Idyllwild – A Love Story
Under 200 miles to go on my SOBO thru-hike, and let me tell you, my body knows it. My sacrum “went out” and my low-back muscles started to seize and tighten up; my new trail runners (the same brand/style/size as the four pairs before them) gave me blood blisters. Why does stuff like that happen?
It’s as though when the end is near, things just start to happen.
Yet, I made it to my “special spot.” A spot that I have frequented dozens of times in the past six years. A town where I first learned of the PCT. A town that helped me to gain the exposure and confidence to hike/camp: Idyllwild.
I’ll tell you a story.
I moved to San Diego, CA from the East Coast in 2011. I was taken aback by its beauty. Mostly, I couldn’t believe it’s mountains. People would say to me, “these are nothing; wait till you see the rest of CA.” I didn’t know what they meant, so fast forward to August 2015, and I Googled: ‘mountain getaway from San Diego.’ Idyllwild came up.
I reserved a B&B and made the two-hour drive up. I was blown away!! I could not believe this was so close to me and I just now discovered it!
I walked the town. I didn’t even hike that first visit! I guess it’s a good time to share, I never really “hiked” before 2015! I had a little backpack on, and I went into every store that the little town has to offer.
It was in one store that the owner asked me, “Are you a PCT hiker?”
I responded, “what’s the PCT?”
He told me, and I remember thinking, “who on earth would do such a thing!? That’s insane.” Yet, the seed was planted.
I came back up to the town over and over. I stayed at the same place; I bought a hiking map, and I figured, why don’t I start hiking the trails. I started small. Town, obviously done. Ernie Maxwell Trail. Deer Springs Trail. Suicide Rock. Devil’s Slide Trail. Months later, I did Taquitz Peak.
I progressively added more distance and elevation; not gonna lie, I felt like a badass!
2015, 2016 – I came up to Idyllwild so often that I started making friends in town. It was on one visit that I met one particular local shop owner, and I told him I wanted to hike San Jacinto. He offered to hike it with me. Perfect (probably best to hike that beast of a mountain with a local)!
The next day, in July 2016, that’s what we did. Up the Marion Mtn trail and to the peak. <I think it’s funny to share here…I remember on our ascent, he stopped to get water from a local stream, and I thought he was insane and would for sure get giardia! (I bought all my own water from town?)>
After that day, I was hooked. I wanted to do it all. Peakbag, camp, gnarly hikes. That same person ended up taking me on my first car camping trip to Black Mtn (near Idyllwild).
It was my first time in a tent!
I was so motivated. I could do this, and as a result of my newfound confidence, different doors opened. I joined a hiking Meetup group. People from my yoga classes would let me borrow gear, tents, sleeping bags because I did not have my own at that point. <Funny memory: I did an REI trip to Joshua Tree that Fall. Someone gave me a tent to use (a 4-person tent, btw), and I had ZERO clue how to put it up. Someone from REI saw my distress and had to help me?>
As a self-proclaimed bad-ass, I was talking about the outdoors to everyone! I didn’t want to do the lame stuff; I wanted to get serious (if one more person asked me to hike Torrey Pines in SD, I was going to hurl)!
That’s when a student from my class said, “I’m gonna introduce you to my nephew. He’s a serious backpacker.” This was now the end of 2016. I knew nothing of backpacking, but thought, why not… seemed like the next progression.
We met, and we dated for the next 3 years! He taught me so much about hiking, car camping, backpacking, the gear. We went to the Sierras; we went to the desert. I saw parts of CA that I had no idea existed! I was blown away by the state! Most importantly, I learned the true extent of what I could handle in the outdoors: heat, snow, weight, ultralight.
On our adventures, we’d go up (to Idyllwild or the Sierras), backpack, and meet PCT hikers. I remember telling him: “I’m gonna do that one day.”
I think he believed in me, but there was a part of him that doubted my commitment to that endeavor. I got that. Here I was, ‘stupid brave,’ as I call it, saying I’ll walk over 2k miles!
Fast forward to present day: 2021 and all the stars aligned to make my SOBO PCT thru-hike a reality: the permit, the gear, the life circumstances all came together.
And now, here I am. Back in Idyllwild where it all started over 6 years ago. It actually brings tears to my eyes.
A thru-hike is not typically something you just wake up and decide to do. Maybe for a lucky few. Yet for me, it’s taken time, patience, planning. I had a LOT of learning to do, but I was fortunate to meet people that taught me what I needed to know.
When the student is ready the teacher appears.
And now, I’m less than 200 miles away from the Mexican border. Wow. It’s bittersweet.
Just one night in Idyllwild was what the doctor ordered to reset my body and spirits.
I look forward to getting back on trail and finishing this thing! San Diego is so close, and no, I’m not driving home; I’m walking there. ?
Anyone reading this: be ready to celebrate!
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