Trip Report Pt2: Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Taken straight from cold and snowy climb the day before into blistering hot and exposed descending for the whole day, we went down the other side of San Jacinto. Bill managed to catch up to us and we chatted quite a bit as he imparted his vast knowledge of the trail on to me. The descent was uneventful as the sun beat us down and the lizards scurried away from us every few steps.

The motivation to get all the way to the desert floor was a water spigot waiting for us. Clear and clean water flowed straight out as we looked backwards at San Jacinto looming over and we felt proud of what we accomplished. At the bottom of the mountain we passed a gated community and a full blown search and rescue operation for two hikers back in the mountains who had fallen down an icy waterfall.

After the little community it was a long walk across the bed of a long since dry river. The wind roared and the footing was very loose sand. Our destination was underneath a bridge on the nearby interstate. Upon reaching it we found six or seven hikers hiding in the bridge's shade as cars roared over head. There were water coolers with drinks left behind that we could take. On the suggestion of the other hikers we decided to make our way quickly to nearby Cabazon so that I could try In N Out burgers. It was cheap and decent but nothing to shout home about.

After returning, the large group was still there and we all joined up to hike out in the evening. With the sun lowering, we left the comfort of the bridge out back into the exposed desert. I came across my first rattlesnake who was just patiently laying down right in the middle of the trail. Arriving at a large wind farm we settled in for the night.

At 0700h the maintenance building for the wind farm welcomed in hikers. They offered toilets, showers, and snacks. I was able to get a bunch of free donuts and chimichangas from the dude who worked there! It was a nice morale booster as the day set ahead for Sam, Monique and I would be tough.

We came across some creeks during the hot morning and I took a moment to just sit down right in the middle of one to cool down. Mission Creek was the name of the next section and the only way to describe it was as an untamed jungle. On paper it's a relatively short walk through a valley/canyon. In reality it was a series of small intersecting creeks through wild bush, with the trail washed out for 80% of the way. Continually checking GPS and straining our necks to find the path we managed to make progress at a snail's pace. Following precariously placed cairns we zigzagged every which way and often looped back on ourselves in confusion.

It was not physically tough but instead a mentally exhausting stretch. We finally escaped Mission Creek's labyrinth in the evening to quickly settle into the first camp spot we could find.

Though out of the maze, now came a tough physical section. The morning had us climbing for hours slowly to get to the defacto Mission Creek campground. I met another hiker from North Carolina named Star Trek at a water source on the way.

The day was spent under tree cover so we escaped the heat and made great progress. In the evening we camped along with Star Trek, Bill and another hiker named Gizmo's Dad.

Waking around 0530h I set a challenge for Sam and Monique, to do 10 miles(16 km) before 1000h. This way we would be at the highway early and can hitch into Big Bear to maximize our time in town. Without too much effort we were able to do the 10 by 10 and at the trailhead Monique called some trail angels who lived in Big Bear.

Mountain Mama, a Big Bear local, came to pick us up and drove us around town to do errands. On top of that she let us stay at her house and promised us a big homemade breakfast tomorrow morning! Truly amazing people! We decided to take the rest of the day off and chill out at the angel's house. She even brought us out to dinner with her at a local Mexican restaurant that had dollar tacos. At the house there was one other hiker, a girl from Thailand named Baum(translated phonetically from Thai(?)). Later in the afternoon another hiker came by, another Brit named King who we had run into briefly back in Idyllwild. His feet were completely torn up with huge chunks of skin missing and he was planning on staying with the angels for a couple days. Finally an American from Oakland rounded out the party and we spent the night all chatting away at the fire pit in the backyard.

I got lucky and snagged one of three cots that they had set up within the house! I slept soundly except for dropping my phone down about 3 meters(10ft) and having the screen become severely cracked...

In the morning I used some medical tape to hold my phone together which thankfully still worked fine except the back button was out of commission. The big breakfast that was promised was delivered as the group of hikers chowed down on pancakes, eggs, hash browns and biscuits! Around midday Papa Smurf (Mountain Mama's husband) graciously drove us back to the trail (Sam, Monique, Baum and I).

Within twenty minutes we came across a girl hiking in a dress. Her name was Ari and she was from Sacramento. As a student she had a deadline like Emmett and so I decided to join her as she would have a larger daily mileage than the British couple.

The hours slipped by with good conversation and one rattlesnake near the trail. We were able to do around 26 miles(42 km) to get to camp. The first camp was infested with wasps so we hiked to a further one. There was another hiker already set up and he had the same tent as I did. Tired, we all settled in for the night.

Not too far ahead there are hot springs waiting so we pushed hard through the morning to reach it ASAP. The sun rose quickly and clawed at us as we hiked in and out of tree cover. Upon arrival at the hot springs we decided to take the rest of the day off. Swimming in the cold river and dipping into the boiling pools of hot water we spent over five hours relaxing. Sam and Monique eventually caught up to us in the late afternoon.

After considerable effort, Ari and I finally managed to break free and continue hiking forward as the sun was on its way down. We hiked all the way past sunset and camped out on an exposed ridge with a fantastic view.

Getting up early again Ari wasn't motivated so I just left her behind and set off. Only a few minutes from our camp I came across an injured gopher crawling on trail. It slowly scooted away and into a hole. The next highlight on the hike was an famous McDonald's which EVERY hiker stops at since it's only 0.4 miles(0.7 km) off trail.

Under the sweltering sun all I could think about were the cheap burgers waiting for me. I managed to hike 22 miles(35 km) by 1330h. I quickly order four McDoubles and an apple pie for myself. Over the next three hours or so I just loitered in the restaurant and used WiFi.

Hiking out I plan on stopping and camping out near a water cache. There is the promise of a sustained climb for the better part of tomorrow with no water. On the way to the cache I meet a girl named Stitches. I wait for her twice as I spot rattlesnakes on the trail and want to make sure no one gets injured. At the cache there is a group of hikers who I'd seen also relaxing at the McDonald's. They plan on hiking out in the darkness to counter-act the sun and waterless climb.

As the sun sets some pickup trucks with loud locals pull up nearby. They spend some time shooting their guns up into the hills which will be hiking tomorrow. After awhile they leave and I fall asleep.

Continuing from the water cache and across a dirt road the climbing begins. I trudge along hoping to get in and out of the next town for resupply, Wrightwood. Approaching the place where I'd hitch into Wrightwood there were a lot of local day-hikers. I chatted with two different older gentlemen who both wished they had the strength to hike the PCT. Arriving at the trailhead another hiker was getting a hitch and I ran down to join him on the trip to town.

In town some hikers give me free food because they accidentally shipped themselves too much. The grocery store also offered a few freebies for PCT hikers which I gladly took. After a small snack I joined two other hikers, Killer Bee and Queen Bee, to hitch back to the trail. We were picked up by Moises who just moved into the area and had never taken hitchhikers before!

I paired up with the couple and we made our way to the next mountain on the PCT, Mount Baden-Powell. This mountain was named after the founder of boy scouts! In the parking lot to the trailhead of the mountain we were stopped by some road-trippers. Their son had completed the PCT the year before and they wanted to give us drinks and snacks. We stopped to chat and enjoy the treats.

As the sun set we began the ascent of Baden-Powell. It was quite steep along a series of switchbacks. Climbing up around 2/3 of the mountain, the sun was disappearing and we all settled down to camp for the night. It was quite a big day for me, doing over 9000ft(2750 m) of elevation gain.

Eager to reach the top of the mountain I left the couple behind at camp. Though not as high as San Jacinto there were still some patches of snow I needed to traverse in order to reach the peak. At the top I was the only one there to enjoy the view. On the way down I got lost as the snow obscured the path completely and I end up off in a random direction. After getting reoriented and finally out of snow I made more progress on the large descent. I ran into three day-hikers who were training in order to do the John Muir Trail. They gave me a power bar and took some trash I was carrying.

The next section of the PCT involved a road detour which was not fun. Lots of speeding cars and not much of a shoulder to walk on. It was about 2.7 miles(4.3 km) long and then it ended at a serviced campground. I took a nap on a picnic table during the afternoon to avoid the sun. Leaving the campground led to a busy trail with many day-hikers. After about 3 miles(4.8 km) all the traffic died down and eventually I reached a backcountry campsite. I sat down to eat lunch and was joined by two other hikers who were from Belgium.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I got to camp which had many bees, encouraging me to set up quickly and go to bed.

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