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!