Trail Miles: 109.5–166.6 + 15 off trail
We “slept in” till 7 and then took our time getting ready for the trail. We only had 5.4 miles to do so we weren’t in a hurry. We ate our oatmeal, coffee, and pop tarts before setting off. We wandered through the meadows again and then got into a little bit of shade from the trees. We started following a creek which was flowing nicely. It didn’t take long to arrive at the place we were going to camp. We set down our packs and soaked our feet in the cold stream. We talked a little bit about the plan to Idyllwild and ended up decided to push on 4.6 miles which would set us up to reach Idyllwild a day earlier than planned without doing too many miles on a single day.
We waited around the stream until around 2:30 before we set out. It was hot and we had an upwards climb for the rest of the day. When we arrived at our actual campsite there were two other people there who told us that there was a nice spring down a side trail where we could wash up if we wanted. Drinking the water wasn’t suggested as it smelled weird and was not moving. We did have filters, but for some water sources it’s suggested to chemically treat and filter. We just washed up and then chatted a bit with the others before we watched the sunset and then headed to bed.
We got up early and hit the trail in the cool of the morning. We had 7 miles to go in order to reach Mike’s Place — a stop just off the trail where a guy named Mike keeps a large tank of water filled and sometimes has food. We had an uneventful trek and reached his place around 10. We filled up with some nice cold water from the tank and headed down to his house. At the house we dropped off a days worth of food in the hiker box since we were able to cut a day off our plan to get to Idyllwild. A hiker box is a box where hikers can put things they don’t need and other hikers can take those things if they need them. It’s also fun to look through the hiker box to see what junk other hikers carried this far. Like a 5 gallon hanging shower — useful with all the water available in the desert section.
After a short break and some bananas from Mike we hit the trail again. It still wasn’t super hot yet and thankfully there was a nice breeze going. We made good time and got to our campsite soon after 1. We setup part of our tent to shelter us from the sun and then relaxed there the rest of the afternoon.
At this point I realized that while I don’t mind being hot or being dirty, I do mind being those together. With them together I feel disgusting. Even under the shade it was hot and I was still dirty. Normally at the end of the day it’s not so hot. Lesson learned and on the trail all you can do is tough it out.
Before we set out at 6 AM we heard plenty of other hikers pass us — as early as 3 AM. We packed up and started out. We had a couple of miles to go to Tule Spring which we heard wasn’t the greatest water source. Once there I climbed down to the spring to scoop water out. The water wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really moving and if you disturbed it too much you got lots of sediment. We scooped out 6 liters and treated it chemically before filtering it. We had a total of 4 liters each which is good for a solid 8 miles for us — which is what we had left for the rest of the day.
Setting out it started to get hot. The shade was non-existent as the sun rose high in the sky and we started to bake. We didn’t want to stop and bake in the sun so we pressed on. We finally found a big rock with a sliver of shade so we stopped for 30 minutes and cooled off. Next was a climb up 900 feet of elevation over 2 miles. Normally a climb like that wouldn’t be a problem, but there wasn’t any wind and the sun was blazing in a cloudless sky.
After a long while we reached a dirt road with a water cache. Monica and I were both almost out of water so we sat in the shade and shared a gallon of fresh, clean water. After an hour break we continued on 2 miles where we reached a water tank and tent area maintained by a trail angel named Mary. She had a big water tank, picnic tables under a sun canopy with ice water and lemonade, room for tents, a pit toilet, and a little library. Mary rode by on her horse and later walked by with her dog and chatted with us.
Thankful for relaxing shade and being done for the day we headed off to bed.
We woke up with a spring in our step — not because we had gotten a good nights rest (which we hadn’t because of the warmth), but because we only had 7 miles to the Paradise Valley Cafe where we could order some food and relax. The morning had some decent up hills, but it was still cool from the night and we had our minds set on food.
We reached the Cafe around 9:30 where we ordered breakfast and lemonade. Over the course of the time there I probably had 8 glasses of lemonade. The breakfast was amazing and the Cafe was very friendly. They let us hang out till lunch when we ordered burgers and then after that till 3 PM. They also let hikers stay outside overnight, but we had 5 more miles to go. A lot of people hitch 17 miles right into Idyllwild because of a fire closure, but we had heard that meant skipping a beautiful 30 mile section.
We set out to our campsite and made it there in good time. Monica and I both felt sluggish and figured it was from the food and lemonade. The campsite was a nice quiet wooded spot and we slept pretty well.
We only had 12.5 miles to conquer, but it included a total of 3,600 feet of elevation ascent and 1,700 feet of elevation descent. 1,200 of both of those elevation feet were within the last 4 miles. 2 miles down 1,200 feet and 1,200 feet up for the next two miles. We set off and stopped at Tunnel Spring where we filled up with 4 liters of water each.
As we continued our ascent the sun blazed down. We could feel the elevation gain and the heat. Thankfully there were more trees than normal, but it was still hot. Approaching the burn area the shade dissipated and we started warming up. We pushed on with a couple of stops in the limited shade.
Reaching the top of the climb we only had. 4 miles left. We were running a little low on water with about a liter and a half each, but the water report said that about 8/10 of a mile down a side trail at the bottom of the two mile descent was a spring with a 70 gallon Rubbermaid tub maintained by the forest service. It wasn’t an official water stop, and hadn’t been updated since before the fire, but it was either check that out or run out of water on the way up to our campsite. We couldn’t find the side trail, but knew with a break waiting for the sun to calm down a little bit we could make it 5 flat miles to a road where we could hitch to a campsite with water.
After a long rest in the shade we set out for the 5 miles where we were picked up by a wonderful couple from Idyllwild. They took us several miles up the road to Herkey Creek Campground where we could spend the night with all the water we could want. Once at the campground we started looking around for a campsite. On our search we saw some fellow thru-hikers we had had started with on day 1 who welcomed us to join them and offered us fresh fruit and other food. We had been dreaming about fresh juicy fruit almost all day so it was an answer to an un-prayed prayer.
Glad to be done for the day we headed off to bed so we could take on the last 7 miles into Idyllwild.
The 7 miles into Idyllwild aren’t official PCT miles. They’re part of the fire closure and aren’t on very nice trails and aren’t marked well. We walked mostly on water drainage formed dirt until we hit a dirt road which we followed for a while until we hit some paved roads. We walked through the outskirts of Idyllwild until we arrived in the downtown of the beautiful mountain town of Idyllwild. The road walk wasn’t fun. There wasn’t a huge shoulder for hikers to walk on and getting into downtown wasn’t marked at all.
We reached the Idyllwild Inn, where we had a reservation, around 1. Our room was already ready and we quickly moved in and took hot showers before sending off our clothes to be washed. Next up we headed out to dinner with a friend we had met earlier in the week. We enjoyed good food and conversation before we came back to the Inn where we quickly fell asleep. I did not sleep well and tossed and turned for 4 hours before I took some Vitamin I (ibuprofen) which broke my fever sometime in the morning and helped me sleep better.
I woke up feeling a lot better, though after a morning of resupply and laying around I still felt pretty out of it and shivery. We booked another night at the Inn and hopefully we’ll be ready to go on Sunday the 13th.
After laying around all day and not being able to fall asleep I was bored of the room. Monica and I decided to go watch Avengers: Infinity Wars with some trail friends at the one theatre in town. They only show the latest blockbuster on their one screen. It was nice to be out of the room and I actually found it relaxing.
I woke up feeling a good bit better and hopefully that stays throughout the day. Monica is feeling great and is taking good care of me while I’m under the weather.
The trail was challenging this last section. While it was hard, we’ve gotten stronger. We’re not going to let the little things get us down or keep us from going on. We’ve learned from our mistakes and hiccups, and know how to better face the next section. God is right here with us giving us strength and energy. We don’t know what His plan is for us, but we know He will take care of us.