While in Idyllwild many of the business owners spoke of couples who started the Pacific Crest Trail and ended up relocating to their lovely mountain town; we now know why... The climb out of Idyllwild was painful. We left behind juicy burgers, a soft bed, and the holy of all holies... beer.
Word amongst the hiking community was "microspikes not required." We climbed a little over two and a half miles to discover word on the street was wrong.
Neither of us have solid experience hiking in the snow, but we managed quite well. We hiked nearly 15 miles up the mountain and crossed two large north facing snow fields. Though there were few tracks to follow there were many paths that led from the main. When we felt lost we took a few minutes to orient the map and figure out which was the actual trail. Signs were few, and our progress was slow; when twilight hit our confidence thinned. We set up camp in a heavy wind, not knowing whether we would turn back or push forward in the morning.
Early the following morning, Steve woke up and scouted the route forward. The wind had died down, the sky was clear, and we felt confident we could make through Fuller Ridge. We pushed forward and were met by sprawling views and less snow than the day before. We had set up camp somewhere around 8000 ft and had a 6000 ft elevation decline to the foot of the mountain. As we hit lower elevation, we were met by our old friend the wind and a warning for anyone climbing up the mountain...
Switchback after switchback, the wind grew in intensity but we pushed forward. On our way down we came across the 200 mile marker.
We hit the bottom of the trail at twilight, with one liter of water and no idea where to sleep... We hit a service road and headed towards the nearest hard building.
When we hit the end of the service road we got our first taste of trail magic. Trail magic is when you unexpectedly come across someone or something that you want or need. Someone had left a case of Coke and a six pack of Modelo. We took two beers and made our way to a riverbed where we took shelter amongst tall coyote bush.
We hit the road early in hope of a hot breakfast in Cabazon. The wind was still strong and the path was deep sand, making for a calf burner of a morning. As we passed under Interstate 10 we received our second dose of trail magic. Tubs full of snacks and an ice chest full of soda and PBR. Who doesn't love a cold PBR and Cheezits for breakfast?!
After signing our names and indulging in the cache's tasty treats we made our way to the service road. We strongly debated heading to Cabazon for a well-earned warm breakfast or continuing on the trail, hot coffee won.
At this point I should say that we have had spectacular luck hitch hiking on this trip. We have probably hitched close to ten rides by now. All have been kind, most have been sober, and nearly all have been sane. Cabazon was a four mile walk along the service road, so we threw up our thumbs and along came Ernie.
Ernie is the man. He told us he was the local trail angel, and, as fate would have it, he was on his way to Cabazon for breakfast at McDonalds. SOOOOOOO DAMN GOOOOOOOOD... We both had a hot breakfast, with pretty damn good coffee, for under ten bucks. We exchanged summated life stories and bonded over breakfast platters. Ernie told that he would take us to a place called the Whitewater Preserve. He said he was pretty sure that it met up with the PCT, and that he knew it would be the place for us to rest our feet. Bravo Ernie...
We rested our feet and considered what lay ahead. We realized that we had a strong chance of hitting snow again on our way to Big Bear, so we decided to take a day off to acquire the proper equipment. We called in a huge favor from Hannah and Lucas!
These two answered our distress call and left for the preserve early Saturday morning. We heard from the ranger that the closest place to pick up microspikes would be Joshua Tree or Idyllwild, but both locations were out of the way for these two. We decided to attempt to hitch to REI in Rancho Cucamonga.
We made our way to the closest onramp, threw up our thumbs, and a Ford Fiesta came to the rescue. Jacob, Joshua and Angela were heading to Riverside and had no problem fitting us in. These folks were uber kind...
On our way to Big Bear we encountered very little snow. It seems that we did not need the microspikes after all... We decided to kick up our feet for a day prior to heading back out on the trail. With our food bag full and our clothes clean, we hit the trail ready for what lies ahead!