Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 14 - Trail to Big Bear

Wednesday, April 29

Last night it was cold. Fortunately there was no wind. My water bottle didn't freeze, but I am sure it was near freezing.

The moonlight last night was amazing. I could have hiked by the light of the moon.

I was on the trail by 5:45. It was the perfect trail for high miles. By that I mean it was mostly flat or down hill.

This area has quite a number of Western Junipers. Their bark is very unusual.

At about 10 AM I passed the Predators in Action cages containing grizzly bears, lions, wolves, and other large predators. The company raises and trains the exotic animals to perform on film and television. I thought it was rather sad to see them caged like that.

Also, I realized that I had covered 11 miles already, and it might be possible to make it to Big Bear today, rather than tomorrow.

At one trail junction I saw a sign inviting hikers to a trail angel's house called "Mama and Papa Smirfs".

By noon I could see ahead to Big Bear, and knew it would be possible to get there today.

A short time later, I came down the trail and found "Rasputin"! He was the friend who invited me for beers in Idyllwild. I thought he was several days ahead, but had stayed in town a couple of days. I invited him to come to Big Bear, but he didn't need to resupply.

We made it to highway 18 by 3:30. I called "Mama Smirf", and she picked me up within ten minutes.

They offered me a shower, laundry, a great place to sleep in a huge outside tent, and are going to feed me dinner and breakfast.

It is so nice to be clean wearing clean clothes. This is what it looks like from where I am sleeping:

Tomorrow they offered to take me into town to do my resupply shopping.

I have now made it to mile 266. I hiked 24 miles today.

Day 13 - Back in the Pines

Tuesday, April 28

I had the best sleep last night. I think it was because it was a warm night. Plus, there was the sound of the Whitewater River.

I got on the trail at 6 this morning.

My problem today was a blister that developed on the bottom of my foot just below my second toe. I popped it last night, but it still hurt all day. I decided to change socks more frequently and wash the dirty socks at stream crossings.

I knew the hike today was going to be tough since the trail climbs back up into the mountains. The trail followed Mission Creek and crossed it multiple times. This was good in that there was a ready supply of water. But, with a blister hurting and a trail that kept going higher and higher, my pace was really slow. In addition it was warm with little wind.

This is a view of the mountains I would be climbing.

By midday, Casey caught up with me and headed up the trail. I stopped for dinner at 3:30 and filled up with water since the next source is 16 miles away.

I hiked until 6 PM. A 12 hour hiking day covering about 22 miles. I climbed over 4,600 feet today.

Here is my campsite:

My view as the sun sets:

Before going to bed I popped the blister again. I'll check it tomorrow morning, but it feels better already.

I am camped at 7,200 feet at mile 242.2. It's going to be cold tonight!

Day 12 - Windy Desert

Monday, April 27

Although it was a clear night, the wind picked up at 10 pm. There were very strong gusts, but fortunately I was protected by hearty trees. In addition, I was cowboy camping so there was no worry about my tent.

Since I am separated from our group, I decided to get up at 4:30 to try to catch up with them. I was on the trail at 5 using my headlamp to find the trail. Unfortunately I couldn't spot their campsite, so I thought they may have hiked further last night.

The sunrise was spectacular. I could see all of the lights from Palm Springs.

The trail drops steadily towards the desert floor. About half way down this is the view of Mt San Jacinto.

The trail led to a drinking fountain, one of the reliable sources of water. I was down to less than one liter of water, so I finished it off and then took 3 more.

The trail headed to the valley floor and it started to warm up. It was supposed to be in the mid-eighties today. This is the view of the valley and the mountains that I will climb later this afternoon.

The trail goes under Interstate highway 10. I decided to stop at a popular trail angel's house that is just off the trail. They are named 'Ziggy and the Bear". I signed in, got some fig bars, restocked my water, and headed up the trail.

This area is very windy, and there were many wind turbines on the hills.

The rest of the afternoon I climbed the trail into the mountains. There were more wind turbines on the hills that made odd noises as the blades turned.

On the way up I saw this cute heart just before a climb on the trail.

By dinner time I got my first glimpse of the Whitewater River.

In addition, I caught up with Casey! She too had become separated from the group and had not seen any of the others since yesterday. We stopped for water at the river.

I made mashed potatoes and noodles for dinner.

We decided to camp here tonight at mile 220.2. (Did you notice I passed 200 miles?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 11 - San Jacinto Mountain

Sunday, April 26

I'm back on the trail again!

We left our cabin just after 6 AM. Here is our group:

Left to right- Gi-Hod, Mr T, Unbreakable, No Trace, Casey, Bobaroo

Many hikers get a ride to the trail that leads back to the Pacific Crest Trail. We decided, however, to walk to the trailhead. That involved a 4 1/2 mile walk up the Ernie Maxwell trail which brought us to the parking lot for the Devils Slide trail.

The Devils Slide trail switch backs up the mountain for 2 1/2 miles joining the PCT. So, before we even got back to the PCT, we had hiked 7 miles, all uphill.

The upper part of Mt San Jacinto was covered in snow as a result of last night's storm.

As we hiked up the Devils Slide trail, we eventually ran into snow. At the top, the entire trail was snow covered.

Fortunately the trail was easy to follow as it climbed up the mountain. The views were spectacular and the trees were covered in ice.

By mid morning, Mr T was doing the navigation. We wanted to follow the PCT, but there was an alternate trail that was 1 1/2 miles longer but took you very near the top of Mt San Jacinto. Unfortunately we ended up on the alternate trail and didn't discover our mistake until we were several miles up the trail.

The rest of our group took the PCT, so we were split up as we hiked today.

By 11 AM we reached a trail junction at 9,700 feet where there were a crowd of tourists all taking pictures and hiking toward the summit. They had taken a tram from the valley.

We headed up the trail and found that the slushy snow was melting in the trail, causing us to slip and slide in the icy water. Our shoes and pant legs were soaked.

The trail rose up and up and up, finally topping out at 10,550 feet. There was a short side trail to the summit, but my legs were so tired that I couldn't do it. It made me cry.

The trail back down to the PCT was really slippery, made more so by the tons of ice that was cascading from all of the trees as it warmed in the sun.

We finally made it back to the PCT and then walked through icy trails across Fuller Ridge. The trail then descends rapidly. Tomorrow I will be in the desert again. This is a view of the desert from the trail:

I hurried as fast as I could to try to catch up with the group, but ran out of steam at 6 PM.

I am camped tonight at mile 194.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 10 - Back to Idyllwild

Saturday, April 25

It rained most of the night during our stay at Hurley Creek campground. Due to the humidity, my sleeping bag was damp on top but still kept me toasty warm.

When it is raining, the challenge is to pack up as much as possible while in the tent and then to pack up the wet tent and carry it on the outside of the pack. That way the wet tent doesn't soak other items in the pack.

Here is our campsite as we packed up.

From the campground, our plan was to walk some trails and back roads until we arrived in Idyllwild.

Since the forecast for today was a 100 percent chance of rain, we wanted to stay indoors again. Gi-Hod was going to hitchhike back to town, so he volunteered to try to reserve beds in the cabin where we stayed a couple days ago.

Our walk back proceeded smoothly, although the wet plants along the trail soaked our pant legs. The trail joined the May Valley road, which was a dirt road that meandered through some of the burn areas that are closed. Occasionally the sky would clear just long enough to see Mt. San Jacinto, the mountain that we will be hiking on tomorrow.

We gained over 2,000 feet but arrived in Idyllwild before noon.

Gi-hod was successful in reserving beds for all of us. It was like coming home.

I set up my tent to dry outside and hung my sleeping bag inside to dry it off. Unfortunately it began to rain, so it brought my tent inside to dry by the heater.

At noon we all headed to the Red Kettle for lunch. By now it was really raining hard, and there is a high wind warning for the mountains. Everyone is so thankful that we are able to sleep inside tonight and had decided NOT to hike further today. The cabin is surrounded by puddles and rain is pounding on the roof.

Tonight we are having root beer floats. Everyone is checking their gear and getting ready.

Early tomorrow morning we head out back to the trail. Hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us now.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 9 - Fury of the Storm

Friday, April 24

The last time we were on the trail was at highway 74 near the Paradise Cafe. We had gone to Idyllwild due to an approaching storm. We had hoped that today would bring better weather and we could continue our hike.

Unfortunately, the forecast for today was not good with rain likely. Our plan was to get to highway 74 and continue hiking northward.

Most hikers skip this part of the trail because the PCT is closed 10 miles north of highway 74 due to a fire several years ago.

There is, however, an alternate trail which adds 20 miles, but allows through hikers a way to continue on foot without walking the road to Idyllwild.

After a great breakfast at the Red Kettle, Casey's dad drove us to the trail. We were packed like sardines but made it OK.

It was drizzling at the start so we all donned our rain jackets.

As we gained elevation, the wind began to pick up.

By the time we neared the top, the wind was roaring. As the trail crossed several ridges it was difficult to stand upright. We could only see 100 yards ahead due to the blowing fog. By 1:30 We reached the highest point at 6,700 feet.

We quickly headed down, seeking shelter from the bitter cold wind.

We finally reached highway 74 by 4:30 and walked for another two hours to the local campground.

We walked over 20 miles today, even with a late start. We are not sure what to do tomorrow as it is supposed to be even worse weather than today and the trail we need to follow rises to 9,000 feet.

We laughed when we saw this sign on the way down;

I'm in my tent tonight as I listen to the pitter-patter of rain drops. I hope the weather improves or else we might have to take another zero day. Such is life on the trail.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 8 - What we do on our day off

Thursday, April 23

A week ago I started my hike. It's amazing that I have already covered 150 miles.

Tomorrow we leave at 8 and will be walking an alternate route on the trail due to a trail closure. It will add an extra day to my hike.

This morning everyone in our cabin walked to town and had breakfast at the Red Kettle restaurant. Everyone uses their trail names and I met several other through hikers.

We all then walked around town but soon realized that most stores did not open until mid-morning.

Back at the cabin. "G'had" wanted to have everyone review the contents of his pack. He ended up sending about 5 pounds of gear back home.

He had also bought some special socks with toes, because he had been suffering from blisters between his toes. Unfortunately his shoes were too tight, so he headed out to buy new shoes.

Others in our group bought resupplies and spent time going through their gear. I got out my tent and repaired my guy line that broke in the wind.

G'had also bought a tarp and I helped him get it set up.

I walked to the store with Unbroken and bought food for a spaghetti dinner tonight. I cooked Italian sausage and helped make a fresh salad. I bought Sangria which went well with the dinner.

I still can't believe how wonderful it has been here in Idyllwild. I have come to really enjoy the people and look forward to getting on the trail again.

One more look at our beautiful cabin:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 7 - Resting in Idyllwild

Wednesday, April 22

If you have been following this blog, I mentioned yesterday that last night was "interesting".

Our group had decided to try to hike to the Paradise Cafe last night, but we ran out of energy and time. We camped on a ridge about 3 miles from the cafe.

Since there was a chance of rain, everyone set up their tents. I put rocks on my tent guy lines because there was a strong breeze due to the incoming storm.

The tent was noisy all night as the wind gusts hit it. Needless to say, it was difficult to get much sleep with all the noise.

Around 2 AM, the wind shifted direction and started blowing directly into the entrance of my tent. It was really chilly, so I buried deeper into my sleeping bag and pulled it over my head.

The gusts kept getting stronger and at 4 AM the front guy line snapped letting the tent collapse onto me. Now it was pitch dark and I had a flapping tent on me!

I spent the next hour getting out my spare line, splicing the guy line and re-pitching the tent. This is my campsite the next morning :

Our group broke camp at 6:30 and headed to the Paradise Cafe, which opened at 8. We got there early and had to wait. A number of other hikers showed up too.

We all had a wonderful breakfast and then found out that Casey, a young lady in our group, was having her father pick her up and offered all of us a ride into Idyllwild. We all crammed into the vehicle and were soon in town. "No Trace" and "Unbreakable" rode in back the whole way.

Once in Idyllwild, the problem was finding a place to stay. Everyone wanted a room, and most places had "no vacancy". One of the guys in the group, "T", found a cabin that sleeps 8! And to make it even better, we got a hiker discount: two nights for $60! This is the place where we're staying:

We get free laundry, showers, wifi, and I have a comfy double bed.

I am amazed at how great everything's turning out.

I walked into town and completed my resupply for the next 5 or 6 days. On the way back, Rasputin waved me over to the local bar and bought me a beer. I ended up staying for another hour as we talked and listened to music. It was wonderful!

On the way back, I passed this statue in town:

Tonight a storm is coming in, bringing rain or mixed rain and snow. We plan to stay another day tomorrow and return to the trail on Saturday when the weather is expected to improve.

When hikers only hike a few miles, we call it a "Nero" - near zero miles for the day. When we don't hike any miles, we call it a "Zero". I'm taking a Nero and a Zero.

It feels good to be clean, dry, and able to rest my feet and sleep in a soft bed. My laundry and resupply purchases are done. Tomorrow we all plan to meet for breakfast at the Red Kettle.

Idyllwild is a great place to rest. I love it!

I'm currently at mile 151.7.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 6 - Desert Fog

Tuesday, April 21

I awoke this morning to find my sleeping bag covered in dew. In addition I noticed that it was foggy. I was about 1/2 hour late waking up, so I didn't hit the trail until 6:30.

This is all I could see as I walked the trail.

My destination was the next reliable source of water, a tank about 7 miles away. With a brisk wind and blowing fog, I had to wear my fleece to stay warm. I got to the water tank at 8:30 and took 4 liters. That made for a heavy pack.

As I was leaving, the fog began to clear. It was a beautiful sight.

With the sun shining, I stopped to dry out my sleeping bag and have breakfast- cold mashed potatoes with ramen noodles. It was yummy!

My plan today was to get as close as possible to the Paradise Cafe where I plan to eat tomorrow and then hitch a ride into Idyllwild.

Katherine and her friend Jillian passed me on the trail. We have been "leap-frogging" quite often, and they let me take their picture.

Around noon I caught up with Rasputin and he has decided to stay a day or two in Idyllwild. He might be willing to share a room with me. I took his picture, but he asked that it not be posted on social media.

I caught up with "No Trace" and his wife "Unbreakable". They have hiked the trail before and are doing it again. By the end of the day, I began hiking with them since they keep a good pace and are about the same age as me. This is a picture of them coming up the trail.

As I walked today, I took some pictures of the flowers.

A storm is coming in tonight, and the wind is really picking up. We hiked as far as we could until it started getting dark. I'm in my tent in all my jackets and it is still cold.

I'm camped tonight at mile 149.7.