Days 17, 18 & 19

Day 17

As I am writing this three days later, it’s gonna be pretty short and concise. We hiked from the Mesa Wind Farm into the San Gorgonio mountains.

We (us & Team Seattle) stayed together again for the whole day and after the first six miles (an ascent and then a long descent), at the Whitewater river, we happened upon team Law Enforcement. We found out that they had had a really rough night with the wind and woken up already around 3am to start hiking. When we met up with them they had already had a bottle shower and even washed their shirts!

After a short break and filling in our bottles at the river we headed on. The day was now getting hotter and the trail ascended a valley and then, for the first time ever, followed a ridge for many miles. Throughout the day there were cool lenticular clouds above us and we had views of valleys all around us. We then quickly descended onto the valley floor and reached the Mission Creek. After finding a nice tree for shadow we had our lunchbreak and charged up on the electrolytes.

Because we knew there was a 16 mile fire closure coming up (it was possible to hike through it but not to camp) we wanted to get as close to its beginning as possible so we hiked about 4 more miles that evening. We camped right by the same creek, just higher up in the valley, which allowed us to also have a nice cold bottle shower. Sadly, because the wind still hadn’t completely died out, we couldn’t have a campfire that evening. Nevertheless it was a nice evening with good company.

Day 18

This was a big day – nearly 22 miles with more than 2000m ascent! First we hiked about 10km/6mi to the next water source (the last crossing of the Mission Creek). The whole route was uphill and after we reached the first ridge the fire closure started. We could see burned trees and ashes on the ground – the fire had only occurred about two years ago. But the route to the creek was nice and once we got there we met three other hikers.

We had a little break, had some snacks and then filled in our bottles for the next 14 waterless miles (approx 23 kilometers). The route then continued uphill, turning more alpine and mesmerizing us with the smell of pines. Additionally we got to enjoy the views of San Jacinto and then an even more snowy peak of San Gorgonio. At this point our food was basically running out (as we were to get to town by evening) so the packs were as light as possible – but the three liters of water were still heavy.

We had a nice lunch at about 11 miles and after that it felt to me as if the day started to go faster. Even though I kept checking the map to count how many more meters of ascent and descent there was left I still had good energy and the afternoon flew by. I kept taking my short videos as Lee was coming up with new ways of acting weird in them.

After the final climb (which I thought would be much worse) we finally reached Highway 38. Here we took the short trail down and then contemplated on our further plans – hitchhike? Get an uber or lyft? Stay with trail angels or get a hotel room together? As hitchhiking didn’t seem to work we were about to order an uber…at the same time Full Sail had called the trail angels and we had a place to stay at, get a shower and laundry. Out of the blue, just as we were about to push the button for an uber, two cars (a marrief couple) stopped and picked us up. They drove us straight to the trail angels’ (Papa Smurf & Mountain Mama) place, where we dropped off the bags. Lee and Full Sail had decided to stay at the motel because it was closer to downtown and Lee had been having problems with his sleeping pad.

We all drove to the motel together, thanked the couple who gave us a ride, and then split up. Kristians and I, still very dirty and smelly, hitched another ride to downtown (took us a whole 2 minutes!) and went straight to the Himalayan restaurant. There we proceeded to order as many vegan dishes as humanly possible – it was a great meal and made us feel like we should move to Nepal asap.

We then continued our day by heading into Ben & Jerry’s to try out their plant-based ice creams. We ended up staying there for an hour because the manager was super interested in us and our hike. These kinds of people and connections are what make the PCT so special. He even offered us a free cookie but sadly it was not vegan 😦

Then – as if the day hadn’t already been long enough – we took a lyft to the big grocery store Vons, because our plan was to head out as early as possible the next day. It took us forever (and lots of money) to buy the rations for the next 5-6 days and by the time we were done there were no more lyft drivers on duty. Luckily the trail angel Papa Smurf was able to pick us up and once we got to the house we set up our tent, sorted our food, took showers and got the laundry going. And then we finally got into our tent to rest.

Just to talk a bit about the trail angels: Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama have been helping hikers since 2012. They drop off snacks and drinks at trailheads, host hikers at their small home, offer rides to and from trailheads and help with laundry, shower, post office and resupply. Last year they had more than 300 hikers come by their place – at most 27 at a time. Overall they have helped a couple thousand hikers. They are very kind people who live their lives and share everything they have with random strangers hiking through. If you are grateful you can leave a donation but you do not have to.

Day 19

Today we planned initially to have a later start for the day and start hiking towards Wrightwood. But instead – thanks to Papa Smurf’s good idea – we decided to instead do a day of slackpacking. We left our tent and big backpacks at the house, only packed some food, water and toilet neccessities and got dropped off at the trailhead where we had got off the day before. We decided to hike long and fast – nearly 23 miles – to the Van Dusen spur trail. The trail was relatively easy – mostly downhill – but not a lot of shade and some parts had lots of bigger rocks so one could’ve easily twisted an ankle. The whole day we saw a total of four hikers so we could really enjoy the calm and birdsongs. Due to another fire closure detour there was a 4km uphill section – we were glad we didn’t have to do that part with our full packs.

With the lunchbreak the whole hike took us about a total of 8 hours. Luckily it didn’t get that hot today – there was a constant cool breeze. What was supposed to be an easy day for our feet still turned out to be pretty hard – my feet were completely knackered by the end. Luckily the trail angel could pick us up at the dirt road crossing – and tomorrow we will get a ride back there to continue our hike towards Wrightwood and the hot springs!

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