We started the day with a beautiful sunrise and a brisk temperature. After eating and packing we started to hike to get warm – we planned a shorter day, only about 23km, as my feet were tired from the two long days and because no matter what we would need two days to get to Idyllwild.
We had lots of descents and ascents ahead but Kristians decided that we should carry our full capacity of water (4 plus 6 liters) so that we wouldn’t have to descend 50m later on to get to the spring. At a road junction in about 10 kilometers there was of course trail magic – litres of water and even cookies, candies and Powerade. By that time I had complained enough so I decided to drop some liters I was carrying because there was still a lot of climbing ahead. And I got some Oreos.
We then entered the San Jacinto Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest and slowly, as we ascended, we could see the environment changing from a dry desert to a more alpine pine forest. The smell of pines reminded of home and at times the pines would cast a shadow where we could cool off from the days’ heat.
At some point, Kristians being a hundred meters ahead, I of course noticed a snake right on the trail (by the way – my trail name is Snake Eyes). This one was darker in colour than the previous one and a bit smaller too – maybe as thick as a thumb and only 4cm in diameter as it was curled up there like that. I called Kristians back so we could take some photos and then Kristians took a long branch to move the little guy off the trail (for his own sake and hikers’ too). The snake was nearly motionless and didn’t care at all about what was happening. I’m glad that our jungle skills are coming in handy.
We hiked on, had a quick lunch and later on went down to a stream for the water we’d need for cooking our dinner and breakfast. We ended up camping at a nice shaded area right next to the trail, maybe at around 2000m of altitude – we could hear the wind rustling the top of the trees around us all night.
Because our plan was to make it to Idyllwild (a small mountain town where we would rest a day and get resupplies) the same day we had a pretty big day ahead, but let me explain. Due to some big forest fires a couple of years ago a section of the PCT is closed – from km 271 to 286. A lot of hikers choose to get around this by getting off the trail at Paradise Valley Cafe (the road crossing where we had had trail magic the day before) and then hitchhike into town (not ascending the mountain at all). We chose to hike the trail all the way up to the closure and then take the Spitler Peak trail down the mountain and then hike a route to Idyllwild that Kristians had found on the map – a total of about 30km.
So because of this big day we got up already at 5 and were out of camp by 6:08, just to catch the sunrise at a mountain pass. It was such a beautiful sight – we could see down into the valleys on both sides, admire the red hue on the mountains and see the clouds rolling in from far away. Anyway, as we still had some uphill, then a big 150m downhill, another 400m uphill and then a final downhill of ca 700m to do, we got going – 14km until the Spitler Trail junction. Time went pretty fast and as our legs are pretty good by now, we just enjoyed the views and hiked. Before we knew it it had already been six hours of hiking so we had a little break at a water stream on the final downhill. Kristians had found a shortcut path on his map that was supposed to get us down to the valley but the path was not there so we ended up doing some bushwhacking – big boys’ adventure as he called it. We then had a lunchbreak at the end of the downhill.
From here on we were supposed to hike the route that Kristians had found – it would take us directly into the town, bypassing the fire alternate that PCTA had suggested. As we set off and reached a hilltop where we should’ve turned on a dirtpath we saw “Private Property” and “Private Road” signs and started to doubt things. Then a nice lady stopped her car and suggested we not go there – supposedly there are marijuana farms back there and lots of guns, they don’t like strangers there. I had of course told Kristians that there must’ve been a reason why the Fire Alternate route went around this area and not through but his selective hearing and male hormones meant that his route was the best. Anyway – the gun talk scared us so instead we got a ride down to the main road and ended up hitchhiking to town.
We set up camp at the State Park campgrounds, got a well-earned shower and took our clothes to the coin laundry. We even managed to go get a meal at the vegan restaurant (!) and look around the town a bit. And that was our day.
Tomorrow we should take a day off as we can feel it in our joints, muscles and bones: the daily big ascents and descents of the past few weeks. Also, according to the route, next on the menu is a big 1600m ascent to the 3288m Mt. San Jacinto. However – if everything goes exactly according to the plan our rest day will only partially be a rest day, as we had planned to spend it at the crag, rock climbing. Anyway, rest for now and we will see what tomorrow brings.