The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Casa de Luna, Hikertown, and Tehachapi: The Desert Continues June 14, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 12:40
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Thursday, May 31: I was on the trail by 6:25 with one goal in mind: The Andersons’ Casa de Luna, the next trail angel stop on the PCT. I knocked out the first four miles of the day, a 2000-foot climb, fairly quickly, stopping to watch the ravens soaring on the thermals. There was a small water cache under a tree before the next climb, so I stopped there to enjoy half an hour in the shade – it was already quite hot by 10am! I reached the next water cache around 1:15, but it was empty; luckily there was a small stream still running nearby, so I was able to get water there, and relax in a lawn chair in the shade for another two hours before braving the heat for the final seven miles into Casa de Luna – the shadows were lengthening, but the temperature didn’t seem to be getting any cooler. I passed a leaderboard for a 50-mile trail run that apparently takes place on the PCT in that section, and thought about how crazy it would be to actually run 50 miles there, when walking twenty that day was quite enough for me! I got to Casa de Luna around 6:30 in the evening, found a spot in the maze of manzanita trees to set up my tent, and enjoyed a delicious dinner of taco salad – the Andersons’ signature hiker dinner. I took a very restful zero the next day, lounging in the shade in the front yard and doing basically nothing.

I set out again on June 2, around 9:15 am – after breakfast, since there was no way I was going to pass up the chance for pancakes and coffee! The first eight miles of the day flew by, as I avoided stopping for breaks because the flies would swarm any time I stopped. I did take a two hour break at the next (nearly empty, again) water cache with Lunchbox (who had skipped the Andersons to power on to Tehachapi) and the Canadians. We all camped for the day near mile 493, under some pine trees close to one of the desert water sources – a concrete guzzler that was so full of debris that we had to strain the water before filling our bottles. The water tasted more like pine needle tea than water – not all that refreshing, but we take what we can get.

June 3 was a 24-mile day, with the goal of getting to Hikertown near Lancaster, CA.  I was looking forward to passing the 500-mile mark that day, but was not looking forward to anything else about another long, hot day in the desert. I started out the day without my sunglasses, as I couldn’t remember where I’d stashed them the night before (in the compartment where my sleeping bag goes – a very odd choice), and then I tripped over a rock a few miles into the hike and landed on my face, coming away with a swollen lip, bloody nose, and black eye. Passing 500 miles was definitely the highlight of the day – there were three separate markers, and at the last one we took pictures, drank some rum that Lunchbox had brought for the occasion, and played “I will Walk 500 miles” to celebrate. After that it was more slogging along, trying to tolerate the flies during shade breaks, and trying to make the miles for the day. We chatted with some Sierra Club dayhikers at a campground about five miles from Hikertown, and then wound our way up and down an endless set of low ridges before finally finishing for the day around 6:30. Hikertown is kind of like a Hollywood set version of an Old West town, and Test and I shared one of the train cars-turned-cabins whose facade was decorated as the City Hall. We also indulged in dinner there, and for $10 each had a salad, pot roast, garlic bread, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake – so much tastier than eating the food we packed in, even though it meant we’d be carrying more food than we needed the rest of the way to Tehachapi.

I was sooooo tired from the 24 miles into Hikertown, but the next day was a long walk along the Los Angeles aqueduct, a section notorious on the PCT for its lack of shade, hot temperature, and high wind. To avoid the heat as much as possible, Test, Lunchbox and I hiked out at 4:30 in the morning – surprisingly, waking up at 3:30 wasn’t as painful as I expected, and it was kind of fun to be hiking before sunrise. The uncovered section of the aqueduct was quite pretty to hike beside, but after a few miles we were just walking on a sandy road along a concrete cover, through an under-construction wind farm, moving back and forth from the road to the concrete as we got tired of one surface or the other. We did end up hiking 17 miles by noon that day, and then spent the next five hours resting under a bridge with about fifteen other hikers. Every half hour or so a group of hikers would have to move from one side of the group to the other, chasing the shade as the sun moved across the sky. Twice I was run over by some tumbleweed, as the wind picked up and blew debris under the bridge. We set off again around 5pm, and by then the wind had picked up considerably – we hiked about 3 miles in the first hour with a tailwind, but then it took about two hours to make the next three to the Taylorhorse Canyon campground. At one point my sunglasses were blown off of my head, and I sat down to avoid the wind after chasing them down, only to realize that the wind was just blowing up dirt which then covered my face, even with my back turned – not actually relaxing at all. I set up my tent at the campground because there were a few raindrops and some threatening clouds, but the strong winds blew away the weather – and almost blew away my tent! By morning only one guy-line was still staked to the ground, and I was just glad that my tent stakes hadn’t blown away.

Having a collapsed tent was good motivation for an early start the next morning – it’s no fun to linger in your tent when it’s collapsed around you! I was awake around 5:30 and on the trail by six, ready for the push into Tehachapi. The threatening clouds had given way to a cool but breezy morning, and I actually really enjoyed the hike into Tehachapi – there were more wind farms, burned out trees, and bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds. There was a surprise water cache about 10 miles before town, where I stopped to relax with Drop Zone, BAM and Shivers, and then I cruised into town around 2pm and set up base camp at the Best Western – glad to have a shower and a clean place to relax out of the wind.

 

Three Points to Agua Dulce: Road Walks, Rocks, and Trail Angels June 6, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 14:23
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After I left camp on Sunday, May 27, my morning of hiking seemed to fly by. I was energized by my day off, and glad to be hiking in nice weather again. After eight and a half miles I came across The Canadians settling in for an afternoon nap, and we traded stories about the weekend of wild weather – they were appropriately jealous of my lucky hitch, having taken the same wrong turn i did, they then camped in cold weather two nights in a row and woke up with ice in their tents. Shortly after leaving them I began the Station Fire detour, a long, exposed road walk around a burn area – not the most fun part of the hike! I arrived at the Mill Creek Fire Station around 3:30pm, and was whisked away to the home of Jane and Jim Klosterman, where Only a Test had been staying for the past three nights. The Klostermans showered us with hospitality and kindness, providing amazing home-cooked meals, comfy beds, the use of their jacuzzi, and showers and laundry, the most fundamental of thru-hiker needs.
The next day, after an amazing gourmet breakfast, Test, Challenger and I started out around 8:15 with the goal of hiking to the Acton KOA campground, 26 trail miles away. We’re not sure how far we actually walked due to more road-walk detours (to avoid the eeeevil Poodle Dog Bush plants that spring up after fires and can cause severe skin rashes) but it was a long, hot day of hiking, and it was good to have the company. We passed a memorial for two fallen fire fighters, and walked through the burnt out remnants of the station, which was quite eerie. We had a nice, shady lunch break at Messenger Flats campground, then pushed on to the water cache at the next ranger station where we met Texas Chill, who had started the trail the first week of May and is going fast. The last eight miles of the day were mentally tough. I would have gladly stopped somewhere before the KOA for the night, but there weren’t any good camping spots near the trail – it was all ridge walking, as is often the case. I was happy to finally arrive at the KOA though, and meet up again with The Canadians and the other hikers who were cowboy camping on the lawn.
The long day on Monday had set me up for a nice 12 mile hike to The Saufleys Hiker Heaven on Tuesday, and I had a great morning. Vasquez Rocks County Park was a big highlight of the morning, and I slowed my pace to meander through the rock formations and take lots of pictures. After the park, the trail became a road walk through town, and I was just about to turn onto the Saufleys’ road when I noticed a bakery on the corner. I headed there for a perfectly flaky cherry turnover and glass of iced tea before walking the final mile to Hiker Heaven – what a place! There were tents set up in the back yard with cots for hikers, a shower and air-conditioned trailer for hikers to lounge in, plenty of shade, loaner clothes to wear while waiting for your laundry, and bikes to ride into town for groceries or food. I picked up my resupply box, settled into a cot, and relaxed and socialized for much of the afternoon. Only a Test and I rode to the Sweetwater Cafe for an early dinner, then I picked up some Guinness and Oreos to take back for dessert, and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the other hikers. The next morning I went to the bakery again for breakfast, then set about organizing my gear so I could hike out a few miles in the evening – i had intended to zero there, but was feeling so well-rested after 24 hours off that I wanted to get an early start on the next stretch trail instead. Test went on an REI run and brought back burgers and fries from In’n’Out, so we were well-nourished when we hit the trail again for a four mile evening walk. I was so thankful that the Saufleys provide such an amazing place for hikers, and amazed at all of the effort it must take to set up and run such a place – they really are trail angels extraordinaire!

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Leaving Wrightwood, finding the spirit of the trail June 1, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 13:59
Tags: ,

I probably should have stayed in Wrightwood on Friday May 25. The weather was supposed to be bad: cold, with winds gusting to 65 mph at the high elevations, and possible snow down to 6500 feet. But I was getting antsy to hike after my zero in town, and figured I’d be down to just about 6500 feet that night, and a forty percent chance of precipitation meant probability was still on my side.

I got lost once in the morning, losing the trail in the fog for two miles, until I reached a stream that I knew was not supposed to be on the pct. I reached the base of Mt Baden-Powell at about 12:00, 2.5 hours after I’d hoped to be there. The cold wether worked partially in my favor, as I climbed the 2600 feet of switchbacks in just about 2 hours, but I started shivering if i sat down for more than five minutes, and the wind would knock water and ice out of the pine trees onto me. I climbed the last 200 feet to the summit (9399 feet) because I was there, struggling against the winds and being pelted by ice chunks, reaching the wind-scoured, fogged-in summit just for the sake of being there. The wind practically pushed me off the summit, and as soon as I was back in the non-windy side of the ridge, I took off my gloves and tucked my hands under my armpits for a few minutes to warm them up. After a couple if miles I finally started descending from the 9000-foot ridge, on the sheltered side of the mountain – I was so relieved to me descending! I got to the road in about two miles; first I noticed that it was wet, and then I realized that I had completely missed the campground i was supposed to have passed – I had taken the wrong trail again! There was no way I was going to climb back up to that cold, windy ridge, so I sat down behind the guardrail to figure out where I was and what to do. I had taken the Dawson Saddle trail down from the ridge instead of the PCT, and could get back on track by getting a ride about 5 miles down the road to Islip Saddle.

I stood up and flagged down the next car that drove past. I noticed with some dread that the back seat was full, but I explained my dilemma and the ladies were sympathetic, making enough room for my pack and I to squish in. Vicky and her mother Fran were headed to the camp Vicky works for, Angeles Crest Christian Camp, for a volunteer work weekend, and I told them about my hike as they drove to the trailhead. When we reached Islip Saddle, Fran asked incredulously whether I was going to just put my tent up under a tree for the night; when I answered affirmatively, Vicky offered to take me to camp instead, for a night in a heated cabin instead of the freezing weather. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and twenty minutes later we pulled into camp an I was situated in a cabin full of empty bunk beds. Later at the dining hall (they were feeding me too! I felt like the luckiest hiker in the world that night!) i met brothers Bill and Alan Doll, who were volunteering for the weekend, and other members of the camp staff and community.

I woke up the next morning thankful to be cozy in the cabin, packed up my backpack and diligently checked my maps for any side trails that might cause me to get lost. As soon as I walked into the dining hall again and saw all of my new friends and perused the project lists, I realized that I’d have many more opportunities to hike 18 mile days on the trail, but only one chance to be at camp, and I felt like staying to help out would be an appropriate way to repay the hospitality that Vicky and everyone else at camp had shown me. So it is that I spent the morning varnishing giant bear statues and the afternoon painting boards, and was Vicky’s only “kill” during an evening game of Crossfire. Everyone at camp was as interested in my PCT hiking adventure as I was grateful to be rescued from the storm, and I chatted with them throughout the day, sharing info about my hike and the equipment I was carrying.

Sunday morning breakfast was the best of all possible send-offs, with omelets and waffles for breakfast, and good-bye hugs all around before I was dropped off at the Three Points trailhead for my day of hiking. I missed eighteen miles of trail because I needed to meet a friend later that day, but I was full of good memories from my weekend at camp.

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

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 11:47
Tags: ,

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
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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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