San Jacinto and Big Bear
Flavortown saves the day!
The first morning back on trail from Idyllwild was challenging! I woke up dehydrated. I had just under a liter of water, and we had 5 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation to walk up before the next water source. I was anxious and a little cranky.
When we got to the water source, my day completely changed! I drank 1.5 liters of fresh, delicious, melted ice water. I also drank one Nuun (electrolyte tablet) and one Gatorade.
Side note – somewhere along the trail we started calling our flavored drinks, Flavortown, in reference to Guy Fieri. I don’t remember how this started but we kept it up for the entire trail. I drank two Flavortowns at this water source.
With the help of Flavortown, I was a new person, full of life and energy. After resting for two hours at the water source, we continued on an ascent through the trail. When we got to the top, we inhaled our snacks. Once my body was no longer thirsty, it reminded me that I was very hungry.
The first snow on the trail
There was snow up on the trail, but not too much. I didn’t need to put on my microspikes. We were really excited to see it and took pictures.
There was a point where Nick post holed in the snow. I heard a noise, turned around, and Nick was up to his waist in snow. I saw he was okay and was relieved. He then said, “Big boy!” and I cracked up. “Big boy” became a joke for the rest of the trail.
We met some other hikers along the way. There was a pair who I assumed to be a mother and son. The son was wearing an external frame pack which I assume must have been several decades old! Those things are heavy, and it must have been extremely challenging for him to have navigated the several blow downs on the trail.
After doing quite a bit of ascent, we finally started to descend. We crossed an exciting raging waterfall and then descended Fuller ridge in the snow. The past few days had been the most challenging section of the PCT for us so far.
Burning up at the 10 freeway
The descent from Jacinto was long and steep. I don’t envy the folks that are going southbound. We set up camp at the bottom of the mountain, a mile or so from the 10 freeway. We quickly realized that it was going to be a windy night. Out of fear that my tent might break, we took it down and cowboy camped for the first time (camped under the stars without a tent). It took a little while to get comfortable because I felt very exposed.
We got down to the 10 freeway and called an Uber to get into town. We resupplied at the Walmart for our next stretch into Big Bear, and then we walked to the Taco Bell for an early lunch. We then took another Uber back the trail.
We had hardly walked at all that day but we were already so exhausted. Instead of continuing on the trail, I took a nap under the underpass. Nick drank a beer. I believe this is the moment when we officially became “hiker trash.”
We delayed for a few hours but then finally set out. It was brutal. We couldn’t wait to ascend into the mountains again to escape the heat. We camped a wind farm that night only 4 miles up the trail. The workers at the wind farm set up a shaded area with a charging station and cooler full of waters. We were so happy. It was Sunday, so there wasn’t anyone there to thank, but I want to send a big THANK YOU to the wind farm workers!
We didn’t have enough space in our Ursaks (bear proof bags) for all the food we bought at Walmart, so we stuffed two bags of chips in the cooler of waters and put a big rock on it before we went to sleep. This probably wasn’t our smartest idea, but it worked out fine. We decided to wake up at 3:15 am the next morning since it was so freaking hot. Nick went to get our chip bags in the morning and scared the living daylights out of some birds that had slept in the shelter.
Un-bee-lievable animal encounters
We met several people on the trail this day, but none of them were thru-hikers. We met a group of four older folks who were section hiking from the 10 to the 15. We ended up leap frogging them for several days.
We had a fun river crossing this day. The water came up to my knees, and it was a lot warmer than the waterfall crossing near Jacinto. We camped along mission creek that day. It was a beautiful spot near a babbling brook. Nick and I both passed out that night.
We woke up at 3:15 am again. The first half of the day was pleasant. We crossed mission creek several (at least 20 times). I enjoyed meandering through the creek in the shade. After the last crossing, we took off our shoes, filtered two liters of water each, and killed a bag of Chex Mix. We put on our dry socks and continued to hike. The second half of the day proved to be more difficult. It was exposed and uphill. I missed the creek switchbacks. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I turned the corner on the trail and heard a hiss. I looked down and it was directly by my foot! I jumped and ran back along the trail (definitely not what I was supposed to do). It was at least five feet long and huge.
We got to our campsite around 230pm. Nick took a nap while I filtered water and washed my socks and gloves. The campsite was nice except for the tons of mosquitoes. Once Nick woke up from his nap I set up the tent and got inside to temporarily escape them. We had decided to stop early that day because we had heard about some unusually aggressive bees that were just up ahead. We knew that the bees would be more docile when the sun was down. I am allergic to bees, and I did not want to take any chances, so we decided to wake up very early the next morning to safely pass the bees.
The plan was a success! We woke up at 3:00 am and passed the bees before the sunrise. I was terrified as we approached the spot on the trail where the bees were supposed to be. I kept checking my phone for the designated mile marker. When we got close, I booked it for about a mile. I made it without seeing a single bee! I’m so glad it worked out. The morning hike was pretty steep, but the cool morning weather made it easier. Later in the morning we approached a stream and filtered water. I turned on my bird app (Merlin) and watched a bluebird swoop and beat up a chipmunk. I suppose the eastern and western varieties aren’t that different.
We kept hiking and discussed trying for our first 20-mile day, which is a pivotal milestone for thru hikers. At mile 10, however, it was becoming pretty obvious that we were not going to hit that milestone just quite yet. We passed some private land with a few horses, dogs, and chickens. One of the dogs and had a frisbee. I wish I could’ve played with him, but there were a bunch of fences and no trespassing signs. We ended our day after 16 miles of hiking. I was absolutely exhausted and completed my camp chores as quickly as possible. I zoned out on my phone for a little bit and then passed out, dreaming of reaching Big Bear the next day.
The day started out rough. Nick’s sleeping pad had a slow leak, and he woke up on the ground. It was fairly cold the previous night with the temperature in the high 30s. Nick was very uncomfortable and got very minimal sleep. He asked for 30 minutes to sleep in. I was eager to get going, but I felt bad for him and agreed.
The hiking was mentally tough. I was prepared for a short, easy day, but we had 13 miles to go until Big Bear. We started late and low on water. About four miles in, we hiked down the trail to get to a small but beautiful stream. We collected water and each washed a pair of underwear. A short while down the trail, we got swarmed by gnats. They hung out with us for a while and drove me crazy. It seemed like they all wanted to fly into my eyes. I was tired and low on patience. I put on my mosquito net for some sanity, and it helped. My shoulders were hurting and I wanted to make it to Big Bear so badly. We had 5 miles left until highway 18. We passed the time by discussing our favorite Tom Hanks movies (his is The Terminal).
Big fun in Big Bear
My parents picked us up from highway 18. They planned to spend the day with us in Big Bear. We used to go to Big Bear frequently during my childhood, so it was very nostalgic to be back there with them. They were so excited to see us and overwhelmed us with their energy. My mom told us how much she liked the place we were staying, Wolf Creek Lodge.
I really liked Wolf Creek Lodge. It had a homey vibe and the owner, Frank, was really cool.
We went out to dinner with my parents at a Himalayan restaurant, which was really good. We walked downtown and my mom reminisced about her childhood times in Big Bear and how much it had changed. She drove us around and gave us an informal tour of Big Bear before returning to the motel.
The next morning, we all went out to breakfast at a diner. Nick and I ate hash browns mixed with veggies and drank coffee. My parents both got huge plates of food. We walked back to the hotel, and then Nick and I borrowed the car to do a grocery run. We got food for our next leg of the trip into Cajon Pass and for the remainder of our time in Big Bear. We then parted ways with my parents. My mom seemed really sad to say goodbye. I assured her we would meet up again in Acton.
Nick and I went to a used gear shop nearby to see if they could help fix his sleeping pad, with no luck. We then went to Big 5 to get him a new pad. He got a pad, and I bought a creamsicle-colored Columbia sun hoodie, which I wore for the remainder of the hike. We went to the post office and sent his old pad and my shirt and sun sleeves home. We got back to the motel and Nick cooked us a yummy dinner with tofu, vegetables, and noodles. It’s a luxury to eat fresh vegetables, since it’s basically impossible to have them on trail. We then watched an episode of Black Mirror before calling it a night.
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