Wild, Windy, and Willy Wonka
Day 11 (cont.)
Sadly, we left Smoke Beard in Idyllwild. He has been having difficulty with blisters so he decided to stay in town to heal. He says he will catch us in Big Bear and we hope that he does! We said our goodbyes and finally left town around 7pm.
Before leaving Idyllwild I was given a second trail name. Aaron has been documenting my PCT journey and because of his consistent camera work a PCT alumni started called me Center Stage. We will see if it sticks.
My original name, Larry, was given to me about a year and a half ago. It began as a Starbucks fail that Dirtwolf decided to keep with me and eventually got all my friends, and his family, to call me. As I grow more and more disgusting on trail, I connect deeper to my identity as Larry.
Back to trail life. My crew and I slack packed three miles up to the Devils Slide trailhead and then night hiked halfway up Mt. San Jacinto. Cosmo, Prickles, LA Aaron, and Utah Aaron, and I all slept under the stars, cowboy camping at 9,000 feet.
Clear skies and sunny weather. Summited San Jacinto and hiked Fuller Ridge.
I was mesmerized by the grandeur of giant granite rocks amidst the majestic mountain peaks. Now I see why this area is considered a second Sierra.
Fuller Ridge was breathtaking. I can't believe I haven't explored this side of San Jacinto before now, although I am happy to experience it for the first time on this adventure.
We said goodbye to Aaron (LA Aaron), and began our long decent. We hiked down the revealed switchbacks for a few miles. We cowboy camped amidst a windy evening. Despite the dust blowing across our faces and scattering our belongings...we couldn't be happier.
We continued down the looonnnggg switchbacks on the north side of Jacinto. We spent the day being sandblasted by the wind as we stared out at San Gorgionio, the desert, and the I-10 Freeway.
Oh, and we made it past 200. No BIG Deal!
The flat hike to the freeway underpass was brutal. Zero protection from the blazing desert sun and The wind was fierce and relentless. Knocking me around, slapping my face with sand, and trying to steal my hat!
Once we arrived at the underpass we were greeted with some much needed trail magic! Coolers of cold beer and cold sodas, jugs of water, and some snacks.
Before the trail I told Ian I wouldn't accept just any beer on this hike. I told him I would stay true to my beer pretension and love of IPA's. He knew better and said, "sometimes a cheap cold one on a hot day is just what you need". Well...he was right.
When I saw that Bud Lite submerged in a cold ice chest I hesitated for about half a second before giving in. I drank two.
Today was our biggest mileage day yet. Ending at 24.6 miles and cowboy camping by the water, under the stars at the Whitewater Preserve.
I was motivated by sand smiles I found along the way (thanks Cosmo!).
Before bed Cosmo and I shared a super hiker dinner that consisted of vegan macaroni and cheese topped with olive oil, siracha, and kettle chips and a side of potatoes. I'm still salivating.
After dinner the wind began to mellow out, Prickles and Utah Aaron arrived to join us and our happy family enjoyed the soothing sounds of the river as we giggled til we fell asleep.
The summer of 2015 Dirtwolf and I thru-hiked the John Muir Trail in 14 days. That experience was the catalyst to my feelings of readiness, and confidence, about the Pacific Crest Trail. That was my longest backpacking trip to date. I can't believe that I've already been on the PCT for that long. Time is going by fast!
And time is also going slow. Miles feel like marathons in the hot desert sun, counting steps until the next water source. Eventually the water arrives, a welcomed snack break, and feelings of rejuvenation for the next few miles until the cycle repeats. This challenge is as much mental as it is physical. When I feel most tired I simply look up at the beauty around me and I am fulfilled. The landscapes, the new friends I've made, and the comradery of strangers that don't feel so strange because we are all out here together having a shared experience.
Cosmo and I were stopped by such a stranger earlier in the day. A section hiker who carries an additional bag of snacks to deliver trail magic all along his journey. We ate chips, took a few photos and split ways.
Once again the sun was blaring and we treated ourselves to lunch by the river. We baked our bodies in the scorching sun while our feet and muscles chilled in the cool water.
The climb up to Big Bear has been brutiful. Away from city lights, away from freeways, the trail has been tucked away and surrounded by mountains.
But it has not been easy. The climb and the heat are stealing my energy. My muscles feel great, overall I feel strong, but my energy for the day was dipping.
I took a couple more breaks than usual and tried to stay positive. Another beautiful southern California cloudless day, the wildflowers burst with color and every few steps the sweet scent of jasmine offers reprieve from our hiker stench.
We are trying to crush miles to make it to the Big Bear post office before they close for memorial weekend. We need to arrive on Saturday between 1pm and 2pm. To accomplish this we have to hike 30+ miles in a day and a half. We've done 17 so far today and I am tired.
I found Alex!
Cosmo and I took our time this morning, drinking coffee and being silly. Amidst this morning routine Alex (aka Willy Wonka) miraculously appeared! He is incredible for catching up. He started the trail 7 days after me and caught up to us!
I got to catch up with him on our hike to Coon Creek Camp. Alex completed the trail last year and I met up with him several times on his journey, living vicariously through his experience. Having him here with me is beyond amazing.
We got an easy out to Big Bear. There was a campground 30 miles before we intended to head it for Big Bear and Aaron saved the day and gave us a ride to town.
Entering town is always an experience. Several people trying to take care of real life things and plan our stay in a city. Thanks to Prickles we got it together and rented an Air BnB. Tonight I get the luxury of close friends, comfortable quarters, and clean clothes!