Jackrabbit Hikes: PCT Day 10-13

Day 10/11 – Idyllwild – Double Zero (mi 179.3)

So I’m lumping these two days together because I took a double zero in Idyllwild. My wallet is a little pissed, but my body is grateful.

Idyllwild was a great place to zero. So on day 10 (Monday, 13th) I got rolling into town pretty early. I wanted to beat the hiker rush to the laundromat. I got lucky and threw my things in with another hiker about to start a load.

Graham, Squalo, Chef, Irwin and Speaker all made it down from the mountain pretty early. We got together and “patiently” waited for our Airbnb check in time.

Once we got in, I knew I wanted to spend 90% of these 2 days there resting and not roaming the town. So I got some groceries, got a six pack of Sierra Nevada and headed to the place.

It was great getting to know everyone a little better and we let a new face, High Life, come stay with us too. We all chipped in for breakfast and dinner groceries for everyone and we ate like kings. We even pieced together a puzzle we found in the cupboard because why not. I won’t lie though, I do fuck with puzzles.

I spent the two days exactly how I needed to and got recharged and rested. It was a blast too. Idyllwild isn’t quite a tiny hiker town but when you have a dog for a mayor you have to expect the local economy to be booming. That golden retriever knows how to get things done.

By the end of day two, I was excited to head back up San Jac. The mountain range loomed over the whole town, jutting above the trees and peeking into the houses. Where the desert sky was massive, the Idyllwild sky was guarded by giants.

When I got off into town I was unsure if I wanted to summit San Jacinto. It’s a long side trail and a ton of extra elevation gain. By the time I went to bed on the second night, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Day 12 – Saddle Junction (mi 179.4) to Fuller Ridge Campground (mi 190.5)

A man on a mission.

We finished off all of our groceries and we all made our way out to town one by one. A nice woman named June gave me a ride up to Devil’s Slide trail. Time to go from 5200ft to 10800ft.

I linked up with Squalo on the way up and we caught up to High Life. The three of us trudged up from Saddle Junction towards San Jacinto’s peak. The trail was covered in packed snow all the way up.

We stopped to turn around and admire the view every 15 minutes, admiring a good view is a great excuse for a quick break. Hiking above 8000ft is exhausting. As much as I felt it harder to catch my breath, moving in the snow was crushing my joints. I felt more fatigued after the 7mi or so to the summit then I did after some 20mi days.

The summit was everything I hoped it would be. The grueling climb was worth every step. The 360 degree view of Southern California was stunning. Flat desert as far as the eye could see with humongous mountain ranges scatters across. Among the huge desert landscape, here we stood on icy rocks surrounded by foot deep snow.

North of us our view was dominated by another huge mountain range, capped by another snow peak deep in the center. I knew that’s where we were headed next.

Me, Squalo and High Life grabbed our picture with the summit sign and headed back down to the hut 150 feet below the peak. Other hikers were already there and we grabbed a spot in the sun. A spot with no sun was too cold to hang out.

I pulled out my ziploc bag of chocolate chip pancakes I packed out. Cold pancakes 10800ft up. Too good not to share with everyone. We all sat and enjoyed the pancakes and gazed out in front of us. The conversation died while our mouthes were full and we just stared at nature’s theater.

Worth every step.

Day 13 – Fuller Ridge Campground (mi 190.5)to Trail Magic Oasis (mi 210.5) 

Alright. It’s time to get down this big son of a bitch. 7000 ft of descent over 18 miles. I strapped my pack up tight and was on my way.

The whole descent was provided an amazing view of San Jacinto on the way down. The further down you got the more the small details blended together creating a new image than the one before. From Fuller Ridge you could all the bushes and rocks individually but as you descent it just forms into a color gradient. We just watched as San Jacinto slowly ate more and more of our Southern horizon.

The route switchback’ed me all the way down. I made great time in the first few hours, getting a good run going down the graded descent. Me Squalo and High Life were among the first few down and we made our way towards the interstate, our next “checkpoint”.

Finally, we reached the bottom of the northeast face of San Jacinto. We were nestled in a desert valley between two massive ranges. It was the windiest place I’ve ever been. Constant abuse.

We had to walk directly into the blowing wind, it was unexpectedly intense. For about 2 miles we walked face first into continuous 50mph winds. The wind would whip and pick up sand with it and sand blast you every few minutes. I had never been so disoriented in my life. 

I didn’t realize just how intense the wind was till we finally made it to the underpass and got out of it. 40 straight minutes in a sandblaster.

I was exhausted and my ears were ringing. An employee at the wind farm told us “This place was one of the first locations to ever harvest solar power.” One of the windiest places in the country.

But the descent and the windy sand flats didn’t matter by 5:00. Graham had met a local who came by on a side-by-side. He explained the PCT to him and the dude was in shock. Mexico to Canada? He didn’t understand but he saw an opportunity to help.

An hour later, 8 of us were sitting poolside looking at the steepest mountain face in the continental United States. Manuel, the local, gave us permission to hang in his pool and cowbwoy camp on his back deck. It wasn’t his house but an Airbnb he was planning to fix up.

The view blew my mind every 5 minutes for the rest of the night. Some of the best trail magic I’ve ever received. Thanks Manny, you’re the man.

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