Saturday, April 30, 2016

Deep Creek Campsite to Campsite Under Rainbow Bridge

Hiked today with Ron and Mighty Mouse. Took it easy as we weren't among for a lot of miles. 
We stopped for a great break at the Deep Creek hot springs. Thought it would be a crazier scene on a weekend, but things were quite mellow. Had a great soak in the hot pool, then a little while in the cool creek, then some more in the hot to warm back up. 
Hiked a few more miles after the hot springs and we are camped near the rainbow bridge for the night.

My friend Ron. Thanks for joining us Ron!

2021 Update: 
More hiking along Deep Creek today, including a stop at some hot springs that are clothing optional.
We ran into Wildcard again at the hot springs, I suspect that she might find it difficult to leave in a timely manner.
One of the things that brings together people on the trail is a love of being out in nature, no matter if that entails walking 2600 miles, or dragging a cooler full of drinks a mile or so from the nearest road.
When we arrived at the hot springs, which are on the margins of the creek, with tubs having been built up with rocks over years, we were greeted by several people offering beers or sodas.

Unfortunately, the area by the hot springs sees more people than it can really accommodate, and thus there is the usual plague of toilet paper in the surrounding bushes, and frankly, not enough flat tent sites to jam in everyone.

We reluctantly packed up after soaking in the hot tub, then headed further down the creek, finding a tight campsite among the bushes between the trail and the creek.
Sand is pretty good to sleep on, since you can kind of push it around under you, but it makes setting up a tent difficult. I typically end up wrapping my extra long guy lines around stones that are as big as I can move into position.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Campsite on Crest to Deep Creek Campsite

Hiked from PCT mile 290 to about mile 301 today. 

Passed the 300 trail miles mark! 

Met my friend Ron Graybill at the Splinter's Cabin trail junction. He is hiking along for a couple days, completing a section of the trail that he hasn't been on before. 

The trail in this section has been pretty easy, no huge climbs and a general, gradual, descent. The Deep Creek section is quite spectacular so far, with the trail usually up high looking down at the creek. 

Before getting to Deep Creek we descended some, and transitioned from pine forest (albeit largely burnt pine forest) back to manzanita dominated chaparral.


2021 Update:

My friend Ron Graybill joined us today. He's hiking with us for a couple days.

Ron was one of my professors in college, and he was the lead photographer and organizer of the photo team that I joined on an archaeology dig in Jordan in 1994, right after college graduation.

Ron had been, for several years, hiking portions of the PCT. This is called section hiking, and it's what it sounds like; hiking sections of the trail when you can, quite often with the objective of hiking the whole thing.

We also happened upon Wildcard today. We hadn't seen her for a while, and back then she was limping quite a bit, having sprained both ankles. She was able to take a few days off the trail, and is now hiking much faster. We just saw her during a break to get water, then she was gone down the trail.

Much of today was spent hiking along a creek. That means the trail was mostly on the side of a steep valley, so camping locations were limited.

We eventually found a nice wide sandy area. It might not be a great location if there was heavy rain and the creek level rose, but heavy rain is a rarity here.

A couple other solo hikers camped nearby, as well as a family of four. They had made their own pyramid tent. The kids seemed to be having a great time, and the parents did too.

Here's the family's blog of their adventure:

Photos from today:

Mighty Mouse's blog for today:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cougar Crest Trail Junction to Campsite on Crest

Woke up to snow. 
The snow actually started falling at 11:30pm, and continued off and on for much of the night. 
My tent isn't really designed for snow, and I had to occasionally kick my feet up to knock the snow off the end of the tent. 
I waited in the tent in the morning until the sun did a little melting of the snow, so no pictures of the tent all covered. 
Today's hike was largely through a burn area to the north of Big Bear Lake. 
Lots of burnt and called or cut trees along the trail.


2021 Update:

Camped at the junction of the PCT and Cougar Crest Trail, where I was to meet Mighty Mouse this morning.

It started snowing last night, and kept it up for quite a while, and I kept waking up and having to kick the snow off the bottom of the tent, since the weight of the snow kept making the tent sag down onto my feet. I even had to get out once and sweep the snow off the tent. This tent definitely isn't designed to deal with snow.

At any rate, morning eventually arrived, and after I ate breakfast, Mighty Mouse showed up and we headed out on the PCT.

Most of the hike today was through burned areas. I imagine that at some point, the trail was nicely shaded, but now, not so much.

We found a nice campsite for the night. It even came with a nice log for sitting on or leaning back against.

Photos from today:

Mighty Mouse's blog for today:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hwy 18 to Cougar Crest Trail Junction

Hiked about 12.6 miles today and saw one hiker while I was stopped for lunch. That was it. I did meet a woman who is out with a friend on horses and planning on going up to the Oregon border. They also had two dogs and two goats. Seems like a lot to get organized and moving.

Today was good hiking and my feet and ankles were happier than yesterday. Made sure to take a long stop for lunch with shoes and socks off, which seems to help the feet.

Tonight looks like it is going to snow. At least the weather prediction calls for snow and there are certainly enough clouds moving through. I guess I will find out how my mostly mesh tent fares in a bit of snowfall.

2021 Update:

The interaction with the horse lady was interesting. I'm not sure that she was going to get very far. She had a horse with her, but said that some friends had just taken another one to a vet for something or another. She also had her stuff spread all over the place, clothes and other gear hanging from a whole lot of trees, and she had an open campfire in what was not at all an organized camp site. (This way doth wildfires begin)

Mighty Mouse took a well deserved Zero day today in Big Bear.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Onyx summit to highway 18


2021 Update:

My dad gave me a ride up the mountain to Onyx Summit, which is the first point where the PCT comes near a road after climbing up from Whitewater, where I last left off.

Mighty Mouse was doing her road walk and off trail adventure to connect where we left off and the PCT on the north side of Big Bear Lake, where I was going to meet her in a couple days.

There were a couple inches of snow on the ground at the trailhead, but it wasn't bad, and disappeared after a while.

Ended up hiking something like 13.6 miles today, not bad for a latish start to the day, thanks to having to drive up the hill.

I came across a few hikers, but ended up setting up camp by myself, until another PCTer, Bagel, came along and set up nearby.

I did take a picture of an amusing sign that seems to indicate that hikers should step on the plants. Obviously it's missing it's red "Do Not" circle, thanks to years of fading, I assume.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Zero Days

I came home on Friday and am heading back to the trail at mile 252, Onyx Summit, north of the Lake Fire closure.

Measured my pack just now. With 6 days of food, but no water yet, it weighed 29.3 pounds, which seems pretty good to me.

Back to the walking in the morning.

By the way, it's snowing up in the mountains tonight, we shall see what I get to walk in.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Campsite on Fuller Ridge to Ziggy and the Bear (Whitewater)


Camped overnight on the mountain overlooking highway 10. 
It was a bit breezy overnight but not too bad. The descent to the desert floor was in bright sun and quite warm when the wind wasn't present. 
Passed trail mile 200 today! 
Made it to the drinking fountain at the bottom of the descent with a couple swallows of water left. Thanks to the Desert Water Agency for the drinking fountain. 

Stopped at Coppertone's RV for a little bit, but he was out of ice cream, so we had donuts instead.

Coppertone is a roving Trail Angel. He hiked the trail a few years ago and now is retired, so for the summer he is following the hiker herd and providing trail magic, usually in the form of root beer floats.

Rested a bit before heading down to the 10 and then on to trail Angel Ziggy and the Bear's house.

Ziggy and the Bear at the Whitewater trail house were an institution, one that is no more.
In 2016 there was a fire up the trail from here, and people were scrambling for information on what to do since the trail was closed between Whitewater and Onyx Summit. I helped Mighty Mouse map out a road walk.
Being the non-purist, I decided to go home for a couple days off the trail while Mighty Mouse did her detour walk.


2021 Update:

Further downhill into the desert today.

Today's first mission was to get to the water fountain (yes, water fountain) at the bottom of the Fuller Ridge descent.

So, that's about eight and a half miles away from last night's camp site. And something like 3500 feet in elevation loss. Ye, lots more downhill, and it seemed like this trail hadn't seen a trail crew in a while, as it was rocky and there were quite a few bushes growing into the trail, trying to reclaim it.

We started off the day with two liters of water for those eight miles. Less than I would have liked, but I wouldn't have liked carrying more for all of yesterday and part of the day before. It's all about trade offs here on the trail.

On the way down the trail we did encounter a trail crew working hard, with horses even! Thanks to those folks, and to all the trail crews that get out there every year and keep the trail hikeable.

We also managed to walk through a bunch of bees that didn't seem to happy to have people walking by their hive.

Eventually we did make it to the water fountain. Wonderful cold water from, yes, a water fountain in the desert. The local water agency, the DWA (Desert Water Agency) has a water fountain tapped into their pipe that brings water down from their water tank that is the collection point for water from the creeks on this side of Mount San Jacinto.

There is a little bit of an argument about land use here, because although the DWA does a cool thing with the water fountain, it also has this side of the mountain closed off to other visitors, primarily climbers who would like to access the north side of San Jacinto, since that side of the mountain rises from 800 feet to 10,834 feet in seven horizontal miles. What that boils down to is that this is the steepest, fastest rise in elevation in the Lower 48 states. Yep, steeper than all of the Sierras, and the Rockies. And according to the DWA, climbers can't legally access the base of the climb.

But, the DWA insists that they control access to the land, and will not allow climbers through. They have guards on site and cameras and will call the police. And they have put up no trespassing signs on sections of land that they don't own, plus built structures on land that they don't own. The kicker is that the DWA gets 97% of its water from aquifers, and only 3% from surface water like they do in this valley. Incidentally, their own water tank and many of their pipes are actually on federal land, by permit, so quite often they are chasing people off public land.

I guess at least they aren't bottling the water like Nestle, but I'm guessing that they probably don't pay much for their water leases. Complicated issues.

At any rate, after drinking our fill and filling up a couple bottles for the remainder of today's hike, we tromped on down the paved road for a mile or two until we encountered Coppertone.

Who or what is Coppertone? Well, he's a retired guy who hiked the trail a few years ago and for the past couple years has travelled along the PCT route, parking his box-truck RV at PCT road crossings and providing trail magic to hikers. Sadly, when we got there he had just run out of ice cream for root beer floats. But he did have apples and donuts, so we stopped for a while and chatted with him and a couple other hikers who were hanging out. Unfortunately it was quite windy, so not quite as relaxing as it could have been.

We eventually headed out and trudged through soft sand against some very strong winds. The trail crosses under I-10 and then up a dry creek bed next to the small community of Whitewater. In Whitewater there is (or was, the owner of the house sold it and there is no more hiker stop here) the Whitewater Trail House, run by trail angels Ziggy and the Bear, an older couple who, together with several volunteers, run their house as a stop for hikers. Lots of hikers. Essentially all of the hikers on hte PCT at least make a brief stop here. There are trail angels who will give hikers rides to resupply from here, it's quite a drive to anything from Whitewater.

This year (2016) the big topic at hand was the fact that there had just been a fire ahead of us, and the trail between Whitewater and Onyx Summit up ahead was officially closed.

There was lots of conflicting information, but the gist of it was that the trail was officially closed, and rangers might or might not be turning people back or ticketing hikers or who knows. The ranger stations that we called had conflicting information, or none at all. The official guidance from the PCTA said that the route was now to get a ride to Big Bear and continue hiking from there.

Mighty Mouse and I decided that we wouldn't tempt fate by hiking up to the burn area, only to get sent back down. I was fine skipping this section. But Mighty Mouse really wanted to have continuous footsteps from Mexico to Canada, on trail or not.

So, using Google maps and some local knowledge, I helped Mighty Mouse come up with a walking route that would get her to Big Bear. She had already walked this part of the trail two years before, so wasn't worried about missing the actual PCT, she just wanted to keep going on a walking adventure.

I, on the other hand, arranged for a couple days off at home. More laundry to do and showers to take.

For those interested (or you could read Mighty Mouse's blogs for the next few days), the route we worked out was for Mighty Mouse to walk for 20 miles on the access road next to the I-10 going east, past Morongo Casino and Cabazon until she got to Beaumont. Then she would turn north and do more road walking up to highway 38, one of the roads that goes up to Big Bear. There was some unavoidable road walking on 38, on which people drive stupidly fast, then as soon as possible I found an older road to use, eventually ending up navigating a maze of dirt roads up the south side of the ski hill mountains by Big Bear. And then, well, down the ski runs, or their access roads.

My plan was to go home and enjoy a few days off, then get a ride back up to the trail at Onyx Summit, which was the closest road access on the north side of the fire closure. 

So, today ended with me getting picked up by my girlfriend, and Tim and Mighty Mouse headed off to a hotel in Banning.

Photos from today:

Mighty Mouse's blog for today: