The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Big Bear to Wrightwood: finding my Hiker Legs: May 30, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 11:47
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I took a double zero in Big Bear and enjoyed every minute of R&R: long hot showers, clean laundry (you know you’re a thru-hiker when you’ve done laundry while wearing your rain jacket and a bath towel as a skirt!), lunch and breakfast at the Amangela Cafe, watching the Tour of California bike eace, and most of all, visiting with Chuck! He brought me delicious treats: lemon bars and dehydrated strawberries! And also clean, non-hiking clothes, which I enjoyed almost as much!
Our visit was over all too soon, and Chuck dropped me off at the trailhead early Saturday morning. I was a little bit reluctant to actually get back on the trail, but ended up having a really good day. I met Busted Magic, a girl from Colorado who had hiked most of the trail last year and is hiking it again to go all the way, and had fun trying to keep il with her for a mile or so. I also played leapfrog with Lunchbox, who we’d driven to the trail friday afternoon, and Shivers & Bust a Move, who I’d first met at Ziggy and the Bear’s. The hiking was mostly downhill, and with the early start I managed to do 19.5 miles before 5pm ( and thanks to swapping out the insoles in my shoes for Superfeet, my feet barely even hurt!). I camped near the Little Bear Springs trail camp, across the stream from the main area which was recovering from a fire a few years ago.
On Sunday May 20 I passed the 300 mile mark, but it was basically a non-event. The big goal for the day was getting to Deep Creek hot springs – 22.4 trail miles from the previous day’s camp. The morning’s hiking was through more burn area, but the trees had a stark beauty, and the wildflowers were amazing. I also passed a couple of burnt out trees that were buzzing with bees – apparently forest fires replenish the bees’ habitat! I waited until the first Deep Creek bridge crossing, 9.5 miles from the hot springs, to take my lunch break, soak my feet, and enjoy the shade. After an hour I headed off again. The trail followed the creek the whole way, mostly from about 100 feet above, and the views of the creek flowing through the canyon were incredible – there were a lot of spots that would be great to visit some day. I got to the hot sprigs around 6:45, just in time to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse before the sun dipped below the canyon walls. I grabbed my swim suit and explored the pools, trying not to notice the people taking advantage of the “clothing optional” environment. My hot soak soothed my weary muscles, but moving from pool to pool over the slippery rocks was treacherous!
I soaked my feet in the hot water again before setting out on Monday morning, and enjoyed more great views of the creek, although there was a lot of graffiti on the rocks near the trail as I made my way closer the to road. This was one of the more tedious afternoons on the trail – just making miles until I got to the Silverwood lake recreation area and was able to find a spot to camp. I’d been hoping for an 18 mile day, but had to go 20 because there weren’t any good flat spots until the picnic area.
On Tuesday May 24, my morning had a singular focus: hike 14 miles to the McDonalds at Cajon Pass. I got there in just over five hours – good stuff, even if it was almost all downhill. I ate my first McDonalds meal in possibly 14 years (I haven’t been missing much), and enjoyed the air conditioning and company of other hikers (was happy to catch up with Busted Magic again!) go four hours. I started the notoriously hot climb north of Cajon Pass around 5pm, and enjoyed the cooler weather as I walked the five miles to the water cache. The cache was great- a cabinet full of water, with some lemon flavored sparkling water as a treat, and chairs sprinkled about to make a nice place for a break. I found a campsite nearby and had just finished setting up my tent when I heard a truck – one of the cache-maintainers and his granddaughter had come up to take away the empty bottles, so I chatted with them and helped cart out the empties.
I got started around 6:45 the next morning, ready for seventeen mostly uphill miles before the next water. I was carrying plenty, but knowing that there’s so far to go makes me thirsty! I took shade breaks at nearly every opportunity, including a two hour lunch break – I was a actually starting to feel chilly by the end of my break! In the afternoon I met Blair’s Witch, who had thru-hiked when she was 18 in 1977, and is section hiking this year with her 15 year old daughter. I had fun chatting with her for a few minutes (there’s always time to chat in the shade!), and a few minutes later I was on a pine-shaded ridge instead of the desert scrub – that’s always cause for celebration when you’re hiking! I finally reached the top of the climb around 5pm, and a few minutes later I ran into Shags, who was taking a dinner break. I took a break there too, and even zipped on my pant-legs (too cold for shorts! It’s kind of amazing after hiking in he desert for so long!). I hiked with Shags for the rest of the day – I hadn’t intended to go all 22 miles into town, but having someone to talk to made the last few miles fly by, and an extra night in a hotel instead of my tent was very welcome! There was a pretty sunset as we reached the trailhead, and we got a ride into town right away. I was more than happy to have a shower and bed at the Pines Motel, and a zero in Wrightwood to look forward to the next day!

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Cabazon to Big Bear: the long hot climb May 24, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 14:38
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I left Ziggy and the Bear’s around 5pm on Sunday May 13 and headed back out into the desert. It was still hot as I hiked into the hills near the Mesa Wind Farm, but finally began to cool down around 6:30 as I was winding my way around a plateau. I wanted to be set up by dark, so I picked a good flat spot about six miles away to camp. I’d just finished setting up my tent when i heard a large-sounding animal not too far away, and another one calling back to it from further up the canyon. I couldn’t see what was making the noise, but decided it probably wasn’t a set of bears, so I crawled into my tent and tried to avoid being eaten.
The next morning I hiked about three more miles to the Whitewater Creek wash, where I took a break with hikers Neon, On-a-Move, Tyler, waffles, and the Canadians. After a couple of creek crossings, and a few minutes of backtracking to find out where the trail picked up again, I found myself climbing a couple of long, hot desert ridges on my way to the next stream crossing. I was once again curling up next to thorny plants to get some shade, and was very happy to start the descent toward the stream. I met up with the hikers from earlier around 1pm, soaked my feet in the water, and rested in the shade until probably 4pm. From there the ascent to Big Bear really began. I climbed slowly up the canyon, crossing the stream many more times along the way, and made camp around 8pm with Neon and On-a-move. I found out later that a lot of other hikers skipped ahead to Big Bear to Cabazon to avoid the heat, and a lot of the others hiked at night.
The next morning the climb got a little steeper, and it took me about four hours to go five miles – a very frustrating morning! As a consolation I got to hang out with Gut Feeling and Mad Dog at the next shady creek, and stayed long enough that Dusty, who left Cabazon the morning after me, caught up as well. I headed up to the next spring with he and Bouncer, and by then was feeling good enough to do some more climbing and salvage the afternoon. I ended up with a twelve mile day, camped near the Coon Creek wash (there was not actually a creek there). It was a windy night under some pine trees – one of my tent stakes pulled out, and I kept waking up from the flapping.
At that point I was behind schedule to meet Chuck at the visitors center in Big Bear on Thursday afternoon, so I was going to hike two short days and get a ride in from the highway, 13 miles earlier, on Thursday morning. Wednesday morning was a pretty good day for hiking, though – I got most of the climbing out of the way before it got too hot, got to pass by the cages of some film and photo stunt animals (there was a grizzly bear, full-maned lion, and two tigers – not everyday sights in the southern California wilderness!), and met up with another group of hikers at the water and soda cache (with a couch!) hosted by the Big Bear hostel. Veggie, Hopalong, Shags, Inspector Gadget and Dead Animal were slack-packing from near the animal cages to the highway, so they were able to move much faster than me with my full pack, but hanging out with them at the water cache and the next campground a few miles later inspired me to make it a 20-mile day and get into town for a hotel room on Wednesday night instead of waiting until Thursday. So inspired, I hiked the last 10 miles to town in about four hours, much better than I expected. Along the way I talked to a group of atv riders from Cleveland, who were so impressed that I was hiking all the way to Canada that they gave me some fruit snacks and a nectarine – great trail magic! I made it to the highway by 5:30 and got a ride from the first car that passed by, and was soon showered and resting happily in the hotel.

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Idyllwild to Ziggy and the Bear – passing 200 miles May 22, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 14:16
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Just realized that I sent my journal for this section home with Chuck, so I’ll have to recreate it all from memory…

I left Idyllwild Friday morning, on the 8:15 shuttle from the Idyllwild Inn. Brian and Julia, a couple from Canada, got the same ride, and I’ve seen them of and on since then. The climb up the Devils Slide trail was not too bad, but the section immediately afterward was harder than I remembered. GipC and Hamburger were also hiking that day, as well as Sea Hag and Robo-Knee, a couple from BC who are section hiking California. I think we were all feeling the effects of the altitude – we were up above 8000 feet for much of the day, and the whole thing felt much harder than it should have. We stocked up with plenty of water before Fuller Ridge, only to find two more well-flowing streams a few miles later. Fuller Ridge was just as hard as everyone says – a lot of up and down, rocky trail, and small sections of snow to navigate carefully all contributed to slow going. We all ended up camped together about a mile before the Fuller Ridge trailhead – it was about 6:30 and none of us had enough energy to go any further.
The next day was a long day of descending. After passing the FR trailhead, there were 16 miles of switchbacks, descending 6000 vertical feet. Of course this was all on an exposed ridge with very little shade, so I would periodically curl up next to a large rock to get a few minutes out of the sun. There were also killer bees! I noticed that one set of bees seemed closer to the trail than others, and sure enough they followed me for a few minutes as I hiked through quickly and yelled at them to go away, but I only got stung once. Some hikers ran, and several were stung multiple times as they went by – maybe the bees got angrier as more people went through. I reached the bottom of the descent, and water! – a seemingly random faucet sitting in the middle of the desert, around 2:30 in the afternoon, and stayed there enjoying the meager shade with the other hikers until around five. I ( perhaps foolishly) declined the ride from the water authority security guard, and set off to hike the last five miles to the home of trail angels Ziggy and the Bear. This was a very windy, sandy five miles of trail – not very fun, except for the “oasis” under the 10 freeway, where I hung out with a few other hikers and downed two cans of coke (one too many, it turned out – I couldn’t fall asleep until 11). I finally made it to Z&B around 7:30 pm after my first ever 21 mile day – I was just in time for ice cream! I also got the customary hiker foot bath, scored a roll of carpet to lay my sleeping pad out on, and won a Milky Way bar in thru-hiker jeopardy. It was a fantastic place to stay, with lots of shade (and chairs! And port-o-potties! Things that become luxuries when you’re hiking.), so I decided to stick around until about 5 pm on Sunday to avoid the heat and recover from my long day.

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To Idyllwild, earning my zero! May 10, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 20:35
Tags: ,

The last three days hiking into Idyllwild were some of the hardest so far for me. I hiked 18 miles or more for three days in a row, so I definitely feel like I earned my Zero day in town!

Last Saturday I hiked a relatively easy five miles out of Warner Springs in the evening. The scenery was beautiful, with horses roaming a pasture, and a surreal abandoned campground complete with tire swings and picnic tables. I hiked with Moxie for the evening, and we had the eat intentions to do ten miles, but stopped to cook dinner where some friends were camped near a creek, and decided it was far too tempting to just make camp nearby! Sleeping near the water was nice, but predictably resulted in a lot of condensation – I has to wipe down my tent in the morning and let it dry out the following afternoon.

Sunday was only a 12.5 mile day – It was a hot day with a fair amount of climbing, and I took a lot of shade and rest breaks. As I was making my final descent down to Chiuaua Valley Road, I noticed big fluffy clouds shading the valley down below, and I was quite jealous! I made it to trail angel Mike Herrera’s house around 2:45 and settled in for my afternoon siesta – drying out my equipment and enjoying some of the grilled chicken and beans that Mike was so generous to prepare for the hikers. I planned to move on around 5pm, but a storm blowing over the horizon convinced me to stay put for the night. I slept in an RV on Mike’s property – the comfy mattress another amenity I was incredibly grateful for.

Monday I pulled my first 20 mile day with my full pack. I also did my first faceplant – tripped over a hidden rock on the trail, landed on my face, and then rolled into the trailside bushes thanks to the momentum of my pack – not something I hope to repeat! I handled the heat pretty well – took a break from 11:45 – 2pm, then set a slow but steady pace until I reached an irresistibly shady boulder around 4:30 and took another half hour break. I ended up reaching the road crossing I was aiming for just around dark, and quickly set up camp, pleased with my 20 mile progress.

I was hoping for another 20 the next day, and was feeling quite good through the crossing of highway 74. I missed the hiker-favorite Paradise Valley Cafe, since they were closed the day I went through, but skipping that 2-mile detour did save me time. The next few miles were some of my favorites – the desert landscape and blooming wildflowers were complimented by giant boulders and isolated oak trees. I was rattled at by a snake I didn’t see, and spooked a horse that didn’t like the sight of my pack while I waited for the riders to pass. I took my lunch break at a “shady campsite”, but things got tougher as I gained elevation during the afternoon. Water sources on the climb into Idyllwild are all off-trail and downhill, and I opted for a short but slightly sulfur flavored spring instead of one of the longer descents to a tastier water source, but even so the climb was steep and tough. After that I really struggled on the climb – fully laden with water and taking lots of breaks. I finally made enough miles for the day, several short of my hoped-for spot, and found a great campsite under a tree, again just before dark.

Wednesday was shaping up to be another long one – about 18.5 miles into town. I got through the first three miles pretty quickly, passing Only a Test’s tent an hour into my hike, and figured she’d catch up before too long. Before I got to the first big climb of the day, I assigned it to myself as a mini-day hike – just get through the next three miles and I could take a break. I was passed by the two guys who had camped near me, and was happy that I had just enough water to avoid another downhill trip to a spring. The next few (flat) miles went quickly, then I braced myself for the final 3.5 miles of climbing. I cranked them out slowly, with many many shade breaks, but no long lunch break, since I wanted to get to town as quickly as possible. I did stop to chat with GipC and Hamburger, who had gone into town and were heading south (downhill!), then continued trudging along until I finally reached flatter ground, and a creek! I did take the slightly shorter, flatter alternate to Saddle Junction, where I ate a final snack and then raced down the switchbacks of the Devil’s Slide trail. Some day hikers from San Diego were nice enough to give me a ride into town, and I snagged a room at the Idyllwild Inn for the evening, excited to have a day off to look forward to – and a shower!

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Mount Laguna to Warner Springs May 5, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 9:31
Tags: ,

I’m currently relaxing at Warner Springs, taking a nero (near zero) day at mile 110. The hot springs resort which was extremely popular with past hikers is closed this year, so the community has set up an area near the school with camping, showers, meals and sundries for PCT hikers, and it’s much-appreciated place to take a break. Last night’s dinner was grilled tri-tip with beans, cole slaw and salad – it was so good after a week of trail food!

Last Monday’s final seven miles to the Laguna campground were long and hot, but with great views down to the desert. The campground host was very hiker-friendly, and let 10 of us share a site, for a cost of about $2 each – good deal! On Tuesday morning I saw a trio of deer as I was leaving the campground, but they ran away before I could get close enough for a picture. That morning was a pretty hike along the east ridge of Mt Laguna, with a morning stop at the pioneer mail picnic area. The following six miles were more challenging, with wind and heat and hurting feet – I don’t have major blister problems, just very sore feet from all the miles with a big pack. I took a long afternoon break at the sunrise trailhead water tank, then used my mp3 player to help the last 4 miles go by more quickly. I camped in the dry creek bed at Chariot Canyon Road – there were probably 15-20 hikers there. It was fairly calm in early evening, but the wind picked up overnight and the moon was close to full and very bright, so it was a bit hard to sleep.
Wednesday was a seventeen mile day, mostly descending out of the Lagunas to the Scissors Crossing water cache were highway 78 and S2 intersect. Other than my sore feet it was a really nice hike, and it felt great to descend from the hills and be able to see my destination ahead of me. I reached the cache with Moxie and Lunchbox, who got a ride to Julian, and Dusty, Marissa and Easily Distracted, who went to the RV campground a few miles away for the night. I headed up into the San Felipe hills for another three miles of slow climbing, loaded up with six liters of water in case the next cache was empty. I ran into Laughing Feather and a cache counter hiking south, and they advised me to grab the next campsite around the bend, a nice sandy spot that was mostly well-sheltered from the wind. I took their advice and cowboy camped there alone, hiking poles close by to fend off the mountain lions that I imagined would pounce me during the night.

I woke up Thursday morning unscathed, but the next eleven miles were the toughest of the trail for me so far – it got hot pretty quickly, my feet hurt, and I felt like I was making no progress – the trail wound around the hills in such a way that i seemed to walk four miles just to make one mile of progress as the crow flies. I finally got into the third gate cache at mile 91 at 1:45, after almost 7 hours of hiking. I relaxed in the shade with Only a Test until around four, then we hiked another five miles to a tiny campsite, where we ended up squishing five hikers in for the night – the campsites really are hard to come by in the hills! Those five miles were the best of the day for me – I’d propped up my feet while I rested, and they didn’t feel so bad in the evening. I ate some cheesy bacon grits and set my alarm for 5:20 the next morning, so j could make it to Warner Springs before the post office closed at four.

Especially compared to Thursday, yesterday was probably my best day on the trail. My feet were still feeling ok, and I made the first five miles down to Barrel Spring in time to take a nice break and catch some trail magic in the form of coffee, OJ and hard boiled eggs from some RV campers from near San Diego. After Barrel Spring we were out of the hills and into rolling fields, and I saw a jack rabbit with huge ears in the middle of the trail. After a couple of quick stops in shady spots, I got to eagle rock (a rock that looks like an eagle!) at mile 106 with GipC, Hamburger, Flatlander and Shutter Blast, where I ate lunch and took some pictures (ad should have reapplied sunscreen!). After that the last four miles to the post office were fairly easy and pleasant, with shade and a creek running alongside the trail. I even saw my first rattlesnake! It was in the grass beside the trail, and moved when I went past. I turned around to see the source of the noise, and saw the snake uncoil and slither across the trail. Now that I’ve checked that off my list, I don’t necessarily need to see another one!

I’ll be hanging out here until around 4pm, when I’ll hike about four miles for the evening, starting the trek to Idyllwild, where I’m looking forward to my next zero!

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