DAY THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE
Mount San Jacinto is my favorite mountain. It rises above the desert in a massive 10,000 foot escarpment. In the winter months it is covered with snow and in summer it offers a welcome escape from the summer inferno of the desert below. I've climbed it numerous times from all directions including the mountaineering route up the Snow Creek couloir. There's only one route I'd never taken to get the its summit, the PCT from Snow Creek Village, and today that's what I did.
I start out at 5:30 a.m. because I couldn't wake up any earlier. I wanted to start at 5 but I move slow in the morning.
I really hate No Trespassing signs at the beginning of my hikes but I know it's OK for hikers so I ignore it.
I hike about a mile up a paved road and hit the trail. There's a water fountain placed here for hikers by the water district and it's a good thing. There won't be any water for over twenty miles. I have five quarts of Gatorade so I'll be OK, though.
The sun is starting to come up so I can put my headlamp into my pack where it will stay until the very end of the hike.
The sun touches the top of San Gorgonio Mountain but I will remain in the shade for quite a while because of the high walls of Snow Creek Canyon.
For some reason the mountain seems to be getting farther away the higher I get.
The trail continues up through the boulder filled hillside and heads up toward these rocks.
The trail itself is in fairly good shape but it is overgrown. This is typical of the type of vegetation along its path. I don't know what they're called but shin slicers would be an appropriate name.
While the hillside is filled with rocks the trail is not, thankfully. Although the trail is a constant uphill tack the miles go by quickly and I gain elevation rapidly.
But even as I get higher and higher up the mountain my goal seems to be getting further and further away.
Then I see my first living pine tree and it makes me feel that I am finally in the mountains. Before this I was merely climbing up a mountain.
I cross the Black Mountain Road and totally leave the desert behind. From here on out I'll be totally and completely in the mountains.
I get to the State Park boundary and see something that tells me I am in a completely different environment than the one I left: snow.
It covers the trail in long sections and while its never treacherous or a big problem it does slow me down because it's hard to get a good pace without good footing.
It's surprising to see so much snow in places because I don't remember a storm coming through.
After hiking a good deal in the snow, it is welcome to find any dry patch along the way.
This is the first water on the trail that I've come to since the drinking fountain down at the bottom, over twenty miles ago. I have to be careful crossing here because I've already slipped on ice twice.
Little Round Valley is a campground below San Jacinto Peak and it makes me feel like I'm almost home. It's 1.6 miles to San Jacinto Peak and 7 miles from the Tram but for some reason it makes me feel like I'm close.
Climbing up to the Peak I am able to look west and see the golden shimmer of the Pacific Ocean.
Heading up to the summit I pass the CCC cabin. I am tempted to stop inside but might not want to leave so I bypass it.
It is a welcome relief to get to the top. I try to grin but only manage a grimace. I'm pretty tired at this point but it's all downhill from here.
There are a couple of shortcuts coming down from the top of San Jacinto but I go down the tried and true route through Wellman's Divide. I didn't want to try any other route because I did not want to tromp through any more snow.
I get to the Long Valley Ranger Station almost exactly twelve hours from when I left Snow Creek, drop off my copy of my permit and head straight for the Tramway Bar.
I didn't just hike thirty miles for nothing.