From: Julian. To: Idyllwild. With Change and Caches


This week provided quite a bit of change and a shift in the group I was traveling with. While we ended the week with 9 people heading into Idyllwild, it was a long week. There was a zero day in the middle of the week due to a predicted storm that was weaker than anticipated. Then, a nearo with 3 miles in to get that itch to get back on trail out of us. Followed by 2 – 20 mile days. Then talks about those who need to slow down a bit, those who wanted to push into the upcoming snowy San Jacinto, those who wanted to take a few days off and those who wanted to keep blazing the trail.

But that’s the thing about the trail. Change. Every. Single. Day.

You come in knowing every person is different. Every person has their own goals. Their own timeline. Their own pace. Their own train of thought. Who you start with is probably not who you will be ending the trail with. Who you walk 100 miles with may not walk 1000 miles more.

And it is sad, in the moment. Seeing how quickly people connect because of what we experience together is amazing. You walk into a campsite, and everyone greets you like you’ve been family for years. Maybe you make plans to reconnect in the next town. Or maybe you won’t see them for days, weeks, months, miles. It’s a continuous (slightly vicious) cycle one needs to get used too almost immediately.

Week 2: From Julian –

After having to hunker down in Julian for 2 days, it was safe to say we were itching to get back on the trail. Our feet were well rested, our stomachs were full with so much town food, and our packs were full again for our next stop. From Julian, we would be aiming to get to Highway 74 (mile 151) or Paradise Valley Cafe, which is off Highway 74 and would allow us to get a hitchike to Idyllwild. 

Water cache under Highway 78

After rejoining the trail at the Pedro Fages Monument off mile 62, we were aware that water would be limited in several areas. So, we pushed to Highway 78 Underpass (mile 77), where we were greeted with a cache of water gallons and slept under a bridge. On our way to the Underpass, the views showed areas where storms seemed to be hitting/rolling by. 

When we arrived at the underpass and as we prepared to sleep under a bridge, we were “gifted” an unexpected but clear and amazing view of a satellite launch. I had always seen pictures of these launches, but being able to see it as clearly as we did was pretty awesome. 

Sleeping under a bridge/ underpass

View of the satellite launch

The following day, we would need to carry water long enough to get us to another water cache at mile 91. It was a 15-mile, long, uphill stretch where water would not be found. From mile 91, we hiked another couple miles and ended setting up camp at mile 94. This was a dry camp – meaning from the water cache at mile 91 we would need to carry enough water for us to drink on the way, cook dinner and enough to get us to our next water cache the next day. This day was rough in elevation climb, but we were gifted with fighter jets flying over us, between the canyons and so close we could almost touch them. The noise of the engines was so loud, and following shortly after, the jets flew by. 

Empty gallons at water cache at mile 91 – 3rd gate water cache. Opposite of this are pallets full of bottled gallons

From mile 94, we continued and set up camp near Warner Springs at mile 109. We hit the 100 mile marker, had a quick stop at mile 101 – Ranchita Bodega for a quick resupply, stopped at Eagle Rock and began discussing another potential storm that would be approaching the following two days. We decided to set up for the night and stop at the Warner Springs Community Center the following morning to get more information on the predicted storm.

100 miles!

The following morning, in the Warner Springs Community Center, changes began. With a storm warning for this day and the next, discussions began whether to continue forward or wait it out. Unfortunately, trying to predict the weather is like trying to plan every single day of a thru hike to the T – nearly impossible. Part of the group wanted to keep moving forward while the others wanted to stay and hunker down. My preference was to hunker down as the possibility that hiking, setting up a tent, and sitting out a storm in a tent did not sound appealing. In the end, while not everyone was happy with the decision, we decided to hunker down not far from the community center for a night and see what the storm brought. If the storm was not like predicted, we would discuss continuing the following day. 

Hikers in Warner Springs Community Center waiting out the storm and weighing options

The Storm

Was nowhere near predicted. All but one decided to continue to the Warner Community Center and wait for an opening in the weather so we could get a few miles in. After a few hours in the center, we got our chance and hiked in 3 miles to a beautiful, shaded campsite (mile 112). While we did get a bit of rain and even less snow, we got a break from the weather as we arrived at the campsite. We were able to set up our tents and eat dinner while staying dry before calling it at night as the rain started again. 

Hiking out of Warner Springs

After Warner Springs

We knew water was not an issue. With an unexpected day off midweek, we were ready to go and pushed to mile 131 where we set up camp. The day that followed would be relatively easy, and we pushed to mile 151 – Highway 74 – where we were able to get our first hitchike into  Idyllwild. This is also where we reconnected with the member who stayed back the day we did 3 miles. We took a day off, did laundry, and resupplied. We also discussed the upcoming San Jacinto climb and possible options due to snow and lack of information on passability.

Nothing was set in stone for San Jacinto, but the change continued.

San Jacinto getting closer as we continued walking

Lessons (re)Learned – Water and Water Caches

Are a blessing and should be greatly appreciated and respected. Trail Angels come into remote places and leave a ton of new, wrapped, unopened gallons for hikers to use. They should not be taken advantage of but should not be used lightly either. As a hiker who has had experience with dehydration, I understand the importance of drinking water and how the environment and weather affect the amount of water one should drink. And yet, I experienced mild dehydration this week. There is no excuse other than the long, uphill trek after sleeping under the bridge was exhausting. After the 3rd gate water cache (mile 91), we pushed 3 miles during the hottest part of the day and with crazy elevation gain. I had maintained my water intake, but being at the cache, I was exhausted and loaded my pack with just enough water to get me to camp and dinner. I even joked that I just wouldn’t be able to drink water until we got to camp. Well, at the end of those 3 miles, I felt mild symptoms of dehydration, including slight headache, stomach cramps, unable to eat, nausea, and even a bit of vomiting. It was quick and mild, and I was able to bring myself back by drinking water with an added Pedialyte Powder and resting in my tent. But it was unpleasant and above all – completely avoidable. 

Different water sources and water caches. DO THE RESEARCH, CARRY THE EXTRA WATER

Taking note of water caches, keeping an eye on comments (FarOut) for water sources, speaking to other hikers and understanding that carrying too much is sometimes better in order to prevent things like this happening is a huge part of this trail. A lesson re-learned and not to be forgotten again. Specially when I can hear my JMT family repeatedly asking me that, “you HAVE to promise to drink water in the desert section! You HAVE too!”. 

I promised. 

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Nephi : May 2nd

    I wonder how feasible it would be for the PCTA to get spring water piped into the worst water carry sections. Probably harder than I’m thinking.


What Do You Think?