Mission to Big Bear

After rejoining the trail at Interstate 10, mile 209.5, we would be heading into Whitewater Preserve and then Mission Creek. This whole section was recommended to be skipped as there had been significant damage to the trail due to Hurricane Hillary and the rain from previous years. The trail was said to be washed out in various places and difficult to navigate. It was rumored that at some point in Mission Creek there was a waterfall that blocked the trail and required serious rock climbing/ mountaineering. We knew we could navigate through most of Whitewater and into Mission creek. Once the trail went “missing”, we would follow the creek. We heard of a green bandana tied to a tree that would be the start of a detour at Mission Creek. This would skip where most of the damage was rumored to be at (mile 235-239). So after having breakfast with the group and Bacon’s sister and niece we were dropped off back on trail. 

PCTA website – Mission Creek

It was a warm day, and I was excited because we would be going through our first wind farm. Mesa Wind Farm was not what I expected, and while we didn’t get to walk through the wind farms just yet, it was neat to see the giant windmills/Turnbines. We poked our head into the Mesa Wind Farm office/trailer (off mile 213), where the employees welcomed us into their warehouse and provided cold drinks and snacks (prices/donation based). We spent some time cooling off and eating snacks. I wandered a bit in their trailer as it reminded me so much of the many construction trailers that I had worked at. The whiteboards on the walls with notes, the plans and drawings hanging on the walls, the paperwork everywhere, the cluttered conference table, the dusky smell of dirt and sweat, and bootprints on the floor. For a second, I pictured myself back on one of my previous jobsites, hearing the folks around me and feeling my vest, hardhat and heavy boots on and hearing the music of tools around me. For a few seconds, I felt a bit of sadness, missing the chaos of the noise and smells of wood and metal all around me. Then, it was time to continue on the trail and keep taking one step at a time.

Entering section “C” of the PCT

Mesa Wind Farm – about as close as we got to the windmills this day

First glimpse of Mission Creek in the distance

The trail from Mesa Wind Farm to about mile 215 had views of Windmills and green grass  until the uphill after mile 215. After climbing that small but steep hill and getting around it we had our first view of Mission Creek. At about the Junction to Whitewater (mile 218) the trail turned into a pile of rocks. It was a gravely, rocky, watch your ankles type of trail for the next few days. You know the type… take one wrong step and that rock under you slips and there goes your foot. Hopefully you’ve got your poles in the right hands to prevent you from falling. But it was doable. Sticking close to the creek kept us close enough to where the PCT would run if it hadn’t been washed away. It was slow moving, but we eventually camped near Red Dome at mile 220. It was the first night I was able to sleep in my tent without having the fly on. Soon after, we were joined by other hikers and enjoyed the first non freezing night we’ve had.

Washed out section of the trail

San Jacinto now in the distance

The following day, our goal was to get as close to the Ridge Walk detour as we could. The start of the detour would be marked by a green bandana wrapped around a tree at about mile 236.5. It was a little over a 1,600-foot climb in about 1.5 miles, so we wanted to get it done early, before the sun became too warm. We stayed at about mile 234 and got some rest before the big climb.

“The Trail”

The next day the climb did not disappoint. It was marked by a green bandana as promised and was steep. There was no one specific path carved out on the Ridge but you could follow footsteps to certain points. It was a Ridge Walk. No switchbacks, no level ground, just up and up. It was exhausting but very doable. Breaks were taken as needed on the way up and soon we were at the top on mile 244. I think this was the first day I questioned if I could actually do this trail. Jokingly, of course, with a hint of serious but in reality, knowing this was nothing compared to what lies ahead. 

Green Bandana as promised marking the start of the Ridge Walk Detour

Screenshot of the Ridge Walk that was completed by our group

At the end of the Ridge Walk we were rewarded with views of San Jacinto in the distance and where we came from. We camped at mile 248 that night. It was the first cold night we’d had in a while but we were back in the woods and a day closer to Big Bear. 

Views from the top of the Ridge Walk

Campsite at mile 248

On the last day before arriving in Big Bear we would have a long but easy day. We hiked to Highway 18, mile 266. There we waited for everyone in our group to gather and split into two groups of 3 in order to hitchhike into town. Within minutes we were picked up by a local from Big Bear and dropped off at our AirBnb where we would enjoy two days off. 

Trail towards Big Bear

Joshua Trees on the way to Big Bear.


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