Thursday Apr 13 — day 18

PCT mile 239.95 to 259.37
It was a cold night but my sleeping bag kept me warm.  Today will be more up and down ridge crossing as I make my way North towards Big Bear.  The whole day will be in pine forests and high desert scrub and oaks, so lots of shade.  

I saw PCT hiker Eric today but we were off sync on breaks so once again hiked alone all day.  I expect I’ll see him and others in Big Bear.

I got a great view of Mt San Gorgonio

And also got a view of the next mountain range I’m headed to near Wrightwood.  Note the cloud layer over the inland empire.

I have to deal with snow again, but now it’s only intermittent icy drifts with deeper footprints making traversing much easier than on Fuller Ridge.

You are not going to believe me but I saw Lions and Tigers and Bears (Oh My!) — a guy who lives up here keeps these animals for use in Hollywood productions.  They looked rather sad and terribly bored to me. The lion was too far away to photograph but he was there!

Up over another ridge and I saw the outskirts of Big Bear!

A few miles on and I ran into another Trail Magic spot- sodas, bananas, cookies and a sofa!  Too good to pass up!

I hiked to a nice, breezy ridge just 6 miles from a highway that leads to Big Bear.  The sun is still up but it is so cold my finger are freezing (and my gloves will not let me peck out the chacters on my cell phone).  I climbed into my sleeping bag while wearing my down jacket and fell asleep before sunset.  It was so cold over night that I sinched the sleeping bag hood over my head leaving only a tiny hole for me to breathe through.  My water bottle partially froze.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday Apr 12 — day 17

PCT mile 225.94 to 239.95

Today will be a tough day – I’ll be hiking uphill for 15 miles out of the desert of elevation 3,100 feet to the forest at an elevation of 7,900 feet…  but I have water along the whole way, 

The trail follows Mission Creek to it source spring. 

 Along the way the creek is sometimes running exposed over rocks and sage and other times under canopies of Cottonwood Trees.

It turned out to be a hot day so lots of water/shade breaks and breaking out the sun-brella!  

I saw this fierce looking Alligator Lizard at one such water/shade break.  I was surprised how close I could get to him.

The “Lake Fire” of 2015 hit this area pretty hard and forced the closure of the trail in this area last year.  Happily the Foredstry Dept (I think) have cut or removed many of the downed trees and restored the trail where it was eroded.

I saw another great view of Mt. San Jacinto where I was just days ago.

Ok, here’s the colors of the day – first, a nice mix of stream moss and willow roots

And some flowers and cattails 

I arrived at the Mission Creek Spring Campground and found the spring delivering copious amounts of clear, cold water.  This is where I camped tonight.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday apr 11 — day 16

PCT mile 205.74 to 225.94

I cast a long shadow in the morning sun.

Friend and snake expert Greg Watson viewed the snake dancing video I posted on Facebook yesterday’s and suggested the wrestling Rattlesnakes were likely both male and fighting for dominance. That seems logical because it did seem one was trying to push down the other. If so the that means there was likely a third, female rattler that I did not see. Yikes.

Greg also identified the first, pale-ish rattler as a Speckled Rattlesnake and the battling males as Red Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Thanks Greg!
Also, I forgot to mention that my frozen shoes thawed and dried quickly once hiking.
When my pack is too heavy it hurts my hips. I think i an carrying too much food. I did not take a day to climb San Jacinto and will not be taking another day to climb San Gorgonio. Also, I’m not eating the portions I have provided. So this morning I sorted all the food into two piles- keeping and getting rid of. It was surprisingly hard because the food has value and I kept trying to convince myself I may eat it: things like Kind Bars, oatmeal, hot Cocoa and freeze dried dinners. I cut about 1/3 of the food and could have done more I think.  
Today’s hike is down the alluvial fan of the San Jacinto Mountains an up the alluvial fan and river valleys of the San Gorgonio Mountains.  Here’s a shot looking back at San Jacinto.

My first stop today will be the Trail Angel Station under I-10 about 5 miles from Cabezon. I’ll bet you did not know it was there! I didn’t until recently. Thankfully it was there, and while it lacks the ambiance of the Walden site a few days ago ( due to all the cars and semis passing overhead), it did have a sign-in board, food donation bucket, plus water and snacks! I drank a cup of RC Cola and snacked on goldfish and cookies as I signed in and donated my extra food to the bucket.

Sitting under this freeway I started recollecting the times past when I was driving/riding on it to destinations like Joshua Tree, The Salton Sea, Palm Springs, etc, and then recalled on the drive back sometimes stopping in at Hadley’s for date shakes. I would love a date shake now. I wonder if those giant dinosaurs are still there? 
I saw a lot of interesting patterns walking through the desert- here is my attempt to go artsy on you.

The canyons I am walking towards are covered in yellow blooming ceanothus.

I came across this beautiful Common Kingsnake as I walked up towards them. He/she let out a foul odor, so I refrained from picking it up, but these are docile snakes.

A bit on I came across another Speckled Rattler, but he took off before I could snap a photo. Soon after I came across this beauty: a Rosy Boa, another friendly snake that I did hold for a bit. It’s been another great day for snake sightings!

I hiked close to a windmill farm that had a PCT water and shade station (nice!) and then climbed over a pass into a beautiful meadow area.

I climbed over meandering ridges and then dropped down to the Whitewater River – named for the stone around it, not for its rafting potential, I think.

And here are some of the flowers I saw today 

I hiked over one more ridge that meandered for miles and finally dropped me down to Mission Creek.  I took a wonderful but chilly bath and dried off on a giant stream polished slab of granite.

I slep cowboy style again (no tent).  Great night but that moon really is too bright.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 10 — day 15

PCT mile 190.50 to 205.74

It was a chilly night but I was warm and slept great.  My water bottle had ice in it and my soggy shoes were frozen stiff.  I dreaded putting my feet in them, but I have no choice.  I tr after myself to hot cocoa and 2 pop tarts for breakfast.

Today I hike out the mountains and back into the desert.  It is a 15 mile, 7,000 foot decent – here’s the hike profile and I’m doing the part on the right

Here’s where I’m heading

I start hiking from a pine forest that transitions to oak and manzanita, then to cactus and scrub.  The flowers are blooming

Sorry that some of those are upside down.  I’m not able to figure out how to flip them.

Along the way was another big milestone 

Yay!  My big consent today is water. I’ll camp down next to a spigot, and I have some with me but would prefer more.  I’m hoping streams will be running since it is early season.  At first I did not find a stream, only a puddle and I was worried this would be all I get.

Luckily I found a trickle of a stream In another mile.  As I continued down I suddenly heard a loud rattle -/ yep, my first rattlesnake.  He was coiled on the trail ready to strike and I stopped just in time.  Here he is leaving.  So exciting.

A few miles later and I run into 2 more, uh, amorous rattlers

These two were so interested in making little rattlesnakes that I had to rock-hop off trail to get around them.

I finally made it down to my camping spot with this as my view- Mt San Jacinto.

Night has fallen as I type this from my sleping bag ( no tent).  There are some bugs attracted by the phone’s display light but surprisingly I also have to shoo away bats!

Too wild!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 9 — day 14

4.25 miles to get back on the PCT then PCT mile 179.39 to 190.50

Last night after I posted Saturday’s blog, I went to the local Pizza joint for dinner – several other PCTers had the same idea and so we filled a large table.

from left me, Porter, Handel, Grundle, Abi, Mark and Conrad.  That’s the same Abi from the Julian hitchhiking adventure! She now has a trail name, and that is a great story… She hiked a few miles out of Warner Springs and set up camp. From her tent she kept hearing animal noises and was getting spooked. Happily, along came Hanzel and Grundle. Abi filled them in on the noises so they set up camp uphill from Abi telling her that she will be the sacrificial one just in case it is a mountain lion! They joked that she was the bait like the goat in “Jurassic Park” — the one for the T-Rex… That goat’s name? Earl.  And now Abi is “Earl”.

Sunday morning I caught a ride to the Humber Park Trailhead to hike up the Devil’s Slide Trail and return to the open part of the PCT. This trail, I believe was my first backpacking trip in Boy Scouts. I was 11. I remember everything hurting. I remember whining, crying and lots of self pity. I think my scout friend Glenn was equally distressed. I remember reaching “The Saddle” and decided that I would survive this backpacking thing. 

Now as I hike it again it seems a pretty nice trail. I find the first snow:

I reach “The Saddle” without tears, but I’m pretty sure I recognized some of the rocks I sat on bawling some 37 years ago.

My mission today is to assess whether Mt San Jacinto is peakable, if so, I’ll hike it and camp nearby. If not, I’ll try to get past the infamous “Fuller Ridge”, and failing that, return to Idyllwild and take a non-snow route.  I head out towards Fuller Ridge and have great views

I did not see any other PCT hikers but did run into a lot of weekenders and day hikers that all failed to get to the peak because of the snow.  I guess that means no peak for me, too bad, I was really hoping to bag it and San Gorgonio.

I started hiking on the Fuller Ridge Trail at 2pm.  The trail is a 5 mile ridge top traverse starting at 9,000 feet and dropping to 8,000.  The trail is known for its steep sides and for snow accumulation.  The snow right now is hard crusted, but has some footprints that provide both a direction and a foothold.  I wear microspikes attached to my shoes to get better traction on those footholds

Luckily it is not windy And the trail starts off not too bad

But it does get steeper.  About halfway through I met a couple of guys trying the hike without any spikes or crampons.  The said they were sliding a lot and bumping int trees.  Yikes. 

The ranger had warned me that nothing less than snow boots, full crampons and ice axe should be used on Fuller Ridge.  I made the first mile ok and was treated with this view Her oooking south

Note the patchy snow – it was only bad the first mile (I thought) and I decided there was no going back.  It was chilly but there was plenty of water.

Here’s the view looking north with wind farms and I-10 far below.

The last two miles were tough because I was very careful about foot placement and about checking my GPS app to see Where the trail is under all the snow.  The tracks of those who hiked before me (days ago?) sometimes split up then reconverge.

I finished the 5-mile section in about 5 hours.  That is way slower than I hap hoped.  The sun had set, my shoes are soaked and my toes are getting quite chilly. I’m still at a pretty high elevation so I set up my tent, blow up my sleeping pad and don my sleeping wool underwear.  I dry off and massage my frozen toes and put on my nice wool socks.  30 minutes of toe calisthenics  and they are still cold. I remove the socks and my feet start warming.  I slip my hands into the socks and it’s cold in there.  I guess the lesson is wool to keep warm not necessarily to get warm.

I got and stayed warm and slept great!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday April 8 – day 13

Zero day – no PCT miles

Today I awoke to the sound of rain and was glad to be streatched way out in a warm bed.  Today was filled with errands in anticipation of departing tomorrow:

  • Sort the food and supplies,
  • Fill a box of excess food and supplies I no longer need,
  • Talk with the local Rangers (both the San Bernardino Forest and San Jacinto Park Rangers) to find out trail and weather conditions,
  • Find a bike store to get a bike tube repair kit to devour the Velcro tabs to my shoes that my gaiters connect to,
  • Oh, and get another salad and beer!

I ran into Abi on my excursions — she arrived today and will take a zero tomorrow.  I also ran into a fre more PCTers – were planning on meeting up for dinner.

My food bag, even trimmed is huge and heavy.  Sigh.  Tomorrow I hike a few thousand feet up the Devils Slide trail into the San Jacinto wilderness and trail conditions allowing, maybe summiting the peak.

This may be my last post for a few days, possibly until I reach Big Bear Lake.

Thanks for reading.

Friday April 7 – day 12

PCT mile 166.52 to 168.60 (plus 14.2 to get to Idyllwild)

The wind howled all night and was still blowing hard when I awoke pre-dawn.  I found that everything inside the tent covered in fine sand.  I packed everything I could while in the tent and only then exited to take down and pack the tent.  I was worried that with nothing in the tent the wind may pull the stakes and the whole thing would blow off the ridge.  I quickly dropped the tent.  I didn’t even try to fold up my Tyvek footprint, instead just rolled and folded it and stuffed it in my pack.

The sunrise was beautiful but warned of an approaching storm.

I set off to traverse the ridge a few more miles then drop down into the high desert near Hemet.  It turned out that the wind was strongest right where I camped.  I flew down the hill sighting a fine looking Alligator Lizard along the way.

I did not try to carb thug guy though – their bite can draw blood (been there, done that). 

I dropped down to a over road that I followed for a few miles.  I walked past the Ronald McDonald House Apple Canyon Center and saw this cool sign at the entrance.

Let’s hope we get a good crop of leaders soon!

Here’s a view of the ridge I just descended.

Next I hiked a series of bicycle trails and dirt roads that will take me into downtown Idyllwild.  Along the way I caught this cute guy but could only photograph him when he stopped squirming.

A bit later I found this footprint that I believe to be a Mountain Lion track.

After a few miles uphill I finally crested my last ridge and descended into the cool town of Idyllwild.

And was welcomed

I immediately checked into my hotel room to drop my pack, visited the Post Office to get my resupply box and got a fresh salad and beer at the Pizza place next door.  The staff took my picture and posted it on their PCT Class of 2017 board — how cool is that!

The Idyllwild Inn where I’m staying is great – they have a laundry service and are super friendly and helpful!  Highly recommended.  

After a nap I donned my same but clean(er) clothes and had BBQ pork for dinner while a live jazz band serenaded me.  Nice!  It seems that Idyllwild is a music and outdoorsy kind of town.

I slept so well Friday night!

Thanks for reading!