Days 27 & 28: Miles 298.5 – 317.9 (San Bernardino National Forest)

Our favorite trail angel, Melody, picked us up from our hotel in Redlands. Our plan was to re-enter the PCT at mile marker 250.3 before Big Bear. The area had just been pummeled by snow over the past two days, so we had our fears about what the trail conditions might be.

We reached the trailhead off Highway 38 and Rainbow Lane. The highway had been plowed, but everything else was still blanketed by snow. Packrat, Bird, and I slung our packs onto our backs, said our goodbyes to Melody, and headed up the road to where the trail intersects. We made our way down the road, onto the trail… and then…

Melody dropping us off for the first time…

The trail was nowhere to be seen. We knew it was below our feet, but the snow was so deep that there were no signs of what path to follow. GPS in hand, we attempted to follow the trail… post-holing through 12 – 18 inches of snow. Local dogs were barking in the background as we meandered around in the woods. Two minutes into fighting our way through the snow and we were already exhausted.

The conditions were not ideal for the type of hiking we are equipped for. Without snowshoes or cross-country skis, we were looking at a very long, cold exhausting day. This was not how we wanted to continue our hike.

Packrat and Smiley

We attempted to reach back out to Melody with our Garmin satellite communicators, hoping she might get the text before she made it down the mountain. Our plan was to bounce ahead past Big Bear to where the trail would no longer have snow. I took note that the snow line was at 5,800 feet in elevation.

Melody received our text and immediately whipped around to get us. We treated her to breakfast in Big Bear City where we also had two resupply boxes to open. A plan was formulated over breakfast with the help of Melody, who agreed to drive us anywhere we needed to go.

Cheers to Trail Angels!

The plan was to bounce forward to mile marker 298.5 and spend the next four days hiking before reaching Cajon Pass. I swear we will get some miles in before it kills me.

Miles 298.5 – 307.9

Packrat, Bird, and I hopped back on trail at the Splinters Cabin trailhead, near Lake Arrowhead. This section of trail is the beginning of the Deep Creek section and also where we will run into the only hot spring found along the PCT.

One of multiple river crossing for the day.

We re-entered the PCT where the trail ran through one of the Deep Creek day use areas. It was a mile and a half walk down a dirt road and recreation area before reaching the trailhead. The area looked to be a popular recreational area, but was still closed for the season. Recent snow and rain had caused a lot of water run-off, which forced us to make a water crossing at a flooded road crossing.

It was glorious to be back on the PCT. I experienced an immediate sense of relief and joy as we took our first steps of the day. The trail was dry and well groomed for hiking. We were back amongst our element… moving north once again.

Raych “Packrat” Money

Due to our late start, we knew we weren’t going to make it very far. The hot spring was only nine miles down trail, so we decided that would be our goal for the day.

This section of trail was far more enjoyable to hike on than previous sections of trail. The trail looked to be used far more frequently, having nice wide trails and far fewer rocks and vegetation than the southern sections. With fresh legs, a clear trail, and only 728 feet of elevation to tackle… we crushed those nine miles in just under four hours.

300 Miles!

Packrat, Bird, and I reached the hot springs with about an hour and a half of light left in the day. We set up our tents and had dinner before entertaining the idea of a dip in the hot springs. Our plan was to fill up on dinner before getting relaxed in the hot springs and then off to bed for the night.

The hot spring was really neat. There were a couple partially man-made pools that blended into the natural rock face very well. The water was hot… the pools were deep… the soak was blissful. By far, one of the best camp spots we’ve had yet.

Deep Creek Hot Springs

“The Sky is Falling…”

I went to bed soon after crawling out of the hot spring. It was our first day back on trail following a double zero, so I was worn out. I didn’t find the best spot to setup my tent and had to settle with a slight incline. Needless to say, I had to wake up multiple times through the night to climb my way up and out of the foot box of my tent.

Around 1:40 a.m. I woke-up needing to adjust myself yet again. I needed to relieve myself as well so decided to get that out of the way.

I crawled out of my tent and hobbled over to a bush. As I stood there half asleep, something overhead caught my attention. In the sky… something… clearly in space but not far enough away to be a star, moon, or planet… an explosion of sorts with a trail of debris. I stood there in shock. I’ve never seen anything like it. Did I just witness the International Space Station blowing up? Maybe a satellite… a super nova?!?

What is it?!?

I tried to go back to sleep. What was that in the sky? It freaked me out. I’ve never seen anything like it… did WWIII just kick off? I don’t have cellular service… how do I find out?

Turns out… what I witnessed was some Chinese space junk blowing up upon re-entering the atmosphere over California. I’m glad it wasn’t anything serious, but it sure had me worried. It was a very random experience…

Miles 307.9 – 317.9

Packrat and I woke up early for an early morning hot spring soak. We warmed up with a relaxing soak while watching the sunrise in the valley. It as a peaceful morning… relaxing. Leaving this spot was going to be hard.

We slow rolled it out of camp a little later than usual. We were shooting for 15 miles for the day, but we also had the opportunity to grab a deli sandwich for lunch. Plus, we also had a little more than 1,000 feet of climbing ahead of us and the weather forecast was estimating our hottest day yet.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

It was in the high 70’s as we reached Highway 173. The combination of the hot spring and sun were taking their toll on my body. I was already tired and it was only 1:00 p.m.

We called Alan, the trail angel who picked us up and drove us to the Joshua Inn. He was very kind and had nothing but great things to say regarding his past experiences with hikers.

Joshua Inn is this little dive “bar” in the middle of Farm Town, USA. The place isn’t an Inn in the traditional sense. They don’t have rooms for rent, but they are setup to host hikers. They have bathrooms, an area designated for tents, power to charge electronics, running water, and FOOD! During the day, (after 2:00 p.m.) they have a small deli where Erica “the owner” makes delightful home-style sandwiches.

The three of us devoured our sandwiches and downed a couple cold drinks before setting off in hopes of adding to our daily miles.

The Crew

The heat of the day took its toll on us. We had aspirations to hike 15 miles, but fell short a few. We had to remove our shoes multiple times at water crossings, which ate up a lot of time. You add in our lunch stop… we had a long day. So, after our last water crossing and only ten miles into our day, we called it quits.

Our final water crossing of the day.

Packrat, Bird, and I found a nice camp spot near Grass Valley Creek, which also happened to be our final water crossing for the day. We setup our tents and had a nice dinner together as we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. It was a good day.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

Splinters Cabin


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Comments 2

  • Jon Morris : Apr 7th

    Hi Smiley, our looks like you all are having a great adventure. Thanks for the continued posts. Your experience and observations provide a great sense of what trail life can be like.
    Have you tried the Cal Topo app? I’ve been using it for about 5 years now. It’s well worth the pro subscription. It provides satellite imagery as recent as 5 days that shows snow coverage. The app also provides snow depth sensors throughoutthe Sierra and beyond. This tool might help you avoid situations like you described with the snow covered trail where you had to turn back… just sayin!
    PS the hot spring looks awesome 👌

  • Michael J Madin : Apr 7th

    Thanks a lot; I always enjoy your updates. Is that you smoking in the photo above the river crossing? Do you consider yourself the John Daly of the PCT? You are truly an inspiration.


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