Days 16 – 19: 140.3 – 178.0 (Idyllwild)

Mornings are great for hiking. The weather in the morning is cool so getting too hot isn’t usually a problem. Also, my legs are well rested, making morning hikes more productive than afternoon hikes. This is usually the case…

Miles 140.3 – 151.9

The walk to Paradise Valley Cafe was brutal!

All three of us, Rachael, Bird, and I woke-up just before 6 a.m. I can usually tell when everyone is awake because I can hear when both Rachael and Bird are rustling around in their tents. We all three were hoping to get an early start, so I suggested we all be ready to hike by 7 a.m.

It was 6:50 a.m. by the time we hit the trail. We began an insane climb immediately after we left our campsite. We climbed 1,500 feet in just over 5 miles. We then had a short reprieve before again ascending up numerous hills. In total, we added nearly 2,000 feet of elevation over 11 miles. It was a lot of climbing, with less than ideal conditions.

The trail was heavily over grown in areas, making our progress both slow and painful. One person made the perfect comparison about the overgrowth on the FarOut app. They said walking through the overgrowth was like walking through Velcro. I found that to be quite fitting.

Steep cliffs and deep ravines lined the trail.

By the time we made it to Highway 74, we were beat. Our legs were exhausted after four days straight of being on trail. We were tired and it showed. The three of us limped our way down the highway towards Paradise Valley Cafe. It was time for a break.

Paradise Valley Cafe

Tired but in good spirits!

Paradise Valley Cafe is a nice spot where mostly travelers frequent. It’s positioned at the corner of where Highways 74 and 243 intersect. The inside of the cafe is nicely decorated and very well taken care of. And, the staff was extremely kind and inviting to hikers.

I thought the food was killer… especially after a hard hike. Rachael and I shared their classic hamburger and a bowl of pozole. While we ate, we also met a handful of hikers that were either arriving to or departing from Idyllwild.

Classic Bacon Cheeseburger – PVC
Pozole – PVC

As we wrapped-up our lunches, we were approached by a trail angel that goes by the trail name Grumpy. Grumpy spends most of his days picking up and/or dropping off hikers between Paradise Valley Cafe and Idyllwild. He was very kind to offer us rides into town where we planned on staying for the next couple nights.


Idyllwild is an adorable mountain town that caters to many Southern California tourists looking to escape the concrete jungle. The town has an alpine vibe, filled with adorable cabins, cottages, and tons of small businesses that offer many handmade goodies. Idyllwild reminds me of Sisters, Oregon in Central Oregon. The towns folk are very nice and go out of their way to accommodate the hiker community.

Idyllwild, California

Rachael, Bird, and I spent our first two nights at the Fireside Inn. We found a little two bedroom cottage about a quarter mile from the town center.

Over the next day and a half, we did laundry, enjoyed local cuisine, stopped by the outfitters, and bought souvenirs to send home to friends and family. Rachael and I even met Idyllwild’s Mayor, Max the Golden Retriever.

Mayor Max

The Idyllwild Re-route

We received a lot of concerning news regarding the trail surrounding Idyllwild and Mount San Jacinto. The trails had received a lot of snow that had then turned into massive ice chutes. These ice chutes require advanced equipment and knowledge for ice climbing and mountaineering. None of us had the equipment we needed, nor do any of us know how to ice climb.

Rachael, Bird, and I decided we would not risk our safety hiking the multiple peaks that make up the San Jacinto portion of the PCT. Instead, we would ensure our continuous foot path by hiking from Paradise Valley Cafe to Idyllwild, and then onto Black Mountain Road which will take us back to the PCT. This alternate route will be slightly shorter as far as mileage goes, but we will maintain the continuity of our continuous path without risking our lives.

Paradise Valley Cafe to Idyllwild (18 miles)

Idyllwild to the PCT via Black Mt. Road (15 miles)

Miles 151.9 – 178.0

On Friday morning, Rachael, Bird, and I were picked up by trail Angel Cindy. Cindy was so gracious to pick us up from our cottage and then drop us off at Paradise Valley Cafe where we would continue our hike. When we arrived to PVC, we said our farewells to Cindy and had a quick breakfast before hitting the road.

Breakfast at PVC

The first half of our day was road walking Highway 243 toward Idyllwild. Most of the road walk was flat, so maintaining a 3 mph pace was easy. We had eight miles to cover before we would stop for lunch at the Lake Hemet Market & Deli. The weather was beautiful… although the sun did wear on us by the end of the day.

Road hikes are hard on the feet!
Lake Hemet Market & Deli

After Lake Hemet, we left the road and hoped on a trail that would lead us into Idyllwild. The last section of highway had a lot of tight, blind curves with no shoulders. It would be extremely unsafe, which is why we finished the second half of the day on trail.

By the time we made it back to our cottage, we had walked 18 miles; our longest day yet.

Winter Storm Warning

We were bummed to hear there was a winter storm rolling into the area that was expected to bring heavy rains and snow. Having already spent multiple days hiking in the rain, we knew we were not ready to spend another couple days in unfavorable elements.

The three of us decided to stick around Idyllwild another couple days. Our cottage was no longer available, so we had to find a new place to stay. We found a nice cabin for the same price we were paying down the street at the Idyllwild Inn. The new cabin was more centrally located to the town center which means we didn’t have to walk as far.

In stead of spending a ton of money eating out, we decided to go grocery shopping so we could cook a few meals at the cabin. On the menu: chili, loaded potato soup, and Tuscan sausage pasta.

Cooking chili for the tramily.

We woke-up Sunday to fresh snow on the ground. The weather report showed more snow and rain in the p.m. hours. The weather report also shows that this storm will have moved past us by tomorrow, so getting back on trail in the morning should be possible.

Tomorrow, we have another long hike to get back to the PCT. It looks like we have about 15 miles before we get to the PCT. In that 15 miles, half is a paved road hike and the other half is on a dirt road. Normally I would say road hikes are easier, but I’m not so sure that’s how things will go tomorrow. In that 15 miles, we also have to climb up 2,300 feet of elevation… no easy feat.

We should be in Cabazon by Wednesday. We will not take another zero day, but we will stay the night before our long 60 mile stretch into Big Bear.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

Road Hiking

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Comments 2

  • Susan Kenworthy : Mar 24th

    We saw you Friday walking up 74! We were going west to the desert. Almost stopped to turn around and give you a ride into town because walking 243 from Mountain Center to Idyllwild is a suicidal adventure. But we couldn’t pick up 3 and packs in our little jeep, so we said a prayer and went on. So glad you actually had a plan to get off the highway! Love following you blog.

  • Bob : Mar 28th

    Nice job blogging.
    And nice job hiking.
    Thankyou for the good reads and dreams that will never be.


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