and the seats are made of rock hard plastic. Not built for comfort. “Are you guys walking north or south?” was the first question from the officer. Whew, we’re not being arrested. After asking a few more questions about our trip, the officer drove us the last three miles into town, stopping on the way to check on a brushfire along the highway. It’s so hot and dry down here that a car hitting its brakes is enough to throw a spark and start a fire. We were dropped off at the post office with a warning about a few of the shadowy characters in town.
As the officer drove off, our hopes of a nice sit-down breakfast were crushed. No restaurant unless we want to cross the interstate. Tired and hungry, Greg and I picked up our packages and walked over to the Cabazon Country Store, a.k.a. Shadowy Character Central. The store is a low, flat, rectangular building with shade provided only the side of the building not getting sun. We both ordered massive breakfast burritos and squatted along the shady side of the building to coordinate our resupply. I took a little bit longer and when I finally emerged from the store, Greg was engaged (friendly) with a shadowy character named Manny, a short, husky fellow with a bandage on one arm and a self-contained AM/FM headset glued to his ears. The meeting ended with a three-man prayer circle (hand-holding and all) where Manny asked the Lord to not let us fall victim to “murders, rapes, or 5150’s”. Whatever a 5150 is, I’m glad Manny prayed against it. After spending two hours in Cabazon and the thermometer reading 101 degrees, we caught a taxi back to the trail and headed into the hills.