Day 12: Idyllwild
Took my first full zero-day (a day where you hike zero miles). Don’t be fooled though. Still a ton to do. First on the agenda was getting some sungloves at the outfitter. Fortunately they had exactly the pair I was after. Next was to take a look at the fire closure and figure out how to get back on the trail. Looks like my best bet is to do a short road walk, then take a 3.3mi side trail to the PCT.
(More fashionable homeless attire)
I’m trying to plan on a macro (not micro) level. In other words, be prepared or have a loose plan. Best guess, shoot for Big Bear Lake mid-next week. Hit my bounce box, grab a shower, etc.
Day 13: Idyllwild to Tent Site
Today was way harder than expected. The 3.3mi Deer Springs side trail was a pretty gnarly ascent up San Jacinto. The peak is nearly 11,000ft. By tomorrow morning I’ll be back down to nearly 1,000ft. There was snow on part of the trail and I froze eating lunch. I’m sure tomorrow when I’m back on the desert floor it will be roasty toasty. Crazy out here!
Day 14: Tent Site to Interstate 10
So about that whole “experiences” thing. I had some of those today. Prior to those, I finished my descent from 11,000ft to 1,000ft. Along the way was experience #1.
I had just been thinking the whole hike down, “Why haven’t I seen more rattlesnakes?” Boo-hoo. Poor 2%. Well, lucky me. Found one! Even more lucky, I could hear it over my Rosetta (band) blasting in my earbuds.
What I’ve ways done in the past when hearing the rattle is instantly freeze, look, then back away. Then I wait for the rattle to stop. Eventually the snake slithers away, and I walk on by. You know, the “correct” thing to do.
So I tried that whole “correct” thing. This snake was not budging. Look danger noodle (thanks for the synonym Noah), I needed to get to Canada, and I didn’t have all day for you to calm down. So… I had to walk by as it was shaking and coiled. Honestly, I’ve never walked by a coiled snake. Shew.
Next unplanned experience involves some unique trail magic. I cross under Interstate 10, and happen upon about a dozen hikers (largest group yet). I knew none of them. Zero. Through conversation I find out I hiked into another “bubble” of hikers who started a few days before me. It’s pretty surprising since I’ve been going slow.
Back to the experience aspect…
A guy, “Masshole” who did the AT in 2012 (like me) drove down from Oregon to do trail magic. We knew some of the same AT hikers which was cool. What was cooler was him letting us take his van (and home…seriously, his HOME) to a Burger King to get milkshakes. I never expected to get carsick thru-hiking!
The best trail magic wasn’t the pizza, fruit, or Dr. Pepper. It was leukotape. This tape sticks better than moleskin, duct tape, or any bandaid. It’s great for blisters. Which, as luck would have it, my left foot has a few. I’m not sure what’s up. I’m a big believer in not popping them (they get infected). However, these bad boys just keep growing and growing. So, I drained, and taped them. I hope this isn’t the start of something… feet are the foundation.
So, not to many miles, but many unplanned experiences.
Day 15: Interstate 10 to Mission Creek
Two dangers today. 1) aggressive dogs. Yeah. You read that right. The PCTA has postings everywhere about pitbulls taking down cows in a stretch I hiked today. 2) windfarms. Yes. Windfarms. “Flying debris hazard”. They do make a distinctive howl. I heard some burned out locals talk about ultrasonic sounds causing health issues. Classic.
(My aggressive trekking poles have also been sighted in the area.)
(So many warnings. Jeez.)
I also hit up Whitewater Preserve Park for a long lunch. There was easily a dozen thru-hikers at the park. Picnic tables, toilets, and water you don’t need to filter…that brings herds of hikers in like cattle.
Unfortunately it put me in a bubble of hikers at the next water/camping source. I don’t mind meeting them all. But when a large crowd camps together, they are always crazy loud. I’m such a grandpa. Get off my lawn!!!
Day 16: Mission Creek to some terrible “campsite”
Never pitch a tent on a burnt campsite. Tomorrow needs to happen. Good night.
Day 17: Campsite Burny McFire Soot to Big Bear Lake
Let’s do a two day recap. Because Day 16 was ridiculous. I spent all day (yes, every single minute) hiking uphill out of a canyon. Once out, I still continued hiking uphill into a burn-zone. Thing is, it’s closed to everyone except PCT thru-hikers. Only us special folk get to see burnt trees and risk falling debris. So lucky!
It gets worse.
So, there was a high-wind advisory (80mph gusts) while I’m on a 2 foot wide trail on the side of a steep mountain. Awesome.
It gets worse.
A disheveled fellow was telling me something about his “weather contraption” must not be working because it’s forecasting snow. I’m thinking, “Yep. You dumb.”
I gets worse.
I was feeling decent and decided to put in a few extra miles. I’m dumb.
I got myself into a stretch of trail that was all scorched earth. Soot.
It gets worse.
Old Man Weather Contraption was right. It was cooling down fast. Sooooooo… I had to pitch my tent asap (it was going to be dark soon and was already in the 40s).
It gets worse.
It was to pitch my tent in 80mph gust in the 40s in a pile of soot. It looked like I was fighting a charbroiled pterodactyl. I lost. The entire night soot kept blowing through my mesh tent until my rainfly. My tent stakes didn’t hold in the soft ash, so my rainfly kept flapping all night. When I woke up, it was 19F inside my tent.
(19F. In my tent. Gross.)
Fortunately I had enough sense to sleep with my water filter and bladder in my sleeping back so they wouldn’t bust. My other two bottles were frozen solid. So yeah, that’s why Day 16 was a short entry. The pterodactyl drained me.
Today was a pretty big day. I almost stayed in my 19F tent until lunch and was going to shoot for Big Bear Lake a day later. Instead I decided to do ~25 miles straight to town a day early. I’m going to spend most of a day just cleaning soot off everything. Then I’ll spend another day doing the usual bounce box, shopping, phone calls, etc.
I stopped counting miles, next I think I’m going to stop counting the days. Days between towns blur together as one chapter anyways.
Side note. Look what was in the desert…
(Sat on that bad boy. #scabies)