Walking out of Idylwild there was already a couple inches of fresh snow and flakes were coming down in big clumps. 2000 feet of climbing and my shoes were sodden, my feet and hands were frozen. After the grade evened out I wasn’t able to move fast enough to keep warm so I decided to make camp after only 6 miles. Frozen fingers doing my best with the tarp and in dry clothes in the sleeping bag asap.
I hadn’t seen anyone except a day hiker at the start so I was glad when a friendly Czech woman walked by and made camp near me. Petra is not a PCT hiker, she was on her last couple days of a months long tour of many American parks. We ate together in our little shelters, dinner under my tarp and breakfast in her tent. We shared our food and I felt I was feasting! I had been conserving fuel but Petra had plenty. Hot tea, hot soup, hot oatmeal, and real cheese and real fresh fruit!
What a treat on an otherwise bleary night. The snow had subsided and the sky cleared as the sun was setting- enough to see some lovely pink and orange hues behind the frosted trees. Good, the weather is over I thought.
Not so. After I got cozy in my sleeping bag, the wind picked up. My tarp was not taut enough because it would catch a big gust and fall, making a sound I imagine is similar to a sail catching wind. All night. Even after it stopped snowing big clumps from the trees would fall else I would have done without. Twice a gust of wind pulled a corner loose and the whole thing flapped around me letting in snow. The second time instead of resecuring the line and stake I just pulled out all the guys lines, put the tarp directly over me, and tucked it under my sleeping pad on all sides. It still made an awful sound and I still did not sleep but I stayed warm enough and dry enough that I never felt unsafe.
After breakfast with Petra I was glad to me moving the next morning. Putting my feet in my frozen trail runners was not fun, but after 20 minutes of motion I was doing great. It was a clear day- looking out at miles and miles of views rather than a white wall- and everything looked magical with a coat of fresh snow.
The snow did make for slow hiking. Not being able to see the roots and rocks below me I had to step cautiously, and no one had made tracks ahead of me so following the trail was difficult at points. All well worth it though. I knew that soon enough, likely later that day, I would be back on the dry dersert-y setting I’d gotten used to.
Sure enough, that afternoon I was able to lay out my stuff to dry over dry orange rocks under warm sunbeams.
I only covered 20 PCT miles those first two days but that was fine with me. I had decided to do shorter days after Idylwild- 20 miles tops. It had been fun to do big miles but I was risking injury and there’s absolutely no rush. Quite the opposite- if I get to Wrightwood before Weeze, I’ll just be waiting around. It did mean saying goodbye to my speedy friends though.
On day three I finished the long descent into a large valley bisected by interstate 10. Buzzing power lines, houses, trains, cars, and towering wind turbines- what a contrast to the peaceful winter wonderland of yesterday. In the interest of slowing things down (and of putting quesaritos in my belly) I made a little detour to the Taco Bell 6 miles west. It took a little while to get a hitch each way but even so, I was back on the trail by 1:30.
5 more miles, past the wind farm, and I was once again surrounded by a stunning landscape. You’d never know that just over the ridge 18 wheelers and SUVs and sports cars and trucks were barreling down a concrete ribbon. As always, the landscape was new. Every 20 miles things change. Here it was wide open, lowly vegetated rolling hills. Or mountains.
That night, of the third day, I made it to the largest body of water I’d seen- the White River. I camped at the White River Preserve, a lovely outdoor area mostly for day use. There I met some more fellow hikers and was treated to trail magic by Legend- former hiker and full time trail angel. Pancakes for breakfast (:
Somewhere on this stretch, the hiker hunger hit. They say it takes your metabolism a couple weeks to catch up with your activity. The first ten days, I wasn’t particularly hungry, even after hiking 30 miles. Hiker hunger turns you into a calorie churning machine. Hiking or sitting, if a couple hours pass without eating it feels as though my stomach is a pit.
On day four, I crossed water large enough to sit in twice. Of course I got in both times. This day was great- gorgeous views, hard climbs, lush scenery, and talking and resting and soaking with new friends.
In the last couple days I passed through forest recently affected by wildfire, undertook some rocky ups and downs, soaked up some stunning views, and continued to meet more hikers. The fifth day I could often see San Jacinto’s snowy peak in the distance- beyond mountains and valleys. It was crazy to think I’d freezing up there just three nights previously.
Getting into Big Bear was exciting. I hadn’t had my thumb out for a minute when a sheriff vehicle pulled over on the other side to let a hiker out. I asked him if he would take me back to town. Yep, all who could fit he said. I rode in the back of a cop car for the first time, crammed in with two other hikers and out packs. The sheriff was lovely and dropped me at the place he assured me had the best chocolate chip pancakes in town. The Grizzly Manor has the largest pancakes I’ve ever seen. And delicious. I may go get more now.
First here’s some pictures. I’ve tried to put them in order but it’s hard on this little phone to make it just so.