PCT Days 19–26

2018-05-20 | 11 min read

Trail Miles: 179.4 — 266.1

Day 19

We woke up at the Idyllwild Inn rested and ready to go. Thankfully my fever was gone and I felt ready to hike. Taking two zeros wasn’t what we wanted to do, but it was needed and without it I don’t think I could have kept hiking. The Inn provided a shuttle to the Devil’s Slide trail which was 2.2 miles back up to the PCT. It was all uphill and slow going, but we made it back to the PCT. We still had a lot of ups and downs to go, so we plodded along.

We stopped for a longer break at one point and I enjoyed some of the lemonade mix I had gotten in Idyllwild. While we were sitting down a fellow thru-hiker came by and chatted with us. He wasn’t from the US and had made the unfortunate mistake of getting Kool-Aid packs for his water without realizing that you need sugar to go with the Kool-Aid mix. He had 6 packs of the mix and said he would use it all since he bought it. We offered him some lemonade, but he refused.

After filling up on water the last time for the next 19 miles we headed off to our campsite. We arrived right before sunset and set up camp quickly so we could get into our sleeping bag and out of the cold.

Day 20

We woke up to some warmer weather and started out on the big descent — 7,700 feet of elevation all the way down to 1,700 feet of elevation. While uphill isn’t fun, downhill isn’t always fun either. Especially 15 miles of downhill. On the flip-side, I’m sure glad we didn’t have to hike up those 15 miles.

The majority of the day was uneventful and slow going down the hill. We didn’t see many people until near the end. A couple passed us and we watched them run ahead of us past a bee hive. As we got close to the bee hive we saw some rocks spelling out “bee” to warn us. We walked by briskly and while I came through unscathed, Monica did not. She had 3 stings and 2 of them were straight through her clothes. Thankfully Monica isn’t allergic to bees and no harm was done beside the stings and their itchiness.

At the bottom of the hill was the first water since our fill up 19 miles before. It’s a water faucet that leeches of a Las Angeles water pipe coming from a spring on San Jacinto — the mountain we had just climbed down from. I made some lemonade to celebrate making it down the mountain and we started setting up our tent. The wind blew the tent out of its stakes so we decided it was a cowboy camping night — sleeping in our sleeping bag under the stars. We settled in and watched the sun set and the stars come out. As the sky grew darker our friends the bats came out to clear the sky of bugs so we could sleep without pesky insects.

Day 21

We woke up with the sunrise and set out across the desert towards Interstate 10. The wind was brutal and it made sense why there were several wind farms in the valley.

Reaching I-10 we met up some fellow hikers we’ve seen off and on since day 1. We set off with them towards the Mesa Wind Farm. Rumor had it that we could go to the office there and get cold drinks and WiFi. We made good time and reached the wind farm in the late morning. Following signs we arrived at the office and were greeted with cold sodas, Gatorade, water, and frozen food that could be microwaved. Donations were requested if you took soda or food which made sense since they weren’t a charity. Monica and I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and I had a nice cold soda. We stayed longer than we probably should have — 2 hours. It was nice to sit back and relax. They also randomly had a scale in the bathroom and I found out that I’ve lost 13 pounds so far on the trail.

From the wind farm we didn’t have far to go to a preserve where they had a wading pool, grass to camp on, and bathrooms with flush toilets — the real luxury. It was hot, but thankfully not the 110 F it was the week before. We put away the miles and got to the Whitewater Preserve around 4. We dipped our feet in the ice cold wading pool and washed some of the dirt off of our bodies. The preserve closes at 5, but they let PCT hikers stay the night which means we get a nice quiet preserve to ourselves. In the field where we were setting up our tent some fellow hikers discovered two gopher snakes fighting over a gopher hole. It was interesting to watch and both Monica and I were glad they weren’t rattlesnakes. We settled in for the night and drifted off to sleep.

Day 22

We woke up at the usual 5 and were heading down the trail around 6. We had a couple climbs to get out of the valley we were in and we crossed the roaring Whitewater Creek which is one of the biggest water crossings in the desert section of the PCT.

Around mid morning we came across Mission Creek which the trail follows for about 14 miles. It had good flow and we took a short break to get water and soak our feet in the ice cold flow. After the break we continued on to our campsite. It wasn’t the best campsite in the world, but it was close to the stream and it wasn’t windy. We relaxed for the rest of the day and chatted with hikers as they came by.

Day 23

The next morning we were up and at it again and ready to go. We had 7 miles to an ice cold spring where I was going to make some more lemonade. The climb was steep, but it was cool with a nice breeze. Hills aren’t fun, but we both feel like we’re getting better at them — especially at higher elevations. We don’t feel as winded as quickly and can go farther than before without taking a break. Maybe our hiker legs are arriving!

Once we arrived at the spring we sat down and rested for a while. I made my lemonade and then we had mac & cheese. It was the last water of the day so we wanted to get any cooking done so we didn’t have to haul water along for cooking. After eating some more we headed out. We got to our campsite, but it was pretty windy so we headed on for 2 more miles where we could camp in the valley out of the wind.

Day 24

It was a cool night and we had a low mileage day so we slept in and took our time getting out of camp. I was excited because there was the possibility of free soda about 7 miles into the day. It wasn’t a lot of up or down hill and we made good time. We came upon a couch and a little dumpster converted into a snack and soda holder maintained by the Big Bear Hostel. There were 3 sodas left so I enjoyed a knock-off Coca-Cola and some cookies while relaxing on the couch. We stayed longer than we probably should have, but we only had 3 miles left till we were at camp.

After our friend Pete passed us we set off again and arrived at our campsite. It had a stream nearby along with picnic tables next to the campsites. We setup and ate our ramen followed by Oreos. We then chatted with a grandfather, father, and daughter who were out on a one night backpacking trip. They were fascinated with our hike and told us that what we were doing was awesome.

Day 25

Soon after emerging from the tent the next morning we started seeing a lot of day hikers. They seemed to never end coming through our campsite. We quickly packed up and headed out. 2 miles down the trail near a road there were some tables set up and people hanging out around them. We chatted with them and found out that they were with Make-A-Wish San Diego and they were having a 28 mile hike to fundraise. Now we knew what all those day hikers we saw were doing. At their table they had free fruit and snacks available for thru-hikers. We ate some bananas and kept going.

The day wound on and our scenery changed back and forth between trees and open areas scattered with bushes. Mixing between mountain scenery and desert like scenery. We stopped for a quick minute to enjoy some ice-pops being handed out by a little boy and his grandfather. Soon after we hit the 10% mark — we have 10% of the trail behind us. It might sound overwhelming to think that we still have 90% left, but we don’t think about that — we think about how far we’ve come. 265 miles is a long way and even now as I’m writing this it’s hard to believe we’ve come so far.

Pushing on we soon made it to Highway 18 which was our ending point for the day. There was a couple out on a day hike who started chatting with us. Their daughter had thru-hiked the PCT a couple years ago and they were excited to talk with us. They offered us a ride into town which we readily excepted. There was a couple in town who opened their home up to hikers. We got dropped off at their house and met the trail angels Layne and Elise. They’re a nice couple who’ve been in Big Bear for 39 years. They let Monica and I stay in their RV so we had the whole place to ourselves. We were able to take nice warm showers and wash our clothes before heading out to resupply for the next section.

The trail angels provided tacos for dinner and Monica and I picked up some avocados at the store to make guacamole to complement the dinner. We had great conversation with the trail angels and a fellow hiker before we retired to the RV for the night. We crawled into bed and quickly fell asleep. We’ve got some nice air pads for sleeping on in our tent, but a mattress feels so good.

Day 26

Today we’re taking a zero before we head out on the trail again. As always it’s nice to relax and let our bodies recover. This next section we’re going to up our mileage to 15+ miles a day. We’re hoping to cover the 88 miles to Wrightwood in 6 days.

We’re excited with how far we’ve come. There’s a lot ahead, but we just think town to town, mile by mile. We’re getting more comfortable being on the trail and away from civilization, though that’s not to say we don’t miss the comforts of life. We still have hard days. We still have uphill. We have long water carries. We have the hot blazing sun and cold nights. We have soreness and pain. But we also have laughter and good times. We have beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We see new and different plants. We have experiences we wouldn’t trade for anything. This is an adventure I’m glad I’m on — especially with Monica.