Day 18: Rained Out!

Normally, you don’t stop hiking just because it rains. But, then, normally, rain doesn’t happen quite like this.

The weather forecast last night said we’d get “light showers” from about 3 to 4 PM today. OK, no big deal — we got hailed on two days ago, so this is going to be a piece of cake. So, this morning, we started out from our campsite, figuring we might break out our raingear a little bit in the afternoon.

(Tangential to the rain, but still interesting: we crossed Interstate 10 today. It’s sort of fun to pass these huge, coast-to-coast roads that everybody knows, and realize the drivers above have no clue that you’re there. The PCT passes beneath I-10 in a nondescript tunnel at a random point in the desert. More crazy: realizing that eventually we will pass beneath I-90.)

(Also, they sometimes put drinking fountains in the middle of the desert for no reason. Craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. See the photo if you don’t believe me.)

About 10 AM, we got to Ziggy and the Bear’s — another very famous (and rightly so!) trail angel’s house, after hiking only about five miles. The sky started to cloud a little bit as we came by, but we didn’t think much of it: hey, maybe we’d get lucky and the rain would fall during the couple of hours we were planning on staying there!

The rain started to fall lightly just as The Bear arrived, fresh with a stack of Little Caesar’s pizzas for all of us. (Yes, I ate an entire 14″ pepperoni pizza for lunch.) No problem, we thought, scarfing down our lunch. It gave us time to catch up on blogging, and chat to a few other hikers about what lay ahead.

And then…it just kept coming. It started out light, but got stronger and stronger. We figured we might spend another hour or two past our intended departure time, leaving more mid-afternoon instead of right after lunch. Then it got heavier still. The wind started blowing. Then the wind started blowing hard. The rain started coming in sideways. More hikers started showing up. We pushed our chairs away from the the edges of the roof, since they were getting rained on even though they had a couple of feet of overhang to prevent it.

Then it just turned into…I don’t know what, but the heaviest, craziest rainstorm they’ve ever had at their place, according to them. Their back yard, which is carpeted with, well, carpets, so that you can camp on it, soaked completely. The carpet underneath their large awnings had an inch of standing water on it. Backpackers dove for their packs, throwing covers on them and battening down the hatches so no water would get in. (And this is in a place where you expect to be safe from the rain!)

More people just kept coming. When we arrived in the morning, maybe five or six people were there. By lunch, we had ten. As the afternoon progressed, it got to be fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty. Every inch of space that was safe from the rain was completely taken; people were huddling away from the edges. I remember thinking early on, “hmm, I wonder where everyone’s going to sleep?”. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that there was never going to be enough space for everybody to sleep there.

And…that’s how we ended up here, instead, in the Country Inn in Banning, CA, sharing a room with three other drowned-rat hikers (hooray for hanging out with us, Rally, Squatch, and PT!), basking in the warmth and dryness that only a place like this can bring. It’s funny, because, ordinarily, I’d be tossing and turning, wondering if this was the right decision, if I was just wimping out by stopping here…and yet, tonight, I have absolutely no doubt that we made the right decision. We’re warm and dry, inside, instead of being absolutely miserable out on the trail, and that matters an awful lot. Yes, it means we’ll have more miles to make up in the coming days — but we can do that.

Sometimes days don’t go like you expect. Out here, you adapt, and appreciate what happens instead. All in all…it was actually kind of fun.

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