The Desert Escape

(10/21/09) How could I miss out on Mike Brostoff leading his first Perfect Pace backpack trip? Of course there was added incentive for me since I'm one of three who have completed all the PCT segments thus far.

I started the backpack off barefooted which felt really good on the sandy bottom of the Gorgonio Pass. After crossing the Gorgonio Pass, which is deceptively short in length, we started into the foothill canyons of the San Bernardino Mountains. The drone of the windmills surrounded us as we stopped at a windmill service station for a very nice lunch break, which included an air-conditioned kitchen stocked full of goodies.

We pressed on to Whitewater Canyon with canyon walls that reminded me of the Grand Canyon. Even at late summer Whitewater was still raging. It was quite a beautiful setting as we refilled our hydration bags for the final stretch to camp.

We still had a ways to go before reaching our camp at East Fork and knew we would be probably hiking in the dark. The ridge line between West Fork and East Fork was gorgeous. I could tell this would be a glorious wildflower hike in the spring with amazing views of Coachella Valley.

Our descent to East Fork reminded me again of the Grand Canyon (both Perfect Pace challenge trips) as the comforting lights of my comrades' head lamps zig zagged down the switchbacks of East Fork canyon.

Mike and Jeff found a great camping spot next to the creek and we quickly set up camp and heated up our dinners. I hung out a little afterwards to finish my cocktail and gaze at one of the most beautiful Milky Ways I've ever seen.

The following morning we started early knowing we had a lot of mileage and a lot of uphill ahead of us. The morning consisted of hiking up Mission Creek canyon with lots of stream crossings. The trail was in great shape contrary to some of the reports we've heard and read.

Although it was a very gradual uphill trek (except for a few spots near the end), it certainly made for a challenging climb with overnight packs, limited shade, and warm temperatures. It was refreshing when we reach the coniferous forest. I guess in some ways this was a cactus to clouds trip.

It was great finally seeing the cars in distance. We had some cold Gatorades, munched on snacks, and also put on some layers. It was chilly willy up in thar mountains. We ended our amazing weekend with dinner at a mountain diner at Boulder Oaks.

Congrats to Mike and Alan for leading a wonderful backpack trip. Well done!