Mile 206, Desert Water Conservancy to Mile 218.6, Whitewater Preserve
After the long day yesterday, the decision not to set alarms was a welcome one in the morning. Woke up around 7:30 bc it started getting so hot in the tent, but didn't get on the trail until 9ish, which may as well be noon in hiker land! Walked about 4 miles through the desert down to I-10, and on the way down there watched a bunch of helicopters flying directly above us working on a power line project, which was fun. A woman named Lake2Lake maintains Trail Magic under the freeway, and we walked up to find ice cold waters and soda, which was amazing! She happened to arrive while we were there, and offered us tangerines and cold canteloupe, which was just indescribably delicious. The first fruit I'd had in a little while! We met some fellow hikers Hummingbird, Faucet and Sharkbite, who all seem really nice - more friends! In the interest of making it to our campsite this evening, we decided to skip Ziggy and the Bear's house - they're trail angels who live right on the trail and offer foot baths, showers, a place to camp, and runs to get fast food from their home. I had a feeling if I went I wouldn't leave (ahem...reference my reluctance to leave the comfort of Idyllwild...for 4 days...)
Moving on from the freeway, we hiked through the Mesa Wind Farm, which was part cool, part creepy. I felt like these giant windmills were about to come to life! There's not a whole lot else going on around Cabazon (other than the outlets and Casino Morongo, both of which I frequented in high school and early years of college.) The rest of the day consisted of climbs and descents through the desert through a few drainages.
Finally hit mile 218.6 around 4pm, and then walked the 0.6 miles to the Ranger Station at the Whitewater Preserve...which is easily the most amazing place I've been on the whole trail! I feel like I'm at a resort - there are multiple wading pools filled with nice cold water that we're welcome to swim around in, and we're all allowed to camp for free under the giant alder trees on the grass in a picnic area. There is also - wait for it - a river!! Like, a legitimate flow of water! In the middle of the desert! (Are you getting how stoked I am?! I am stoked!) When we first arrived, I heard the water flowing and thought it was the auditory equivalent of a mirage - I honestly didn't believe it could be water. Assumed it was maybe the wind, and then turned the corner to see the lovely river trickling over the rocks. So much water! Spent a few lazy afternoon hours exploring this beautiful place and feeling refreshed and happy to be out here - it's been a great stop for the morale. I never want to leave! Who knew this amazing place existed just outside of Cabazon, CA?!