Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 22. Long day into Cajon Pass

318 to 342

Hiked 25 miles today. What a long but fun day!
Deep red.
Started off hiking around a dam and Silverwood Lake for what seemed like many miles. Lots of flowers blooming and lizards scurrying about.
So green near the dam.
Then we climbed up and over to Horsethief Canyon where I met Jim (PITA), the fellow hammock hanger who helped me so much via email with my hammock setup for the PCT plus he gave me his info about possible hang sites which has been so valuable.  It was so great to get to talk hammocks with him and finally meet him in person.
Rock formations near Cajon Pass.
We made it all the way to the McDonalds at Cajon Pass where we saw the Fellowship, Ninja Tank, Blue Yonder, and PITA. After a great dinner, some people headed to the hotel but I really wanted to just sleep in my hammock so I'd get a good nights sleep before the big climb tomorrow. So I hiked back here to Crowders Canyon, a mile south. I call these southbound miles my "bonus" miles cause I love hiking the PCT so much I don't want it to end and when I go south I get extra miles.
Flowers near the McDonalds.
In the vacant lot near McDonalds.
Hanging at Crowder's Canyon.
The crickets are chirping and I am going to sleep early so I can get an early start on the climb tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 21. Deep Creek Canyon

298 to 218

Deep Creek Canyon was an exceptional place- steep rocky canyon walls and a strong flowing creek lined with trees and willows.  The PCT followed high above the creek. Wildflowers carpeted the canyon slopes.
Deep Creek Canyon
Deep Creek Hot Springs was a busy place, even at 9 in the morning.  I was the only PCT hiker when I arrived to soak my feet- everyone else were locals.
Love these purple flowers.
A few miles down at the Tributary Bridge (painted rainbow colors!), Tom and Jenny were taking a break when I met them. They are caretakers of sorts for the mouth of Deep Creek Canyon- they explained how this area if the canyon is a popular spot and unfortunately gets a lot of trash and graffiti. They come here often to pick up the trash, mud the graffiti, and try to educate people about the canyon and the PCT. They were so knowledgeable and interesting. And generous too- giving me a slice of pizza! They also told me about a hummingbird nest, which I didn't see, but Pathfinder and Blue Yonder got to see it when they met up with Tom and Jenny. It was so wonderful to meet local people who care so much about this beautiful place and who are good stewards of and advocates for this land.
Jenny and Tom care for this section of the PCT.  Thank you!
Later during siesta at the Deep Creek ford, Papa Bear was telling a bunch of us about how last time he hiked the PCT, he had root beer floats a little ways up the trail and that we'd better hurry to get them. The idea of a cold treat seemed unreal-- we'd been hiking through the heat and intense sun--- Papa Bear had to be making this up to torture us. He set out ahead of us. About a mile later, sure enough Papa Bear was sitting there while Coppertone mixed up root beer floats for everyone. Unbelievable!!! Best root beer float ever!!!

Hanging in Grass Valley Creek Canyon (mile 318) watching the hummingbirds buzzing around. What a fabulous day.
Grass Valley Creek Canyon.

Day 20. To Deep Creek Bridge

278 to 298

We finally left Big Bear City after several nights there due to the rescue and snow.  Had a great time and met great people.  Woke up this morning feeling 100%.  Now, I'm hanging in my hammock at the Deep Creek Bridge after a fantastic 21 mile day.
Deep Creek Bridge
We started the previous day from the Cougar Crest Trail at mile 277, so I was faced with a dilemma- hike south 0.8 miles (1.6 out and back) to where I left off before, or skip the 0.8 miles and go north. Some people think it is important to walk every inch of the official trail, others want to do a continuous route (but don't care if it is the official trail or not), while still others skip sections. The "Hike Your Own Hike" philosophy means no way is superior, but the "purists" sometimes tend to have an attitude. I didn't come out here knowing what would be my style, though you will remember that I didn't do the roadwalking detour around Idyllwild.  So I haven't done a continuous route. Obviously I'm not a purists.

But when I got to the trail this morning, I didn't know if I would feel the need to do the extra out and back of those 0.8 miles. Pathfinder made it easy- she said she would watch our packs while we did the out and back. Pathfinder said she wasn't a purist and didn't mind more rest.  So Blue Yonder and I flew down the trail to the Cougar Crest junction, and then ran back again. It felt great not wearing a pack. Ah what lightness!
Skipping down the trail while Pathfinder guards the packs.
When I got back and put on my pack, the weight of it felt good and my legs felt strong. It felt great carrying the pack too! Haha I knew at that point how happy I was just to be on the trail. It didn't really matter which way I was going, or if I was carrying a full pack or no pack. I just wanted to hike.

I'm glad I did the extra out and back cause I got to see a deer and it was fun to fly on the trail, but I don't think it made my hike more valid or better than anyone else's that I hiked it.
Holcomb Creek.
Today was perfect hiking weather and absolutely gorgeous, especially along Holcomb Creek. So lush!  We soaked our feet and frolicked in the snow-melt cold water until our feet were numb.  
Blue Yonder in Holcomb Creek.
We also went through some sunny burn area, but there were pockets of trees throughout, and good water all day long. 

Princess and a few others are camped here at Deep Creek Bridge too, and we passed Lightning Rod and Jordi again. The frogs are calling and I can barely keep my eyes open it's so comfortable being back in my hammock. What a fantastic day!
Awesome hang site under the bridge.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 19. Slackers

277.6 to 266.1 (going south!)

I was still feeling run down this morning.  But the great thing was that Pathfinder, Blue Yonder and I got the opportunity to slackpack today.  It made for a perfect day and I'm feeling better after taking it easy by only hiking 13 miles!  We left some of our gear in our hotel room in Big Bear City and got a shuttle to dayhike.  Steve, Steady's husband (who I met before up at Mission Springs a few days ago), provided rides for us. Thank you Steve!
Cougar Crest Traihead.
We climbed the two mile Cougar Crest Trail to reach mile 277 of the PCT.  The views from the Cougar Crest Trail were outstanding of the lake and fresh snow on the mountains.  We couldn't resist stopping at the cute benches to rest our feet.
Aren't we stylish!
Then we hiked southbound on the PCT for 11.6 miles back to hwy 18 where I left off before the snow storm.
Big Bear Lake in the distance.
There was still snow on the trail and it was absolutely beautiful!!!!  Yay snow!
Blanket of snow.
It was so fun hiking southbound because we got to see all our old friends and meet a ton of other hikers.  We saw Hog who we hadn't seen since our first day on the trail, and I saw Princess that gave me pizza and who was so reassuring at the hostel.
Me and Princess.
It was great to catch up with everyone.  It was also neat because normally hiking north, you can hike all day and see only one or two other people but this gave me a sense of just how many people there are out there.  But since we can roughly move at similar speeds, we never know how many folks are around.  

After the hike, Steve picked us up and he and Steady took us to dinner at Sizzler (all you can eat!). Steady has done the triple crown, and is hiking the PCT for the second time.  How cool!  Thanks again Steve and Steady, it was such a pleasure having dinner with you!
Dinner with Pathfinder, Steady, and Blue Yonder

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 18. Snow Day

An inch of snow blanketed the ground in Big Bear City during the night.  We heard there was five inches up in the mountains, but at lower elevations it fell as a mix of rain and sleet.  I really hoped all the PCT hikers out there had gotten to safe locations before the storm!
I stayed in town all day.  Rested, took the bus to the grocery store, ate, and hung out with Pathfinder, George and Blue Yonder.
I was feeling run down all day, and was worried I was getting sick. I tried to relax and not worry too much.  My body feels great- legs are stronger than ever and no blisters so far.  But it's the mental challenges that get me- getting worried about the snow, feeling stressed during the dangerous roadwalking yesterday.  Feeling that I'm taking too many days in town, not hiking enough miles, that the herd is now thundering down the trail towards us, ready to crowd the trail (now that kickoff is happening).  I keep thinking I'm not going fast enough to stay ahead.  

I was glad to be around George, Blue Yonder, and Pathfinder because we all laughed and had a great time and it helped me relax to be around such incredible women.  
Not sure what will happen tomorrow.  I want to get back to the PCT but I also want to be certain I'm not actually getting sick.  (And I am especially adverse to risk after what happened with Pathfinder.  i.e. No More Helicopters!)  Guess will see how I feel in the morning.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 17. Back to Big Bear City

251 to 266

First thing in the morning, I climbed to the high ridge to check the latest forecast. There was even more snow predicted now- 3 inches in town, and more up at higher elevations. I sniffed the air and glanced at the sky and felt the bite of cold breezes even through my rain pants and down coat.
Climbing to the ridge.
I met The Fellowship at Arrastre Spring.  They told me they were heading into Big Bear City.  I said I was considering staying in the mountains and riding out the storm.  "Why would you want to stay out in a snow storm? You'd be out here alone, everyone is going to town."
Getting water at the spring.
I filled up my water containers (after a 16 mile water carry) and considered my options.  I decided to go to town at the next road crossing at mile 266- I want to be safe.

The hike was gorgeous through forest (yay trees!) and along a stream (yay water!).
Big trees in SoCal.  Who says there's no trees in the "desert"?
As the trail descended I saw Joshua Trees for the first time- how cool!
First Joshua trees
At the road crossing, I waited an hour to see if any hikers would hitch to town with me.  I was scared to hitch by myself but I wanted to get to town before the snow.  Since I was scared I wasn't thinking too clearly.  It was only 4 miles to town so I decided to walk the road- big mistake!  It was narrow and windy with no shoulder and big trucks zoomed by.  The wind gusts were so strong I couldn't hear traffic and I could not walk upright I kept being blown around. Walking that road was by far the most dangerous and horribly terrifying and stupid thing I've done out here.  Thankfully a few PCT hikers picked me up- they were on their way to get Ninja Tank and go to kickoff.  Thanks guys!  Lesson learned for me.  Next time I'm hitching from the road crossing even if I am alone.

In town, I joined Pathfinder at the Motel 6 to wait out the snow storm.  Lots of hiker friends were there including Jordi!  George, Pathfinder, Susan/Blue Yonder (another Susan we just met) and I all walked to dinner under a very cloudy sky and cold windy air. I'm so glad I played it safe even though I really prefer being out in my hammock.  Guess we will see what happens tomorrow but hope to be back out there soon.
Pathfinder, George, and Blue Yonder in Big Bear City.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 16. Side trails and big trees

240 to 251

At the Big Bear Hostel, I arranged to get a ride from Granny. Pathfinder and I exited the PCT at a remote spot in the San Bernardino.  This was not a typical PCT hiker exit point, so it was very generous of Granny to take me there.   I wasn't entirely sure how to find the trailhead, but we turned off at the Heart Bar Campground, and Granny took me as far up the road as her van would go and dropped me off.  Thank you so very much Granny you are a true Angel!!!
It turned out that right there was a sign for the Santa Ana River trail- exactly what I was looking for.  There were a bunch of other trails leading off, all unmarked, but I took a guess and headed up the one that looked right.  It was wide and rocky and filled with pine cones.  Checking my maps on my Gaia GPS app I verified I had the right trail.  Yay!

Heading up the side trail to the PCT.
It felt like such an adventure to be on a trail that wasn't the PCT.  It made me feel like I was back in Georgia, where I used to love taking little obscure trails.  There was no one around, and the area seemed wild.  Big trees were everywhere.  I climbed for an hour and a half and was thrilled to find at a trail junction the familiar PCT sign.  I'd made it to PCT mile 242.  

Back to the PCT.  YAY!
I left off the previous day when Pathfinder and I were rescued at mile 240, so I had some backtracking to do.  I figured I might as well hang my food so I wouldn't have to carry it, since it was by far the heaviest thing in my pack.  Without my food, I bounded south on the PCT with my light pack feeling great.  About a mile down the trail, I started having this funny feeling- I remembered hearing about bears in only a few spots in SoCal, but I couldn't remember where.  As I turned the bend, sure enough I saw a small bear.  It looked at me and scampered off down the hill.  Wow I was so fortunate to see a bear!  But then I decided I probably hadn't hung my food high enough, so I hurried back up the trail to my food, put it back in my pack, and hiked back down the trail again.  So I ended up doing a few extra miles.  Oh well it was gorgeous trail and I'll not make that mistake again!

At Mission Springs, I met Steady's husband who was waiting for her, and he gave me some chocolate and gatoraide. Thank you what a treat!

Steady's husband.
Finally, I was back on track, heading north again on the PCT just 24 hours since Pathfinder was evacuated.  I found a ridge with cell service and called her.  The doctor thought it was a nasty stomach bug and gave her antibiotics, and she was still resting at the hotel.
This part of the trail through the high San Bernardinos was my very favorite section so far- it was so wild with sweeping views, high elevation, a cool white marble outcrop, and my favorite thing- big ancient gnarled trees including western junipers.  This forest felt so alive- birds everywhere and lizards scurrying.  

Huge trees.
I found a sheltered hang site at mile 251, and walked up to the ridge to watch the sunset.  Coldest night yet, but I was toasty and fell asleep totally happy for a great day.
Sheltered hang site out of the wind.

Day 15. What a day!

232.5 to 239.9

Hiking up Mission Creek, Pathfinder and Susan caught up with me at my first rest stop.  Apparently they had camped less than a mile away though I hadn't seen them at all the previous day.  Pathfinder was nearly in tears- she said she still wasn't feeling well, had been getting worse, and had just thrown up.  She said she might have a fever and was nauseous, but didn't know what it was.  Altitude, dehydration, a virus, something else?  It was hard to figure out, and the prospect that she could get even worse was scary.
Pathfinder resting in the shade.
We were in the middle of a long roadless section, lots of climbing and 20 miles behind us to the Whitewater Preserve.  But 6 miles and a 3000 foot climb to the Mission Springs Camp which our maps showed had water, parking, and picnic tables.  So we decided to keep going and maybe find some picnickers to give her a ride to town to see a doctor.

The climbing was slow but Pathfinder was very determined.  She was sweating a lot and the getting really chilled on the breaks.  She kept upbeat and moving forward which was great.

At Mission Springs, there were no people with cars as we'd hoped.  Pathfinder was looking worse and we were concerned because she was not getting better.  Pathfinder used her inreach satellite receiver to text her dad to see if trail angels Ziggy and the Bear knew anyone who could gve us a ride.  
Pathfinder wondering what to do.
But long story short, there was a miscommunication, rescue helicopters arrived and circled overhead, a rescuer belayed down, and two rescue vehicles also arrived.  Not what we'd asked for at all.  Yes we asked for a ride but helicopters were overkill.  
Helicopter and rescuer belaying down to assist.
With all the craziness, Pathfinder was scared and asked that I go with her to town, so we went down to Big Bear City with the county sheriff.  We apologized profusely, but they said the whole thing was good practice anyway for them and that these things happen with overly concerned parents and they were just glad everything was ok.
My first ride in the back of a police vehicle.  Crazy!
After getting Pathfinder to the hotel across the street from the doctors, I walked to the hostel since we didn't know if Pathfinder was contagious.  I was fortunate to get the last bed at the Big Beat Hostel, rooming with Granny- thank you Sarge for the room and thanks to Granny for sharing the room with me!

In the common area, the Professor and a couple were sitting around, and Sarge (the caretaker at the hostel) brought in a pie to thank the couple for helping out.  As we sat around sharing pie (gosh was I hungry!), they asked me about Pathfinder's illness, the rescue helicopters, and the communication problems in getting help. I was a bit reluctant to tell the story because it was so embarrassing that we needed to get rescued, but it also felt good to tell the story.  Especially since everyone was so familiar with the area and knew just what a remote place it was.  They kept asking me lots of questions- I guess I had a big story!

I asked everyone about how to get back to that location to pick up the PCT where I left off.  I sat there flipping through my maps as we spoke.  It was important to me to get back to the trail, but it was so remote I knew it would be a challenge to get there.  That road we took with the sheriff was long and bumpy.  I hoped someone at the hostel could help me with my logistical problem of getting to the trail.

At some point in the conversation, I realized I had forgotten to get everyone's name.  The woman introduced herself as Deb.  The guy I'd been talking to said his name was Halfmile.  WOW!!!!  I couldn't believe I'd been talking to Halfmile, the well-known hiker who provides the electronic maps of the PCT for free to the hiking community- the very maps I was nervously flipping through!  It was so incredibly amazing to be getting help with my route from Halfmile!  He pulled up the side trail I'd learned about from the Count at Mission Springs on Gaia GPS, and walked me through downloading the Halfmile tracks to load into Gaia GPS on my iPhone, so I would have those as well as the cached maps for the side trail that would take me to PCT mile 242.  I knew I could get back to the trail with those maps and tracks!  Thank you so much Halfmile!  
Using GaiaGPS to find a way back to the PCT.
Then I talked to Granny and she said she could give me a ride the next morning to the Heart Bar Campground to pick up the side trail.  I was so amazed at her generosity.  To top it off, Princess came in and we talked and she gave me her leftover pizza since I hadn't had dinner with all the excitement.  Thank you Princess!

What an adventure and I was so grateful everything had worked out with getting Pathfinder to safety and even though I had gotten off the trail unexpectedly, it gave me the opportunity to meet one of the incredible people in the hiking community.  WOW!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 14. San Gorgonio Wildernesss

212 to 232.5

Earliest start yet.  I hiked all day by myself.   Got a poor night sleep in a very windy site near the Wind Farm- all the windmills should have been a tip not to hang there but there weren't lots of options.  Now I know that the extra time I normally spend looking for good sites is justified.  I was low on energy all day due to lack of sleep. It was a relief to hike my own pace cause I was tired all day and I like being alone.
I never get bored looking at the sunrises.
Watched the sunrise over the windmills, and climbed into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Lots of flowers blooming, some we haven't seen before. And butterflies everywhere.
 This area is so different from all the other places we've been- more vast and arid. The braided rivers are stunning, winding their way from the massive peaks. The trail brought us down along the Whitewater River, then way up for a birds-eye view, then back down along Mission Creek.
Braided river.
It was hot again and I soaked my tired feet in the cold water and dunked my hat to cool off, and took extra breaks. Still managed to get in 20 miles, but the last few were pretty slow.
Soaking my feet.
I hiked alone again today, and never ran into Pathfinder and Susan.  I did leapfrog with Ninja Tank all day.  And I met Ken for the first time, recently retired from the USFS (See Ken/Tortuga's website here.  He is raising money for a wonderful organization that helps kids with serious medical conditions).
In late afternoon when I was hunting for a hang site, I came upon some campers with two hammocks! The are locals and had carried in a Dutch oven. First hammock hangers I've seen out here!

It's only 7:30 but I'm already tucked into my hammock. There's a cold wind blowing but I'm in the most sheltered place I could find.
Windy hang site near the water.
Realized I've been out here two weeks now. It seems like a lot longer because so much has happened and time moves at a different pace. I still feel like I savor every moment. I also am constantly aware how happy I am to be doing the thing I live to do most (ie hiking) every single day.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 13. 98 degrees

191 to 212.7

I started hiking at 5 AM to try to avoid the heat.  My favorite part of the day is still morning and watching the sunrise.
Another gorgeous PCT sunrise.
It was a tough day.  I descended from 7400 feet to 1337 feet.  In 98 degree heat in the afternoon.  Huge boulders in the shadow of San Jacinto peak made it gorgeous.  The trail was overgrown so I was glad I wear my tall gaiters, though I really wish I'd sewn them 2 inches taller because my legs got all scraped up by the brush.
The long descent.
I find downhills much more difficult than uphills, and I'd never done one this long.  Took breaks every few miles to massage anti-friction cream into my feet and happy to say no blisters yet.  There was a 20 mile water carry and I did well estimating my water consumption, arriving at the water faucet with about half a liter where I met Ninja Tank.
Water faucet.
Made it to Ziggy and the Bear's house by afternoon and it was 98 degrees.  No wonder I was going slow.  So nice to get there and be greeted with such hospitality. They have a great setup- foot baths, shower and gatoraid, and wifi.  Rinsed out my socks and also picked up my resupply box.  
Susan and Pathfinder at Ziggy and the Bear's.

It got crowded in the evening, so I decided to hike out around 7 PM and hung my hammock from the posts in a coral a few miles up the trail after dark.  No trees around and it was incredibly windy but at least I wasn't on the ground.  No good photo of the site but here is my tree strap attached to the post.
Hanging from the post in a coral.