Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Bitter Cold Decision

Whitewater Preserve to Mission Creek
Mileage: 16
Mandie's blog entry for this hike

Mandie and I started this trip with the intention of going to Mt. San Gorgonio and doing a backpacking trip off of the South Fork trail. We headed out there Friday after work, stopping in Temecula for dinner and to let the traffic subside a bit. By the time we got to the South Fork trail head at 6ish, it was dark and already cold. We set up the back of my truck and hunkered down for a cold night, a very cold night. When we woke there were flurries of snow falling from the sky. It was beautiful but bitter cold. In an attempt to get warm, we made some coffee with Carnation Instant Breakfast and had something to eat. It was a feeble attempt. Both of us standing next to the truck shivering we realized that we had a decision to make; did we want to continue with our original plan to hike around the summit of San G. or head down to the desert where it might be warmer. Looking down at our trail runners (basically tennis shoes) trying to wiggle our frozen toes, we decided to head to the desert. Overall it would be a more enjoyable trip for us. So, down the mountain we went with heater blasting at our feet .

Snow flake

Flakes of snow

More snow flakes
Finally out of the mountains and on the desert floor we arrived at Whitewater Preserve.

"The Whitewater Preserve is is 2,851 acres surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Gorgonio Wilderness, and includes the year-round Whitewater River. Rich riparian habitat hosts the endangered Southwest willow flycatcher and Bell’s vireo, and provides opportunity to see migrating summer tanagers and vermilion flycatchers. The canyon has a robust population of bighorn sheep, deer and bear, and is an important wildlife corridor between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains. The Conservancy purchased an additional 3,200 acres in the Whitewater corridor that was donated to the Bureau of Land Management. These donated lands include sand dunes that are home to the endangered fringe-toed lizard at Windy Point, which lies at the confluence of the Whitewater and San Gorgonio Rivers."

I finished packing up my things while Mandie went to talk to the rangers and fill out the necessary form and we met back up at the trailhead. It was so nice to be in the sun and finally warm.

Me at the trailhead

Mandie at the trailhead

Great way to display the mileage

Gotta love Jon Muir

Sign in... Sign out

We walked along the valley floor crossing the Whitewater river (more of a babbling brook in this section) several times eventually ending up on the West side of the river and connecting up with the Pacific Crest Trail. We would stay on the PCT for the rest of the trip. We walked along the base of the mountain for a while where we encountered a couple of cows. They were shy and were not pictured. We also came across lots of the Ephedra plant which has medicinal purposes, including treatment of asthma, hay fever, and the common cold, according to Wiki. There was also lots of Sugar Sumac trees, Beavertail cactus, and some unknown purple plant that I will have to look up.

Mandie crossing one of the fingers of the Whitewater river

Sugar Sumac

Beavertail Cactus
Unknown plant as of right now

After hiking for about an hour our trail intersected with the full body of the Whitewater river. While it was not flowing at its full capacity we could see how massive it could get.

While walking along the soft sand of the river bed we saw lots and lots of animal tracks. We were not sure exactly what type of animal left the tracks but guess that they could have been from either dog, coyote, bobcat, or mountain lions. If you know what they are please let us know.

Animal prints

Animal prints

Animal prints

We continued on crossing the river, hopping over rocks and logs as to not get our feet wet (that comes later). From that point we started our ascent out of the valley to go up and over a small range of mountains.

Back onto a valley floor on the other side of the mountain there is a trail junction for the Mission Creek Stone house. We continued on past this junction, along the PCT. Our destination was the actual Mission Creek where there would be water.

Trail junction

The trail continues North along the valley floor until it turns South/East and begins to ascend another mountain range. We decided to take this opportunity to take a break, rest our feet and have something to eat. We rolled out our Tyvek ground cloth to sit on and dug into our food.

Side Note: One of the reasons for this trip was to test out some meals that we are planning to have on our actual PCT thru-hike. For our snacks we had lots of sweet food and a little bit of salty/savory food. It turns out that in the desert we prefer the salt/savory foods. Neither one of us really enjoyed the sweet stuff very much. Lesson learned. We will send the sweet stuff up north to the Sierra where we will probably enjoy it a lot more.

San Gorgonio in the background

A beautiful view

The trail that we were just on

The trail we would like to explore

In the picture above, there is a trail that heads away from us, this is not the PCT but it looks like a great place to go exploring. In fact this whole area is begging to be explored. We will have to save that for another adventure. The trail that we took runs along the base of the hill we are on, bottom right corner.

From where we started, the PCT goes North to Canada. I think we traveled South just as much as we went North on this trip. The PCT is a weird trail and it makes one wonder what the minds of the people who carved it out were thinking.

We walked along the crest of the third set of mountains we had to navigate. This range gave us wonderful views of San Gorgonio to the North-West, Desert Hot Springs to the South-East, and San Jacinto to the South.

While walking along the crest we encountered some rock "art" that another hiker had left. This was around mile 223 and was a small shout-out to the PCT Class of 2014, us! It was very cool to see. Hikers will do these types of things but usually it calls out mile milestones (Hey, wait a minute, that's too much of a coincidence.), like 500, 1000, 1500, etc... to indicate to other hikers what mile they are at.

There was a few more miles of walking along the crest and a final descent into the valley that we would camp at, Mission Creek. We had the area to ourselves to we dropped our packs under a tree and scouted out the area for the best tent site. There were lots to choose from so we picked the flattest one we could find. While checking out the area we found a cache that appears to be for some horseback riders, a big bag of horse feed and some water. I hope whomever left it comes back to clean it up.

Finally at camp where we can rest.

Horse cache

After our camp was setup we decided to go sit by the river and soak our soar feet. The water was freezing cold and we could only keep our feet in for a handful of seconds.

Something wrong with the horizon in this pic. :)

Our campsite

I am not exactly sure how cold it was but it cold enough that Mandie wore her quilt around camp to keep her warm. I think she looks like a caterpillar So silly.

We made some dinner, she had Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles and I had spaghetti. As I mentioned earlier, this trip was partly to test out some meals. One of these meals was the spaghetti I had for dinner which was excellent. I would highly recommend it. I will put the recipe below. After dinner and some snacks we climbed into our tent to warm up, It was still pretty early, like 6:30, so we talked and laughed about the day. It is interesting when you are tired and exhausted how silly things become.  I didn't think my gas was very funny, but Mandie did. :P

Once the sun set we began hearing all the noises that night time creatures make as they walk around. Leaves were rustling around, twigs were snapping, the babbling brook was babbling making us hear things, etc... I thought I heard an animal cross the river so Mandie had the great idea to pop our heads out the tent and shine a light around. A few seconds after turning the light on, we had a pair of eyes glowing back at us. The animal, we think a coyote, was walking along the hillside opposite us. Then it started talking with its friends that were in the area. This type of nocturnal activity does not help one relax and go to sleep. Neither of us thought the coyote would do anything while we slept but it is still unsettling.

It was a long cold night for me. I do not normally sleep well in the wilders and the cold night was making it extra difficult to sleep. It is what it is and I am pretty used to it by now. I just wish I could figure out what to do while I lay there staring at the back of my eyelids. I can only play games on my phone for so long and it was too cold to get out of the tent.

We awoke to a very cold but beautiful morning and decided to sit in the tent until the sun shined upon us. As we sat there I made coffee and we had some breakfast. We had a short 8 mile hike back to the truck so we did not need to break camp very early.



As I was making coffee I noticed that my shoes have fancy laces that curl.

Fancy shoe laces

 Tired but pretty eyes...

I like this picture. The morning sun made her eyes sparkle.

We broke camp and decided to head on back to the truck. We would just retrace our steps from the day before. The hike back started with a nice hump up a mountain, a great way to get the muscles warmed up.

Some beautiful peach looking rocks. I enhanced the color a bit to make the photo look more like what we actually saw.

Back at the Whitewater river we made the decision to get our feet wet. For one, Mandie's feet were on fire from friction that she is trying to resolve and two, because neither one of us has gotten our Brooks Cascadia shoes wet since we got them and we wanted to see how they would do. So into the river we went.

Finally back at the truck we headed home. We needed some real food so decided to go to Miguel's, a Mexican food restaurant. The only Miguel's was basically at the beach, not really on our way home. It was 3:05p by the we got there and as we were walking up to the door, a lady walked out and said that they had closed at 3:00p. We were totally bummed since we had gone so far out of our way to get there. Maybe next time Miguel's, maybe next time.

A great adventure despite it not being our original plan.

Top Ramen Spaghetti
  • 2 packets of Top Ramen
  • 1 of the 2 packets of Top Ramen seasoning
  • 1 packet of Spaghetti Seasoning
  • 1/2 a pouch of chunk chicken breast
Break up the Top Ramen into a Ziploc quart freezer bag. Add 1 packet of Top Ramen seasoning. Add 2 cups of very hot water to the noodles and let it sit until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the packet of spaghetti seasoning stir add the chicken. Enjoy.