Distance hiked today: 22.9 miles / 36.8 km.
Downhill. So much downhill. The first 20 miles of the day went from the top of the snowy mountain all the way down to the bottom of the valley where the trail crosses the I-10 highway. I left early while everyone else was still in their sleeping bags so I could take it easy on my knees. I enjoy the first miles of the day in the cold morning, hiking solo and listening to the birds wake up. I caught up to a hiker I hadn't met, and we chatted for a few miles.
The downhill actually went better than expected, it was gradual, and I made it down the 15 miles to the water faucet by 12:30pm for lunch before anyone caught up to me. I passed the 200 mile mark on the way. There is a notorious bee hive just before mile 200 - I could hear hundreds (thousands?) of bees buzzing inside a rock crevasse and I ran past it. It's been there for years, I remember it from 2019 as well. It seems like only half of the hikers get attacked on the way by, some did get stung, but I was glad not to get chased by the bees.
We had lunch at the water faucet, squeezing into the tiny bit of shade under a big boulder. We hung out for 3 hours waiting out the heat, then continued the 3.8 miles to the highway underpass.
There's a hiker box there and sometimes trail magic. Although we weren't planning to, since it was the end of the day anyway we got an Uber into Cabazon just down the road to get some In-N-Out burgers, Chipotle, and it felt good to wash my hands under running water. It's (unsurprisingly) hard to get an Uber to a random highway overpass on the interstate, so when we finally got one we paid him cash to come back for the rest of our group.
You don't really realize how dirty you are until you go into town - everything is stained with dirt, but in the backcountry you just match the surroundings. In town we get weird looks.
At 9pm we got an Uber back to the trail, and then night-hiked 3.9 miles up the other side of the valley to the Mesa Wind farm where we camped. It's much warmer at this lower elevation and it was nice not to have my sleeping bag sinched all the way up to my nose.
Total trail mileage: 213.4 miles / 343.4 km