To my readers: you encourage me. In my Big Bear resupply box, Becky sent some well wishes. Thank you so much. She also sent a Father's Day letter from my daughter, Leanna. I'm so proud of her!
For Becky's sake, I am redoing my notes from the last section. The oils from my dirty, grimy hands get on the paper and then the pen skips and it is difficult to get the words on the paper.
Some days I am so tired I write . . . nothing. Then the next day, I try to catch up.
Idyllwild to Big Bear City--PCT's Big Yo Yo
Tues May 23 (Day 12)
Everybody on the PCT wants to have a great Trail Angel*. So far I've had TWO great trail angels. Bob Reiss in San Diego gave me rides from the airport to his home and to the start of the PCT, and he opened his home to me.
My second great Trail Angel is John Wilson. He brought an heirloom tomato (Mortgage Lifter), three ears of bi-color sweet corn, and a fabulous meal--stuffed pepper with lots of meat, corn, a Cherokee tomato (another heirloom), and bread.
Not much sleep last night, thru-hikers near me were having fun around a campfire--singing songs and telling stories till past 11:00 pm. I enjoyed a few of the songs, but I was not sleeping. They were all asleep when I left at first light.
Today's hike was HARD! To maintain my continuous steps, I walked from the state park campground to Humber Park Trailhead. Perhaps 2000 feet or more of climb. Then I hiked up the Devil's Slide Trail, another 2500 feet or so to Saddle Junction. The Devil's Slide Trail is correctly named.
At Saddle Junction, I got on San Jacinto Trail with more climbing. When the trail hit big patches of snow, I must have zigged when the trail zagged. Suddenly I knew I was off the trail. A few minutes later, a local named Matt must have taken exactly the same zig I did. He used his phone app to start self-correcting and then we saw someone on the trail. We had gotten too low.
Note: Almost everyone had the same route-finding issues.
Matt and I made it to the San Jacinto rock hut. Matt went on, but I was done, no energy or desire to actually summit. Looking back, I wish I had made it to Saddle Junction the evening before, then summiting the peak would have been no problem.
Another I didn't summit is that two thru-hikers, Gert (I met him with Bob in San Diego) and Don were preparing to head down to the PCT. I had heard this was a bit tricky and I knew as tired as I was, it would be best to go with others.
On the way down my shoe slipped (steeply pitched granite with sand on it) and I strained my right quad. Hurt like the dickens and made downhill moves painful and slow.
We took a break at the junction with the PCT. A man and woman hiking north on the PCT joined us. Small world--Kevin Smith (retired doctor) and Dorothy Heikell (retired nurse) from Moses Lake, WA.
Slowly, I hiked on to PCT mile 189--knees grumbling and quad hurting. Big down steps were not fun nor pleasant.
There was a big campsite at mile 190, but my body, knees, and quad said, "Not another step!" My dry, cowboy camp was no more than five feet off the PCT. After dinner I took my first Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) to help me sleep and to calm knees and quad. I was in bed by 7:15 pm, stocking cap over my eyes to make it dark.
Wed 5/24 (Day 13)
Our bodies, given to us by God, are miracles! Last night I was sore, tired, and stove up/stiff as can be. This morning after nine plus hours off my feet and legs, I felt pretty darn good, given yesterday's hard hiking. I must have done at least twenty miles and climbed a minimum of 5000 vertical feet.
Met a hiker from Western Australia--Bill--he is 73 and hiking the PCT to Big Bear, where he'll come off the trail and go to San Diego. He'll have a week to transition from hiking with weight to running with no weight. He is to run a 100-mile ultra-marathon. Those Aussies are tough!
Yesterday was about uphill, more than a mile of it. Today was downhill--down, down, down. On the PCT, the trail went from 9000 feet down to 1000 feet. If you count from San Jacinto Peak, it was from 10,000 feet to 1000 feet.
Two analogies to help:
1. Grand Canyon from top to bottom is 5000 vertical feet. From top of San Jacinto Peak is almost two Grand Canyons.
2. Beezley Hill in Ephrata--1000 feet of climb from my house to the top of north set of towers. It would take a stack of eight Beezly Hills to duplicate the amount of down we did. And you would need one more Beezley Hill stacked up to account for San Jacinto Peak.
The bottom portion of all this downhill is Fuller Ridge. Fuller Ridge is one dry, hot, barren, rocky piece of real estate and almost no shade. You just had to gut it out.
Uphill hiking can be a grind. Downhill hiking is much harder on feet, knees, and ankles. Almost all mountaineering accidents happen on the way down after summiting the peak.
At the bottom of Fuller Ridge is a drinking fountain. Envision a line of hikers filling several liter bottles each at a drinking fountain. And doing so in the hot sun with only a drinking fountain. And doing so in the hot sun with only a couple slivers of shade anywhere within several miles.
I hiked to an underpass of Highway I-10. It offered shade and a flat spot to camp. About two hours before I get to to I-10, there were cold sodas, cold beer, and fruit. I was looking forward to an orange or an apple. Some local came by and took everything. Every cooler was empty when I got there. Bummer!
Another hiker came. Lee from Lincoln, Montana. He just completed his degree in petroleum engineering. He grew up on a ranch and is a really good kid. There were five of us camped under I-10.
I found out later that a number of PCT hikers made it off Fuller Ridge and to I-10 only to say, "I've had enough of the PCT. I quit."
Thurs 5/25 (Day 14)
I-10 is a busy stretch of highway, so the five of us hardly slept.
I started hiking with Lee. He's faster, but takes longer breaks. Having lots of wind with big gusts.
At Mile 220, a young couple I met--Flask and Captain Planet told us to be careful. A virus was spreading through the thru-hiking community. Nomo or Noro is the name of the name of the virus, I believe. The problem was from here to Agua Dulce. We were advised to not stay at a hostel in Big Bear.
When Lee and I were crossing Whitewater Creek, I was stepping from boulder to boulder (some of them slick and wet), when a gust of wind hit me and spun me around. If I had not self-corrected, I would have landed in the creek, flat on my back, pack and all.
Camped at mile 229 with Mission Creek only a few hundred yards away. My first wet camp on the trail. Cowboy camping again. I've only used my tent at places like Warner Springs Resource Center and the State Park in Idyllwild.
Fri 5/26 (Day 15) Left camp at 5:01 am for a long, long uphill on Mission Creek and beyond. The elevation profile shows more than 5200 feet of vertical climb. Relentless, mile after mile, up and up.
I hiked the afternoon with Flask and Captain Planet. Very enjoyable as I like them very much. They gave me a BIG dose of "Trail Magic"** because they slowed down so I could keep up. We hiked to a red spigot with sketchy instructions at best. They watered up and left. I had put in a 21 mile day and was done completely on both sides.
After eating dinner, two girls were riding horses on the road above. They came to where I was and said I could get water but that I needed to leave. Evidently one PCT hiker left the spigot on and drained the well. The red spigot was no longer available to PCT hikers. They were nice about it and I complied.
Another cowboy camp at mile 250. Hard time sleeping, I was hungry, Finally after 1:00 am I ate some Fritos and got some sleep.
The PCT treats you like a yo yo
- 10,000 feet on Tuesday
- 1,000 feet on Wednesday
- >8,000 feet on Friday
Sat. 5/27 (Day 16)
Two ways to get to Big Bear City
1. mile 266--hitch a ride on Highway 18
2. mile 275--walk Van Dusen Canyon Road 4 miles
Since this was Memorial Day weekend, if I could not get to Post Office by 2:00 pm Saturday I had to wait until Tuesday morning to get my resupply box.
The way the hiking has been going, no way would I hike 16 miles AND get a hitch to post office before 2:00 pm. My plan was to hike mile 268-270, and then make it to Big Bear City before noon on Sunday.
My day started poorly:
1. I started hiking 30 minutes late--5:30 instead of 5:00
2. I missed a sign and made a wrong turn. Cost me ten minutes. I was reminded of these 40 minutes later in the day, several times. But, then the eight miles to Arrastre Trail Camp (mile 258) went by pretty fast. I'm eating breakfast, looked at my watch, did a double take. Maybe, just maybe I could make it to Big Bear City in time to get my resupply box at the post office.
I packed up quickly, got enough water to make it to mile 275, just in case. Then I prayed, "God, if it's your will, keep me on the right path, make me quick and strong, let me keep the faith that I can get there in time."
And so I hiked, I walked fast, I pushed my body. The trail had mainly good tread (easy walking) and the trail was a series of rollers--a few hundred feet up and a few hundred feet down. Every time I came to a trail junction with a road or another trail, I quickly knew which was the PCT.
I was guessing how many minutes it took to do a mile. Many times, I thought this would be easy if I hadn't blown those 40 minutes.
I met a south-bound hiker who said I was 4 to 4 1/2 miles out. I kept pushing hard. When the same hiker came back, I asked him for a ride. He was aiding two ultra-trail runners who were preparing for a big upcoming race. His name is Bob and he said, sure thing, he'd give me a ride.
As I was hiking I kept repeating in my head, "Have Faith!" I dumped out 3 liters of water while I was hiking to lighten the load.
If you've never hiked a trail before, you never know where it will take you. Just when you're sure you're at the end, you hit another roller up and over another ridge. And you never know where God is taking you either.
About the time I knew I had almost nothing left, a family was walking toward me. I asked, "How far to the highway?" The answer was 1/4 mile. Bob and another hiker were waiting for me. Post office at 12:15--45 minute wait to get my box.
After getting my box, in line were the two Canadian girls--Kristen and Kaylyn. I took their picture. Just before getting to the restaurant, I saw Beth and David, and took their picture.
At Cocina de Mexico, I ordered a carnita burrito and adovado taco and large Sprite and asked for a couple of their grilled chiles. When I bowed to pray, the only words I could form were, "Thank you, God." I was so relieved and so darn tired, I almost cried. Enormous burrito and one of the chiles was HOT!
Beth and David joined me later. Becky, bless her heart, got a room for me at Motel 6.
A side note: the 16 mile hike I did today where I really pushed my body to hike fast, was harder on my body than the big uphill days or the torturous downhill day.
Sun 5/28 (Day 17) A zero day--zero miles hiking. Becky called, we are at $2500 donations to Camp Korey. This sends one child to camp. To everyone who has donated, Thank YOU. My goal is to send three more children to camp. Think about it.
(Becky here) We got a letter from Camp Korey today and the first paragraph was an excerpt from a parent's letter. "I always knew that Camp Korey was an amazing camp, but it wasn't until my own child got the opportunity to experience a worry free, fun-filled week of many new friends and first time experiences, that I truly understood how truly extraordinary it was. I can't think of the words to express the extent of my gratitude that this camp exists. It's where kids, their siblings, and their parents get a 'break' from medical worries." My daughter said that everyone there needed the support of the awesome medical staff in one way or another, but it didn't matter why. She was able to forget about that 'stuff' and just have fun."
What am I eating?
- Hiking even 15 miles requires calories, energy
- Hiking 20 miles or more, especially on hard days with lots of climbing or downhill, requires more calories than you can carry.
- So eating Town Food*** has to be part of the plan and fresh vegetables and fresh fruit have to be eaten.
- High calories means fat
- Protein and carbs are also important
Here's what I'm eating on the trail and note that meals may get switched. For example:
- In the early morning hours, when it's cool, I generally eat granola bars. Then when it's hot I'll have breakfast. This way, the cooler hours are reserved for hiking.
Breakfast (all with whole milk powder, raisins and craisins. Also milk to drink)
- cream of wheat
- Grape Nuts (can be eaten hot or cold)
- Vitamins: C, E, D, Calcium, Glucosamine for joints.
- Peanut Butter and crackers
- cheese and crackers
- various types of granola bars--some high in protein
- one candy bar--Pay Day for the desert, Snickers for the Sierras
- GORP (Good old raisins and peanuts) or trail mix
- Sausage if I can get it
- At least one ProBar for each section
- Skratch powdered drink (like Gatorade with less sugar)
- Thanks to a gift card from Dave and Vicki Johnson, I got three kinds of Mountain House freeze dried meals -- chicken teriyaki, breakfast skillet, lasagne
- Mac-n-cheese--elbow macaroni, cheese powder, dehydrated ham
- Non-Mexican meals I dehydrated
- Texas BBQ brisket
- Pulled Pork
- Roast Beef
- Non-Mexican meals have potatoes or rice.
- All include dehydrated veggies
- Mexican meals with Spanish Rice and dehydrated refried beans
- shredded beef
- green chile stew
- red chile stew
I am saving all of what I consider to be my prime meals for later up the trail.
*Trail Angel--someone who can offer you something you can't do for yourself--rides to town, groceries, etc
**Trail Magic--This is hard to define, sometimes it can be extra food you don't have to pay for, sometimes it can be a water cache, sometimes it can be a blessing or encouragement you are not expecting.
***Town Food--Restaurant food, fast food, food you buy and eat right away.