Two Percent Done: Time to Get Moving
178 miles. A little over ten miles a day isn’t a pace one would expect to hear from someone who’s trying to hike 8,000 miles in a year. What can I do, though? The PCT just won’t let me have an easy start like I expected. One day will be dry, exposed, and windy; the next overcast and freezing.
Just about every mountain range I’ve approached I’ve had to give a day or two for a harsh weather pattern to pass. San Jacinto threw a few curveballs with the steep snow crossings and monster blowdowns. I will say it was nice to see a new section, though, setting Section B of the SoCal portion to be entirely open for the first time in nearly a decade.
Having spent three days helping Strange Bird get Mike’s Place (NOBO mile 127) in a functioning order, I had time and space to reflect on the first 100 miles. My mind raced through the last two years, as I sat at a hidden bench overlooking the valley, for advice and insight, and to piece it altogether I uttered a word while in a trance: Butterflies.
Last year getting out of Belden to the halfway mark I was down about the swift progress I was already making for late June. Summer was just getting started, I was well ahead of the bubble, and the trail grew uncomfortably quiet. Pushing on, I ran into an amazing couple I met during the Priceless festival. We talked about reflections, the 21/90 rule applying to the quasi-minimalist lifestyle of a thru-hiker, and receiving “signs” from the trail. Detour, the gentleman of the duo, remarked when the days got rough, he looked for flutterbys. He said they were his good luck charm, and always helped set the day right when things got tough.
I remember seeing butterflies nearly every day on trail so far this year. The one day that stands out from the rest was day three coming down Mount Laguna in a hailstorm. 65+mph gusts with grapple flying horizontally and maybe 500 feet of visibility. 26 miles straight down to Scissors Crossing (NOBO mile 77ish.) My feet and shins ached, and my hands/gloves nearly froze to my trekking poles, and yet when we reached the bottom there was the beginning of the desert superbloom. California poppies galore with none other than butterflies attracting local photographers and even trail angels. I’m not one to camp in dry riverbeds but skinny San Felipe Creek was nowhere close to conjuring a washout. Again.
The Next Episode
San Jacinto must and will be conquered. Before I continue, yes, I have considered skipping. From mile 152, just from the highway up to the previous fire closure, there is plenty of water. Climbing up and into the burn area, one hiking in the area will encounter nearly constant snow above 6,500 feet. Getting to Apache Springs was where I chose to turn around. Running around with just an ice ace is not ideal, but I only have experience with an axe and have extreme confidence in my ability to use it properly. Summiting the peak may be improbable with the lack of additional traction, but after talking to the very few who have managed to cross over the mountain range, I’m sure Fuller Ridge won’t be more difficult than the conditions approaching the ridge. From what I could see, the difficulty was mainly navigating around the blowdowns while traversing steep iced-over ridges.
Once I’m over, the trials don’t let up. The downhill will be probably be technical until I’m under the snow level, and even that doesn’t say much. Once I reach the interstate highway, I’ll be climbing once again up to Big Bear (NOBO mile 266). I know Whitewater Reserve is closed until they can repair the road. Mission Creek will probably be an interesting few crossing along its 12-mile stretch on the PCT. There will be some climbing here and there, but speaking from experience, the hard part of the SoCal section is about to be passed.
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