PCT Thru-Hike, Paradise Valley Cafe to Idyllwild (Days 13-15): Danger Zone

Day 13: Paradise Valley Cafe to Mile 161.9 (10.1 miles)

The enchantment of a diner breakfast kept the tramily cooped up at Paradise Valley Cafe until 10:30 a.m. While everybody else gorged on their eggs, hashbrowns, and meat platters, I nibbled on my dry, plain bagel. Unfortunately, random isolated diners in the middle of nowhere do not offer a vegan breakfast option!

I took on the incredibly warm day with one of the newer members of our tramily, James. We climbed up from the desert floor into the San Jacinto wilderness, scrambling down steep unmarked paths to reach springs countless times throughout the day. Nothing beats a 6 liter water carry like having to scramble down a monstrosity of a hill to go get it!

Day 14: Mile 161.9 to Mile 175.9 (14 mile + 6 off-trail miles)

I rolled out of camp at 6:45 am instead of 7:30 a.m., but only because today was the “danger zone.” I quickly fell behind the pack, feeling ill from my lack of breakfast. A few miles out of camp I remembered that I forgot to send my “starting my trip” message on my Garmin, but when I went to grab it on my shoulder strap it was nonexistent. Nothing makes your heart jump like knowing you left your $400 graduation gift three miles back at camp. It didn’t take much intuitive thinking to start running back. I figured it was either that or accept that my parents might disown me. I stashed my pack and started the three-mile jog up and down countless humps. There’s nothing more frustrating than climbing the steep downhills that you just came down. And there’s nothing more depressing than going back to Mexico! Also, why did it feel so much harder without a pack on? Proves everything out here is mental. When I reached the mountain summit where I had camped the night before, I couldn’t find it anywhere. The tears were working their way out when I saw the orange case glimmer deep in a crack between two rocks. I started running back, feeling a little bit better holding my inReach Mini in my hand, but still broken from having to do an additional six miles. The tramily was planning a 15 mile day, which would put me at 21 miles. I was hesitant about whether I could put the miles that the rest of the tramily planned on putting in.
The climb up to Apache Peak was horrendous, I could only make it about 0.1 miles between stopping and chugging electrolytes, I was literally melting. When I reached Apache Spring, the entire tramily was sprawled out, absolutely defeated. There was absolutely no shade to hide under, we all looked like fish out of water, scorching under the Southern California desert sun.
We pushed towards the portion of trail where a fellow PCT hiker passed away in 2020. I knew immediately that I had reached the hazardous portion of trail when I looked to my right at the thousand-foot 70-degree dropout to the valley floor. I was filled with an eeriness as I traversed the icy portion of trail.

Hikers bake in the exposed terrain next to the only water source for miles. Many hikers would bring up extra water for others since it was a mile and a half slog to the spring.

Day 15: Mile 175.9 to Saddle Junction (4 miles + 2.5 off-trail miles)

Yesterday kicked my ass! I slept like a rock. I was the last of the tramily to begin the four-mile trudge towards Saddle Junction, where we would exit to Idyllwild. One minute of walking and I had already lost the trail in all of the blowdowns. I was walking in circles for five minutes looking down at my FarOut trying to find the goddamn trail. I finally realized the goddamn trail switchbacked ages ago, and when I successfully got back on track, I was warmly welcomed with a trail of slushy snow steeply placed on the side of a hill.
When the entire tramily reached Saddle Junction, we all headed down as a pack, walking happily behind Safety Jim like his six dwarves. We ran into a forest ranger, but instead of asking for our permits, she asked for our trail names just to chuckle and write them on a post-it note. I’m glad permitting is taken seriously out here.

Slushy side-hilling. A San Jacinto Specialty.

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Comments 6

  • john lambert : May 29th

    I like what your doing keep up with the good hiking . Keep sending all the good pictures . I’m 66 years old i plan on hiking the AT trail when i retire at 70 .

  • john lambert : May 29th

    keep up with the hiking keep on sending all the good pictures

  • Bob Hill : May 29th

    My gosh, you’re so young out there alone on the Pacific Crest Trail! You’re doing well so far! Quite impressive. It is beautiful, isn’t it?
    At 18 I attempted the Appalachian Trail, but only succeeded with about 550 miles. I went into the military service and at age 21 succeeded hiking the whole AT. The following year, the Long Trail in Vermont. And 4 years later, halfway through college at age 25, I hiked the whole PCT. That was in 1981! The magnificent Sierras are still ahead of you, and with all my heart, I wish you well and success!
    Bob Hill “Bobby Bigfoot”

  • Brock McDonald : May 30th

    I just discovered your journey yesterday and now am hiking NOBO vicariously. Well, I did the JMT last summer and will attempt a short PCT section (TM to Tahoe) late July so I know a bit about trail blood, sweat & tears but nothing like trying to do the whole enchilada like you are attempting. That’s an amazing goal but obviously you will need to do it on your terms and not anyone else’s (hiking pace for example). Anyway, for someone who appreciates the written word, your writing is fun and snappy and refreshing. Keep the posts coming. Brock

  • Just Bob : May 31st

    Love the write up. Keep going and embrace the “suck”.
    You’re doing great!!!!


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