Looking down on Tahquitz Peak left and Suicide Rock left with Idyllwild hidden in the valley between
I spent the first night in Idyllwild at the Creekrock Inn, and walked into town the next morning to find my friends and to pick up a few supplies that I needed. On getting back to my hotel, they frantically informed me that I was reserved for only one night and not three. Happily, they found me another place a little further up the road which was the same price but actually a lot nicer, with its own kitchenette. Then, Pasta and Sailor notes that they were going to sleep at the trailhead in the rain. Because my place had two large separate beds, I suggested they spend the night with me and get an early ride up in the morning. It was helpful to me in obtains a lot of information about the trail, since had done it twice before. I didn’t realize it, but Pasta was 71 years old and Sailor 51, and they were moving quite quickly on the trail. When they left in the morning (April17) I almost wished I was also back on the trail, though realizing that an extra day of snow melt could make a large difference since the next 15 miles were supposed to be 70-80% snow covered.
People ask what it is like as a usual day on the trail. Typically, I will be up just before dawn, get dressed, and pack my sleeping bag. I’ll then exit the tent and boil up some water for a cup of coffee. This will give me time to take down my tent, pack up, have coffee and a bite to eat, and be off on the trail. All in all, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get out of the sack and be on the trail. The day is spent walking, punctuated by two or three rest stops, or time to chat with fellow hikers on the trail. About 10 am, the sunglasses and sun cream goes on, and life continues until the end of the day. ‘I’ll frequently check my iPhone Guthook app for location and water information, or stop to take a photo. By about 5-6 o’clock I’m ready to fold up, and I’ll use my intuition and Guthook to locate a favorable campsite. The tent goes up first and sleeping bag unpacked. I’ll cook dinner, and do some reading on my iPhone, usually with Kindle and my bible app. By now, I’m in the sack and will spend some time writing this blog. I all so need to go over the maps, look at water sources, and determine roughly where I’d wish to set up camp the next night. Darkness hits about 8 am and I am soon asleep. Typically I dose off with aches and pains, but by morning seem to feel refreshed and ready to go again. The trail leaves you increasingly dirty and weary, and it is most wonderful that once a week, a zero is taken in town for rest, reflection, conversation with Betsy and friends on the phone, and laundry/shower to get clean again.
I walked into town today, about a mile from the cabin, and realized that the town was now dead. I suspect that the hundred or more PCT hikers all took off in one mass surge, which is probably why it was really good to wait another day before venturing off. Idyllwild is an interesting town, with a mix of conservatives and the artsy new age type shops around. There are a lot is counseling/psychology/spiritualist establishments. The town is a perfect example of the evolving rift that is splitting our society.
18April – Idyllwild to mile 191.3
This was a most challenging day. I checked out and had the motel owner shuttle me up rod the Devil’s Slide trail head. It was a two and a half mile steep climb with Suicide Rock on the left and Tahquitz Rock on the right. Soon after hitting the top I hit snow, but not requiring micro spikes. I walked through snow for several miles and it became normal dirt trail. Then I reached the infamous Fuller Ridge. The micro spikes went on, and it was very slow trudging through snow, less than a mile an hour. Eventually the rail turned to dirt again and I thought that it was all over. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. The snow was then far more challenging to handle, and the path rarely perfectly clear. It went on for several miles. Finally I reached the end of Fuller Ridge, the end in sight, and as soon as I realized that the snow was done, I set up camp exhausted. Tomorrow seemed like it was going to be an easier day. Little did I know!
19April-mile 191-mile 211
Today was mostly a lonely day, even though it would seem like I’d cross path with others that I had seen before. It was a 20 mile descent from the snow line to the furnace. It was hard to move quickly because the trail had a lot of loose rock. The most memorable event was my first encounter with a rattlesnake. It at first startled me curled up on the side of the trail about waist high, but when I backed up, it slithered and lay directly across the trail. Yelling at it didn’t help, and throwing rocks to scare it didn’t help. Finally I had to get serious and wrapped it win the head with a large rock to get it to disappear off the trail. At mile 205 there was a water fountain where I refilled my water. There were several miles of paved trail, and then the horrid deep sand, almost impossible to walk in, struck me. And it was horribly hot. I reached I-10 underpass exhausted, dehydrated, and starved. Thankfully, trail angels left a large basket of fruit. I ate 2 oranges, and three grapefruit. I had no clue grapefruit tasted so good. I cooked up a freeze-dried dinner and it tasted horrid so I threw it away. Finally, I walked another mile up the trail to get away from the noise of the interstate, and set up camp. This was close to a wind farm, and the wind blew relentlessly all night, so I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
20April-mile 211 to 226 (Mission Creek Camp)
Up and early today, I took off on a roller coaster trail with long ascents and descents down nearly to where we started, deep cliffs with strong near-gale wind gusts, and a first river crossing where you just had to get your feet wet. It was a long tiresome day; I walked a large portion of it with Ingrid and Steve, but I was interested in finding a campsite, so by the end of the day took off. Camp was again extremely windy with only loose sand to anchor the tent, so had to put large rocks on all corners on the tent. The wind died down by morning and I got a good nights sleep.
21April- mile 226-mile 240
Today was another exceedingly challenging day, starting out from camp at 6 am. Half of the day followed up Mission Creek. During the beginning, I encountered Broken Arrow, who I first met in Idyllwild. We were walking at about the same speed so decided to walk together. Broken Arrow had walked this segment a year ago and it was a breeze. Now, with the bad winter, much of the trail was washed out. It was extremely arduous to find the trail, to climb loose gravel broken riverbanks,and at least 20 river crossings, none with bridges or rocks to hop across, and the river was quite fast flowing. We simply had to walk about 10 miles in wet shoes. The trail then took a steep incline, taking us up from hot desert to snow in the San Giorginio wilderness. On top was a nice campground with water and one exhausted little Pilgrim. During the ascent, Broken Arrow and I got talking about our faith, and realized that he was a Christian man of Baptist belief. We agreed to hang together until at least Big Bear, and even hopefully after that. It was a blessed gift for Easter Day.
22April- mile 240-256
Today was not too challenging. Hiking started at 6 am, with a lot of chatting between Broken Arrow and me. Yesterday Broken Arrow, who a 68 yo man, definitely out walked me, but today I stayed about 5-10 minutes ahead of him. It was first more climbing followed by a long gradual descent. At mile 250 the trail passed an animal zoo, which didn’t seem to operational any longer. In the last half hour of the walk, we noted some dark clouds so quickly set up our tents. Broken Arrow noted that he always ate dinner inside his tent, so decided to try the same. It worked well, having instant rice with chicken and vegetables. Inside the tent, it started to hail, then rain and sleet, and thunder. Hopefully it will pass by morning.
23April- mile 256-266 (Big Bear Lake)
It was an early morning start, and yet too dark to assess the weather. The tent had frozen sheets of ice on it. I am now rethinking my strategy for carrying the tent. After a quick cup of coffee in bed, I had everything packed, and Broken Arrow and I headed out. Though awe were the first two tents in camp, there were now about 30 tents of sleeping hikers.
This was not a difficult day, and at highway 18 which runs into BigBear, we were greeted by Diamond Dave, a trail angel with his trunk packed with fruit and lots of free goodies for us. Soon, another rail angel offered me a ride to our hotel, a wonderful inn in the main part of downtown Big Bear Lake. A shower, the clothes laundered, and a wonderful Mexican dinner at a hole in the wall, and I felt nearly ready to resume the hike, except that I needed to purchase Resupply Ed, dry out and repair everything Thant needs it, and re-think how I’m going to pack my backpack. Tomorrow I will need to decide on Trail meals for the next 6 days and 103 miles.