Thursday 9th May 2019 – Day 16 Big Bear 266.1 to Holcomb Crossing Camp 294.0 27.9miles/45.2km)

Today it was time to get back on the trail. It was pretty easy to get everything in order this morning as I already had the back pack nearly ready to go the night before. You can do this as you don’t need the tent or sleeping bag due to having a bed. So I got up a little before 6am and set off for the Teddy Bear Restaurant one last time to grab the hiker special bacon, eggs, hash brown and toast for a little over six dollars. I ate with another PCT hiker that I haven’t seen since the Paradise Valley Cafe.

Back to the hostel around 6:40am and get everything ready to go and wait for the $5 lift back to the trail head at 266 mile marker.

So five of us were ready to go at 7:30am; I was back on the PCT once again. The trail was pretty close to what it had been coming into Big Bear before it entered into burnt pine forestry areas. The trail pretty well then picked up some creek lines and kept slowly following them downhill.

The trail eventually joined the Holcomb Creek and it was here that Little Bear Spring Trail Camp was situated complete with a drop toilet. I checked it out and was disgusted with what I saw rubbish wise. I’ll let the photo do the talking, this is all rubbish that people carry in but can’t be stuffed carrying out. Obviously they believe that someone is going to clean up after them.

The PCT then follows the Holcomb Creek loosely gaining height away from it before falling back down a few times, eventually after a few crossings I arrived at Holcomb Crossing Camp and I decided to call it a day. It’s been a pretty big day at 45km but it was very easy as the trail was falling for just about the whole time.

Surprisingly it looks like I’ll have the whole area to myself tonight. The weather forecasts rain this evening (50%) and looks like some for around the next three days. Currently it doesn’t look like rain to me but I’ll find out sooner or later.

Monday 6th May 2019 – Day 13 Mission Creek Camp 239.9 to Big Bear 266.1 (26.2 miles/42.44km)

It was of no surprise that it was very cold this morning judging by the temperature when I went to bed last night. I lingered in bed for a while, but the sky had become slightly overcast and the warmth from it was not going to be dropping in anytime soon.

So after a hot coffee and porridge, I packed up and set off a bit after 7am. The day started off promising that it might warm up, but within an hour it was pretty obvious the day was going to be cool and overcast. The days walking was generally pretty easy and fast as it was mainly flowing downhill track with a few bumps here and there. It was a welcome change from yesterday’s 14 odd mile continuous uphill slog following Mission Creek uphill.

Andrew aka Goodtimes apparently left camp around 4am to hit out for Big Bear Lake a day earlier than planned. The weather made the walking coolish and I ended up wearing my beanie the whole day and this kept me at a good temperature whilst walking along.

I slowly chased down the others through the day and kept to my roughly formulated plan of stopping just prior to Hwy 18 which is just outside Big Bear. About 500m back from the Highway there’s a few camping spots. I stopped here and even selected a pad for the tent for the night hard up against a rock that would block out the wind for the night. After a few drops of rain I got thinking about accommodation in town and started to look around on the phone for what’s available. I ended up ringing the Big Bear Hostel as the hostels make the washing and home cooking a possibility and secured a private room for three nights. So I’m having two full days off now rather than a Nero and a Zero!

So now i had the small issue of getting the approximate 16km distance into Big Bear Lake by hitching. Now I’ve always found it far easier to get a ride if you have female company as you look less like a serial killer. However in these parts, people have a strong knowledge of the PCT and are fully aware why hikers are always standing in certain spots and where they wish to go. So I crossed the road and stuck out my finger to the first car and they stopped! They even looked up the location and dropped me right outside the door.

I set off walking the streets looking for an early dinner all rugged up (it was 4C) and I’m looking at an obvious hiker (puffy vests, shoes and dubious other clothing makes us stand out like a sore thumb) over the street. It was Chrissy from three days ago up on the slopes after Fuller Ridge. She hadn’t been feeling the love for the PCT the day after I saw her to the point that she hitched to Banning and then skipped right through to Big Bear and is staying in the same establishment as I. We talked for quite a while and then had dinner at Teddy Bear Restaurant and I even got a few greens and some salad, happy days. Chrissy is heading back out tomorrow morning on the ride back to the trailhead that the Hostel organises at 7am.

I’ve had a lovely hot shower now and I’ll sort out the filthy clothes in the morning.

So today was my first full marathon distance for the PCT, no doubt it’ll be the first of many in the coming months.

Anyway it’s just after 8pm and I’m just about done for and I’ll have to catch up with Will and Janine in the morning as I won’t last a few more hours until school finishes.

Sunday 5th May 2019 – Day 12 Mile 218.6 to Mission Camp 239.9 (21.3miles/34.5km)

The wind dropped right off last night and it was nice and warm this morning, so much so that I didn’t even put on my puffy jacket or beanie. Charles was up and about early but Kurt and Evan were definitely having a sleep in. I was on my way about 6:30am this morning.

The trail followed the Whitewater River for a while before a wet foot crossing of it prior to heading up a dry valley. The path descended back down into another valley and then up onto a horseshoe shaped ridge. I managed to get mobile reception here and posted yesterday’s blog but could only get a few pictures attached due to the poor connection, I’ll add them later when the connection is stronger.

After this ridge it was time to descend to the Mission Creek valley and follow it up to its headwaters. The trail started off okay, but flood damage had obliterated the path in many places and made the day a chose you own adventure type of affair. It really didn’t bother me as it’s a typical type of scenario that you find on the Te Araroa in New Zealand. Others that are conditioned to following a perfect path seemed to be a kitty lost though.

So I pushed along for many miles with wet feet on either side of the creek or up the creek itself and sometimes in the trail where it still exists. I’ve generally found it situations like this having wet feet is a benefit as you’re no longer afraid of getting wet feet and not continuously looking for dry crossing points.

Further up the valley I ran into Goodtimes et al group again having a lazy rest beside the creek. I talked to them for a while and then pushed on to the Mission Camp where we were all headed. The last 3.5 miles had some serious climbing and I was totally food flat and my pace really slowed down. I had plenty of food in the pack, but I couldn’t be stuffed stopping to unpack and dig it out. I’m noticing that my appetite is increasing exponentially now as well, I’ll increase the food stocks and variety at my next resupply at Big Bear.

Arriving at the campsite I soon noticed that it was far from warm and I rugged up quickly, but still felt cold. The altitude here is 2420m and it’s obviously going to be a cold night.

So we are now only 26 miles out of Big Bear and we are all talking about staging up tomorrow night for a short walk into town on the Tuesday morning. I’ll try and sort some accommodation before I get there if I can. I think I should take the Nero and a Zero this time as there is no hurry to get to Kennedy Meadows South due the the heavy snow issue in the Sierras.

Saturday 4th May 2019 – Day 11 Mile 193.6 – 218.6 (near Whitewater Preserve) (25 miles/40.5km)

The wind dropped off last night for a change which was very pleasant when I awoke this morning. The downhill trail off the slopes of Mt San Jacinto continued today for many miles until it finally hit the valley floor. It was the traditional track style of the PCT of meandering around every hill and valley whilst dragging out the actual descent as long as possible.

When the trail finally hit the road it was over a town water supply line and there was a water facet there which was great as it allowed us to fill up our supplies.

The river valley has a major railway heading into Los Angeles as well as the I10 interstate freeway. The sheer volume of cars and trucks as well as rail freight passing through was amazing.

Underneath the interstate bridge a trail angel had a spread of goodies including soft drink, beers, apples, oranges and various sweet goods. It was a great place to sit out of the heat, sun and wind for a spell. There was also quite a few people hitching or getting an Uber into Cabazon for food, resupply or a rest from the trail.

After leaving the underpass the trail followed up a valley below the Mesa Wind Farm and it was definitely a very windy place. The actual generation units appeared to be a pretty old design and a few newer generation units were also there. It was horrendously windy, yet only about 10% of them were actually turning.

After the saddle at the top of the wind farm I dropped down into canyon country known as San Gorgonio Wilderness. I kept plugging in through this country until the trail finally dropped down to the Whitewater River where I promptly found a semi sheltered site to set up my tent. Kurt and Evan whom I have been floating around all day have also followed my lead and set up here for the night.

Friday 3rd May 2019 – Day 10 Idyllwild (Humber Park Trail Head) to Mile 193.6 – 179.4 to 193.6 plus about 2.5 miles to get back onto the PCT (approx 17 miles/27km)

So I based my decision to stay or go on how I felt when I woke up this morning, if I was tired at all I would stay another day and eat more food. I woke before 6am in my nice comfy bed and I knew I was ready to go and if I stayed around I would regret it.

Another factor in deciding to go was the weather forecast, I had decided to do the alternate route which takes in the summit of San Jacinto Peak (3288m) instead of following the normal PCT route which is much lower. Obviously to do the higher route I was after a cracking day to go up this high in the snow, and the forecast supported this.

So I packed up everything and went down to get breakfast at 7am and tried the Red Kettle again but they won’t let you order straight up even if you know what you want, instead they serve everyone in the order they come through the door regardless if they want coffee etc first. So I gave up on that idea and went elsewhere for a faster meal as I don’t think I would’ve made the 8am lift up to the trail head at Humber Park that Pascal informed me about. The fact that I had to walk all the way down from there the day before made me especially keen not to walk all the way back up.

Pascal was going to leave at the same time but the forecasted rain for Monday and Thursday to Sunday made him keen to buy a rain jacket and the outfitters didn’t open to 9am. Pascal had been intending to buy a jacket over here but had been going to buy it a bit further along the track.

At 8am three of us got the lift up to the track head and we set off to climb the approximately 500m elevation back up again to rejoin the PCT at Saddle Junction.

So after a few miles I came to the branch where I took the right hand path (PCT in red, alternative in blue in picture), not long after I had started down the path I was on the snow and it was firm and crunchy at that hour of the day. My micro spikes were fitted to my shoes and I was off following footsteps of others and the faint sniff of where the trail may be underneath. It soon become clear that it was a mission to make sure you were not drifting too far from the path as foot trails in the snow drifted off in many directions. There was quite a few normal sections of trail between the snowy bits as well and eventually I gained the higher ground and found the rock Summit Hut Shelter and then went onto the summit.

At the summit I had my lunch and was a bit disappointed that no one else was there to take my photo for me. On leaving the summit it was a little after midday and the snow was getting a bit more loose, I set out to the west and the track was well underneath the snow, so it was a bit of a choose your own adventure to get back down onto the PCT. I pretty well headed straight down the hill sliding my way along until I rejoined the trail and checked my position a few times to make sure I didn’t go of my set course to far.

This brings us to the last surprise of the day after I was out of the snow and back on firm trail. Fuller Ridge still has to be negotiated and it was hot, sunny and dry on one side, but when the trail dropped onto the North-Eastern side it was totally covered in snow and hard going. I was over that section by the time it had finished, I continued on about another 3 miles before calling it quits for the day at a dry camp.

I ran into another Aussie Chrissy from the Sunshine Coast today as well and had a good chat at my campsite before she moved along, no doubt I’ll pass her again tomorrow.

Thursday 2nd May 2019 – Day 9 Mile 176.4 to Idyllwild – 176.4 to 179.4 plus about 4 miles off trail to Idyllwild (7 miles/11.3km)

Another cold night, but at least I had no condensation issues and a dry tent which is a perfect result after a nights camping.

It was up and all stations to get off the PCT and down into the valley floor where Idyllwild sits. I was following the other rag tag group of friends that camped at the same spot overnight along the PCT at this stage. After just three short miles you reach Saddle Junction at which point you head off trail down to the Valley floor down a long steep descent. Unfortunately when returning to the trail everyone will obviously have to climb straight back up again!

We all reached the car part and unfortunately without mobile phone reception we had to keep walking down down the road past hundreds of weekender vacation homes towards the town centre. Three of the five got a hitch, but I ended up walking all the way and meeting up the the Red Kettle diner with the others for breakfast. I had to sort out accommodation which can be quite difficult as it sells out fast with the PCT hikers in full season and everywhere about town. Arriving at the diner I just left my pack with all the others outside on the footpath out of view and went inside, it really worries me, but obviously crime isn’t such a big thing here. So in the diner I’m sitting with the others and a couple others arrive for breakfast that they all know and join us. I hadn’t even ordered my meal and I had accepted an offer of sharing a massive room with three beds that Pascal from England had for the night, I was happy about that!

So I polished off bacon and eggs with all the trimmings but I was still a big hungry. Then it was back to the room and I had a bath of all things and then cleaned up my clothes. I pretty well sat around in the sun and moved the wet clothes around till lunchtime. I had a walk around town and grabbed some resupplies and also had a good chat to Will and Janine back home.

Dinner was with the group once again at a Mexican establishment that had a special on Tacos for $1.5 each so pretty well everyone ordered a heap of them. I finished my resupply afterwards and talked to Pascal for an hour or so before going to bed.

I’m not sure if I’ll head off in the morning or hang around for another full day off. I don’t feel tired at all so I could play it either way. I do have accommodation at the same place in another room if I want it as well.