Wednesday 29 May 2019
Location: Mile 424.4 to Mile 444.2
Distance travelled: 19.8 miles / 33 km
After all of the cold weather I have experienced over the last couple of weeks, spring was definitely back on as of this morning.
I have been on the trail for nearly 1 month now and not seen one rattlesnake. Meanwhile, my hiking buddy, Jeff, has seen seven. I was feeling a little jealous. Today that all changed, I spotted not only my first, but second and third rattlesnakes!
It would appear that rattlesnakes all have different personalities because all of them reacted to my presence in different ways. The first was a yellow and black snake, sunning itself right across the trail. Not only was it not fussed by my presence but it didn’t care to move for me. I stood stamping my feet and slamming my poles on the ground for a few minutes. Nothing. I then resorted to a rock thrown near (not at) the snake. At this point it very casually lifted its head to sense the air. I stamped my feet again and the snake very casual slithered off into the scrub on the other side of the the trail.
My second encounter was a little more dramatic. I was walking along at quite a fast pace when a short but fat brown rattlesnake seemed to have been spooked by my walking past. It seemed to either have fallen or thrown itself on the trail in front of me, what felt like only 30cm in front of me. I instantly jumped backwards while it coiled itself, hissed, rattled and looked very threatening. It didn’t waste any time, not even time for a photo as it slid off the trail and down into the bushes below.
From this point onwards I was hyper conscious of any and all movement near the trail, which is how I spotted my third rattlesnakes of the day. This snake was a little more shy, it was hiding in sme long grass beside the trail, almost 1m off the path. When it heard me coming it started moving about, rattling at me. Had it stayed still I would have walked by and never would have seen it. It looked to be around 1 metre in length with very beautiful black and brown patterned skin.
My wildlife encounters for the day didn’t end there, I spotted horned lizards and dozens of hummingbirds flitting about in the sunshine, eating the nectar of sweet smelling flowers on the side of the trail.
There was a lot of climbing and descending on the trail today. I had beautiful views of the desert as I near closer and closer to the Mojave.
The wilderness area I walked through was burnt in a fire a few years back but is rapidly regenerating.
After all of the pain I had yesterday with my chafing inner thighs I got creative and walked the day with a buff around each leg so the sensitive skin was protected from the inner seam of my pants. It was annoying as I had to keep adjusting them every time they slipped down, it was kind of like hiking in a pair of stay ups, but they did the job and I was able to hike relatively pain free.
I spent the night at Acton KOA campground this evening. It was one of those nice instances where the option of of shower, pint of ice cream and electronics charging station is only a few minutes walk from the trailhead.
Thursday 30 May 2019
Location: Mile 444.2 to Mile 454.5
Distance travelled: 10.3 miles / 17 km
I woke up to the sound of lions roaring this morning, yup, lions! As it turns out the KOA shares a boundary with Tippi Hendersons big cat rescue, Shambala. I am grateful the girl at the KOA office warned me when I checked in, otherwise I would have thought there were mountain lions near by.
I decided to hitch into Acton this morning to resupply, although I’d be walking right through Agua Dulce I’d heard reports that that grocery store there was expense and poorly stocked. It took about 40 minutes to get a ride in, I think it was too early in the morning for locals to be driving back into town. I was almost ready to give up when a friendly guy in a truck gave me a lift. I don’t think he was familiar with the trail and was a bit confused about what I was doing, asking me if I was living in the mountains. He must have thought he’d picked up some crazy mountain woman.
There isn’t much to Acton but it had everything I needed, 2 grocery stores, ATM and pharmacy. The grocery store even had a small deli counter where I had a second breakfast of a cheese and egg bagel.
The hitch back out of town was a lot faster than the hitch in. A lovely older local man gave me a lift, he had picked up hikers before. We had a lovely chat on the ride back to the KOA. He validated the time I had spent getting into town this morning and agreed with other people’s reports that the supermarket in Agua Dulce was no longer very well stocked.
Back at the KOA I had an easy morning, packed my food bag, packed up camp and headed out on the trail just before lunch.
It was warm again today so I took it slowly, the scenery was beautiful, back in the desert super bloom with fragrant flowers lining the trail and views across the desert in front of me.
The trail took me to Vasquez Rocks, a famous filming location where star trek and a number of other films were shot. I was excited to learn that MacGyver was film there too. The rocks were beautiful, something different to what I’ve seen on trail to date. I spent some time meandering through them, taking photos and admiring the scenery.
It felt like proper American desert, everything you would expect to see in a western movie I even had a group of women ride past on western horses, complete with stetsons and lassos. They probably thought I was a bit simple the way I excitedly looked at them.
When I arrived at the main car park entrance to the rocks I found a film shoot was in progress. There were trailers and tents set up everywhere. Its funny to think that the PCT passes right through the area.
From Vasquez Rocks it was a short road walk through to Agua Dulce. I headed straight for the market and bought myself an ice cream sandwich and an orange to pack out tomorrow morning. I then walked the 1 mile off trail up to the Saufley’s house.
The Saufley’s are Agua Dulce trail angels who have been hosting hikers for over 20 years. The extent that they go to help hikers is nothing short of incredible. They let us pitch a tent in their yard, shower, they do your laundry for you, post packages and accept packages. They are incredibly generous people with a ridiculous number of people coming through their place every night I don’t know how they stay sane.
The best part about the Saufley’s (AKA hiker heaven) may be their animals, 6 dogs, countless chickens and a few horses. I was glad to get my dog fix in.
I was even more glad when I found my emergency package from REI had arrived and my tights fit!! I was very pleased not to have to walk another day with a buff strapped to the top of each thigh.
At hiker heaven I ran into a couple of old trail friends, Stardust and Spamalicious and made a new one, Squirrel, we all headed out to dinner in town together. It was nice to have the company and 3 women. It’s not often you have such a high concentration of female friends on the trail.
Post dinner we got a lift back to hiker heaven in the back of a locals truck. Amazingly we had 6 women and only 1 man in the load of people. As an older gentleman pointed out to me a week or so ago in Wrightwood, there are more and more women on the trail these days 🤣.
Monday 27 May 2019
Location: Mile 386.1 to Mile 404.2
Distance travelled: 18.1 miles / 29 km
Even with a lazy afternoon yesterday I slept soundly last night. As the forecast predicted the wind died off late last night and we received a dusting of snow over the early hours of the morning. The moisture on the tent soon turned to ice and I woke to a winter wonderland. It was officially my first night sleeping in a tent while it snowed. There have been so many new experiences on this trip!
All of my gear was still wet from the rain yesterday so when the sun started to show itself I climbed out of bed to knock the snow and ice off the tent and begin the drying process. I strung a long washing line in the car park, transforming the lot into a proper little hobo village. No one seemed to mind though. All of the people who came by were super friendly.
It was nice having such great drying space, access to toilets and and a garbage bin after feeling so uncomfortable yesterday afternoon.
It wasn’t until nearly 10am by the time I got on trail this morning. I had planned to walk 20 miles after the short day yesterday, however it was unlikely that would be happening now. I decided to take it easy, enjoy the morning and not worry about the miles.
As I climbed up towards Mt Williamson I had great views back over Islip Saddle and across to Baden Powell. It was magical walking through the fresh snow. With everything dusted in a layer of white the forest looked even more beautiful.
Given my late start to the morning the warm morning sun had already begun melting the snow and ice from the trees. As I walked along the trail ice fell from the branches above. At first I found it simply interesting to watch but after a couple of close calls I found it a little threatening. Some of the chunks of ice were quite large, I felt like I was running a gauntlet.
The higher the trail climbed the thicker the snow became. As I reached the junction to begin the descent down the back side of the mountain there were a few slippery ridges with thick snow. Given I had my pair of spikes on me, I decided to put them on to make my way off the mountain. They weren’t necessary by any means but they did make the hike down a lot less nerve wracking and a whole lot faster.
When I reached the trail head a thick blanket of fog covered the highway. It was difficult to spot the trail marker on the other side. A friendly group of hikers pointed it out to me as they had a break on the side of the road.
I hiked the next few miles in the fog, without any views to speak of.
After lunch I reached a junction in the trail where a closure has been put in place for the protection of a rare species of frog. This meant a detour involving a road walk. The road walk went by quickly and for the most part I had a good shoulder to walk on. The fog made it a little eerie but it soon cleared and I found that a bunch of other hikers were also walking the detour with me. I just wasn’t able to see them previously. The detour rejoined the PCT through a beautiful campground and the Burkhart trail. It was a lovely trail running along a stream.
Back on the PCT and the trail climbed up to Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It was steep and slow going. After all of the climbing and descending of the morning my legs were feeling tired.
I crossed the highway a couple of times during the afternoon. Given the late start to my day I decided to have dinner at 5pm and keep walking until 7:30pm or 8pm. I found a beautiful dinner spot just after crossing the highway. I had magnificent views where I could watch cars winding through the mountains. It would be the perfect setting for a TV commercial.
Shortly after dinner I reached the 400 mile mark! Nearly a month into the trail now and the miles feel like they are starting to come more easily.
The evening light was pretty to walk in and after a few more miles, perfect timing before darkness hit, I arrived at the campsite. It was nice to have already eaten. I enjoyed a cup of tea and some chocolate from the warmth of my sleeping bag, feeling grateful that tonight it wasn’t raining.
Tuesday 28 May 2019
Location: Mile 404.2 to Mile 424.4
Distance travelled: 20.2 miles / 33 km
After yesterday’s late start I had plans to wake up early and get on trail early but it didn’t quite happen that way. I was still tired when my alarm went off at 5am so I stayed snuggled in my sleeping bag until 6am and when I was finally ready to move at 7am, waited another hour for the sun to dry the condensation from my sleeping bag.
From the get go I had 5 miles of climbing this morning. I listened to my audio book while I walked and the miles seemed to fly by.
After reaching elevation I was rewarded for the hard work by spectacular views of the Mojave Desert.
The sun had started to heat up by mid morning. It was a stark contrast from the last few days of brutal cold and the change in temperature took it out of me. On top of that I have developed a painful case of thigh chafe. I am wearing the same pair of pants that I wore during our NZ hike but I think with the increase in miles on this trail the inner seam is irritating my thighs. I have cream for it which I have been slathering on but it didn’t seem to make things any better. It’s seemingly small things like this that can really get to you on a hike.
Similarly for my fingers, after all of the cold mornings and evenings the skin on my fingers is starting to split in places which can be quite painful. There isn’t much you can do about these things on trail other than to accept the pain and keep moving.
Despite my thigh issues, I felt like I was moving quickly up until lunch time. I chose a position on the trail with a spectacular view and enjoyed a long, luxurious lunch break.
The miles after lunch, in the heat of the day felt slow and taxing. The views continued to be beautiful but while I was struggling for energy it was difficult to properly enjoy them.
After thinking I would arrive in camp at 4pm, I didn’t finish the day until nearly 7pm. It’s weird how days that should be easy can be difficult and how days that should be difficult can feel easy.
I was lucky to have phone reception when I got into camp tonight so I ordered a pair of tights from REI express delivery to the next town, Agua Dulce. Here is to hoping they fit to warrant the $30 in postage fees I paid for them.
The camp site not only had great 4G but a spectacular views over the mountains and desert. The sunset was a million dollar one. I sat and ate my dinner a little uncomfortable with my thigh woes but loving the trail and life out here all the same. With views like that, how can you not.
Saturday 25 May 2019
Location: Mile 369.3 to Mile 375.8
Distance travelled: 6.5 miles / 10 km
It was so nice to be indoors, warm and snuggly when I woke up to pee in the early hours this morning. It makes life so much easier having an indoors toilet. You learn to appreciate the small things on trail.
The house was still quiet when I woke up this morning. I was was concerned with taking up too much of Kyle and Kate’s time but when I went upstairs to cook some eggs at around 7:30am they were only just waking up.
We had a relaxed start to the day learning a lot about natural therapies, sound healing and CBD oil. It was mid morning before Kyle shuttled us all back into town to resupply and get set for the day.
I headed to the hardware store to speak to some of their knowledge staff about the status of the trail. A guy named Mark gave me some super helpful advice and I ended up buying a pair of microspikes to hopefully help me on the trail over the next day or so. Baden Powell was hit by a snow storm a few days back and is due for more snow on Sunday, when I am due to be going over it. Jeff, Mahni Ben and I had a chat about it and decided to continue on and play it by ear. If the weather gets too wild we can always camp and wait it out or head back down into Wrightwood.
It was an interesting afternoon in the hiker friendly town of Wrightwood. After resupplying I was invited to a food tasting competition in the local hairdresser (yes you read that correctly), received some free food from the supermarket and even a free coffee from the local coffee shop. It was hard to say goodbye to the place.
Mahni and Ben had met up with some friends from LA (and their dog) and headed back out on trail a little earlier in the day. I headed back out in trail with Jeff, yesterday a local man had given Jeff his number in the supermarket and told him to call if he needed a ride (yup, that’s how friendly they are in Wrightwood). We didn’t have any luck getting in touch with Dennis but it only took a few minutes to get a hitch out of town and back to the trailhead. We were picked up by a lovely mad who already had one hiker in the car.
It was after 3pm when we started back on the trail. It was nice to have an easy day, only walking 6.5 miles. We were planning for a little less than that but the campsite we were originally aiming for was full when we arrived. I took it easy with a heavy pack full of food. I walked slowly and took in the sights as I started the ascent up to Baden Powell.
It was a holiday weekend in California so I passed many day hikers and people out camping for the weekend. I passed a large group of kids out hiking, presumably girl scouts who all wished me luck as they hiked by.
The higher I climbed the better the views became. It was a stunning afternoon on the trail. Being forced to walk the extra 1.5 miles worked out well, we ended up in a terrific campsite with stunning views off the mountain. Fingers crossed we don’t end up with too much wind or too much rain overnight.
Sunday 26 May 2019
Location: Mile 375.8 to Mile 386.1
Distance travelled: 10.3 miles / 17 km
Today started as a comedy of errors. As has become my normal routine, I was up early for the bathroom. I climbed out of the tent, slipped on my camp shoes and went in search of a spot. We were camped 1.5 miles up the side of a mountain so needless to say all appropriate cat hole sites were on a rather steep slope.
I had dug my hole and done my thing and was reaching for my bag of TP. It was a cold morning, just above freezing so my hands weren’t working too well. I fumbled with my bag of TP whilst I was trying to open it and to my horror it went tumbling down the mountain. It was one of those moments where things play out in slow motion. What was a few seconds of my little baggie flipping end on end down the hill felt like 15 minutes. Thankfully it came to rest 15 metres or so down the hill in front of me. There I was in the middle of the forest, pants around ankles with no other choice but to carefully waddle my way down the hill to retrieve my TP.
I felt thankful that things hadn’t ended up worse than what they did and began my walk back up the hill, looking forward to crawling back into my sleeping bag in an effort to warm up.
When I reached the crest of the hill, I spotted the bright orange of the tent, good, I thought, I didn’t get lost on my mission to take a poop. As I neared closer to my tent site I realised, to my horror, my tent was not where I had left it.
During my TP debacle, a huge gust of wind had whipped up and flipped my tent on its side, into a tree. All but one peg had been ripped out of the ground. Even the large rocks I had used to secure it during the night had been rendered useless. My initial reaction was to panic. I was certain, that by the contorted angle of the tent, it must be damaged. A feeling of sheer relief spread over me when I realised all was fine. I undid the tangle of tent, packed my gear, ate my breakfast in the freezing cold and questioned whether the happenings of this morning were a sign that I was not meant to walk today, not meant to attempt to summit Baden Powell in a forecast of wind and snow.
I chatted to my hiking buddy Jeffery, he was camping nearby. He was still in his tent by the time I was getting ready to leave but was also planning to walk today. I decided I would start walking and see how conditions were looking further up the mountain.
I took it slowly with the thought that Jeffery would soon catch up to me and we could tackle the tricky sections of the summit together. It didn’t take long before I hit ice. It was still frozen solid with the temperature being so cold, it was covered in soil as a result of all of the hikers having passed over it the day prior and it had good foot holds already kicked into it. It was only a mile or so from the summit where I felt the need to stop and don my spikes. The route was becoming steeper and I was starting to slide back when I stepped.
The microspikes made things a whole lot easier, I was able to continue on up the mountain without issue.
When I reached the ridge the wind had picked up and was gusting strong ice cold wind over the ridge line. It was an incredible sight. I was hiking through cloud and the below freezing temperatures meant all of the vegetation around me was freezing. I was so glad to have my gloves which I’d taken from my box in Wrightwood the day before.
As I made my way to the summit everything started to freeze, the moisture on my rain jacket, the straps on my hiking poles and even the hair around my face! Anything that was accumulating moisture from the clouds was freezing.
After reaching the junction the walk to the summit was short. I was surprised to reach it so quickly and felt elated to have made it, in such crazy conditions it was a challenge and an adventure. I felt proud.
This were on the upper cusp of a winter wonderland and were moving into snow storm territory so I didn’t stay too long at the summit.
I signed the trail register which was also frozen, took a couple of summit selfies and began to make my way back down.
Back down to the junction and the actual trail had been covered in snow, plenty of people had come through before me though so I followed the well trodden path through the snow. Sometimes the direction felt less logical than others however I met a couple traveling the opposite direction to me who assured me the trail was good to follow.
As I slowly made my way down the mountain the conditions changed the lower I climbed. First, the winds stopped, second it started snowing and third the snow stopped and the rain began. It is a lot warmer walking in snow rather than rain, the snow is dry and falls straight off your jacket where the rain chills your body quickly.
My trip up to Baden Powell was a great experience. Despite the lack of views it was an incredible adventure and one of my favorite days on trail yet.
It was also a great learning experience for me, I’d used my microspikes, fallen over a couple of times and learnt how dangerous a fall on a icy pass can be. I’d also gained some confidence moving through snow and ice.
There was snow forecast for the evening and I was becoming bitterly cold in the rain so I decided not to walk too far after the descent from Baden Powell. The most practical place to camp was the trail head car park. I knew people had done the same thing previously and when I arrived another couple were contemplating it. It was only 3pm, it felt odd putting the tent up so early but my hands were numbingly cold from the rain and I wanted to warm up. I put the tent up as fast as I could with the rain still spitting down. I put my thermals on, made hot chocolate, ate snacks and listened to audiobooks, drifting in and out of sleep. It was the perfect afternoon of rest after an eventful morning.
Later in the evening the rain and wind slowed and I enjoyed watching little crystals of snow begin to form on the tent. I fell asleep feeling excited about the prospect of waking up to a dusting of snow the following morning.
Thursday 23 May 2019
Location: Mile 335.7 to Mile 353.9
Distance travelled: 18.2 miles / 29 km
My alarm went off at 5am this morning and I was determined to get to McDonald’s early. It had been raining on and off all night but it had also been super windy so the fly wasn’t too wet while I was packing down the tent. It was extremely cold though.
The walk from the campsite to Cajon Pass wasn’t the most beautiful nor the most pleasant of walks. The wind was gusting and it was cold, rain was spitting down. The trail wound through the hills under a very large set of power lines which buzzed as the rain hit them. I felt like my body was being fried as I walked underneath them.
It was only 6 miles to the McDonald’s turn off, my legs were racing at the thought of hotcakes and coffee so despite the bad weather I made it there quickly.
I didn’t waste any time in ordering and not 15 minutes after I arrived, Jeffrey walked through the doors. What I thought would be an hour or 2 rest at McDonald’s turned into a 4 hour multi-course feast. I had 2 coffees, an egg and cheese mcmuffin, hotcakes, 2 hashbrowns, cinnamon doughnut sticks, an egg and cheese mcgriddle, an apple pie and to top it off a sundae. The sundae may have pushed me close to the edge but it gave me incredible mountain climbing energy.
After hiking the TA people often asked, ‘how much weight did you lose doing that?’ Assuming you must lose a lot of weight walking 3,000km. While Adam lost 12 kgs I didn’t loose a single kg after weighing myself on my return home. How you may wonder? Hiker hunger is how. You become so hungry hiking the trail that trail food doesn’t cut it after a certain point. When you get into town your body goes into overdrive wanting to eat all of the foods you just can’t eat on trail. You mostly crave high calorie foods. I surprised myself just how much I can eat. It’s like there is no off switch. Amounts of food that would normally make me feel sick to think of, I can now eat without thinking twice about it.
Despite the dreary weather outside, I dragged myself out of Maccas and back on the trail. It was nearly 2pm and if I didn’t leave at that point I never would have left.
The carbs, fast, sugar and salt of the McDonald’s feast served me well and I powered through the afternoon. Over the rail lines, through a huge water pipe and back out into the mountains, away from the noise of the highway and back into tranquility.
I was hiking with Jeff. We managed another 12 miles during the afternoon, post McDonalds break. Give we were climbing, covering a 2,500 elevation gain I was surprised at how fast we were able to move.
The views from the trail were beautiful, looking across the mountains and over Cajon Pass.
The clouds were moving fast over the mountains, the higher we climbed the thicker the clouds became.
At about 6pm we decided to set up camp and were later joined by an Australian couple, Mahni and Ben who I’d met a few times before on the trail and who we’d spent our 4 hour Maccas break with. We chatted into the evening.
I was a little light on water having misread some comments on Guthooks (my navigation app). There was a water cache before the big hill climb, 6 miles after leaving McDonald’s. Unfortunately the trail angel who restocked the water wrote the comment on the wrong mile marker so I incorrectly assumed there were 2 caches. I had almost 2 litres, enough to see me through until the morning but I decided to eat lunch and snack food for dinner rather than cook with water, just to be on the safe side.
Friday 24 May 2019
Location: Mile 353.9 to Mile 369.3
Distance travelled: 15.4 miles / 25 km
I had a beautiful, lazy start to my morning today. Although the tent was covered in condensation, it was surprisingly warm with the sun breaking through the clouds. I had camped the night with Jeff, Mahni and Ben. With beautiful views from the campsite, the sun streaming down and Ben making coffee, I decided not to rush into the day but to let the tent dry off before I started walking. It was a nice change not to be rushing out on trail trying to walk to warm up from the cold.
It was just after 8am when I started walking. I was glad I had started late because all of the cloud had lifted and I enjoyed incredible views as I walked, back over Cajon Pass where I had came from the day before and across to the snow capped Baden Powell where I will be heading in a couple of days time.
I was looking forward to heading into Wrightwood, knowing I only had 15 miles to walk today, it was a nice relaxed hike even if it was a steady uphill climb.
About an hour into my morning I was surprised to see a California Fire and Rescue helicopter fly towards me. I expected it to go straight by but it kept doing circular laps of the mountain range, flying up and down in elevation. Initially I thought it was doing a rescue nearby but when it kept flying overhead I panicked that my EPIRB may have malfunctioned and it may be looking for me! After 30 minutes of it flying about I decided that it was probably just doing some practice maneuvers and put in my headphones to ignore it.
The hiking was spectacular today, one of my favorite days on trail. Probably second to the day of snow I had coming out of Big Bear. As I climbed in elevation the views of Baden Powell became cleared and patches of snow began to appear around the trail in front of me.
The air temperature dropped and I needed to add a layer of warm clothing as I gained height. The pine trees were all still covered in snow and ice but the morning sun was beginning to melt the frost and water and icicles fell from the trees as I hiked.
I made it to Guffys campsite at lunch. I had a relaxing hour long lunch break. I was short on water but feeling too lazy to take the side trail down to the nearby spring so I opted to melt some snow for water instead. It was another first time thing for me. There have been so many on this trail!
After an hour break and no sight of my hiking companions I decided to keep moving. It was after 1pm and I wanted to make it into town before the post office closed at 5pm.
As the trail continued the trees thinned out a little and I had great views over the city below. It amazes me that this wilderness is so close to the bustling city of LA.
The area I was walking through is a popular ski resort. I passed by a few sets of chair lifts before the trail began to descend down to highway level.
When I reached the road end 3 more hikers were only minutes behind me and joined me in my attempts to flag down a ride. I was irritated at first, it’s a common courtesy to let whoever was at the road first flag down a hitch first but it worked out fine in the end. A lovely LA local who was camping in the area stopped and gave us all a ride. He said he had a great day of people helping him with some problems so he decided to pay it forward. It was very kind of him. Getting into town so quickly was such a great help for us!
I headed straight to the post office to pick up my bounce box. After all the cold weather we have been getting I pulled out my fleece, gloves and some ginger tea I had stashed in there. I also retrieved my printed maps for the next 400 or so miles up to Kennedy Meadows. It made me realise how fast my time on this trail is going.
While I was at the post office Jeff walked in. He wasn’t far behind me on the trail at all. I got a text from Mahni and Ben about accomodation in town, they were keen to share something for the night. After we finished at the post office, Jeff and I walked across the the hardware store. Not the usual first stop for a hiker when you arrive into town but Wrightwood is not your ordinary town. They are extremely hiker friendly!
The local hardware store has a register where hikers are encouraged to sign in. They also give you a beautiful PCT pin which I have already attached to my pack. They hold packages, have a hiker box, charging station and a place where hikers can leave their bags or just hang out. It is incredibly generous of them and makes arriving into town a whole lot easier. The hardware store also maintains a register of trail angels for the local area, people who are willing to host hikers for a small donation. We didn’t have a place to stay yet so I started calling the names on the list. I initially went for the ones who specified they had a dog and then, when I had no luck decided to work backwards on the list.
We hit the jackpot with Kyle and Kate, they are new to hosting hikers as of a week ago. They moved to Wrightwood a year and a half ago into a beautiful log cabin looking over the valley and town. Kyle picked us up in town in his Porche and we immediately realised we might not be in for staying with any ordinary trail angels. Their house was absolutely beautiful and they had a beautiful husky to match. Kye, the dog was an added bonus. We were all in heaven, hot showers, laundry, snacks and CBD mocktails! It was a lovely relaxed evening. It’s going to be tough to only spend one night.
Tuesday 21 May 2019
Location: Bench Camp (Mile 294.7) to Deep Creek (Mile 313.4)
Distance travelled: 18.7 miles / 30 km
It was bitterly cold when I woke up this morning. I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. When I finally did drag myself out I discovered the tent fly was completely frozen with a layer of ice, both inside and out. Although it made packing down the tent painfully cold it also gave me a little motivation, as the sun came out and the ice started to melt, dripping water inside the tent.
I wasn’t on trail until 7.30am which is late for me, I think the last few nights sleeping in a comfy warm bed at the Big Bear Hostel made me lazy. Packing down the tent felt like such a chore.
It was only a few miles in to my morning when I walked past the 300 mile marker! It had snuck up on me and was a nice surprise. I’m looking forward to hitting the next big milestone of 500, so it will feel like I’ve completed a decent portion of the miles in this epic trail.
The sun never fully came out today, I spent the majority of the day rugged up against the wind. I took a chance at drying out the tent and fly when I was filling up water a few hours into my morning. It felt like just as I took the tent out the sun disappeared but the relentless wind managed to do the trick.
I spent most of the day walking along Deep Creek. The trail ran along the valley, high above the creek, it was a lovely change being so close to a water source. The valley and the river were spectacularly beautiful in sections.
I had a few stream crossings throughout the day, the biggest of which was a couple of miles before reaching the deep creek hot springs.
The hot springs have become a popular spot for hikers to relax at along the trail. I was glad to have arrived mid week. The springs are clothing optional and apparently on weekends a high number of older males hike in from the local area to enjoy a soak. There were already quite a high number of hikers in the pools when we arrived so there wasn’t a whole lot of room. A big beach surrounded the river and springs but it wasn’t very pleasant to sit on with high winds whipping sand all over the place. The wind was also very cold so I was hesitant to get in the water. Despite the water being warm I didn’t want to be cold once I was out. I ended up going in to the hips. It was nice to give my feet and legs a soak.
I had grand intentions of walking another 8 or 10 miles but 6 miles after leaving the hot springs I came to another river crossing. One hiker had gone in ahead of me and was up to his waist in water. Cheesus, a girl I’d been hiking with on and off with over the past few days was staying put, camping before the crossing. I didn’t like the idea of getting so wet so late in the day in such cold weather and decided to stay put also. I was 5 miles short of my 23 mile goal for the day but I decided it was better to be warm. I will try to do some extra miles tomorrow.
There is a McDonald’s not far from the trail, 29 miles from my current camp spot and I’m planning to drop in for breakfast the day after tomorrow. Food strategy becomes very important on the trail. I want to plan my mileage so I make it to the McDonald’s in time for their breakfast menu. Planning a Maccas run is not something I do back home, mostly eating healthy and buying organic, it is incredible how quickly hiker hunger can change ones priorities.
Wednesday 22 May 2019
Location: Deep Creek (Mile 313.4) to Mile 335.7
Distance travelled: 22.3 miles / 36 km
I thought I’d get up super early today to make up for lost miles yesterday but it didn’t work out that way. It was cold outside and I was warm and comfy inside so I decided to sleep in a tad longer.
I was up and walking by 7am. First order of the day was the river crossing I’d avoided yesterday afternoon. Surprisingly the river level had dropped considerably overnight. It was great news! I forded the creek in my flip flops, rolling up my pants to save them getting wet and changed the dressings on my feet once I was safely across to the other side. The water was icy cold so early in the morning. Even after I’d dried my feet and put my shoes and socks back on it took almost a mile of walking before I regained sensation in my feet.
I had a few road crossings ahead of my today and as I made my way to the first one, Highway 173, I spotted a couple of hikers hanging about. Then I spotted the truck…. It was a trail magic! It was so unexpected and I was so happy to see it. Copper Tone was the angel behind the magic. He travels around in his truck, moving to different points on the trail during the season, offering fruit, snacks and root beer floats to hikers. He had an incredible array of snacks. I had a banana, strawberries, cookies with extra frosting and some chocolate truffles. It was an incredible smorgasbord. Copper Tone even had a box of takeaway snacks and food but my food bag was heavy enough so I stuck to filling my belly instead. I only had a short break with Copper Tone before getting back on trail. I wanted to make sure I did enough miles today to make it to McDonald’s for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Immediately after rejoining the trail it began to climb. The trail curved along the edge of the mountain range before leading me down again, back across another highway enroute to Silverwood Lake, which I believe was actually a giant dam.
I walked through an industrial area with large steel pipes, past the huge dam wall and past a power plant. It was one of the less scenic areas of the trail but interesting nonetheless.
It was nearing lunch time, I wanted to find a nice spot to rest. There was a big climb up the side of a hill to a spot where I could sit and look out over the dam while I was eating. It was worth the wait. I saw a couple of people paddling and a boat cruising around. It looked very relaxing. It was mid week and the weather wasn’t the best for watersports, it looked as if it was on the verge of raining. I could imagine how popular the dam would become on weekends when the sun is shining.
The lake was absolutely huge, I walked along it’s edge for a couple of hours as the trail wound its way around. As I walked the wind picked up and the sky threatened to rain.
As I made my way through the Silverwood Lake recreation area and campground it began to rain. It was mostly drizzle and remained that way for the rest of the afternoon.
As I climbed away from the lake I had the most terrific views over it. The trail eventually climbed up a ridge and crossed from one side of the mountain to the other. From here it was only a few miles to my campsite for the night.
I was making good time, it was only early but campsites were limited and I was worried it might be busy. I ended up arriving at 4.30pm. There were still lots of spots available. It was only early in the evening and there was plenty of daylight left but I had already walked 22 miles and it was spitting with rain. I decided to call it a day, get cozy and warm and have an early dinner. Tomorrow it would be Maccas for breaky!
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!