Photos: PCT Days 8-10

PCT Day 8:

PCT Day 9:

PCT Day 10:

(All also on Flickr)

PCT Days 16-17: Hail and Wind

The wonders of hiking in the mountains are many. Sweeping, panoramic views. Gnarled trees clinging to windy slopes. Big lizards staring at you while doing big lizard pushups. Did I mention the views?

The problems with hiking in the mountains are that you must hike up them, then down them, then up again, then down again, etc, etc. The uphill sections are just hard—hauling yourself and your pack up with every step. The downhill sections, while easier on the lungs, can be demoralizing because every step down is just another step you’ll have to go back up later. (No one has yet installed the peak-to-peak suspended walkways that would smooth the whole process out.)

But the thrill from reaching a pass or a peak, the changing trees and rocks and flowers—and, yes, the views—make up for the problem parts. So on Day 16 we started hiking out of Idyllwild, headed up towards Mount San Jacinto. We started at 5300′ and slowly puffed our way up to the end of the PCT fire closure at 8100′. Where it started hailing. Which was actually really fun—our first precipitation of the trip, and it’s frozen. We put up our umbrellas and kept walking.

From there it was up then down then up again in 1000-foot swings. The trail took us through interesting terrain, but whatever views down to Idyllwild we might have had were shrouded in clouds. We collected water at our last water source for 20 miles—a small stream on the mountainside—and kept hiking, sometimes through snow.

Our camp that night overlooked a cloud-shrouded valley, and in the morning there was frost on the tent. We hiked through more patches of snow and 40-degree temperatures, headed for Fuller Ridge, a notorious descent to the valley floor. Fuller Ridge is the section where hikers talk about running out of water, of nearing heat exhaustion, of being genuinely pushed to their limits for the first time on their thru-hike. The trail descends 7800 feet, from 9000′ to 1200′, over 20 waterless miles—just down, down, down.

 

We started above the clouds, the San Bernadino mountains visible in the distance, wind farms far below. The trail sticks to PCT standards—roughly a 5% grade, suitable for pack animals—which translates to long, long switchbacks. We’d walk halfway around the mountain then turn around and walk halfway back in the opposite direction. It took for freaking ever to make any progress downwards. But it was beautiful, and we passed the 200 mile mark! 

 

Near the bottom we discovered why there were so many wind turbines in the valley: dear sweet Spaghetti Monster, the wind! It was gale force. It was constant. When we finally reached the water spigot at the base of Fuller Ridge, it was still blowing. We set up the tarp and bug net, tying the cords to rocks because the wind kept pulling the stakes out of the sandy soil. We boiled water for dinner inside the net, ate and tried to sleep, but the tarp sounded like it was about to be ripped apart. Then the corners started to flap loose from their rocks. The noise was constant. So around 11PM we took it down and resigned ourselves to a windy night of being peppered with grit under the limp net tent.
Day 16: 14.3 miles, Idyllwild streets and trails for 6.1 miles + PCT Mile 179.4 to 187.6, hillside campsite

Day 17: 18.2 miles, Mile 187.6 to 205.8, water faucet windstorm campsite

Photos: PCT Days 6 & 7

PCT Day 6:

PCT Day 7:

(All also on Flickr)

PCT Day 13-15: Into Idyllwild and a Zero Day

On Day 13 we hiked up a mountain to the Mountain Fire closure on the PCT (closed since a 2013 wildfire), then we hiked down a mountain on paved and rocky roads, then we hiked along a highway. We hiked for 19.1 miles: along the first true crest of the Pacific Crest Trail; past a Girl Scout compound that seemed to exist solely for bus evacuations, presumably of girl scouts; on a poorly maintained dirt road that made us finally resort to our music, dance-hiking to pop songs; underneath power lines; and finally hobbling along the white stripe on Highway 74.

We saw a hummingbird drink from the trickle of spring water coming from a metal pipe.

We hiked for a while with a hiker named Meta, who told us about backtracking over a mile to the previous highway crossing when he realized that he had been picked up on one side of the highway and dropped off on the other and had therefore not walked the width of the road. He had to go back and fix the break in his footsteps.

We saw our first real clouds of the trip, went to sleep in a virtually empty state park campground, and woke up to our first overcast sky.

We hiked up through clouds and past burn closures to Idyllwild, where there was a room at the Idyllwild Inn with a shower and a fireplace and a free load of laundry. 

 

(Hikers, always pre-soak your laundry.)

 

We ordered a large pizza and Andrew ate almost half of it. We found the trail friends we’d lost track of over the past few days and ate really good food with them at a restaurant where a woman gave us little baggies of cookies just for being hikers.

We took our first “zero day”—a day without any miles hiked, a pure rest day, a glorious, glorious rest day—and it was good.

 

Day 13: 19.1 miles hiked: PCT Mile 154.7 to 162.6 + 0.5 mile to Tunnel Spring + 10.7 miles on the Mountain Fire alternate, ending at Hurkey Creek Campground

Day 14: 7.7 miles on the Mountain Fire alternate to the Idyllwild Inn

Day 15: 0 miles hiked, many calories eaten

Photos: PCT Days 4 & 5

Day 4, Miles 41.5 to 52.7:

Day 5, Miles 52.7 to 68.4:

(All also on Flickr)