Mountains Favored in Decisive Game Three
Note: to aid in anonymity, I will use trail names for people who have them, and initials for those who do not yet have trail names. J has become Dash, and C has become Blue Jay.
San Jacinto took the upper hand in the Mountains’ opening game versus the Hikers, pushing them off trail in the early days of April. The Hikers salvaged some ground by walking 13 miles on a detour to save face for the 20 miles missed from Spitler Trail to Black Mountain Road, but still the Mountains claimed the opening victory.
Then it was San Gorgonio’s turn to thwart the Hikers’ campaign. Hardened from the trials in the first match, the Hikers prevailed by waltzing through six miles of intermittent postholing without showing hardly a glimpse of despair. They arrived in Big Bear Lake with renewed confidence that the Mountains could be walked over.
But coming into the third match of this best-of-three series, Baden-Powell and the ensuing peaks are swatting Hikers off the trail like the gnats the Hikers in turn swat off their futilely determined faces. “They shall not succeed in walking a continuous footpath. I mean, c’mon…our snow isn’t freezing overnight and it’s a slush bath,” said one of the several peaks of this range, who wished to remain anonymous in order to keep the Hikers uncertain of their route until they get there.
“This upcoming stretch will be a culmination of all the trial-and-error we’ve been practicing to date, which in turn is a practice for the Sierra. But yeah, the Mountains are probably right this time,” said Scott, a rookie on the Hiker team who hasn’t been a big fan of snow hiking so far but is starting to get used to it.
San Jacinto Recap
We walk the eleven miles to Cedar Spring Junction (mm 162) without too much trouble and figure we’ll accomplish the three miles to Fobes in an hour or so. Patting our own backs we set out for the final leg already thinking about what’s for dinner.
Postholing soon begins and we learn how slow it can be. But finally, we reach Fobes and I settle in for a cowboy setup that looks more like a rock sandwich, but find it to be the best sleep I’ve had to date.
A snug place to slumber!
After going down Spitler, we have lunch in Idyllwild with my parents before heading up Black Mountain Road, which itself is no cakewalk. We stop to camp halfway up.
Finally over the ridge the next morning, the 6300 foot descent begins to Highway Ten.
San Gorgonio Recap
We begin with an exhilarating thigh-deep crossing of Whitewater River, whose powerful force threatens to knock us down with each side-step shuffle of the feet. This is followed by an uphill climb through Mission Creek. And yes, “through” is an appropriate description, as we cross the stream calf-deep dozens of times over ten miles.
The next day provides miles of snow, but we had a taste in San Jacinto and are a little more sure-footed. Every few miles it abates and we think we are through it, only to round a bend and re-engage the challenging terrain. On the third surprise snow stretch, we stop to make a snow person and laugh off the slog. This mountain can’t stop us.
Our special snow person.
I sit in Wrightwood on a Sunday morning with Journey Man, Mantis and Dash. They’ve caught up to myself, H. and Blue Jay and are sharing a rental cabin with me. (H. and Blue Jay have their own place a half mile away.)
Tonight we’re hosting a dinner with the six of us plus Sheriff, S., H & M, Turtlewolf and Ice Queen. It’s fun to play house for a day.
We pour over comments and posts about Baden-Powell, trying to get an idea of what’s to come, but there’s only so much that can be gleaned. The days are warmer and comments that are days old might not be accurate by tomorrow when we set out.
The plan, in a way, is to have no plan. This week of all the weeks we’ve had so far (three whole weeks…we are surely experts now!) is one in which flexibility will be key. It’s very likely we’ll attempt the climb over Baden-Powell but at some point between mm367 and mm400 or so we’ll be walking down the closed Highway Two. Most people in front of us are finding the traverses too dangerous and are saying “save yourself the trouble, just take the highway.”
So. We’ll see how it goes in Game Three.
I feel like the word “postholing” gets thrown around in interviews and articles and those of us who haven’t experienced it brush it off like it’s a mere annoyance. Personally, I find it to be one of the more frustrating things one can encounter. Imagine you’re in one of those childhood ball pits and it’s miles long and you’re supposed to be running over its surface but every tenth step you sink to your knee or thigh and when you try to climb back to the surface your other leg sinks in. Yep, postholing.
Beforehand, I had heard it would be important to have a “why.” As busy as I was, I didn’t fully take the time to sort this out. Now that I’m out here, I don’t feel like for me it’s over-complicated. Maybe this will change, but when I stare down a hard day I just think of it as what’s between now and where I need to be tomorrow. It may be rough in the moment but I haven’t had to question why I’m here. The trail provides as many wonderful experiences as it does physical struggles and it’s all a piece of the same pie.
I swear these markers are coming faster and faster.
I think back on the past few weeks and smile. Trail magic burgers in a park. Rides from strangers and my parents and even a friend who happened to be in the area on a road trip. Friendships that are beginning, and contact with those at home. Daily challenges and accomplishments. Sitting in a hot springs pool. Sunrises that cast the most incredible light on the sky, the mountains and flora all around and sometimes make me laugh out loud just to behold. Those at home and out here who are making this possible for the PCT Class of 2023. It’s overwhelming and I’m so grateful for it all.
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.
What Do You Think?