Day 18- The Coldest day yet!

Day 18
May 6
mile 233.1-255.1
22 miles

I heard Half Slow walk by, talking to himself, while I was still in my tent. It was a cold morning, so I felt no rush to get up and get moving. I broke down my tent after eating breakfast and made my way out of the gully and back up onto the trail at 7:00. By 7:51, it was still only 43 degrees out!
Soon, I entered into the San Bernadino mountains as fog enveloped the atmosphere. A storm was coming through!
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I walked by a campsite in the forest with an eerie blue tarp left behind and then up ahead, saw a yellow cone with a sign warning us to stay away from that particular plant- poodle dog bush! I would have to be careful in not allowing this highly poisonous plant to brush up against my skin or clothing.
Two guys were still in their campsite with their tent set up when I passed by at mid-morning. I assumed they must not be thru-hikers with such a late start. I asked them if the creek was nearby and they assured me it was up ahead. I needed to fill up on water. It was so cold that it was almost painful to sit there and squeeze the cold water through the filter and into my water bottles. I heard some male voices come down the hill and as they neared me, they asked if I had seen three guys in their 40’s wearing T-shirts and shorts. “Is someone missing?” I asked before realizing how obvious that question was. They said they were and were not prepared to be out here overnight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t offer them any leads. I climbed up the mountain and several miles later saw a search and rescue truck. Then, a man on a horse came towards me. He was very laid-back and after asking me if I was hiking the PCT and where I was from, seemed more interested in chatting with me than heading out to find the missing hikers!
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He told me they had climbed San Gorgonio Mountain (the highest mountain in Southern California) which was off of the PCT. The smoker in the group decided to turn around and go back and when the others didn’t turn up at the truck the next morning, he called for help.
Corey and Mountain Man passed by when I was chatting. I caught up to them when they took a break on the side of the trail and decided I needed a break, too! It had only warmed up to 55 degrees. We agreed that it was a good motivator to keep moving. Before long, it started to sleet, the temperature dropped even more, and then it started to hail! I put on all of my layers, including my hat, 2 hoods, and gloves. Still, I was cold!
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I really liked being in the San Bernadino mountains, even though I missed out on most of the views because of the clouds.
One of the plants was particularly fragrant in this area, which I later realized was the poodle dog bush! As hard as I tried, I couldn’t avoid it touching me.

Before I even reached the sign for “Predators in Action”, I already was experiencing an eerie feeling in my body.
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I stood in front of the cages with warning signs all over them, feeling so sorry for these large animals- bears and tigers, mostly- that were wasting their lives away, sitting and lying down in contained spaces. And what for? I didn’t know if someone was going to come out and yell out me to go away, but it was hard not to stand there and observe these animals. Finally, I pulled myself away and headed back to the trail and trees.
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I allowed myself the treat of listening to Serena Ryder and Ray LaMontagne, knowing that it was too cold for the rattlesnakes to be out. I really enjoyed this music. And I thought a lot about my upcoming visit, wondering what it would be like.

I met back up with Corey and Mountain Man (also from Redding, CA!) at the water cache.
“Do they use the word ‘bubble’ to describe a mass of hikers in one area?”, I asked them.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that word used a couple of times before,” one of them said.
“What’s the opposite of a bubble?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, we’re in it because you 2 are the only ones I’ve seen all day!”
I cooked my pasta, ate, then packed up and moved on. I passed by some nice camping spots, but it was a bit too early to stop. Of course, when it was starting to get dark, I didn’t see anything! As the sun set, I reached a forest service dirt road with a flat spot next to it. Good enough! I figured no one would be driving on this road. I set up my tent (bending and breaking several of my stakes!), and dozed off to sleep after 8. The temperature had rapidly dropped and it was now in the low 40s. I needed to put my sleeping bag liner over my whole head to start to warm up. I wondered how the missing hikers in their t-shirts and shorts were getting through this.
A couple of hours of later in the pitch dark, a vehicle came up the road. It stopped across from my tent and a headlight started towards me! It was all happening so fast and I was just coming out of sleep. I didn’t have much time to feel scared, but my heart was beating fast as I tried to figure out what was happening.
“Hi there,” a man called out.
“Hi.”
“Have you seen…?”
“Three men in their 40′s? No.”
“Oh, they already asked you.”
I told him they probably got cold and took a different route off the mountain, which was quite a distance from where I was now!
“Oh, that’s over by…”
“Yes.”
He turned around and called back, “Thanks, guys!”
Thanks, girl, you mean… I’m a girl, all by myself, camping by a road…
It was freezing cold all night long. I heard helicopters flying overhead most of the night.

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