Take a Trek

Day 17: From Top to Bottom

Fuller Ridge to Ziggy and the Bear
Miles | 191-210 (19)

Everything is covered with a thin layer of frost. I pack up quick and hike fast to get warm. By eight o’clock, I’m drenched in sweat, zigzagging my way down fifteen miles of switchbacks. I’m losing nearly seven-thousand-feet of elevation today, and it feels like I’m descending into a furnace.

I hike with Holiday and Mosey for part of the afternoon. At the bottom of San Jacinto, we fill our water bottles at a controversial spigot that’s been left on for PCT hikers (the town of Cabazon has been debating this water source for years) and make a feeble attempt to shade ourselves beneath a large Boulder. 

Got shade?

The next five miles is a windy, sun-baked slog across the desert floor. The sun hangs in the center of the sky and punishes us for hiking during the middle of the day. The trail turns to a grainy sand that resembles hot kitty  litter and my shoes fill with little pebbles of destruction. My feet are on fire. Five flat miles should be easy after traversing San Jacinto, but this is the hardest stretch of trail that I’ve hiked in days. 

From top to bottom

At mile 210, trail Angels Ziggy and The Bear offer an oasis from the dry desert heat. These compationate  souls have been “angel-ing” PCT hikers since the 1980s. They began their operation out of a house in Anza, California, but relocated when the property owners said they needed to start charging hikers to spend the night. The Bear refused and purchased their current home, The Whitewater House, for the specific purpose of hosting hikers. Ziggy and The Bear are really, really good at what they do. Their beautiful home, enclosed by an eight-foot-high white picket fence, has everything a trail-weary hiked could possibly desire.

Puppy, the retired nurse who tended to my shin splint in Laguna, is here. She’s helping Ziggy and The Bear manage the herd of hikers that are coming up the trail, before she begins her own section hike in a few days. By sunset, 35 or 40 hikers have accumulated in the shaded backyard of The Whitewater House, a place that currently resembles a refuge from a battlefield. Most of us are limping, tending to blisters and sore muscles. The traverse over San Jacinto Mountain was one of our first major tests on the trail, a twenty-four-hour roller coaster that took us to the top of the desert, then to the bottom. I’m exhausted.