Summits, Snakes, and Switchbacks

Week three on the PCT has been both beautiful and eventful. Despite everything in my being wanting to get back out on the trail, I decided to stay 2 days in Idyllwild to wait out a coming snowstorm. I sure am glad I did. The greatest trail angel of all time, Dennis, took my friends (Moon Man and Bowie) and me in and instantly treated us like family. He allowed us to stay at his home, cooked us dinner, and let us do laundry. He has a true servants heart and has the gift of hosting. He hiked the 2.5 mile uphill trail to connect us back to the PCT and it was a special moment saying goodbye.

After parting ways, the trail continued to gain elevation as we were set to summit San Jacinto. It was a beautiful day, no clouds in the sky. Perfect day to summit. The dirt trail turned into snow as the elevation rose and the trail began getting steeper and steeper. This is when I got my trail name!! Story time. I was handing out sour patch kids to everybody because we all needed an extra boost of energy. However, I then slipped on the snow and fell (I’m not good hiking in snow I’m from Alabama OK?) and the bag ripped.

I didn’t realize for a while, but I had been leaving a trail of Sour Patch Kids along the path. I was then deemed Sour Patch. I like to think I was just helping out fellow hikers Hansel and Gretel style, as the trail was tricky to follow. The last half mile was scrambling up boulders to reach the peak and boy was it worth it! The contrast of the snowy mountains with the Palm Springs desert floor was surreal. We celebrated with lunch and hanging out with fellow hikers at the top.

The descent from the mountain was a crazy temperature shock. At 10,834’ we were in snow and then 20 miles later the trail plunged to 1,190’ with temperatures close to 100 degrees. “The weather here is crazy,” I would say. “That’s SoCal for ya,” says Dennis the trail angel. The descent off the mountain is when we decided to rename the trail, the Switchback Trail (SBT). The next couple of days brought countless switchbacks, long water stretches, rattlesnakes (!!) and high temperatures with no shade.

It was one of these days where we happened upon a hiker nearly passed out in the middle of the trail suffering from severe dehydration. We gave him water and electrolytes and helped him hike the half-mile to the nearest campsite. We discussed pressing the SOS button on my satellite phone to get him to the nearest hospital. He said he wanted to try to hike the eight miles to the nearest road the next morning to attempt a hitch before pressing SOS. We all agreed to wake up early to hike out together.

The last few miles were painful to watch. His muscle cramps were so severe he stopped every five minutes to rest. As a PT, I tried massaging his legs to relax the muscles. The boys with me were taking turns to carry his pack. It was beautiful watching our group encourage him and help him reach that road. It felt like a movie.

We made it to the road and praise the lord there was someone there who could take him to the hospital. He is now treated and feeling much better and is going to rest in town for a few days. This experience was scary and also a good reminder that this could happen to anyone. This man was in shape, an avid hiker, and knowledgeable about his body and health. It’s important to be prepared, have necessary food, water, and medicine, and to have fellow hikers around when not feeling well.

The landscape changed again throughout the last couple days getting into Big Bear. The trail brought shaded stretches through pine tree forests, views of mountain ranges, and cool temperatures. I love how drastically the landscapes change everyday, even within a day. I keep finding myself smiling to myself as I hike through the beautiful terrains of Southern California. I’m so thankful and grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to continue to see what this trail has to offer.

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Comments 3

  • Avatar
    Lindsey : May 4th

    Aww it sounds like you were that man’s trail angel! I bet they were glad to have a PT around!

  • Avatar
    thetentman : May 5th

    It is great when dirty, smelly hiker trash are the Trail Angels. Congrats and nice writing. Good luck with the hike.

  • Avatar
    Michael John Ervin : May 7th

    I just love watching people do this, I wish I had known ab this trail fifty years ago, although it would’ve probably taken me a year to complete, I would’ve stopped at every stream and lake to fish😁everybody stay safe and God bless you all


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