Sorry for the delay, but I was reunited with trail family in Big Bear City, where I was supposed to type this post up.
As I hiked into Warner Springs under threat of rain, I also left with storms expected. I hiked three miles through a cattle field and began to climb to 6000′. Up on the ridgeline, it was cooler than the desert, a great break from the heat, and I could finally walk under the California pines I hadn’t seen since Mt Laguna. While hiking the ridgeline, the trail dipped a few hundred feet and took me around a bend. All vegetation ceased, and instead the landscape was filled with large white boulders standing on end. No wildlife, no noise. It was a bit creepy, and I half expected to see a Pterodactyl fly by.
I was unaware of a trail angel named Mike who let’s hikers camp on his lawn and cooks dinner, free of charge. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a free meal, so I hiked off trail to his small ranch. I wonder if his last name is Perdue, because that night he grilled 40lbs of chicken, and no leftovers are allowed. He said during hiker season he goes through 400lbs a week.
The next day I made it to the Paradise Cafe, a popular hiker spot that offers huge sandwiches and burgers and a place for hikers to charge electronics and get water. I made a pit stop to charge my camera and phone, had a giant sized sandwich, and hiked out towards the fire detour. The PCT has a 13 mile detour due to a forest fire from 2015, and much of it was a road walk. A side trail from the road took me back to the PCT, but it was hard to find. I saw the back of a hiker in the brush, and I jumped down off the road to join him/her. I lost the hiker and couldn’t see the trail, and after a few moments of pushing through brush, I found the hiker. Or so I thought. It was a bear. And I was standing 4 feet from it. I saw the trail further to the right and tip toed over to the side trail. I don’t think the bear ever saw me.
I finished my fire detour when I hiked into Idyllwild, a posh ski town that looks far too nice for hikers, but the community loves hikers, and nearly every person stopped me on the street and asked how the trip was going. (Hey Connecticut, take notes). I hiked to San Jacinto, a nearly 11,000 foot mountain formed of granite slab. The PCT does not go over the summit, but I couldn’t wait for the Sierras to bag my first 10,000′ peak so I took the 6 mile trip past the PCT. The climb was great, until 9500′ when the air started to feel a little thin. Short gains and frequent breaks from there to the summit. It was worth the effort, because from the view was amazing, and it was a 9700′ drop to the desert floor. Leaving the summit, I chose to hike down the north side of the mountain, where, as I found out, was capped in several feet of hardened snow and ice. The trail was virtually non-existent. I only made it to 9000′ before dark, so the following day, I had to find my way back to the PCT following mountain streams and a few cairns.
The other problem faced, the north side of the mountain had incredibly strong winds, frequently with 60+ mph gusts. And it was relentless all the way back down to the desert floor. Oh, the heat and sun were back. As I tried to hike through miles of beach sand that was the now dried Cabazon River, I came across a trail angel, Deb, passing out fruit. And a mile after her, under a highway under pass, was Momma Bear and Wendell, two trail angels who were busy cooking hot dogs and a buffet of snacks and drinks. Maybe I could stand the heat for all this trail magic.
I left Momma Bear’s and continued to push towards the Whitewater Preserve, and old trout farm located at the bottom of a canyon. The trail went from highland fields down into a river rock bottom with an icy stream gushing. A perfect sight after a 22 mile water carry. I stayed at the preserve for the night along with 15 other hikers. I woke up to the smell of pancakes and coffee. Legend, a PCT legend, stopped by to cook up breakfast. I received trail magic three times in 24 hours. I couldn’t believe it.
The climb out of the canyon was brutal, leaving water and wind behind for the stagnant hot air. It was like this for the next few days, and it really started to affect my mood, my energy, my appetite, my desire to hike one more mile. Sand constantly in my shoes, causing blisters, in my underwear causing chaffing. I had “the worst day ever” for three straight days. I was struggling to get my mindset corrected. Sometimes things find a way to correct themselves. I came to a water source defeated, and left feeling better. I ended up hiking two of my biggest days, both 19.7s. Big Bear City was my next stop, and I was looking forward to a day off to heal mentally and physically.
Mile 265 and counting,
Gratitude: smell of desert air after rain