PCT Week 3ish: Idyllwild to Big Bear

This last stretch has given us unbelievable views and new landscapes but has also chewed me up and spit me out into a ditch. Times like this, however, provide you with new hallways between rooms in your pain cave…and boy do I have a mansion now!

Day 14: Idyllwild (Hwy 74) to dry campsite, 4.51 miles

I said goodbye to my husband and dog, and we hiked away from town once again. Since it was already late in the afternoon, we hiked to a close campsite shortly after a creek crossing. Getting to camp before sunset meant postcard painting time!

Day 15: Dry campsite to dry ridge campsite, 15.21 miles

These mountains do not mess around when it comes to climbs. Sometimes they were so steep that the trail 10 ft in front of you was at eye level!

We had a very long water carry and finally made it to Cedar Glenn Spring, which is quite the off-trail hike. Once down at the water, you are surrounded by huge, old cedars and crystal clear spring water.

This ghost manzanita tunnel ushered you down to the water.

In the afternoon we came upon our first patch of the evil white stuff…

This tree branch was definitely not lying. We had a hard couple of days in front of us. After over 4500 ft of climbing, we were beat (and this wasn’t even the highest ascent day on this stretch!).

Day 16: Dry ridge campsite to snowy campsite, 11.12 miles

Well you can infer from the mileage that we hit THE SNOW. We began the day by taking the Apache Peak alternate trail to avoid potentially sketchy snow patches on the exposed saddle. This alternate was super easy and I would highly recommend it.

Around Apache Peak on the alternate
Love to see it while hiking…

We gained beautiful views of the ridges we had hiked that day and San Jacinto. We also started hitting some snow patches with exposed run offs, but that’s what spikes and ice axes are for!

The snow got progressively deeper and slushier as the afternoon wore on. The last couple of miles to camp were luckily not exposed terrain but I did slip on a slushy step and hit a rock. I ripped my pants and cut my knee pretty badly. Oh well, ‘it’s only a flesh wound.

We finally got to a large, dry, flat set of campsites just before dark. Unfortunately, the weather report failed to mention the wind and snow that would assault our tents all night.

Day 17: Snowy campsite to side of the mountain, 10.84 miles

Snow. So much snow. Such melty, slushy snow.

We decided to try the PCT around San Jacinto, even though some comments on Far Out mentioned that it might be sketchier than summiting. We figured if we hit anything outside of our comfort zone, we could turn around. Luckily, the trail was totally doable and not sketchy at all. Just…slow.

We began crossing Fuller Ridge, a notoriously exposed section of the trail. The sun was about to set and it was over 1.5 miles to the closest supposedly dry campsite, and the snow was so slushy that every step was dubious on these exposed slopes. We made the call to be safe and find the most usable patch of ground near the trail to set up camp and tackle the rest of the ridge in the morning on firm, crunchy snow.

The day was not done doling out challenges, however. 1.5 days away from getting a resupply complete with period products, my body thought “this girl needs some extra fun- let’s start our period early!” I will spare some of the details but let’s just say the next day and a half got real pioneer days real fast. 10/10 would not recommend and I am feeling especially empathetic for women across the world who don’t have regular access to menstrual products. It’s amazing how much I take for granted in my everyday life.

Day 18: Side of the mountain to dry campsite, 13.81 miles

Fuller Ridge was so doable once the snow actually froze overnight. Yay for safe decisions!

We slogged through the remaining snowy miles and finally reached the end (for now) of the evil white stuff. Time to go back down to the desert!

Day 19: Dry campsite to creek campsite, 15.22 miles

Our feet finally had time to dry out and the damage from many water-logged days was obvious. San Jacinto remained in our rearview as a reminder of what we had just experienced.

We hustled down the mountain to the desert floor, passing 200 miles!

We were eager to reach the road, not just because the heat was becoming unbearable, but because our friend was waiting with our food resupply and a ride into Cabazon for errands and fast food!

We desecrated the poor Subaru and wiped ourselves down as best as possible. In the evening, our friend dropped us back off at the trail and we set off.

These little guys were all over the trail around here.

We watched trains zoom past us as the sun set and walked under the 10 freeway. We hiked into the night to a campsite by a creek.

Day 20: Creek campsite to creek campsite, 15.70 miles

This morning began with me walking down to the creek to get some water and accidentally disrupting a local couple filming an…ahem…adult scene via drone. The desert is the desert is the desert.

Temperatures started to soar this day and we learned the value of the midday siesta. After feeling some heat exhaustion in the particularly exposed section leading to the Whitewater Preserve, we found a little shade (augmented by our sun umbrellas) and waited out the worst of the heat next to the raging water.

Crossing the flow was harder than expected. The water was turbulent and came up to my thighs!

Day 21: Creek campsite to Mission Spring Trail Camp, 16.34 miles

This day was…a challenge. We began with over 30 wet-foot crossings of Missoula Creek and then proceeded to climb over 5400 ft throughout the day as temperatures soared again.

There was so little shade that we took refuge at one point inside a bush. Despite the fiery sun, the wildflowers in this stretch were blooming like crazy.

Day 22: Mission Spring Trail Camp to Arrastre Camp, 17.22 miles

This was honestly a hard day for me. My body was not feeling right, whether it be lingering heat exhaustion, dehydration on a long water carry, my period, thru hiking, who knows but it made for some hard hiking.

It was another day of big climbs but we made it to the pine trees and closer to our zero in big bear. A water cache 4 miles before camp was welcome.

Day 23: Arrastre Camp to Hwy 18, 10.55 miles

It’s town day and a much needed zero! We tried to quickly do the 10 miles to the highway but my body was once again not feeling it. I woke with the start of a migraine, took some meds, and pushed as best as possible!

We finally made it to the highway and got a ride into town from an awesome trail angel named Queso. Time for rest and resupply!

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