WHERE: Warner Springs — Big Bear: California, USA
WHEN: March–August, 2018
WHO: Karma & Scott
OBJECTIVE: Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hike
DISTANCE: 109 – 266 mi (176 – 428 km)
We left Warner Springs heading for Big Bear. Another dry stretch so we carried a lot of water. We were being chased by the next storm front and really wanted to get over the San Jacinto mountain before the storm hit and dumped a ton of snow up there. So we were pushing pretty big days.
We camped a night at trail angel Mike’s Place, a welcome watering hole along the way. The next night at another trail angel, Mary’s place, about 18 mi (ca 30 km) up the trail. She has created a really nice spot for PCT hikers with a water tank, picnic tables under a shade sail, a tiny library, long drop toilet, basic shower — free! Super nice!
We worked out the logistics and water carries and resupply for the next section in the tent before bed. Contemplated buying microspikes in Idyllwild since there is some snow and ice over San Jacinto and more snow up ahead towards Big Bear. “Miracle March” is bringing on storms about every 3 days, 3 days nice then 3 days rain/snow depending on elevation. Heaps of rain coming.
Heavy rain in the forecast so we pushed hard to get into Idyllwild to beat the weather. But we still made sure to stop at Paradise Cafe for second breakfast, a wonderful little diner and they love PCT hikers!
We just beat the rain to Idyllwild, pitched at the campsite right in town and tended to our resupply and laundry then hung out at the local pub for a few hours staying dry. Turns out it was karaoke night! Oh dear! I ended up doing my karaoke debut with Kent – utan dina andetag. We had fun.
We left Idyllwild and begun our climb over San Jacinto. Met a PCT section hiker from the UK up on Fuller Ridge, and we have kept steps with him until now. A pretty tough day of climbing through snow and ice on trail over the pass. We are pushing for Big Bear before the next storm front hits in a few days. A tall order.
We tried to drop down as far as we could before camping up for the night, but it was still a really, really cold night. We woke to an iced-over tent! I had slept in both double thermals and my down puffy. Then the next morning, after a 17mi long descent from Mt Jacinto, via mind-numbing mile-long switchbacks, we were back in the desert. The oppressing desert heat was a stark contrast to the cold snow yesterday.
We found trail magic under the I-10 freeway underpass, wow! Cool drinks and snacks! Awesome! Passed 200 mile mark that day too!
This was our longest day yet on trail, 24.6 mi (almost 40 km!), but it was either doing that or carrying heaps of water over this long dry stretch. Still, we were quite tired when we finally camped up at Whitewater Preserve campground, an unexpected oasis open free for PCT hikers.
Next, the trail follows the long Mission Creek up into San Bernardino National Forest.
We were pretty tired from the long day before so we decided to make it a short day. Looking up at the mountain where we were going it was a good call. Lots of rain up there but warmer and less wet down here. Most of it passed overnight.
After a long climb out of the Mission Creek valley, we were again up high at about 8500 feet. This section went through a fire closure in San Bernardino National Park. A bit eerie with the burnt forest with a light cloud drifting through, but beautiful! We sidled around the mountain the whole afternoon to spectacular views of snow-capped peaks. One of my favorite sections of the PCT so far!
We were aiming for an unlocked cabin just off trail since there will be snow overnight and temperatures down to -4C. We got there and almost started laughing. It is a big historical log cabin, but no doors and no shutters with cold stone floors… lol. We camped up, doing our best to find a spot providing at least some shelter from the driving wind.
We pushed another big day to get into Big Bear as the forecast was for even colder weather over the next few nights.
We were very lucky to be invited to stay with trail angel Papa Smurf in Big Bear. A nice and warm house, shower and laundry — wow. These trail angels are really making this trail very special! Thanks!!!
We haven’t had a rest day yet so we took our first zero here in Big Bear. On trail again in the morning!