Friday 17 May 2019
Location: Arrastre Trail Camp (Mile 256.2) to Big Bear Lake (Mile 266.1)
Distance travelled: 9.9 miles / 16 km
When I woke up this morning I could practically smell the town food awaiting me in Big Bear.
I had somehow overslept and was the last tent left in camp so I got up, packed up and was ready to leave in record time.
I was thankful that it was a relatively flat 10 miles into Big Bear. My legs were propelling me quickly through the pine forest trail.
It wasn’t long before I was back in the familiar desert terrain, dropping down into the town of Big Bear Lake.
Confusingly, there are two Big Bears, Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake. When I was sending my bounce box on from Warner Springs I made a last minute decision to send it to Big Bear. At the post office I needed to decide whether I would send it to Big Bear City or Big Bear Lake. I naturally assumed that Big Bear City would be larger than Big Bear Lake, that the city would be where all of the shops are. I was wrong. Big Bear City is the smaller of the two towns. With little accomodation options. Walking into town I still wasn’t sure if I would need to get to Big Bear City to ask them to bounce on my box.
With my legs propelling me rapidly towards town I caught up with some of the people I was camping with last night, including an Australian couple, Coralee and Sam. We hiked together for a while, chatting as we hiked. They are lovely people, it was nice getting to know them.
I arrived at the trailhead to find some recently refreshed trail magic. It was excited to read that I had walked 10% of the entire trail!
When I arrived at the parking lot I met the trail angel who maintains the soda cache, Tortuga. He is a lovely man, a local who raised his family in the area. He was headed back into town and offered to drive myself and two other hikers into town. I was in luck because the couple Tortuga was dropping into town had posted their resupply boxes to Big Bear City rather than Big Bear Lake so Tortuga had agreed to take them into town via the post office. I ducked into the post office with them and arranged for my bounce box to he forwarded on to Wrightwood.
Arriving in town I was relieved that I had pre booked my hostel bed. I found it fully booked when I arrived.
After getting cleaned up and raiding the hiker box I headed into town to have a second breakfast. Teddy Bears do an all day breakfast. I had a delicious omelette with potatoes and toast. It has quickly become my town go to.
The Big Bear Hostel felt like a home away from home. I spent the afternoon doing laundry and chilling on the couch, enjoying the down time.
Saturday 18 May 2019
Location: Big Bear Lake
Distance travelled: 0 miles / 0 km
It was nice to wake up in a big warm comfy bed knowing I had no need to rush out on trail and nowhere to be. That said, I was up at 6.30am and first order of the day was breakfast! The Big Bear Hostel looks after hikers incredibly well and have a big bag of pancake mix ready to go in the kitchen along with some giant bottles of syrup and coffee. I whipped up a batch of pancakes, one of the other hostel guests put on a pot of coffee and Graham joined us for breakfast before he headed back out on trail. The pancakes were surprisingly delicious. I even found a free banana in the fruit bowl to add to my pancakes. It was delish!
All I had to do today was resupply. Having found a bunch of free food in the hiker box the day prior I didn’t have too much to buy but was planning on sending some boxes forward. After sitting down and doing some further research and planning I decided not to bother sending the boxes. I decided not to bother with the stress and added cost of the postage. The higher prices of some of the smaller supermarkets wouldn’t be enough to offset the postage costs and from the quality items I was reaping from the hiker boxes I would try my luck.
No sooner was I thinking about making a move to the supermarket did Dub walk in the door. I met he and his brother yesterday, we are staying in the same hostel room. Dub is the older of the 2 brothers at 78 years of age and is helping drive his brother back and forth from the trail whilst he section hikes the PCT. They are incredible people who have accomplished a lot! They have named several peaks in Alaska having made the first ascents. Dub is even googleable… try Dub Bludsworth or Mount Thor, Alaska. Dub, having just dropped his brother out at the trail didn’t have too much to do that day and offered to drive me to the supermarket. It was incredibly kind of him. It was also lovely to have the company. Not only did he drive me to the store but came shopping with me, kept me company during my shop and carried my basket for me. He told me he would not judge me for the amount of candy I put in the basket 🤣.
After the grocery store we made a stop at the pharmacy and then headed back to the hostel. It was a lovely afternoon of relaxing, eating and getting to know new friends. I loved hearing Dubs stories and asked if anyone had written a book about him. He said he was in the process of writing one and it would be published if he had the time to finish it. I said I wanted a copy of it when it came out and gave him my email address so I could buy a copy.
During the rest of the afternoon I had a call with Adam and over indulged in a slice of pie at the local coffee shop. It was delicious but I regretted it after. I was so full I couldn’t eat dinner!I was feeling ready to head back out on the trail when I heard that a weather warning had been issued for the following day, snow and wind gusts of over 65km per hour. I would have felt ok with one or the other but trying to camp in strong winds while it was snowing sounded too much for me. After much deliberation, myself and another hiker, Sarah, decided to day hike a 10 mile section of trail and come back to the hostel the following night. The forecast was cold but fine during the day. This way we would be safe overnight but still get some hiking in. After making the decision I really hope I wake up to a good dusting of snow overnight.
Wednesday 15 May 2019
Location: Mesa Wind Farm (Mile 213.4) to Mile 235.4
Distance travelled: 22 miles / 35 km
When I got up this morning I was so glad I had made the decision to push through to the wind farm yesterday afternoon. At 6am when the crew arrived for work I was directed into their break room where I was able to use the toilets, charge my phone and best of all, enjoy a morning coffee. The staff who work there are super friendly and accommodating.
We hikers must be a massive disruption to their day. One of the guys even offered us cake from his birthday a few days earlier. As if it couldn’t get any better I spent most of the hour I was there patting the office dog who practically threw herself in my lap. She rubbed her head all over me, it may have had something to do with my smell.
I was off on the trail at around 7.30am and was worried the late start would mean a super hot day hiking in the sun but surprisingly the temperature had dropped somewhat from yesterday. There was a bit of cloud coverage and a breeze blowing as I departed the Wind farm and climbed my way up to the San Gorgonio Wilderness. I was surrounded by picturesque views in all directions, San Jacinto behind me and San Gorgonio in front of me.
It was around 7 miles from Mesa to the whitewater river. When I saw the river begin to appear in front of me it felt like an apparition appearing in the middle of the desert. I was eager to get down from the mountains and into the water.
There would be many river crossings throughout the afternoon but the Whitewater river was definitely the largest. I took the opportunity to jump in for a dip. Fully clothed I was hoping to achieve 2 things, a bit of a freshen up and a cool down for the next stretch of hiking.
After crossing Whitewater it was back up into the mountains for a short but spectacular stretch. The trail was lined with plants which reminded me of wattle bushes. For a minute I thought I was in the Australian outback with the orange sand and bright yellow flowers.
The trail dropped back down once again and I spent the afternoon crisscrossing back and forth over mission creek. The trail was washed out in parts due to flooding earlier in the year. At times it made the trail hard to find. There were several occasions where I frustratingly followed wrong footsteps and ended trudging up the river bed for unnecessary stretches of time. Despite the washout I was extremely happy to have such close access to water. It made it a much easier afternoon of hiking, not needing to carry so much on me and being able to cool off whenever I started to feel the heat.
I arrived at the campsite I was aiming for earlier than expected. It was only 5.30pm so there was plenty of daylight left and it was only 3.5 miles to the next campsite. Going further today would also mean an easier days walking tomorrow. I decided to push on. It ended up being my biggest day on trail yet, walking 22 miles (35km) in total. It felt good to have made it that far.
Thursday 16 May 2019
Location: Mile 235.4 to Arrastre Trail Camp (Mile 256.2)
Distance travelled: 20.8 miles / 33 km
Today was an uncomfortable day from the get go. I hadn’t slept well overnight. A wind had picked up and the tent fly was flapping about all night. I was too lazy to get out of bed and take it off but I probably should have.
There was no easing into the morning. From the spot where I camped the trail headed on a steep incline up into the mountains. My legs felt heavy and I felt out of breath and sluggish. After only an hour of walking I stopped for a break, thinking a sugar hit would do the trick. It wasn’t until another hiker passed me and stopped for a chat that I realised what it was, on top of the big day I did yesterday I was now at a significant altitude, hiking at nearly 9,000 feet. It made me feel better about feeling so sluggish and I decided to take it easy for the rest of the day.
It was a chilly and dreary morning. It had been forecast for rain and potentially snow. As the morning wore on and I climbed in elevation the temperature grew colder and the winds grew stronger. By mid morning it started to spit rain. At the point it started raining the sun was still out so I continued hiking in my shirt, not bothering with my rain jacket.
By lunch time the rain had turned into tiny beads of ice. I’m not sure if it was sleet, tiny hail or snow but it was painful when it hit my face. The wind picked up and was gusting. There was nothing to do but walk through it and hope that the campsite I was aiming for for the evening was somewhat protected from the wind because it was galeforce.
I was walking through pretty pine forest for the most of the day, it was picturesque but I felt like I was battling the wind and cold too much to enjoy it.
Throughout the day I had spotted deer, a hare, a couple of chipmunks and some incredibly pretty birds which kept my spirits up.
I passed many other hikers during the day. For the first two weeks of the trail I had mostly seen the same groups of people on the trail, leap frogging over each other sometimes not seeing each other for days at a time but over the last couple of days I have been seeing completely new faces. I think it is a combination of the two towns we have passed through, injuries and initial trail families slowly breaking apart as people start to find their own groove and pace on the trail.
Monday 13 May 2019
Location: Idyllwild (Mile 179.4) to off Snow Creek Spur Trail (Mile 193.8)
Distance travelled: 14.4 miles / 23 km
After thoroughly enjoying my stay in Idyllwild it was time to get back on trail today. With a 3 mile walk to get back to the trail head I wanted to get an early start to the day. I was out of the campground by 7 and as my luck would have it, got a ride to the car park with the first car that drove by. As it turned out I was standing on the wrong side of the road, looking to go the wrong direction but a lady and her mum stopped to help me anyway. She was dropping her mum off at work so I jumped in for the ride and she dropped me up to Humber Park afterwards.
I was dreading the steep 3 mile walk up the devils slide trail to rejoin the PCT but it wasn’t too bad in the end. It look me an hour and half. I plodded my way up, taking my time to enjoy the views on my way up.
The beautiful views continued on from where I had left the trail 2 days ago. I could see out over snow capped mountains, the city below and the very distant mountain ranges on the horizon.
It was slow going today, there was a lot of ups and downs and the trail was still covered by a fair amount of snow. Some patches were so large that it became difficult to follow the trail in some sections and I became reliant on my GPS to guide me.
The challenge for the day would be Fuller Ridge, I had heard about it being one of the more difficult parts of this section, holding the most amount of snow remaining on the mountain. Given the large amount of snow melt over the past few weeks it was no longer necessary to wear microspikes to walk this section of trail but it was still very icy and very slippery when I came to cross it. I was glad to have my trekking poles but still managed to slip over twice. It would be my first and second fall of the trail. It is good experience for me, learning how to walk on snow. I learnt that it is as hard as concrete and as sharp as jagged glass when you fall on it.
As I began to descend from the ridge the vegetation changed, slowly morphing back into the desert scrub I was walking through earlier in the week. It was a sign that tomorrow I will be back down in the desert and out under the scorching heat.
I was hoping to make it further today but the slow travel through the snow, the Devils Slide Trail and the changes in elevation had taken it out of me. I found a campsite close to a water source and set up home for the night.
For dinner I made pink mash with some freeze dried beetroot chips I found on sale in the market and cheese Idaho potatoes. It was surprisingly satisfying.
Tuesday 14 May 2019
Location: Off Snow Creek Spur Trail (Mile 193.8) to Mesa Wind Farm (Mile 213.4)
Distance travelled: 19.6 miles / 32 km
Today started out hot and pretty much stayed that way until I stopped hiking at 7pm. By 7am I was wearing a face full of zinc, hat and sunglasses.
I spent most of the day coming out of the San Jacinto wilderness area down the side of a mountain on a series of large switchbacks. After becoming so used to the kiwi style of hiking (straight up and straight down the sides of mountains) I found it a little frustrating to be walking double the distance I needed to. That said, it is much more kind on the knees when walking on a gradual decline.
The views out over the valley were beautiful and the lower I climbed the more the windfarm in the valley below came into focus.
Around mid morning I passed the 200 mile marker. It snuck up on me, the second 100 miles feeling like it passed a lot quicker than the first.
The trail would take me out of the mountains and across the valley floor before I begin climbing into a new mountain range tomorrow. I am learning that trail heads in on the PCT always have the potential for trail magic and at this trailhead I received not one but 2!
The first was a free buff personally designed by a very generous Trail Angel. It features photos that they took along their PCT hike. The buffs were sitting in a container on the side of the trail, I was a little wary of opening it at first but was glad when I did.
Only a mile after finding the buff I came across my second trail magic. A lovely local couple had parked where the trail crosses a road and were set up with fresh pineapple, drinks and cookies. They had been married a couple of days before and were sharing their left overs with us. It was incredible, especially on such a hot day. I even got takeaway magic of a cliff bar and an apple!
From there on out it was proper desert hiking, through cracked mudflats and dry sandy creek beds.
The trail intersects with a major road and rail artery and crosses by way of an underpass. Here a generous local has been leaving water for hikers who may get caught short. From the bridge other hikers were trying to hitch into town to get to a burger shop but after only 2 days on trail and all the sugar from the trail magic I was keen to keep moving.
It was incredible how hot it remained so late into the day. From the bridge it was another 4 miles or so to the Mesa Wind Farm, where I was aiming to camp for the night.
The walking was tough going and I was exhausted after a long day in the sun but I was determined to make it to Mesa. The staff who work out of the wind farm maintenance building support hikers by providing water and access to their amenities. It is incredibly generous of them. They also allow hikers to camp on the property. The office hours are from 6am until 2pm, so I had well and truly missed them when I arrived at 7pm but I went to bed excited by the prospect of coffee and the ability to charge my phone in the morning.
Saturday 11 May 2019
Location: Mile 175.4 to Idyllwild (Mile 179.4)
Distance travelled: 4 miles / 6 km
After worrying about forecast thunderstorms as I drifted off to sleep last night I woke up this morning to nothing more than a drizzle of rain. I was grateful that the storm hadn’t hit while I was camped at over 2,500 meters high atop a mountain. It was however extremely cold, probably the coldest morning on trail yet.
Jeff and I hiked together this morning, his phone was almost out of battery so without a means to navigate it made sense. We set off hiking around 7, with only 4 miles of hiking along the PCT to Saddle Junction where we would have another 3 or so miles down a side trail called the Devil’s Slide trail to get into Idyllwild. We would be heading into town to resupply, eat and rest.
Despite the cold it was a spectacular morning hiking. We walked through the very first patches of snow we would see on trail. Only a few weeks ago the whole area was covered in snow, we are lucky with our timing, the rapid melt over the past few weeks means I didn’t need to worry about microspikes for this section of trail.
There were still a few patches of snow that we needed to walk across, I was so excited about it, taking photos of just about every icy patch we came to.
The air was cold and the wind was blowing hard, I walked the whole morning in my rain gear. Low cloud danced through the trees and across the mountain tops. It was a magical morning walking through the pine forest with the snow setting the whole scene off.
The 4 miles to the junction went by quickly. To get into the town of Idyllwild there is a 3 or so mile trail of steep switchbacks. The whole time I was walking down I was thinking about the walk up. On the way down I made the decision that I would spend 2 days in town to make the effort worthwhile.
I was grateful to reach the car park where there were bins and public toilets. It’s the simple things in life that can bring you the most pleasure when you are on trail.
From the car park we had another couple of miles road walk to town. We walked by cute mountain cabins set within the pine trees. It was everything I imagined a US mountain holiday town to be, we even passed a life sized wood carving of a bear.
Less than half a mile down the road a lovely local lady offered us a ride the rest of the way into town. We very gratefully accepted. Our trail angel dropped us at the campground where we could camp for $5 per night with showers. It was perfect!
After a shower we headed into town for lunch and met up with Graham who had landed in town the day before us. He was motoring along with a new group of people he met so Idyllwild may be the last time we see him. I had a delicious sandwich and smores cookie…it was very large and very American.
In the hiker box at the campground I found a good quality outdoors jumper which I took to switch out for the cotton loaner jumper I ‘borrowed’ from Warner Springs. I threw it in with my laundry and it’s as good as new. I feel proud of my find.
I enjoyed a lazy afternoon in town, relaxing eating and enjoying the feeling of being clean. It was mother’s day in Australia so I called home to speak to mum. I was lucky to catch my sister at the same time. It was good to catch up with everyone.
At 6pm there was a hiker meet up at a local pizza place, Jeff and I were both keen to eat something a little more affordable and a little healthier so we went for one drink that turned into two. It was after 8 when we returned to the campground to eat our hummus and veggies in the dark.
Sunday 12 May 2019
Location: Idyllwild (Mile 179.4)
Distance travelled: 0 miles / 0 km
I was glad I made the decision to spend 2 nights in town. It was nice to have a little sleep in, waking up knowing I didn’t need to pack up the tent, go anywhere or be anywhere.
It was after 7am before I finally dragged myself out of bed, ready for coffee and breakfast. Graham had spent the night in a hotel rather than at the campground so Jeff and I wandered into town for breaky. Just as Jeff was texting Graham, the man himself came walking into the campground with a coffee in each hand. He had organised to have breaky with his new crew but he came into town and had a coffee with us while we ate.
I had a very large, very delicious spinach, mushroom and cheese omelette with avo, hash and toast. It was ridiculously large but I took half of it with me, having the leftovers for lunch.
After breakfast it was resupply and charging device’s before another couple of calls home.
I was super excited that I managed to see the mayor while I was in town. Idyllwild is an unincorporated town which cannot have a human mayor but have instead appointed a Golden Retriever named Max as their Mayor. Max is somewhat famous, people flock to have their photo taken with him and pat him. I was feeling content now that I have met him. I could leave Idyllwild happy.
As if the day couldn’t be any better, I walked into a gift shop where the lady behind the store was nursing a baby raccoon!!
After grabbing a few more bits and pieces from the shops it was time for some last minute sweets before heading out on trail. I had an ice cream sandwich and was then tempted by a huge lemon cake at the supermarket. I was lucky Jeff walked in while I was halfway through it, it was giant and needed sharing.
To counterbalance the sugar I had a healthy dinner or avo and veggie wraps for dinner. The last nutrients I will eat before before Big Bear, 6 days away.
Thursday 9 May 2019
Location: Mile 142.9 to Live Oak Spring (Mile 158.4)
Distance travelled: 15.5 miles / 25 km
As I was getting ready for bed last night I could hear coyotes howling not too far off. It was a little unsettling for my first night camping alone but as it turned out I had the best night’s sleep since starting the trail! I normally toss and turn what feels like every hour or so but last night I can only remember rolling over twice. I reluctantly woke up at 5am when my alarm went off.
Low cloud hung around the mountain all morning so I packed up a very wet tent and was out hiking by 6.30am. The air was damp and my hands were freezing cold. It seems to be the same every morning so I should be used to it but there is such a dramatic difference between night and day time weather here in the southern Californian desert.
I reached Mary’s place as the sun had started to burn off the cloud. This was the Trail Angel’s place I was aiming to stay at last night but fell 2.5 miles short. She has set up an incredible campsite on her property, fills a water tank for hikers and has even built a toilet and a shower. Every year she changes the theme of this outdoor hiking oasis. I stayed long enough to appreciate her creativity and fill up my water bottles before getting back out on trail.
Once the last of the cloud burned off I was able to enjoy the desert views, rather than walk through mist. The desert was starting to feel a little same same for me this morning. After 10 days walking through similar vegetation I feel like I could do with a change of scenery. I love seeing the snakes and lizards and wildflowers along the trail but am looking forward to a change in vegetation as I get closer to San Jacinto and the mountains.
During the morning I hit the 150 mile mark. It was a little surprising when I stumbled on the cute little marker someone had crafted on the trail. The first 100 miles seemed to go quite slowly but the subsequent 50 have flown by!
Not too far down the track was a turn off the Paradise Valley Cafe. It is a bit of an institution among hikers, a mile walk (or hitch) from the trail head and you can enjoy a delicious burger or breakfast mid section. They even let hikers sleep under their awning of an evening or on the floor of the cafe if it’s raining. It is super kind of them.
I enjoyed a ridiculously large but delicious spinach and cheese omelette. It was enough for 3 meals, with 2 slices of toast and a huge serve of hash browns. I managed to get through it all though, only 1 piece of toast remaining. The best thing about American style cafes (apart from the hiker sized portions) is the bottomless coffee. If you order a coffee the wait staff will come around and continuously top it up. For free!! It can be dangerous though. I think I had one too many refills and left the cafe feeling a little nervous and jittery.
A local trail angel was hanging around the cafe warning hikers about a few things, firstly a patch of bad weather that was due to come in, secondly, that the accommodation options in Idyllwild would be full and expensive Friday and Saturday night. While he was aiming to be helpful he just panicked me and made second guess my plan for the couple of days ahead. I was aiming to get into Idyllwild on either Friday night or Saturday day, I knew there was rain coming so the timing worked out well. Finding out that I wouldn’t be able to find accommodation once I arrived made me feel stressed. He was warning people that even the campground would be full!
After chatting to a few people who were also planning to continue on the trail I decided to continue on anyway. If worse came to worse I wouldn’t be on the trail on my own and there are many side trails coming up that will give me options to get off the PCT and into town should I need to get out early.
Just as I was about to leave I spotted Jeff walking into the cafe. He was a little behind me yesterday and as it turned out camped a couple of miles south of where I camped. We chatted for a bit, he would be trying to get into Idyllwild to get more food before getting back out on the trail. Sadly it is unlikely that I will see him in the next couple of days but if I spend a day in Idyllwild he may catch back up to me. Graham was long gone. I had seen him heading back out on trail as I was coming into the cafe. He was planning to do another 12 miles that afternoon so I doubt I will see him for a few days.
I luckily nabbed a lift back to the trail head to save me walking an extra mile and as I got out of the car I saw Sarah at the trail head waiting to get in. She was also thinking about heading into Idyllwild that day. I wished her luck and farewelled her.
As I headed back out on trail I could feel the vegetation change almost immediately. It was strange having only crossed over a highway but the change was definite. Big boulders lines the trail and were scattered around the forest, pine trees started springing up here and there and before I knew it I was walking through pleasant little sections of pine forest.
In the distance were the mountains I am heading towards over the next couple of days, their peaks disappearing in the clouds.
Having left the cafe mid-afternoon the sun was in its prime. I seem to be developing a bad timing with the sun. I walked for a couple of hours before having a break from the heat. I used the time to do a little planning for the next couple of days and to dry out the fly of the tent. I leapfrogged with a couple of other hikers I’d met that afternoon, each taking turns to hide from the heat of the day.
Having spent a good couple of hours at the cafe I didn’t have too much hiking time left in the day. I walked another 7-8 miles before deciding to camp at Live Oak Spring.
The water is limited on this section of trail and all available water sources are off trail. The one I had chosen was a mile down hill off trail. My thought behind it being that I could also camp near the spring so I didn’t have to dry camp and therefore need to carry too much water. The alternative source was apparently half that distance but not as god quality with no opportunity for camping. I am sure I will regret the decision on the hike back uphill tomorrow morning but for now I am protected in the valley under some large oaks should that bad weather actually come in.
As I was setting up the tent and moving through my evening rituals I could hear a woodpecker pecking on a tree near by. I saw a squirrel running along the brances of the oak tree and even saw a couple of humming birds hovering overhead. For my second night camping alone in as many days, it was a nice spot to be in.
Friday 10 May 2019
Location: Live Oak Spring (Mile 158.4) to Mile 175.4
Distance travelled: 17 miles / 27 km
The plus side of having camped a mile off trail down in a valley was waking to a bone dry tent, I was down low enough to be out of the clouds. It was nice to be able to pack away a dry tent, saving my poor hands from frostbite for just one morning. The negative side to being camped off trail was the mile walk uphill to get back to the trail.
As I climbed back to the elevation of the trail my views became more and more obscured. I was hiking up into the clouds. My views would remain the same for most of the day. I could see little more than 10 or 15 metres in front of me at a time and it rained on and off throughout the morning.
This section of the trail was only recently re-opened after a large forest fore a couple of years back. It was eerie walking through the charred black and white remains of the trees with the cloud hanging low. To make it even more creepy I barely spotted any other hikers all day. Normally you are constantly running into people along the trail but this morning it felt like everyone was either sleeping in due to the bad weather or had decided to get off the trail.
Just before lunch I had to make another deviation from the trail to collect more water. It was about a mile each way. I was happier walking the extra distance than hauling more water with me from the morning. The side trail turned out to be quite nice, it lead me to a small stream where I sat and had a cooked lunch while I filtered my water. I figured eating my dinner for lunch would save me carrying too much extra water and would mean a quick dinner at the end of a long day.
Once I rejoined the PCT the sun was beginning to break through the cloud. I got glimpses of views as I walked. The cloud danced around the mountains as the air pressure changed into the afternoon.
At around 2 the sun finally broke through the clouds and I was greeted with magnificent views. Having climbed for the best part of 2 days through cloud I didn’t realise how high in elevation I had climbed. It felt so good to be up in the mountains once again.
The desert was starting to feel a little repetitive over the last 2 days, so it was such a beautiful and welcome change.
I had been checking my phone on and off for reception, hoping to make a call to Idyllwild to see if there was any accommodation available. I had taken a break 5 miles from my goal campsite for the night. With incredible views over the city below, I surprisingly had a signal. I called a hotel in town which had availability but was a tad expensive for me but it at least gave me the comfort that there would be availability in the campground if the hotels weren’t all booked out yet.
I was surprised to also have internet reception. I checked the time in Sydney, almost 9am on Saturday, it was perfect timing. I gave Adam a call. I wasn’t on the phone for long before it cut out. Just as Adam was dialling back Jeffery came walking along the trail. It was poor timing, Adam was heading out to his barber appointment so I would have to wait to speak to him from Idyllwild.
I was surprised to see Jeff again. It turned out that he didn’t go into town for a resupply but bought a few things of another hiker who had over packed and headed back out on trail yesterday afternoon. It was good to see him. It’s nice to have someone to hike with and face challenges with. It can feel a little daunting on your own, up in the mountains with supposedly bad weather due to come in at any time.
The hiking for the rest of the afternoon was steep but absolutely stunning. I felt like I was in Yosemite with large white boulders and dramatic cliff lines and towering pine trees over head. It felt like I was finally seeing the views that I had jumped on the PCT to see.
There was a lot of climbing for the remainder of the afternoon. By 6.50pm we were 1 mile from the campsite I wanted to make it to. It would be dark soon so we decided to call it and stay put. The campsite we chose was busy and quite exposed to the elements but Jeff really didn’t want to walk any further and I didn’t feel like walking into the dark.
I was tired and couldn’t be bothered cooking so I ate wraps with peanut butter for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed some peanut butter cup trail mix for desert. After a long day I am sure I will sleep well tonight.
Tuesday 7 May 2019
Location: Warner Springs (Mile 109.5) to Mile 122.7
Distance travelled: 13.2 miles / 21 km
I’d initially had intentions of getting up and away early today so I could walk enough miles to camp near a water source but after the TP ran out in the bathrooms last night I had to use my hiking TP and took it as a sign. I should have a lazy morning, wait until the resource centre opens, buy some more TP, have a coffee and recharge my phone. Once I had made that decision I felt much more relaxed.
So that was my morning. I had a second breakfast of a cinnamon pop tart and coffee while I was waiting for my phone to charge and didn’t end up walking out of the resource centre until after 10am. Graham had finished what he needed to do at the post office so we hiked out together. Jeffery was still doing a couple of things at the resource centre so we told him. We would catch up with him later in the day.
The weather was a mixed bag, it was freezing cold, cloudy and windy until we made the decision to start hiking. Upon which the sun came out for the 5 or so mile hike across the valley floor to the foothills of the mountains.
After 5 miles we stopped for lunch by a pretty stream and filled up on water. We were joined by Sarah, another hiker we had been running into over the last week. I have a sneaking suspicion she could be slowing merging into our trail family. It would be nice to have a girl to hike with for a while. Just as we were getting the last of the water we would need for the afternoon Jeffrey joined us at the lunch spot and all little group was reunited again.
All stocked up with water like camels we began our climb. I donned my brand new sun runner hat, beige in colour and complete with neck flap and side of face flaps. I looked around at the group, ready to leave and they all looked at me, “what are you preparing for? Desert storm?” and so the first suggestion of a trail name was thrown my way. Let’s see if it sticks.
We would be gaining around 2,000 feet in elevation during the day but the switch backs made the climbing gradual gentle. The weather changed as we began our climb, the sun disappeared behind clouds and all of my views were obscured. I was happy to have found the connector for my ear phones during my time in Warner Springs and listened to an audio book for the afternoon. With no views to look at while I climbed and with a heavy pack filled with water for the night of dry camping ahead, I was happy for the distraction.
We had a short day after the late start and after 13 miles found a camp big enough for all 4 of us to fit into. We enjoyed a good chat over dinner before calling it an evening to retreat into our tents and sleeping bags and escape the cold.
Wednesday 8 May 2019
Location: Mile 122.7 to Mile 142.9
Distance travelled: 20.2 miles / 33 km
After having fallen asleep in cloud I woke up in cloud to a cold morning and a dripping wet tent. I had camped under some trees thinking it would protect me a little but instead they gathered moisture and dripped it all over the tent. Lesson learned. It was a bitterly cold morning so I packed down fast, keen to get moving so I could defrost my hands and start to warm up.
It was so cold that I hiked the first hour of the morning uphill in my puffy and rain jacket. I was walking in cloud for the first 4 miles. Mikes place was the first stop of the day, just as I approached the turn off the sun was starting to burn through the thick morning mist.
Mikes place is a slightly strange institution among PCT hikers. They offer water from their water tanks after a long 17 mile or so dry stretch of hiking, the also offer at their house, camping, pizza and food by donation. We were keen not to get stuck there of an evening having heard it can be a party house but thought there couldn’t be much harm in dropping by in the morning.
Graham had already arrived by the time I walked in. It looked like the place was recovering from a big night the previous evening. Apparently they had 30 hikers stay over. Scott who is running the place said they ate enough pizza for about 50 hikers. No surprises there though. We weren’t planning on staying long, just enough time to wait for Sarah and Jeff to catch up, charge our phones and fill up water.
Scott however was starting to cook a huge omelette feast and eventually we all caved in, one by one until we were all eating. We had all said that we should eat the food in our packs rather than spending money but the smell was too delicious to resist.
By the time we had filled up water and were back on the trail it was almost 11am. We had an 18 mile stretch ahead of us to make it to the next water source. It was the goal of the afternoon but I wasn’t sure how I was going to go with that distance in the heat after such a late start.
The heat got hotter as the afternoon wore on and with the realisation that I probably wouldn’t make the 18 miles I decided to conserve enough water to dry camp the night.
I had a few breaks along the way to take in the beautiful distant mountain views, conserve energy and water by resting in the shade. I saw a few new colours of cactus flowers and a new colour of lizard throughout the afternoon.
I also spotted my 4th snake of the trail but sadly it was also a little common snake, still no rattle snakes. At around 6.30pm I decided I would walk for another half hour before I looked for a camp site. I was climbing up over a hill and wanted to make sure I was out of the wind and in a protected spot for the evening.
I ended up in a sandy dry river bed just off the trail. It wasn’t marked as a camp spot but looked as if it had been previously used. The spot is quite close to a couple of roads. Being my first night camping on my own since starting the trail I was feeling a bit nervous but convinced myself that really it isn’t any different to camping with a group.
After a long on the trail and a long afternoon in the sun I got into bed quickly, keen to rest up for another big day ahead tomorrow. My feet are tired after such a long day and I annoyingly have a couple of blisters developing on my big toes. I’m sure I will sleep well tonight.