After Warner Springs the trail goes from high desert to chaparral to mountain forest. At mile 151 you can make a side trip to The Paradise Valley Cafe. Around mile 185 the elevation of the San Jacinto Mountains climbs to 9000 feet. That the temperature drops is a pleasant surprise and there is more water, even a little snow.
The weather in the San Jacintos can be changeable and even dangerous. There are side trails around to descend away in the event of severe weather. Hikers are injured or killed every year in the San Jacinto Mountains. When a hiker is in danger or in trouble a wilderness responser must risk his or her life in the rescue.
The trail changes when you cross Hwy 74 going north. It is a sandy trail at first climbing up massive granite boulders and through rocky canyons. You leave behind the Bushtits, Western Scrub Jays, California Towhee and Juniper Titmouse of the desert. There are fewer lizards and rattlesnakes, although I passed one very large rattlesnake at 8000 ft. There are now sections of pine forest and high alpine meadows where Green-tailed Towhee, Fox Sparrows, and Pygmy Nuthatch live. The warblers commonly found are Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Gray. Olive-sided Flycatchers sing, “Quick-three-beers.”
My first camp site in the San Jacintos was made at Forbes Saddle not far from a wonderful spring by the same name, Forbes Spring. In the morning I awoke to the rich, deep call of a male Great Horned Owl who was on turn answered by the higher pitched call of his mate. They called back and forth so beautifully that I dared not to move a muscle. They must have been in the nearby trees outside my tent.
Eventually, I broke camp and climbed further into the San Jacintos. Later, that morning, at a bend in the trail, I met two other thru-hikers, Matt from Ohio and Carl from Quebec. They were stopped on the trail because of an active rattlesnake.It was coiled and rattling. They had passed it safely and I was next. They warned me and waited to see that I safely too passed by safely because there was little trail to maneuver around. I was full of fear with their encouragement walked past the snake. It decided to let me pass. We saw one another periodically all that morning.
Matt and Carl planned to visit Idyllwild, share a room for the night and resupply. I planned to hike down into Idyllwild as well. Lucky for me they got a ride from the trail into town with a local trail angel. They asked him to go back for me and he did! I was able to shop at the grocery, visit the outfitter and charge my phone. Just as I was about to look for lodging a couple of hikers, Sherpa and Meggamite offered to take me back to the trail. I was able to climb back up into the mountains as the sunset and set up my camp by the light of my headlamp. I love getting to town and back again as quickly as possible. As little down time as possible helps me to stick to my hiking schedule. I hope to be in Canada by September.
The next day was a day of climbing up and down. I passed the last stream and headed down Fuller Ridge with its steep descent. I heard a woodpecker call that was a bit unusual and new for me. Stopping to investigate I spotted my first encounter with a White-headed Woodpecker. It is a striking bird with a white head, back body and wings with white patches. This was a life bird for me. First time ever seeing one. I was able to observe it peck away around the trunk of a decayed pine tree, no doubt feeding on insects. It put me in a good mood. Even though the trail grew increasingly rough to travel and windy. Extremely windy. I wasn’t able to keep my tent up on the wind.
The following morning I hiked down into the low desert, along the Palm Springs Aquaduct. The water company has a faucet along the trail for hikers. It was delicious water and quite welcome because Fuller Ridge was dry. The trail crosses the low desert: hot, sandy and windy after which it passes under Hwy I-10 into Cabazon. That is where you will find Ziggy and The Bear.