Well nothing too exciting, certainly no helicopters, but the last few hiking days have been fantastic! The hiking has felt really good, the views have been amazing, and the company is awesome. Leaving Big Bear Lake with a few extra Taco Bell crunchwrap supremes, and a PBR in my pack, we hiked into the hills, then opted out of the detour and risked our lives on the official Deep Creek PCT. By risking our lives, I really mean, hiking a fairly decent and easy trail that posed little risk, with a few rock slides to cross with caution, but rewarded us greatly with a soak in the hot springs, literally trailside. Yes, the obligatory naked old guy was there, but he was fairly low key about his scroggin and I was willing to ignore it to soak my bones and sip my PBR.
Oh and it would seem that now is the best time to admit that I fell into my first river. It was incredibly small and un-threatening, yet I was not paying attention and I stepped onto a wet rock, slipped, and fell into the deep pool of water next to a tumbling waterfall. However, I discovered that my camera is indeed waterproof, and my GPS can withstand significant splashing! I might however be doomed for the larger, faster, and significantly more dangerous river crossings that are to come in the Sierras...
The next significant event of the trail was spent at a very hiker-friendly place: McDonalds. We planned our hike to hit the breakfast menu, then transitioned into the lunch options. I had a fairly disappointing showing with only about 2000 calories, but our birthday boy, Alex, took the cake for his 27th birthday with over 4000 calories. Oh and this guy can run a 2:40 marathon and has the most amazing calves I have ever hiked behind. Once we were all in pain and incapable of hiking, we shifted next door to the gas station, laid out on their lawn and split a 6 pack of Sam Summer. This hiking business is tough work! (Well actually the next 8 miles straight up were incredibly miserable and I'd make better life choices next time...)
And now I sit in Wrightwood, 369 miles done, hanging out at a fantastic trail angel's house with 9 other hikers, relaxing and really appreciating everything and everyone around me.
So, originally, this post was going to be 24 hours in the life of a thru-hiker. Then it became 48 hours. But then the good things kept coming. So perhaps, I'm up to 72 hours into why being a thru-hiker is awesome. I will try my best to do justice in this post, but chances are, I will not even get close to sharing how awesome it is to be a thru-hiker!
The fun times began at 5:45am as I woke up on the floor of our awesome cabin in Idyllwild. I was already happy from a full belly of $1.25 tacos and margaritas from the night before, but I was up early to help a fellow hiker Drop Dead make pancakes for our friends. With a filling breakfast of choco banana pancakes, we began our hike straight up the side of San Jacinto. It was a surprisingly happy climb, with lots of photos of our first foray into snow. We topped out at 10808 ft to beautiful blue skies one direction, and menacing clouds another. Ignoring sage advice to backtrack on the trail and stay found, we turned on my GPS, and proceeded to bootski down the mountain on any path that looked fun. Thankfully, technology kept us on track, and allowed us to have a ridiculously fun afternoon without getting lost. Once back on the PCT, we continued for a few more miles discussing how difficult the dreaded Fuller Ridge would be in the morning. It had a reputation for being super steep and nasty, and had encouraged a few hikers to skip the section and road walk around it. When we got to the campsite, we began to chat to other hikers and they informed us that we had ALREADY crossed Fuller Ridge, and the worst was behind us. Sort of a funny disappointment really!
I guess we are just that good.
Well the next morning, it was a beautiful chilly day, and we started out hiking enjoying the cool air and easy hiking. After a few miles, we came upon a very sick hiker and instantly realized something was wrong. We knew that we were going to be the last hikers she would see for a while, so myself and another hiking buddy, the Aussie Kylie, decided that it wouldn't be a great idea to leave her alone. She insisted that she was okay and that we carry on, but she had told us that she had been vomiting for the last 5 hours and couldn't even keep water down. Not a great situation to be in 8 miles from the road on a very exposed, hot section of trail. The sick hiker, Quixote, had thru hiked before, and was very experienced, but seemed to be suffering from food poisoning, so we took her under our wing and tried to help her get down the mountain. One of our boys helped carry her backpack down while the other two stayed with us to help her, but after about 2 miles, it became really apparent that she was not going to make it much further. We tried to make her as comfortable as possible and encouraged her to drink liquids, but they wouldn't settle in her stomach. After about 3 hours of being with her, her vitals were climbing (due to dehydration- not a good thing) and we decided that we were running out of options. So for the second time in my life, I called 911.
After talking to 3 different dispatchers, and finally getting the search and rescue guy on the phone, I was able to explain that we were hikers on the PCT and give an approximate location for where we were. Then they dropped the "H" word. Helicopter. In a very slow and methodical manner, they were able to get a heli in the area, as well as coordinate a ground team, and the heli located us due to all of our insanely bright hiking clothes. For those of you that know me, that lovely blaze orange hiking shirt was extremely handy! Since we were on a very steep hillside, there was nowhere to land the heli, but they managed to get it close to the rock we were near and they had a rescuer jump out the heli onto the rock. The skids never even touched the rock. Epic. He spoke to an increasing improving Quixote, explaining how things were going to happen, then they got on the rock and waited for the heli to return and jumped from the rock to the skids. The 4 of us on the trail, Wiz, Alex, Kylie, and myself were incredibly jealous and secretly all wanted to have a reason to hitch a ride!
We then hiked down the trail, caught a ride with the Trail Angel Sugar Mama, ate a filling and delicious dinner at Ruby's diner, walked 1/3 mile back on trail, and crashed for the night. Not many miles, but quite an exciting day.
So we knew that we earned some trail juju for the rescue, but we never expected it to come back around so quickly. The next day, we had trail magic oranges for breakfast, trail magic soda and watermelon from the trail angel Kate 4 miles later, went to the Mesa Wind Farm for drinks, A/C, and freezer foods, and headed .5 miles off trail to the Whitewater preserve for burgers, fruit and snacks from a triple-crowner trail angel, Brian (buck-30). While hanging out at the preserve, another trail angel couple came with more food and some awesome amenities like medicines, clean socks, and cold drinks. Then the rangers came over and offered to run down to town and pick up some beers for us after the park closed. It was so awesome. Once again, not many miles hiked, but the trail love was amazing!
After a.m. pancakes from the wonderful Buck-30, we hit the trail the next morning trying to get back into the rhythm of miles. About 2 hours into the hike, I saw my first bear, a little black bear about 40 yards from me that scampered off up the hill. The day was a rather enjoyable hike, mostly creekside, with plenty of places to stop and soak our feet and shirts to cool off. It felt really good to spend a full day on trail, even though the 4 miles we hiked after dinner were straight up. It was worth it for a great campsite nestled among huge pine trees.
The routine is getting back to normal, though. Once again, I woke this morning to an icey sleeping bag, and was happy to hike into town and see a Taco Bell. We are all hanging out in a hostel, hiding from the weather and enjoying the great company that only comes from buzzed hikers wearing rain clothes while the laundry is spinning in the background.
Sometimes I wonder what to say when people ask me why I hike. Who wouldn't love this life?
Well I know that I can be a bit of a flake at times, but waking up to ice coating everything around me in Southern Cali was a bit shocking! The afternoon before, I was lathering SPF 70 on the back of my sunburnt calves, and moaning and groaning about all the water I would have to carry. Thanks Karma.
So last night, a cold front rolled through the San Jacintos and I was hiking up there at 7000 feet or so. The wind was insanely strong, and we looked drunk trying to fight the wind and walk in a straight line at the same time. Thankfully I was with a few other cheerful hikers, since my body said "no more" and I really struggled to hike the last 5 or so miles to camp. I had hiked a 33 mile day right before trying to escape the vortex that was Warner Springs, and pushed myself to see what I could do. The 33 miles was fine, but the next day, I had no fuel left after 20 and I was slowly crumbling. We managed to get to the predetermined campsite, only to find miserable tent sites, and a few other early hikers. So tossing LNT to the 60mph gusts, I leveled a patch of hill with my heels and made a tent sized crash pad for my tarptent. A quick dinner and warm clothes made the situation better, but I discovered that my tent is not designed for high winds. Very frustrating. I see a very expensive purchase in my future...
Because of the high winds and constant freezing mist, none of us got any sleep, so the morning hike of 11 miles to Idyllwild turned us all in zombies. But I currently have a calzone in my tummy, and visions of dollar tacos in my head, thus I think all will be well in the world again!
I don't think that I will zero tomorrow in Idyllwild, though the original plan had me here for an extra day. I will try and meet up with the kids that I was hiking with pre-Warner Springs, and head out with them. It's tough to find a hiking crowd that fits your pace, so if you find one, its nice to stick to it.
I'm exhausted, proud that I challenged myself, and excited to leave Idyllwild and tackle some ice and snow on Fuller Ridge. I've got my wonderful Kahtoola KTS Alum crampons for traction, and trekking poles for stability. I've decided to forward my ice axe on to Kennedy Meadows since its not really necessary for this ridge. I need to keep forcing myself to eat more since I nearly crashed and burned yesterday, but on the whole, it feels really good to be out here!!!
Ah what a wonderful life. The hiking and the camping comes naturally, but the awesome people and times with them is what makes me want to keep doing this. From the start, putting in some strong miles, trying to average above the 20's. Even with a 5 hour siesta, pulled a 25. Its really stinking hot!
The trail love has been amazing. Stocked water caches, trail angels galore, hiker feeds, and incredible company. I am having a great time. This community is so supportive and there is an "open door" type of mentality where everyone is welcome. Its been a completely different experience than my AT hike, and it's impossible to wipe the smile off of my face. I feel good, a few bothersome blisters, but I've taken some time to rest in the Warner hot springs, and I'm ready to get back on the trail. Well, not exactly, last night was cinco de drinko. I think I shall soak a little longer...
A nice woman named Barbara stopped by a group of us in a parking lot and gave us all gardian angel coins and wished us luck and safe travels. But she also gave us some great advice. If we aren't having fun, then we're doing something wrong. So far I think I'm doing it right.
and for some random fun facts: 2 rattlesnakes 109 miles 1 fourloko 1 headlamp lost (and one headlamp borrowed! - thanks Luna) 6 days of hiking 3 coolers at road crossings 3 zero days and 1 popped blister.