It was warm overnight, the first actually warm evening on the trail, which made it a little easier to get moving faster. From the water faucet, the downhill from San Jacinto continued, as the trail followed an access road for the water agency, before turning into a sandy trail that passed through more sub-desert landscape as it headed across the valley towards the Mesa Wind Farm.
Along the way, I ran into two rattlesnakes. The first, I heard before I saw it, and once I was able to see it, saw that it was slowly slithering away as it shook its rattle at me. The second one, smaller and almost sand colored, I saw before I heard it: it was coming right towards me. Fortunately, I was able to fling it away into a bush with my trekking pole.
The first stop of the day was under the I-10 overpass, where it was cool, shaded, and there was a nice trail magic cache of ice-cold sodas, fresh fruit, and unfiltered water, provided by a number of trail angels. According to a sign there, this location (at 1337 feet) is the lowest until the Columbia Gorge, in Oregon, over 1900 miles ahead.
There, I met Rowdy, and we continued north on the trail, as it skirted a residential development and began climbing to the wind farm. On the ground beside the trail, almost as if placed to be presented for view, was someone’s iPhone. Rowdy said he thought he knew who the phone belonged to, so he picked it up and we continued on ahead. After only a few minutes, we ran into Hopper, whose phone it was: it fell out of a pocket when she stopped to tie her shoes. Also on the search was Bob Dog, and Patch and Dock whom I hadn’t seen since Warner Springs. The several of us continued on, soon entering a gated part of the Mesa Wind Farm facility, and beginning Section C of the trail in California.
The trail wound through the hills, roughly paralleling a dirt access road to the wind farm’s office. Near the office, an enticing sign beckoned, “Water And Shade”. A series of three signs led to an area shaded with a wooden structure, with a package of water bottles inside. The roof on the structure slightly deteriorating, dried palm fronds were being used to cover part of the roof that was missing wood.
Patch and I arrived first, and took the last two water bottles. After everyone else arrived, Bob Dog actually went into the office, and returned with a full package of slightly chilled water, which was even better than the air-temperature bottles. We sat in the shade for over an hour, cooling off from a few hours in the hot sun. It’s really awesome that the wind farm is willing to provide water and shade to hikers; it’s the only spot for a fair distance in either direction where there’s both.
Leaving the wind farm, the trail continued to wind its way through the hills, eventually turning away from the wind farm, winding north through a valley to enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
Here, were a series of incredible views of mountains and canyons, as the trail wound down one hill and up another on its way to the Whitewater River. Wildflowers bloomed on both sides of the trail in a variety of colors, and the mountains to the southeast occasionally parted to reveal a view of the actual desert.
Parts of the trail were actually somewhat sketchy: the trail was a narrow path cut through a steep, loose slope of dirt and sand. I’d not want to go through this area in the rain, it’s be too easy for the trail to collapse and a misstep send you down a long drop.
The Whitewater Preserve, my destination for the day, was a half-mile off the tail. Originally a trout farm, it became a wildlife preserve, and is a nice park with hiking trails, picnic tables, water, and restrooms. The Preserve also has a wading pool, fed from the Whitewater, that felt nearly ice-cold.
I arrived at the Preserve a little after 3, and coupled with the water, restrooms, and picnic table (as well as a very large area PCT hikers only are permitted to tent, it made for a very relaxing evening. Also there for the evening were Dock, Rowdy, Drags, and Wile. While we were eating dinner, frogs hidden in the woods behind our picnic tables croaked continuously, before quieting down a bit after sunset.