We’ll begin by describing the most striking event of the last five days. Late at night on day 50, we had an encounter with a bear.
Posts from the ‘PCT – Southern California’ Category
Day 42: Between Tylerhorse and Gamble Spring Canyons (Mile 544)-Highway 58 (Mile 566.5); 22.5 miles
Our alarm rang at 5:30 AM and we were up and walking by 6. Over the past few weeks we have perfected our morning routine and now are quite speedy. Shutterbug breaks down the tent while Anna organizes food for the coming day. We quickly place each item in the perfect spot in our packs so the weight is well balanced and everything we need is easily accessible.
The morning’s environment transitioned from grassy desert hills to a forest which burned last fall. The burn was so recent we could still smell charred wood, and the soil was scorched black. Little grew save a few small wildflowers.
We spend much of our time on the Pacific Crest Trail walking quietly. We observe and enjoy our surroundings, living in the moment. In the same spirit, this post consists only of photographs, so you can view our journey without commentary.
Day 38: Agua Dulce (Mile 454.5)-Dowd Canyon (Mile 475.5), plus 1 mile from town to trail; 22 miles
Day 33: Near climb to Mt. Baden-Powell (Mile 373)-Kratka Ridge (Mile 389.5); 16.5 miles
After a short morning descent, we climbed 2800 feet in 3.6 miles to reach the summit of Mt Baden-Powell. Mountains surrounded us on all sides, except to the north where the Mojave Desert stretched flat to the horizon. It was an amazing view of what lay ahead for us on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Near the summit we found gnarled, slow-growing limber pine trees. This species can survive in very harsh conditions for up to 2000 years.
A few miles later, tired from the climb and with our bellies growling for lunch, we passed a hiker resting at a trail junction next to a sign. We were focused on finding a good shady lunch spot, so we glanced briefly at the sign and continued walking. About a mile farther down the trail, things didn’t feel right. The trail was dropping faster than it should and the highway had become visible too soon. Sure enough, the GPS on our phones showed we were off the PCT.
Day 30: Cleghorn Picnic Area/family vacation (Mile 328.5)- Swarthout Canyon Road (Mile 347.5); 19 miles
We returned to the trail rested and relaxed from our time in Big Bear with family. But as it turned out, we couldn’t leave the family behind! Five of Anna’s relatives joined us for 13 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail out of Silverwood Lake. We had a great time sharing the trail with them, and trail names soon emerged: Alex was Moon, Peter was Crow, Joe was Fire Ant, Cindy was Lulu Lush, and Jim was either Twinkle Toes or Big Load, though he rejected both. We should also mention that right before taking our rest days, a fellow thru hiker, Dancing Feet, suggested Anna should be named Morning Glory. The name would fit well because Anna wakes up early, is upbeat, and likes to identify wildflowers along the trail. We both feel the name is pretty good, but not perfect, so Anna will await another trail name suggestion.
After we parted ways with the family, we continued on until we reached a water cache at Swarthout Canyon Road. This spot was amusing to us because of the furniture, which provided for some prime desert lounging.
On the morning of Day 26 we walked 8.5 miles to the Silverwood Lake picnic area. There Anna’s brother Jim and his wife Cindy gave us big welcoming hugs despite the grime and stink we’d acquired on the trail. Jim and Cindy then drove us to a nice rental house in Big Bear where Anna’s family had planned their annual family vacation. We had a great time relaxing and catching up with everyone.
Jim and Cindy are being wonderfully helpful by shipping us food boxes during our PCT hike. We’d like to give back a bit by sharing a project Jim has been working on for the past year: the Get In Front dance performance in San Francisco. Jim is a dancer with the San Francisco Ballet and the June 6 show will feature dancers from 11 top Bay Area dance companies including San Francisco Ballet, LINES Ballet, and ODC/Dance. The evening will be a major fundraiser for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, whose mission is to Get in Front of cancer. You can learn more about this amazing night and buy tickets at getinfront.org.
The timing of our Big Bear break worked out well because Shutterbug’s (Chris’s) feet have grown larger from all the walking we’ve been doing, and his toes were starting to rub. Luckily he found the same model, just half a size larger than his old shoes, and his feet are happy again.
Leave No Trace (LNT) is a set of principles aimed at leaving the world in the same condition as you found it. Whether you’re day hiking, backpacking, or living in the city, you can apply these principles to limit your impact on our environment. Every day on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Leave No Trace ethic guides our behavior:
– In the morning after packing up our belongings, we check the campsite to make sure it’s pristine, especially looking for small items like tent stakes and trash.
– As our tummies start to grumble, we eat granola bars for breakfast. The wrappers go into our trash bag. We pack out all of our trash.
– We always follow the trail, especially in steep switchbacked sections, where short cuts cause serious erosion and destabilization problems for future hikers.
The Pacific Crest Trail, as the name implies, follows crests of mountain ranges, so we have come to expect ups and downs. But when we looked at the elevation graphs for the upcoming section of trail, we knew we were in for a doozy.
Day 17: Saddle Junction (Mile 179.5)-Fuller Ridge (189.5) + 2.5 leaving Idyllwild; 12.5 miles
From Idyllwild we walked up the Devils Slide trail to Saddle Junction. The trail snakes up the mountainside, climbing 1700 feet in two and a half miles. After reaching Saddle Junction, we walked a few miles then stopped to heat up ramen at a nice spot with a view.
We climbed further to Fuller Ridge at 8800 feet. We encountered significant snow there which slowed our progress. While the trail was passable, the snow was icy and slippery and we each fell. We wished we had our Microspikes. We were carrying 9 days of food, and the extra weight caused our packs to work against us when we shifted our weight on snowy slopes. This was a rough day mentally for Anna.
Finally, losing sunlight and tired, we found a small meadow (half snow covered) suitable for camping. We ate cheese and dried cherries and camped there.