Paradise and Beyond
Mile 151.9 to 266.1
Paradise Valley Cafe to Big Bear
It’s easy to fall into routine out here. Wake up, clear up camp and make some coffee. Stuff your pack and start walking. Then… keep walking. Walk until your feet won’t let you or the sun sinks below the horizon, whatever comes first. Sit down, digest the day, eat something, then crawl into your quilt that seems to get dirtier each day. Sleep. Repeat.
Zero is the Best Number
Routine, however, must be broken. On trail, this seems most evident on zero days, or days when you hike zero miles. More often these are “nero” days, when you hike just a couple miles.
My first full zero happened in idyllwild, only 179 miles into the journey. Coming into idyllwild was a chore, as we had to take a 2.5 mile side trail then try and get a ride from a parking lot. No hiker likes to do these “bonus” miles, but you have to get into town somehow.
Once we successfully hitched into town (thanks Tony!) everything was a blur. I needed to do so many things, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It’s also easy to forget how fast cars actually move, so crossing traffic becomes even more hazardous.
In short, the town stop consisted of meeting the mayor (that’s a dog), laundry, buying resupply food, and eating. Lots and lots of eating.
Big Days, Baby
Leaving town felt like coming home. A firm trail under my feet and faces that are becoming more and more familiar as we leap frog and camp together are all that I really need.
The first day back we pushed out a 23 mile day, to the most beautiful campsite I’ve ever stayed at. A moonlit Mt. San Jacinto serenaded us to sleep as mosquitoes amassed to swarm us in the morning.
This was a difficult day, as we had to crest over the mountain, and then climb back down 8000 feet to the valley.
We fought snow and getting lost, but it was a beautiful day nonetheless. Also, was able to call my mom on trail to wish her a happy mother’s day!
The next day, we hiked another 25 miles to the beginning of mission creek. This was definitely the second best camp site of the trip. There were about 20 hikers in the area, and we were all exhausted from the day’s walk. We saw a rattlesnake this day, which brings the count to 4 for the journey.
The best part of this day, however, came in the form of whitewater river. After a hot 19 miles through desert and sun, we hit a river ripe for the soaking. It carried us through the rest of the day, and brought us to the campsite easily.
After the best night of sleep I’ve had on trail, we began the arduous climb up Mission creek. This section has been heavily washed out, so the hike felt more like a scramble. Jumping from cairn to cairn, from one side of the river to the other, I felt ever more grateful for the sandals that have carried me this far.
We camped shortly after an abandoned zoo (jokes were made about loose lions, tigers, and bears), making another 25 mile day. Thoughts of real food floated through my head after a dinner of peach rings, cookies, and chips. The next morning, big bear awaited after a meager 15 mile hike and an easy hitch into town.
What’s next? I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks at Big Bear, drinking a white chocolate mocha and typing away with warm fingers. I’m going to go shopping soon with the hikers I’ve found myself hiking with, and then climbing into a full hotel room to share some laughs and some sleep.
Tomorrow we hit the trail again, high wind warning be damned. In the next few days, I’ll be hiking through real desert, sitting in hot springs, and eating McDonalds. And, celebrating my 24th trip around the sun.
Everything is perfect so far, and I’m excited to see where the trail takes me.
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