Sub freezing temperatures, 80 MPH winds, nearly unnavigable terrain, precipitous ice slopes - I'm so glad to be out of the San Jacintos.

The crappy part is that they're only half done.

Actually, the San Jacinto mountains are the most beautiful we've encountered so far...their craggy, pine-carpeted, snow-covered peaks seem to recall a scene from the Swiss alps rather than the southern California desert.  They're also some of the most inhospitable mountains I've ever been on.  Our first night on the mountain brought unfathomably strong winds that destroyed 3 of the 5 tents that were set up that night.  Think about that - the winds were so strong that they snapped the tent poles, exposing razor sharp edges of aluminum that carved 3 foot holes in the rainflys before the night was over.  My tent stayed up but even after weighing each stake down with 50 pound rocks, the tent blew right over on me, the whole structure flexing to its absolute limit...the stakes were unable to come out of the ground so the frame of the tent had to yield until it was pressing hard right down on me, then the wind would relent for a few seconds and the whole thing would reluctantly spring back up into a rigid position.  I'd imagine it looked a bit like those punching clowns that you knock down only to have them inevitably right themselves again.

The next morning we woke up and tried to traverse the next obstacle, Apache Peak, but the snow fields obscured the trail and often had us negotiating steep icy ridges with slippery, ill-defined footprints that always threatened to dump us down the mountain, sliding or tumbling head-over-heels for a few hundred feet.

The first day ended in us getting lost, having no idea where the trail could turn next, and deciding to backtrack where we had already been.  The next night was exactly the same as the first - unbelievably ferocious winds.  Even if our tents weren't collapsing on us, the pure volume of the wind was enough of an obstacle to even the heaviest of sleepers - the intimidating voice of that elemental force building and whistling and whispering and groaning in the distance, like an actual entity, enraged with us tresspassing on the mountain, was deliberately trying to blow us away in a fit of jealous rage.  The far-off sounds of building winds were like the intake of breath before the strong exhale, or the windup before the punch, or the click of the trigger before the expulsion of the bullet, and we would brace ourselves for the inevitable onslaught, far into the night, resulting in two consecutive days without sleep.  Everything about the mountain was saying "Go away."

The next morning we woke up with a few more people, one of which had a GPS and was able to guide us out of the mountain and into the Devils Slide Trail, which we took back into the town of Idyllwild to recoop.  I was wearing sandals the whole time...which I love for general hiking but which cannot ever be construed as appropriate footwear for dangerously snowy/icy terrain.  I need to get a book on properly using a map and compass to orient one's self.  I don't think a GPS is necessary (and in fact is probably often inferior to decent map skills).  It's a skill that's long overdue.

You know where I am right now? I'm at my our friend Max Powers' house - we met him during his 100 mile PCT section.  We were all so beat up after this last part Max was like "Hey, come back with me to my place."  So I'm sipping a brew, blogging it up, fully resupplied and re-equipped (crampons and ice axes like what?).  My parents even came up and brought my closed-toed shoes and pants.  Max is a chef and his wife Sara makes some serious homemade bread.  Suffice to say we've had an awesome time.

I gotta be honest, I don't really feel like writing anymore.  Enjoy some pics I took of the trail so far, and know I love you guys.  Tomorrow we go back to tackle the second, more formidable part of the San Jacintos - Fuller Ridge.  This time we'll be prepared.  You know what's lame?  Most people are road walking AROUND the thing.  Boo and shame!

I'm doing every inch I can.  Everthing must be walked.

-Andrew Bones Simpson

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