Friday, May 31, 2013

5/13 Slackpacking out of Wrightwood

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 369.5
Ending Mileage: 374.10

We again had breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe, great food and service. We then spent the day waiting for Aloha to arrive as he had graciously agreed to take us to L.A. on Tuesday for our Wednesday flight.

We decided to put Aloha up across the street at another hotel with better accommodations than ours. Our place was built in the 40s and had that eras rustic cabin feel to it. But I don't think its seen a lot of maintenance in that time. Good enough for hikers (especially with the laundry thrown in) but that's about it.

While we waited for Aloha we decided that we would see if he would slackpack us from Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap. This would let us get another 5ish miles done before leaving but more importantly subtract those 5ish miles from our first day back. Our first day back already included climbing up Mt Baden Powell.
Aloha arrived mid-day and said he'd slack us after he was settled.

It was a nice quick hike. Beautiful and relatively cool..we were both happy to be up in the mountains, Cajon Pass was 102 that afternoon.
We went to dinner with Aloha and made plans to leave after breakfast on Tuesday.

5/12 Wrightwood

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 364.5
Ending Mileage: 369.5

One of the reasons why we pushed to Guffy Campground was that it left only 5 miles to HWY 2 at a place called Inspiration Point. Hwy 2 is normally an easy place to hitch into Wrightwood from, what we hadn't planned on was HWY 2 being closed just north of us due to landslides. So when we got there at 8 AM on Mother's Day hoping to get a quick hitch into town for breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe well ... 1 hr 15 min later we finally got a hitch. Not just us but the other 3 hikers who had arrived in the meantime.
A pickup truck with a cap stopped. Turns out the 2 Golden Labs in the back had just finished a nice hike and were headed back into town. Dixie and Daisy kindly made room for 4 of us (and our packs) in the back under the cap. While one hiker and his pack rode up frobt with Dixie & Daisy's human.
A slightly clostrophobic 10 min ride and we had arrived in Wrightwood.
BooBoo and I headed straight for breakfast at the Evergreen Café.
Afterwards we went a got a room at the only place in town that included a load of laundry with your room. (There is no laundromat in Wrightwood)
We hung out for the rest of the day doing errands in preparation for our trip East for BooBoo's Masters Graduation.
We had dinner with a big group of hikers that night at Yodelers.

5/11 Guffy Campground

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 342
Ending Mileage: 364.5

Climbing out of Cajon Pass in hot weather, we got a boost when BooBoo waved at a train engineer and he blew the train's horn. 
In a recent burn area the PCT wss heavily encroached by Poodledog Bush and so there was a optional bypass. Not wanting to risk exposure BooBoo and I decided to take the 4 mile reroute, which was a Forest Service road that parallels the PCT. While it was nice not to have to worry about the Poodledog Bush the road walk was completely exposed.
Thankfully as the reroute ended and we rejoined the trail we came upon a water cache, and 7 hikers most of whom we knew. The cache was provided by some folks who had section hiked the area and decided it was too dry. We learned this when 2 guys stopped by on motorcycles to check on the cache.
After drinking our fill of water and eating a large lunch we headed out for Guffy Campground. This a Forest Service campground people can drive to so we were hopeful that we might score some cold soda.
We rolled into Guffy Campground about 6pm and took the last 2 camp spots amongst about 10 thruhikers (most of whom we knew). Every one made dinber and talked around the picnic able.  The campground had several car campers there, unfortunately none of them offered us cold beverages. We did ,however, have "Scraps" join us at the picnic table. Scraps was an unleashed dog that wanted to play or eat our food. Either way was good for him. He belonged to a car camping couple in the site next to us. They didn't even try to contol/leash him.
We all called it an early night. Earplugs were needed (well for normal hearing people) due to these same campers playing music at 8p, hiker bedtime, and late into the night.

5/10 - Silverwood to Cajon Pass

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 328.5
Ending Mileage: 342.0

We woke to find that the sprinklers had us nearly penned into our site. With a little ingenuity we were able to stay dry as we started our hike for the day.
We were in high spirits, our destination this day was Cajon Pass.  Cajon Pass has several multi-lane freeways and at least 2 major rail lines going through it. While this is impressive to see and no doubt useful it was not directly the reason for our excitement. 
No that would be the sign on the PCT that indicates that the McDonald's is only 0.4 mi away.  Quite possibly everyone who passes that sign takes a picture of it, and I was no exception. But that's getting ahead of myself. Another reason we were excited to be going to Cajon Pass, we had a resupply box waiting at the Best Western there.
The hike while hot wasn't too bad with some nice views and as we neared Cajon Pass the PCT actually uses the remains of Route 66 for a trail which was pretty cool.
At the McDonald's we were unsurprised to find several of our fellow hikers including Chief, Tumbleweed, Alan. BooBoo annd I are our fill and then went to check in at the Best Western.
There we discovered more hikers we knew: Iceman and Catywampus. We also met Two Step and Splits. The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed the A/C.

5/9 - Hot Springs and Silverwood Lake

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 305.7
Ending Mileage: 328.5

We woke at our normal time and headed out for the Hot Springs.

We'd heard several hikers go by our tent in the night and figured they had camped closer to/at the Hot Springs. While the Deep Creek Hot Springs are a Day Use Area but it was the middle of the week and enforcement would probably be lax.

When we got there about 8 AM we found around 20 people already there. Most of whom were hikers but a significant minority were locals. The Hot Springs are clothing optional and have a reputation for being a party place. From the state we found things it wold seem that reputation is well earned.
Not deterred BooBoo and I soaked (cloathed) in one of the several pools for about an hour. I've included a PG picture of the pool below (pictured are Rabbit and Packman / not pictured is a local nudist partaking in the "optional" part of the springs).
With relaxed muscles we continued on, where we ran into some volunteers doing graffiti coverup. They used clay rather than paint, it seems to deter repeat vandalism better. One of the group told us that the trail we were on used to be an aqueduct to supply potato fields in the valley below.
When we reached said valley it was extremely hot and exposed.  A miserable couple of miles ended abruptly at the top of a hill. We'd come across some Trail Magic. Two ladies were setup under a tree at a road crossing. One was offering either Root Beer or Orange floats and the other offerred hot dogs with all the fixings.
BooBoo and I both enjoyed a root beer float and hit dog in lawn chairs under the tree. We ran into Tumbleweed,  Iceman, and Catywampus.
After a nice respite we headed back into the 90° heat and continued on as thunderstorms were forecast and clouds were gathering on the horizon.
We were aiming for Silverwood Lake Reservoir and the CA state camping area.
Hot, tired and cranky I REALLY didn't want to get rained on, as the clouds moved in BooBoo and I pushed to get to the campground.  It turns out Silverwood Lake is really big and it took us a long time to hike aound it.
We had dinner under a pavillion before going to find the free Hike/Bike campsites. If you hike in or bike in they are free on a first come first serve basis.  We had run into Allan and he camped next to us in the sites. NOT on the lush green grass beneath the tree. BooBoo's 2009 hike provided usefull information yet again and we escaped the 5am sprinklers.

Day 22 - A Tale of Two Creeks 5/8

By Hedgehog
Starting Mileage: 286.5
Ending Mileage: 305.7
We slept in this morning,  until 6am. Due to the cold weather last night we'd closed the tent up tight. While this helped keep us warm it lead to a common problem, condensation.  However, because it was so cold the condensation froze so we couldn't dry the tent quickly by wiping it down with our bandannas.  We found a nice spot on a rock outcropping and spent an hour there while our gear dried out.
The first creek we came to was Holcomb Creek and we stopped to have lunch there and relax a bit. A few miles later in the hike I filtered water from a  piped spring. A piped spring is where a PVC pipe is pushed into the spring in an effort to reroute it/make it easier to collect water from.  Since it didn't have a pool we let the water flow into our pot and then I filtered the water out of the pot.  (We made sure to boil the water long enough to kill any germs the next time we used the pot).
We arrived at the Deep Creek Bridge (our first encounter with the second creek of the day) early afternoon.  We took a break to relax and soak our feet in the cold water.  This felt great.  After crossing the bridge we went to Splinter's Cabin, a USFS pavilion 0.1 mi off trail.  Why there?  It had a picnic table, outhouses and garbage cans.  We took advantage of all three to make dinner and empty the trash out of our packs. While we were eating a couple of fly-fishermen came by and talked with us a bit about the PCT.  A role that nobody really tells you about before starting one of these hikes is that of Trail Ambassador.  You get asked all kinds of questions, frequently the same questions, whenever you meet people on/near the trail.  Usually these interactions are fun and I enjoy them.  Sometimes when your tired or the people are mean or you have miles to go and little daylight left these encounters are draining.  This was not one of those times.  The 2 fishermen were very friendly and we enjoyed talking with them before they moved on to a picnic table of their own.  About 5 minutes later, as we were eating, one of the gentlemen came back and offered us a COLD beer.  WE happily accepted. It was a heffeweissen made in Los Angeles and it was good.
After filling up on food and beer and getting rid of our trash we returned to the trail with the goal of finding a camp site more than 1 mile from the Deep Creek Hot Springs.  Camping is forbidden within 1 mile of them to keep the impact on the area down.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 21 - Fire and Ice 5/7

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 266
Ending Mileage: 286.5

We watched the weather while we divided up the spoils of our multiple shopping trips between our packs and then we were out the door.

We walked to Thelma's for breakfast.No Apple Dumpling this time though, there was hiking to do after. Breakfast was delicious.
After breakfast we walked about a mile to where Hwy 18 split and headed toward the trail.

We spent about 20 minutes trying to hitch before a local Trail Angel picked us up. She was already heading that way with 2 other hikers (Craig and Apache).

By 8:30 we were on the trail and heading north. Conditions were a bit different than we've become used to hiking in. The high was in the low 50s and the low was forecast in the upper 20s. In fact there was a Winter Weather Advisory calling for 1-3" of snow above 7000'. Guess where we were going?

Regardless, it was wonderful to hike in weather that felt like early Fall rather than the inside of a blast furnace.We climbed away from Hwy 18 for awhile.
Once we reached the top it was fairly level terrain. 
When we stopped hiking we cooled down rapidly, having to but on our warmest clothes for a 10 minute break.

The oddest moment was the snow flurries that started while the sun still shone. We hastily put our pack covers on (think rain coats for the packs) in case the flurries developed into the more substantial amounts of snow they had forecast. Then we kept hiking.

The trail took use around the mountain and gave us views of Big Bear Lake. Being in town really doesn't give you a sense of how big the lake really is, nor how cool it looks with the ski hill behind it. We had views of the lake on and off for a couple of miles.

The flurries didn't last long and by lunch snow seemed a remote possibility. 

After lunch we started moving away from the lake and down the other side of the mountain.  This brought us into an area that had burned in 2007. The evidence of fire was still abundant enough I would have guessed much more recently than that.

As we approached the creek that was our destination, we came over a rise and saw a fence with a solar panel in the middle of this burn area. Not something you see everyday. I investigated. Turns out the enclosure was a pit toilet with the solar providing power to vent the holding tank.  Who knew?

We ran into Tumbleweed at the creek were we filled up with water. It was still to early for alI of us to feel like stopping,  so we hiked on.  About a mile and half later we found a couple of nice spots so we made camp.

After dinner, as the night got colder, we shared some of our hot chocolate (so good) with Tumbleweed and chatted.

Soon the cold drove us all into our sleeping bags and we called it a night.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 20 - Zero in Big Bear 5/6

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 266
Ending Milesge: 266

We've been trying to get to Aqua Dulce by the 14th. Aqua Dolce is a small town with famously great trail angels that host hikers, from there we intended to jump off trail for week to attend BooBoo's Masters Graduation. Aqua Dulce provides easy access to LAX. With that in mind we'd mailed travel clothes and other things we'll need to the hostel.

Last night we tried to come up with a plan to get there on time without killing ourselves. We couldn't figure out a reasonably sane way of covering the distance in the days remaining. We went to sleep thinking we would figure it out while waiting for the Post Office to open (we had a package to pick up) this morning.

This morning over breakfast we decided it would be best to find a different way to LAX.

So we've altered our timeline and are now looking to make it to Wrightwood by the weekend.

This a much more reasonable goal and will, hopefully, allow lingering blister issues of mine to go away. The looming specter of having to crank out 20+ miles a day to even have a chance of making it on time will also go away. Plus the rare May SoCal rain/snow storm was lingering in the area with snow forecasted above 6,000 to 8,000 ft

The trip for Graduation is a reward and getting there shouldn't be a punishment.

That resolved, we spent the day at the PO, Library, grocery store, foot baths of Epson Salts for troubled feet, etc. 

Sorry no photos today (well BooBoo posted one on her Facebook page).

Back on trail tomorrow.

Day 19 - Arrival in Big Bear 5/5

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 254
Ending Mileage: 266

We broke camp without our usual breakfast and coffee.  We were in a hurry. It was TOWN DAY! And we had 12 miles to cover before we could go to town.
We set off at pretty good clip with visions of having a late breakfast at Thelma's in Big Bear.
We had relatively flat terrain and good trail tread as we covered the first four miles quickly. As we passed the spring abiut 1/2 the group from the night before were awake. We waved in passing and kept going.
The water report indicated another water cache with soda about a mile after the spring. Sadly it was mistaken. 
I was getting irritated that we hadn't found that cache yet when the trail started a long climb with bad tread; small fist sized, sharp rocks. About halfway up the climb I stopped and we had a snack.
Remember a hungry Hedgehog is a grumpy Hedgehog.
After a 5 minute break we were back at it.

The weather was finally cooler and it was actually overcast. This helped tremendously. For a while I thought Southern California didn't get clouds.
We rounded a hill a I saw my first Joshua trees. A first of many I'm sure but still a cool moment.

We made it to the Hwy in about 4 hours, a 3 mile/hour pace we can't usually maintain. 

We were able to hitch a ride into town in about 10 minutes.  A nice puppy named Houdini and his owner (a fellow hiker) stopped to give us a lift.
They kindly deposited us right in front of Thelma's.Breakfast was great and their Famous Apple Dumpling deserves its reputation.

After breakfast we started walking to the Motel 6. Even though the 2 hostels had done their best to lure us in a private room and bath won. A local Trail Angel, Mountain Mama, stopped and gave us a lift the rest of the way to the motel.

After showers and laundry we emptied our food bags onto the bed so we could see what needed to be resupplied. Then we went grocery shopping.

The rest of the day was taken up trying to catch up on emails, blogs, etc.

Day 18 - Soda, Trash can, and Recliners Oh My! 5/4

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 232
Ending Mileage: 254

Leaving Mission Creek it would be 16 miles to our next reliable water with a small water cache in between. So we topped off before breaking camp.

We followed Mission Creek for a few miles to start our morning.  As the temperature quickly rose, I splashed water on my clothes whenever we crossed the creek. This trick was taught to me by BooBoo and it worked so well I became a little obsessive about it. The evaporation of the water out of the clothes really did have a cooling effect.

As we climbed away from the creek we made it our goal to try and get to tge next reliable water source by the end of the day.  That would be a total of 24 miles (including the miles along the creek). 

As we hiked we ran into a hiker (The Count) on a 10 day out and back who told us that we were 30 minutes from the last creek crossing. BooBoo reciprocated by telling him of the midsized snake coiled by the trail a quarter mile back.
News to me, must have been when I was focused on my footing.

We took a break at the last creek crossing with Iceman, Catywampus,  Tumbleweed, Chief, and Allen. Everybody seemed intent on hitting the water cache at least with some murmurs of trying to get to the spring that BooBoo and I were aiming for. But the climb was a long, hard one so no one was sure.  

Continuing the last portion of the major climb after break it was a relief to reach a ridge we'd follow for a while.  There were some nice views. 
BooBoo and I decided to have a late lunch at a USFS cabin that offered picnic tables, a pit toilet and a garbage can.  All of these things are extremely rare on the trail and so were enticing to us. We (okay I) hurried there hoping to find a family out for a nice Saturday, who might give us food or cold drinks.

Sadly no family and the tables were not in the shade.   But the outhouse was there as was the garbage can. We unloaded all of our trash since Ziggy and the Bear's (anything you carry in you have to carry). It's always nice to get rid of your trash, one less thing to carry.
We made lunch and afternoon coffee sitting on a log in the shade. FYI -Starbucks Via Instant coffee is great for camping.
Revitalized from food, caffeine, lighter packs,  and better trail tread we covered ground quickly until we ran into the sanctuary for retired show animals.  We paused briefly, seeing our first bear on the trail. Pacing around its enclosure it was not a threat.
Knowing we were about two miles from the water cache we quickened our pace and regained our resolve to make the spring four miles beyond.  
At the Onyx Summit we took a Liter of water each from the cache.  The cache is provided by one of the hostels in Big Bear and is relatively small. No need to be greedy, there are others behind us who need the water too. We went out to a point to enjoy the view before heading to our destination.
Imagine our surprise to see/hear people yelling from the next point over, asking us to join them.
So we did. We found Tumbleweed and several other hikers there.  They were gathered around a large cache of soda and 2 recliners that the other hostel in Big Bear provided.  So we took a seat and had a soda.  The others headed out  to get to the spring.
They seemed like a nice bunch but BooBoo and I decided to pull up short of the spring. We planned an early evening and got the impression the other group didn't. 
We ended up at a site about 12 miles from Hwy 18, our access to Big Bear.

Day 17 - Mesa Wind Farm 5/3

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 210.8
Ending Mileage: 232

After a breakfast of cold cereal and coffee provided by Ziggy and The Bear we set out.
Conditions were similar to the day before, high 90s and sunny with few water sources.
The first few miles were a climb back out of the valley which took us by the Mesa Wind Farm. This is an impressive collection of wind turbines, the first of many I understand. They also offer water to hikers, but as it was a short way into our trip we didn't need any yet.
We trekked up and down, in and out of dry washes until we came to Whitewater Creek.  Upon setting my pack down promptly sat in the river to cool down. It felt fantastic. We ate, refilled our water, then sat in the diminishing shade provided by a boulder. Once the shade became too small to provide relief we ventured forth aiming for our next water source, Mission Creek.

You've probably noticed a theme, hiking from water source to water source. You're right. Water is heavy and you can carry only so much.  The heat and elevation exasperate the situation. Being high desert there are few dependable places you can get water. Doubly so in a low snow year. So water takes a central role in everything you do.

Mission Creek parallels the PCT for several miles once you arrive at it. There are also numerous crossings of the two.  So the afternoon/evening was plentiful water. We hiked until about 6 pm then found a campsite near where Chief and Allen had setup. 
We were in the tent by 8pm and asleep shortly after. It doesn't take your body long to get in the habit of waking with the sun rise and going to bed when the sun sets.

Day 16 - Ziggy and The Bear, An Oasis 5/2

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 191.3
Ending Mileage: 210.8

The fire appeared much more contained as we started our hike. We later found out it was about 75% contained.

Forewarned about the hours of hiking back and forth as we wind our way down to the valley floor I was determined to not let it bother me. This would be sorely tested. 

The decent held a few bright spots including the 200 Mile mark and running across a few other hikers.
That's about it.
Sometimes you just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

At the bottom of the decent was the first water since the river we had lunch at the day before, it is a fountain kindly provided by the local water utility. 

Once on the valley floor it was a 5 mile walk across sand, under a blazing sun to I-10 and a bridge that would provide some shade.
Along the way we came across a sign from the power company that they were working on the high tension lines overhead. Furthermore if helicopter operations were underway we couldn't proceed. Luckily no flight operations were underway and we didn't need to wait.

Under the bridge we found our first non-Magic Man trail magic.  This was 2 foam coolers full of soda and water courtesy of a previous PCT hiker, DNA.

After a brief respite we continued on and debated if we'd stay at the hostel just ahead or if we stop in and wait for it to cool down before doing some more miles in the evening.
The hostel is just off trail and is run by Ziggy and the Bear. It isn't a traditional hostel, it's their home and they offer camping in their backyard that's what we knew and then we got there.

When we arrived we were immediately greeted by Ziggy with orders to sit and take off our shoes as foot baths would be drawn up once Bear was done sorting the inbound packages for hikers. We also signed into the guest register, I was hiker  #180 and BooBoo was #181.
The chairs were under a large permanent awning that had just been installed this last year expressly to provide shade for hikers.
Most of the backyard had carpet laid over it to prevent too much dust. Two temporary awnings were also stretched over the carpet to provide more shade with a third about to be erected. These temporary awnings covered the area hikers could sleep for free.
There was also free fresh fruit, water, power charging station, port a potty, and separate shower building for the hikers to use.
The shower was 1 at a time, we were informed by a mischievous The Bear, when he brought out the water for our foot baths.
We decided to stay the night. 
Ziggy later remarked The Bear did not seem to be his 81 years of age, I would have guessed a decade or two younger for both them.
A sign board with relevant hiker info (water/forecasts/temperature/etc) was displayed prominently cand showed a temperature of 105°.
They were a fun, lively couple as they greeted incoming hikers and prepared fresh communal salad for dinner for everyone there.  By dinner there was 18 of us hikers. After dinner they offered ice cream to all of us.
Amazingly they do all of this out of kindness and donations from hikers. 
I rambled a bit there but that kindness deserves notice. It was much needed and greatly appreciated.

Day 15 - Fuller Ridge & the Banning Fire 5/1

By Hedgehog

Starting Mileage: 181
Ending Mileage: 191.3

We awoke after a night of howling winds and decided to take our time and enjoy the San Jancintos.
For several reasons; their beauty, their coolness (It was a lovely 70° day in the mountains and it was in the 90s on the valley floor), once we started the decent it would be 14 miles of switchbacks to go 4.5 miles as the crow flies (frustrating), and my feet hurt.

So we hiked mostly along a ridge line but with bouts of elevation change.
We also encountered several patches of snow. They were traversable in a few steps and not particularly hazardous.  In a typical year the snow would have been a much bigger factor,  but snowfall was about 50% of normal in this area.

As we hiked during the morning we were offered several views of Palm Springs. In fact, via a side trail there is a tram that you can take from the mountain right into the city. Neither of us have been there but we decided we'd visit another time. 

About midway through our day we came to the N Fork of the San Jancinto River. We refilled our water supply and then decided to take a leisurely lunch along its banks.  While we were enjoying lunch and sunshine we rinsed out some of our clothes. 

Several of our fellow hikers came by as we relaxed (Double Sprainbow, Roid Trip, Iceman, Catywampus and Allen)
In my hiker brain the "weird" name there is Allen. Not to worry though he's a good guy.

After lunch we continued on and came to Fuller Ridge. Fuller Ridge is generally viewed with some apprehension as it is narrow and winding but with no appreciable snow cover thus year it was just dramatic. 

About that time BooBoo pointed out that the clouds weren't looking right. She thought it looked like smoke.  I didn't think it looked like smoke. From the post title I'm guessing you know who was right.

A few miles later, as we reached the edge of the ridge and our campsite (right before the long decent) we could clearly make out the fire below. Thankfully for us the wind was blowing it away from the PCT.
BooBoo had cell signal and found out that the fire had started shortly before she noticed the smoke earlier in the day and that due to temperature & winds it was 0% contained.

A few more hikers came by after we setup camp, all of them with a wary eye toward the fire.

That night the smoke and soot made for a colorful sunset.