Weeks 2-3: Warner Springs to Big Bear
Days Eight and Nine: Forced Zero Days
Hanging out at my aunt’s was ideal, but the state of my feet was less than ideal. My body needed the rest. I loved seeing family, but sitting still was hard. I watched as my friends pushed on. I thought a lot about getting back on trail and not knowing anyone. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to rest for.
I got in my own head a lot, and then I got out. I realized that two or three days off was no big deal. Some people had to take weeks off to heal bigger injuries. I realized I now got the chance to meet new people and I would get the chance to hike alone.
Day Ten: Warner Springs to Mike’s Place (17 Miles)
My aunt Susan and I left her house in Yucca Valley at 5 a.m. We made it back to Warner Springs by 8 a.m. I said thank you and goodbye and then hung out at the community center for a half hour or so. I was surprised to see so many familiar faces.
I left at around 9 a.m. and walked through cow fields while on the phone with my best friend, Kristine. Before I started the climb out of the valley I called Lily and snacked. It’s hard to be away from her but I know it’s worth it. I climbed up a steady uphill for most of the day. Half of this was next to a sandy shallow river covered by trees and surrounded by wildflowers. The other half was spent walking through high desert environments or big boulder fields.
I decided that a trail angel’s house called Mike’s Place sounded too good to pass up. The Guthook comment that sold me was, “If you don’t go to Mike’s Place you will regret it even on your deathbed.” It was pretty creepy walking in. I filled up my water from a tank above the property and walked down the road past old trailers, trash, and other odd things spewed around the property. When I arrived there were about six hikers around a fire. Scott was one of them. He’s the caretaker for the house. He also cooks dinner for the hikers.
There was beer and plenty of food. We spent the evening eating our hearts out and drinking cold beer. At one point I convinced everyone to paint their nails.
Day 11: Mike’s Place to Idyllwild via Paradise Cafe (25 Miles)
I intended to leave camp much earlier than I did but when I poked my head out at 5 a.m. the fog was too thick to see through. I ended up leaving Mike’s Place at about 7 a.m. and walking as fast as I could to stay warm. The day reminded me a lot of leaving Mount Laguna a week previous. I hiked down in elevation for a few hours and then the fog cleared up. The day turned out to be on the warm side. I hiked on and off, taking snack breaks every two hours. My goal was to try to do a 25-mile day and hitch into Idyllwild from Paradise Valley Cafe, but I knew that I shouldn’t push myself too hard so I had no expectations.
I didn’t see a single person until around noon. We passed each other on and off and ended up taking a long, late lunch together at Mary’s water tank. From there I decided that I could do the 6.5 miles to Paradise Valley Cafe.
It was a long 6.5 miles but in the end I’m glad I did it. My foot started to get a little tender from overuse but other then that my body held up well.
I easily found a hitch. I only had my thumb out for about half a minute before an old man in a blue Subaru pulled over. He lived in Idyllwild so I felt comfortable riding alone with him. He could barely figure out how to unlock the car to let me in. I found out that he drives down to Palm Desert for chemo treatment every week and always picks up hikers on his way back. Richard drove me all the way to the post office and from there I headed to the pizza parlor for a personal size pizza and a beer. I ended up eating dinner with a nice guy named Matt. I might hike out with him tomorrow.
Day 12: Paradise Valley Cafe to Mile 166 (15 Miles)
I set my alarm for 7 a.m. but was up by 6 a.m. packing up camp. I had received shower tokens from some German hikers so I took a ten-minute hot shower. I had no towel to dry off with so I just pulled my hiking clothes on and walked my damp self to the road to get a hitch back to the cafe for breakfast.
I got there minutes before they opened. I ended up getting a table with Devin, the only person I saw hiking the day before. We both got huge servings and a breakfast beer. We stayed for two hours or so, charging devices and resting. At 11 a.m. we decided it was time to hitch back to trail.
Getting a late start was fun in the moment but sucked once we had to go uphill in the height of the afternoon heat.
The water sources were rough. Most were off trail down long paths. We ended up only getting water once and took a longer break for lunch. Then we kept the uphill grind going.
There’s a big group of us camped here at mile 166. Even though it was only 15 miles it was a hard day for us all. Mentally and physically. I plan on summiting with Bightside and Hothands tomorrow.
Day 13: Fobes Ranch Trail to Mile 187 (21 Miles)
I woke up at 5 a.m. and was hiking by 5:30. I had an 11-mile uphill dry stretch and only had 1.25L of water. I put my head down and pushed. I saw Gables. She was surprised I caught up. I was very happy to see her.
The uphill was a shock to the system after mild desert climbs. The altitude drained me. I’ve only been away from Colorado for two weeks but my body lost its adaptations from living at 8,000 feet. On my way up the climb I ran into some poodle dog brush and a little snow. Nothing crazy, though. I made it to the stream by 10:30 a.m. but rested there until almost noon, then finished the big climb.
At the junction to the summit of San Jacinto I decided that my body wasn’t up for the climb. My thigh had started to cramp the day before and was worse today. I also didn’t have Microspikes so I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of hurting and sliding around.
I started my hike down six miles to camp and was joined by Hawkeye. Nice guy from Iowa. He stayed with me as I hobbled slowly over snow and creeks. We were headed to the same campsite so he didn’t mind. When we got there Andrew, Janet, Luke, Frisky, and Liz were there. It was the perfect end to a slightly shitty day.
Day 14: Mile 187 to Interstate 10 (22 Miles)
I was happy to wake up with my trail family. We were in no rush to get out since we only planned to go part way down the 8,000-foot decent.
We packed up and took the snow on Fuller Ridge slowly. I didn’t have spikes and did fine as long as I was careful. My only issue was my thigh was cramping up again.
After the snow I fell behind and began to get upset. I was frustrated that I wanted to do this trail so bad and that I was loving every second of it but I couldn’t enjoy it fully because my body kept hurting. I called my parents to vent as well as Lily.
I told them I needed to zero in Cabazon. I asked them to help me find a cheap room. After this I put music in and embraced my situation.
As I dropped in elevation my leg started to loosen up. I was confused by this phenomenon but happy that some of the pain was going away. The others had stopped for water a few miles back so I decided to take lunch and wait for them. Andrew came first. Then Janet, Luke, Liz, and Frisky. We kept motoring down the mountain. We all decided to just go all the way to I10 instead of camping at the base of the decent. Andrew’s parents were meeting him there for his zero and we wanted In and Out!
Most of our day was spent making poop jokes or singing songs about a rusted pipe that marked the end of our descent that day. Janet and Luke brought us home with a beautiful rendition of the Canadian anthem (rusty pipe version).
After we filled our water bottles and our knees recovered from the descent we started walking again. We could see the highway. It ended up being the longest 3.8 miles of our lives. It included a road walk on very tender knees and feet, as well as a long walk over very sandy river beds as wind blasted us. Every time we looked up the road didn’t look any closer.
Eventually we arrived under the overpass.
The cars and trains moving over us made it hard to hear anything. We all decided to call an Uber to get to In and Out. I went with Andrew’s parents since they had an extra seat.
We all recovered at In and Out. I got a double double, animal fries, and a coke. I ate 1,840 calories in one sitting. During this feast we all decided that sleeping under the overpass would be horrible so I booked us a room at Rodeway Inn.
After our burgers we Lyfted to Walmart and did our resupply. From there we went to the hotel where we all showered, sorted through our resupply food, and hit the hay.
Day 15: Zero Day
The next morning we all were slow to get going. We didn’t leave the hotel until 10:30. Andrew’s parents had offered to pick me up from the trail and have me stay with them in their hotel since I wanted to zero and the others wanted to push on to Big Bear.
My choice ended up being exactly what I needed. I spent my day eating and lying by the pool. I did bathtub laundry and took an Epsom salt bath.
His parents offered me kindness that two weeks ago I wouldn’t have as easily accepted and wouldn’t have imagined would come from complete strangers.
Day 16: Interstate 10 to Mile 226 (17 Miles)
I woke up on the floor of a very nice hotel still full from dinner the night before. The blackout shades were drawn so I had no idea how late it was. I had slept until 9 a.m. My body needed every second of it.
By 9:30 we were down at the breakfast buffet. Andrew and I ate as much as we could and then headed upstairs to pack our packs. By 11 a.m. we were at trail. We said goodbye and I thanked them as much as I could for their unlimited kindness. Then we were off.
Within minutes we were drenched in sweat. We walked on and off for the next five hours until we reached the Whitewater River. I threw my pack off once it was in sight, stripped down to my underwear, and laid down in it. It gave me all my energy back and washed away all the effort from the ten miles before it. We spent an hour there. Relaxing in the water and eating lunch.
From there it was six more miles to camp. My thigh had been acting up again so it was a worrisome six miles but it never got to painful. By 8 p.m. we got to camp by Mission Creek where we found Gables, Brightside, and Hothands. Andrew and I set up camp, made dinner, and got to bed. We plan on waking up early to hit the uphill when it’s still cool out.
Day 17: Mile 266 to Coon Creek Cabin (20 Miles)
Andrew and I got out of camp by 5:45 a.m. We were planning on only going 14 miles that day because we had heard a large section of the trail next to Mission Creek was washed out for up to ten miles. The washout was bad. Really bad. Finding trail was hard, but luckily many hikers before us had left cairns and light footpaths. Most of the river crossings were rock hops or log crossings. We saw a HUGE rattlesnake, too. All of this actually mixed the normal morning grind up so I had a blast.
After a couple hours of this, a few wet shoes later, and many snacks we made it out of the washed-out section and started the climb to Mission Creek Spring.
On our way up a southbound day hiker told us he had seen a medium-sized bear ahead. We kept walking but saw nothing. We took a break by the creek. A girl I’d seen a lot the last few days, Honey Stick, joined us, as well as another hiker named Jenga. Jenga left earlier than us from our snack break but came back with news that he had found the bear. We went down to check it out and it was far from a medium-sized bear. It was a fresh spring cub. So… bad news bears… where the hell was its mom?!
We all headed back to pack up our stuff and try to then go back to the creek to try and scare the little cub away. It did not give a crap that six large hikers were clinking trekking poles, all yelling at it. All it wanted to do was eat grass and sit feet away from trail. We all decided to tip-toe past it and book it up the hill before mom showed up.
Once we hit turbo speed we got to camp by three. We decided we had a few more miles in us and stopped for dinner. From there we ascended into the pines and watched the sun set as we tried to find a suitable place to set up camp. The ridge proved to be a hard place for that so we ended up hiking six miles to Coon Creek Cabin. This place was creepy with a capital C. We looked around it in the dark and settled on one of the less creepy single-room cabins. The roof was half caved in and it had open windows and doors but it looked pretty clean. We cowboy camped and shivered through our coldest night yet.
Day 18: Coon Creek Cabin to Mile 266 (20 Miles)
After a long cold night we didn’t get moving until 7:30. We started the morning with a two-mile uphill. We cruised this knowing the rest of the day was mild up or down hills. We decided to hike a 20-mile day to Highway 18 and camp there to set us up for a zero day in Big Bear the next morning.
I spent my day talking about how much I loved the forest around us, how easy the hiking was, and what I wanted to eat in town. I went back and forth between talking to Andrew and Honey Stick and listening to music. Around halfway through the day I finally had enough service to wish my Mom a late happy Mother’s Day. Overall, it was an average, uneventful but wonderful day on the PCT.
We got into camp early, got some soda from trail magic by the highway, made dinner, and crawled into our tents.
Day 19: Mile 266 to Big Bear Lake (.5 Miles)
We packed up at around 8 a.m. and walked down to the highway. We didn’t eat breakfast or dress in our hiking clothes. We just got ourselves together enough to hitch into town. We spent about 15 minutes trying to get a hitch. We used various methods such as putting on our biggest smiles, dancing, standing too close to the road. Finally one bit. Two guys in a truck who had originally passed us turned around and came back for us. They took us halfway into town but then dropped us in Big Bear City. We caught another hitch from there that took us to the hostel.
We were there half an hour early so we passed time by digging through the hiker box and figuring out where to eat breakfast. Janet, Luke (now Wolf), Frisky, and Mike came out to meet us. At 9 the owner, Sarge, took our names down and told us to go get breakfast while the rooms were being cleaned. We took his advice and went to Teddy Bears Diner for the discounted hiker breakfast. At breakfast we talked about our plans for the Sierra. Since they had just gotten fresh snow we decided that we most likely were going to have to flip-flop. Due to this our plan was now to start hauling toward the Sierra and then find a way to Oregon to hike south toward the Sierra while the snow melted.
As we were paying for breakfast I got my trail name. Due to the fact that I had acquired a large knife that looked like a switc blade while off trail and then hauled up a mountain of switchbacks to make a miraculous come back to my trail family, I was dubbed Switch. The second it was proposed I felt that it was right.
We spent the rest the day resupplying at the Dollar Tree and Vons. We also showered and did laundry. After that it was time to relax.
From here we went to an Indian food restaurant and then went straight to bed. We knew we were going to have a rough day in the rain the next day. We all needed to maximize our rest and take in the warmth while we could.
Day 20: Mile 266 to Little Bear Camp (20 Miles)
It was hard to get up and leave the hostel knowing we were headed into the storm. I had gotten texts from my Mom and other relatives asking me if I was going to take the day off. Apparently the storm was supposed to be horrendous farther north but I was confident it wouldn’t be too bad where I was at.
The seven of us had signed up for the 7 o’clock ride from the hostel back to trail. It was already raining when we left. Our packs were strapped to the roof of the old station wagon. Our hopes, and our packs’ hopes, of staying dry were already crushed.
We arrived back on trail at 7:30 a.m. and started walking at turbo speed. We knew it was only going to get worse so the more miles before then the better. We stopped for one snack break. I pulled out an old, yellow, disposable poncho and put it over my rain jacket and pack. I had been saving it for a bad day. The first thing Andrew told me was, “Hold on, you look like an idiot, I have to take a picture.”
After this the storm hit and turbo mode got even faster. Rain soon turned to windy rain. Windy rain sometimes turned to hail that stung as it hit my legs. We didn’t stop for breaks. We didn’t stop for snacks. I didn’t even stop to pee. The whole day we were walking as fast as we could to stay warm and to get to camp faster. I was told that I looked like Big Bird waddling through the woods. Thank god I had got my trail name the day before.
By 2:30 p.m. we were at camp. Twenty miles in seven hours was a new record. Luckily for us it had stopped raining right as we got to camp. There were many other people at the same campsite who had either already set up their tent or were in the process. We decided to join them. The flattest spot I could find was in the horse corral so I took it. I felt like an idiot but I figured it would do.
We all spend the rest of the day huddled around the picnic table talking or cooking. By 6 o’clock we were all in our tents. I fell asleep listening to Harry Potter.
Day 21: Little Bear Camp to Mile 306 (20 Miles)
We all agreed the night before that we wouldn’t be in any rush to get out of bed. We figured it was going to be a cold night and we were right. It had gotten down to around 25°. We all woke up to frost all over our tents and we could see snow in the mountains above. We didn’t leave camp until 8 o’clock. It was glorious.
It was a slow-going morning. We took breaks every few miles or so until lunch, when we found a nice sandy bank to take a long lunch along the river.
Andrew and I crossed the stream and sat on some rocks. It felt nice to soak my feet and calves in the cold water. I felt ready to go before anyone else so I left on my own. I didn’t mind being alone. I wanted to continue to listen to Harry Potter. I was getting a blister on my big toe in a place where I already had just had one so it was a nice distraction from that pain.
I hit the 300-mile mark alone and got a runner to take a picture of me with it. I kept trucking until I found a nice bench. I plopped down on it and waited for the group to catch up.
We hiked into camp at around 6 p.m. I looked at my big toe and found out it was worse than I thought. It looked like it might be starting to get infected. I figured I’d do what I could and see what it was like in the morning.
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