Day 21 & 22 – What’s in a (trail) name and a winter wonderland
Sunday 19 May 2019
Location: Big Bear Lake (Mile 266.1 to Mile 275.1)
Distance travelled: 9 miles / 14 km
I am happy to report that I woke up to a fresh dusting of snow this morning. I was so excited! Not only did it justify my decision to stay in town for another night but it was also fun too see.
I headed into the kitchen to put on some coffee and cook up a batch of pancakes. New snow began to fall from the sky, I ran around like a kid on Christmas morning. Running outside to film a video, I forgot about the pancake I left cooking in the pan and ended up with a very well cooked pancake for breakfast.
Christian, a guest at the hostel had offered to drive Sarah and I up the the trailhead for our cruisy day of slack packing. Thankful for the lift, I cooked him a big stack of pancakes and while I was going cooked up some extras for a few other hikers staying at the hostel. It was my enthusiasm for the free pancake batter that earned me my trail name. Christian and another hiker, Medicine Man, mid way through their pancakes suggested ‘Stacks should be your trail name!’. And so, my trail name was born. I liked this one and have decided to keep it.
Christian, Sarah and I headed off around 8.30am. From the point Christian dropped us off, we had a few miles to walk up a dirt road before we hit the PCT. It wasn’t too steep though so it was easy going. I would have missed the PCT marker if Sarah hadn’t pointed it out.
It was a nice, fairly flat and easy trail. The weather was cold and windy but nice and cool for hiking. We were in a pine forest for the majority of the morning but it soon opened up into the familiar desert vegetation of two days ago.
Wildflowers were out in full bloom including the cactus and yucca.
During the day we ran into many familiar faces who we’d both been hiking with on and off over the past 3 weeks. The were all very confused as to why we were walking south bound. I think a few were even a little jealous of our great idea of not having a warm bed for the evening given the wind and snow warning.
A few miles from the Highway 18 trailhead we sat and had a nice relaxing lunch. I had some free cheese and crackers and snacks I’d found at the hostel. During lunch a few snowflakes fell from the sky, dusting my legs.
After lunch the last few miles to the Highway went by quickly. Baldwin Lake came into view and we had brilliant views out to the horizon.
It was nice to reach the trailhead feeling fresh, not super dirty and stinky like I’d normally be whilst looking for a ride into town.
The wind was blowing a gale and it was cold standing still. We stuck out our thumbs and didn’t have to drive too long before a car pulled over and gave us a ride into town. Joseph was his name. He is interested in hiking the trail and had driven an hour and a half from his home town on his day off so he could meet some PCT hikers and find out more about the trail and the community. As we drove he asked us if there was any errands we needed help with as he was happy to spend more time with us picking our brains. We drove back to the hostel via the supermarket. I grabbed a few bandaids for my toes, some new sports tape and some antibiotic cream. The tape I had been using to tape my feet had been so sticky that it ripped off big pieces of skin on the bottom each toe, causing open bleeding wounds. Graham had given me some different tape to try. I liked it so much I invested in a new roll and threw my leukotape in the hiker box. Sarah and I also grabbed a pint of ice cream each.
After we farewelled Joseph it was a chilled afternoon, I showered for the 3rd time in as many days, a rare treat! Washed my clothes for the second time in as many days! And caught up on some writing and photo posting.
After so much time off trail I’m looking forward to heading back out in the morning for a few solid days hiking into Wrightwood.
Monday 20 May 2019
Location: Big Bear Lake (Mile 275.1) to Bench Camp (Mile 294.7)
Distance travelled: 19.6 miles / 32 km
I woke up early this morning ready to get a pot of coffee and a stack of pancakes on before I headed back out on trail. I was the first awake in our room and snuck out quietly. I was so focused getting the coffee on that I almost missed one of the most exciting things of my trip so far! The weather forecast was right, we had received a good few inches of snow overnight.
I ran from window to window, over excited like a kid on Christmas morning. Everywhere I looked, it looked like I was in some magical winter wonderland. I didn’t want to wake everyone else up so I had to wait 15 minutes or so until they all started waking up before I could go back into the room to grab my sandals so I could go outside and play in the snow.
Everyone else in the hostel was less excited than I. They were more worried about the cold. They were seemingly accustomed to snow and saw it as more of an annoyance than anything.
After a big stack of pancakes with peanut butter, syrup, banana, a huge cup of coffee and a few glasses of kombucha Sarah had found in a hiker box yesterday, it was time to head out in trail.
Rosie who works at the hostel was in at 7.30am to collect us for the drive out to the trail. We loaded our bags on the roof of the huge station wagon and amazing 8 of us all climbed into the car. 3 in the boot, 3 in the back seat, 2 in the front and Rosie driving. I was a little worried my bag might fall off the top enroute to the trailhead but we all made it there bags included.
I felt like I was in an American Christmas film on the drive out to the trailhead. All of the other cars on the road were covered in snow, the streets were dusted with snow, as were all of the buildings. Everyone else in the car was either from the US or Europe and found it endearing that I was so excited about the snow. I think it makes everything look better. Just like when you have an average looking sponge cake, dust that thing with icing sugar and magically, it looks delicious.
Rosie could only drive Sarah and I as far as the tar road end so we had another 3 miles to walk on the dirt road to get back to the trail head. I wasn’t worried by this, it was an easy enough walk and the road looked extremely pretty at that time of morning before the snow had a chance to think about melting.
Halfway up the road a lady driving back down offered us a lift up to the trailhead. I couldn’t believe our luck! As if this morning could get any better!! She was out at the trailhead doing trail magic, bringing campers hot drinks and she had her 2 beautiful dogs in the car. I climbed into the back seat and had my pupper fix for the week! It was only a short drive up but it saved us about 30 minutes of walking so we were very grateful.
At the trailhead I was glad to find that we weren’t the first ones out on the trail that morning. The snow can make it very tricky to find the trail so it was nice to have some footsteps to follow. It made the navigation a lot quicker and less painful.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning walking through the snow capped forest. Everything looked so pretty dusted in white, more beautiful than it would have normally looked.
I was surprised that I wasn’t cold walking through the snow. It was very dry, not at all as wet as I thought it would be.
A couple of hours into the morning I could hear someone walking along the trail behind me. I turned around to find Jeff walking up the trail. After almost a week it was really nice to see him again. It turned out that he had camped near the trailhead last night and started not too long after us. He had plans to get moving earlier but he had received trail magic from the lady who drove Sarah and I up the road and started a little later. We must have just missed each other.
Reunited we all headed off down the trail together, slowly drifting apart in distance as the miles wore on.
At one point during the morning I took a wrong turn at a junction with a trailhead and walked 500m down a dirt road before I realised I was going the wrong way. I’m blaming it on the snow…
As the day wore on the snow began to melt away in the sun. It was sad to see it disappear but the afternoon was still quite pretty walking.
I was walking alongside a stream for most of the afternoon. Not only was it super pretty with plenty of great smelling wildflowers about but the close proximity to water meant no great long water carries!