31 Mar, 2020

Day 15 – Where it all ends

Written by: Russ

South Downs Way

Distance:

miles

Time:

hours

Elevation loss:

feet

Day 15 route overview

Moving on from camp you face similar terrain to what you’re used to since entering the Snowy San Jacinto, one final challenge awaits though, the infamous Fuller Ridge with a steep, north-facing slope which if covered in ice is another major hazard along the PCT. After Fuller Ridge you can safely say you’ve made your way along the entire San Jacinto traverse and the worst is over for now. All that’s left is a long and gradual descent down to the desert floor to cross under Interstate 10 and head to Cabazon to restock and eat some well-earned fast food.

Elevation

Already starting at the highest point of the day, you’ll reach Fuller Ridge within a few hours of hiking. While on Fuller RIdge you’ll already have begun the steady descent down toward Interstate 10. The trail then consists of very long, straight sections connected by switchbacks which lead you down to the desert floor.

Over the M3

It was the last day, but I didn’t know it yet

I woke early to find my camp-mate attempting to dig up his tent stakes from the snow. I saw him struggling and as I looked I saw he’d filled plastic bags with snow, wrapped his guylines around the plastic bags and buried them to anchor his tent. Funny, he’d actually advised me on a better way the night before by burying my stakes. It was a tough job to remove all the plastic from the frozen snow so I used my axe and as I was helping him I asked him if he had a trail name yet. “Nah not yet dude, I’m waiting for something good.” “Ice Man!” I shouted. “That’s your trail name, for having this foul up with your tent!” He willingly accepted the trail name and Ice Man still goes by that name even today as I found out when he messaged me on YouTube signing off with the same name.

Moving on through the mountains and traversing steep slopes, I continued on through the wilderness without Ice Man.

Over the M3

Traversing Fuller Ridge

I’d reached the eastern end of Fuller Ridge, many footsteps went along with Guthook and headed to the right which actually led to a gradually increasing gradient which eventually cliffed out and I had to retrace my steps to this point and hed left. Once on Fuller Ridge, it actually isn’t that bad. It’s a very long and arduous traverse with plenty of post-holing, but as long as you don’t slip it’s quite easy as long as you’ve got an axe and spikes.

Over the M3

Down to Interstate 10

After Fuller Ridge, I knew the San Jacinto was coming to an end. The long and steady descent down to the Interstate was made all that much easier as I knew my friends were down below enjoying an In n Out Burger from Cabazon. They’d hitched a ride ahead to skip Fuller Ridge, so I really wanted to catch them up. I smashed the miles downhill, it was a 10-mile long descent down to the desert floor and then a long-straight road to the tunnel under the road. On the way down I saw tarantulas in their burrows waiting for prey to come their way which I found very fascinating.

By the time I reached the Interstate, my tramily had all gone to sleep and I had no hope in finding their exact location in the dark, so I got a taxi to Cabazon, got some beers and some food and made my way back to the trail. What happened next determined the next 4 months leading to the point in time where I’m writing this blog now…

Over the M3
Over the M3
Over the M3

I’m coming home

I got dropped off at the tunnel where the PCT goes under the Interstate. Beer in hand, I made my way through the tunnel. The roar of the traffic above, the amount of rubbish and junk scattered under the tunnel on the floor, it all felt so hostile. “what the hell am I doing?” I thought as I walked slowly through the tunnel. It suddenly felt so wrong to be there. All the issues we’d had on the trail, all of the closed shops and café, all of the anxiety and worry about what was going on in the world suddenly hit me in the face like a falling rock from the sky.

I felt an overwhelming sense of unease, together with the awareness that, this is not how the PCT is meant to be. The PCT is supposed to be a wonderful, beautiful and enchanting experience, instead, it was heavily tainted with the fact that anyone of us could be carrying COVID-19 without even knowing and could easily infect one of the town’s folks along the way, of which did not have the infrastructure to deal with an outbreak.

It was then that I decided to come home. So sudden, I know. I wasn’t expecting it. It was like an awakening within me and a realisation that now, just wasn’t the time.

I spoke to some friends and family on the phone and told them my plans, all of which said I’d made the right decision. It took me over a week to get to that mindset and to ditch the ego and settle for the feeling of tragic loss of everything I’d been training and preparing for the last 4 years. But none of that was worth risking the lives of others during a global pandemic.

Most of the friends I’d made on the trail are still out there and wish them well on their journey. I hope to see them again when I hit the trail next year. But for me, now was not the time.

The next morning I booked a last-minute flight from LAX to Heathrow, rented a car from Palm Springs and made my way to Los Angeles. 

I left a message of apology to the director of the PCTA, Liz Bergeron for not listening to the PCTA when they released their statement, but am still awaiting a reply. 

I’ve been home for 4 months now and have spent my time working on providing tips and inspiration for hiking around the world through this website and my YouTube channel.

I hope to head back to the PCT next year when COVID-19 is no longer a worldwide threat and be able to experience this wilderness in the way I’d always dreamed.

Happy trails.

Soggy Whopper.

Gallery

Overview

  • Views and vista 90% 90%
  • Difficulty 90% 90%
  • Elevation gain 30% 30%

Start time:

08:00

Camp time:

18:00

Accommodation

Hostels

YHA Pen y Pass

Campsites

Cae Gwyn Campsite

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