PCT Journal: Days 11-20 (Southern California)

Day 11

Mile 149 to Cedar Spring

Daily mileage: 13.7 PCT + 2.8 side trails

Total PCT mileage: 162.7

Last night might have been the first night I didn’t have to wake up at 1 am to go to the bathroom. If you’ve never had to get out of your warm sleeping bag and leave your tent in the dark, then good for you. Let me tell you, it’s not fun.

As Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I were breaking down camp, Jeremy flew by on the trail and yelled, You guys aren’t up yet? It was awesome to see him and a great start to the day.

We hiked about 4 miles to the highway and then road walked to Paradise Valley Cafe. The server was super welcoming and the first thing that came to my mind was hot chocolate… and Dr. Pepper. So I ordered both! Mama Duck had a nice big milkshake that looked delicious. The table next to us consisted of Marcus, Jeremy, Miles to Go, and Flash Gordon. We ate breakfast and then decided we were going to hang around until they switched to lunch in order to get their trail-famous burger.

More people trickled in – Opa, Tank, Parmesan, Yin, Ruth, Ironman, Weatherman, Moses and other thru-hikers we recognized from passing.

It was nice to relax a bit and a few people came over to us to ask about our adventure. It was funny how you could just tell who was a thru-hiker at the restaurant. With our packs lined up out front, we all hung around on the patio for a while. Mama Duck and I got our burgers we were waiting for and then headed out.

A little over 10 miles was the goal. The terrain was different this time, but just as beautiful, possibly even moreso than ever before. We ran into a decent amount of day hikers who were also curious about our trek. I had some more time alone on the trail, but I was just focused on getting to camp, where the water source was.

I caught up to Yin, Parmesan, and Ruth. It was a decent climb but the scenery was simply amazing. Ruth and I eventually arrived to camp around 6 pm and were surprised how woodsy it felt. We’re in a cute little forested area with a fire pit, and you can see the lights from Palm Springs below in the distance. We all hung around the fire and had a few laughs. I was still so full from breakfast and lunch that my dinner consisted of a flour tortilla filled with Nutella.

Day 12

Cedar Spring to Fobes Ranch Trail/Hitch into Idyllwild, CA

Daily mileage: 3.9 PCT + 4.3 side trails

Total PCT mileage: 166.6

After a long climb back to the main trail from where everyone camped, we had even more of an ascent in front of us. Mama Duck and I reached about 7,100 ft and then made the descent to the Fobes Ranch Trail junction. The scenery was different this time around and I wasn’t complaining. I knew Southern California had mountains, but I never pictured them to be this beautiful.

We chose to get off trail about 2 miles before the fire closure and headed toward the highway to get a hitch. While walking on the backroad, an older man and his dog Pita picked us up. We drove further and picked up Crayola and Marcus. During the drive, the man told us about his research that he does on mountain lions in the area. He dropped us off at a convenient store down the road and I headed straight for a cold Dr. Pepper, Snickers ice cream bar, and Cheez-Its.

We attempted our second hitch to get into Idyllwild and a woman picked us all up within minutes. She told us about the town, gave us a tour, and showed us her house nearby. She welcomed us my to stay with her for the night, but we already had plans at the Idyllwild Inn.

She dropped us all off at the Inn and not too long after, Tank and Steel Toe showed up. They previously decided to take the mountain bike path and road into town from Paradise Valley Cafe and were offered to stay a night, do laundry, and shower at a couple’s house. Trail angels are so awesome!

Soon enough everyone trickled in and we all hung around the cabin for the day. With everything so close by, we must have done a grocery run like three or four times already. Anything anyone was craving, we bought it – vegetables, fruit, hummus, chips, bagels, bread, beer, and more chips. I finally got my IPA I was craving! We relaxed for a bit and then went to the outfitter down the road. I ended up purchasing the Women’s NeoAir XLite, an inflatable sleeping pad, since my body is hating my foam pad at the moment. I plan on sending that one home tomorrow. No more sore hips for me!

We split off into two groups for dinner – pizza and Korean. I chose Korean and it was hilarious to watch the bunch of us walking on the side of the road with our puffy jackets, rain pants, and sandals with torn up feet. You could see us coming from a mile away, but we were clean this time, so you definitely couldn’t smell us.

We hung around the cabin at night and chatted about the day, and of course went through our rose, bud, and thorn. Opa started it at the beginning of the trip and it has surely stuck. My clean self is sleeping in a real bed tonight, with sheets and a pillow, and I couldn’t be happier.

Day 13

Zero in Idyllwild, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 166.6

A day off felt well deserved. Idyllwild is such a cute town, but my one disappointment is that I didn’t get to meet Mayor Max – a golden retriever who is actually the mayor of this small town.

Everyone ran the necessary errands – get to the post office, resupply at the grocery store, clean and organize gear, and of course eat an absurd amount of food.

I grabbed my fellow town explorer, Steel Toe, and we hung out at a chocolate shop, where they made delicious shakes and iced chocolate. We also found a coffee shop to relax at and spent time catching up on texts, emails, and social media.

I ate more food than I ever have and probably visited the grocery store at least five times throughout the day. At night, everyone hung around the living room and discussed what lay ahead of us on the trail. Tomorrow we’ll be shuttled to a trailhead that leads to the PCT and some of us will summit San Jacinto.

Day 14

Devil’s Slide Trail to Mile 195.4

Daily mileage: 19.8

Total PCT mileage: 195.4

We all woke up early and were hustling around the cabin to get ready to head out. After we were shuttled to the Devil’s Slide Trailhead, we started the climb and boy was it rough. The group split into two, those who took the PCT and those who took the loop to summit San Jacinto.

I chose to push for the summit and it was well worth it. At 10,834 ft, the 360° view was amazing. The descent afterward was a bit of a relief. As I was merging back onto the PCT with Steel Toe, we ran into Mama Duck! We hung around at an awesome stream and cooked dinner. We knew the next water carry was going to be for 20 miles, which meant roughly 4-5 liters of water.

The three of us pushed on and made it to the campsite where most of the others were staying for the night. We decided to continue on for our first night hike. It was a little eerie but super fun! We passed by a tent site where Tank was camping and paid him a visit for a few minutes. Two miles later we found the perfect site. It was small but we were able to cowboy camp – also a first for me! The view was gorgeous. Behind us there were the mountains we came from and down below we overlooked Cabazon and Palm Springs. The stars were also visible with a bright moon, so I couldn’t say no!

Day 15

Mile 195.4 to Whitewater Preserve

Daily mileage: 23.6

Total PCT mileage: 218.5

Today was a long day for sure. My emotions were all over the place. Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I woke up around 4:30 am and started hiking. We had a magnificent view as the sun came up over the mountains. The day was becoming warm very quickly and we knew we would need to find a spot in the shade for a break. Every twenty feet, a lizard would scatter away and hide under a rock.

We approached a spot in the early morning that supposedly had aggressive bees, so we were cautious as we approached. Luckily, we didn’t have too much of an issue. Mama Duck was decked out in her rain gear, headnet, and groundsheet as a skirt. It was quite the sight.

After we reached water, we walked a grueling 5 miles to an underpass near Cabazon. We could see the mountains we came from which were beautiful, but the sand beneath our feet was thick and unforgiving. This was the first moment I truly questioned my purpose on the trail. My ankles and knees were aching with every step. When we finally reached the underpass, we were greeted by Mama Bear, a local trail angel. I was so excited I almost cried. She gave us a hug and offered us hot dogs, chips, fresh fruit, cookies, and soda. I had a Sprite and Coca-Cola, and I could’ve had about ten more.

That morning we came up with a plan to hitch to In N’ Out from the road but after experiencing such awesome trail magic, we decided to just relax under the bridge and drink soda for a while longer. Tank was there so it was awesome to see him for a bit.

When the heat of the day died down, we hiked 8 miles further. It was uphill at first and I felt slower than ever, but after we made the initial ascent, the view with the sunset in the background was amazing.

My feet and hips were extremely sore on the descent, but after the sun set we night hiked into a thru-hiker’s oasis. We couldn’t see a thing but from the rumors, we knew we would love it come morning.

Day 16

Whitewater Preserve to Mile 226.2

Daily mileage: 8.2

Total PCT mileage: 226.2

Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in a while. We slept in until 7:30 am and it felt wonderful. Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and a few others that arrived to the campground that morning decided to check out the wading pool. It was truly amazing! The water was cold, but our feet desperately needed some soaking. We dunked ourselves all the way in and it was so worth it. Yin came by and hung out for a little before continuing on. Before we knew it, there were about twenty thru-hikers hanging out in the pool. It felt like we were on vacation and no one wanted to leave. A palm tree was set in the background against the desert mountains. All we needed were some island drinks and lounge chairs, and we’d be all set. Just before heading out, the rest of the trail family came into camp and we had the chance to catch up.

Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I set off to find a spot to camp. The day was hot, but so beautiful. We were hiking on white sand as the mountains were looming in the distance. Listening to music kept me going and put me in such a great mood. We found a nice camp spot 8 miles up the trail near a stream and decided it was another great night for cowboy camping. The moon was super bright and we could see all around us. It was so cool!

Day 17

Mile 226.2 to Mission Camp

Daily mileage: 13.7

Total PCT mileage: 239.9

The plan was to wake up and leave around 4 am, but the first thing I heard in the morning was Mama Duck’s voice, Uh guys, I thought we were going to wake up early? It turned out either no one turned on their alarm, or someone hit the snooze button. It was 5:30 am which was past our scheduled departure, but considering we had extra hours of sleep, no one was truly complaining.

The majority of our hike today was in the valley between the mountains and so luckily we were in the shade during the morning hours. It was going to be all uphill from where we slept, so we took our time.

We crossed Mission Creek multiple times throughout the day, which was awesome because you don’t normally see a surplus of water in the desert. We took advantage of it by carrying less water throughout this section and I of course soaked my feet when I had the chance. We hiked through some burn zones but it was beautiful nonetheless. After struggling on the ascent all day, we finally rested for a bit at the last stop on the creek. We hung out with Snuggles, Irish, and Pink Panther for a bit before continuing on one more mile.

We set up camp tonight in a large field. It was early when we arrived so we were able to relax a bit and eat in the daylight. I set my tent up right away since I knew how tired I already was. The majority of the people we saw at the creek ended up coming into camp later on, as well the rest of the trail family. It’s much colder tonight than we’ve experienced in a few days, but I know I’ll sleep super well in this quilt.

Day 18

Mission Camp to Mile 265.7

Daily mileage: 25.8

Total PCT mileage: 265.7

Waking up at 3:30 am to the cold was not the easiest. Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I began hiking in the dark, but the moon was nice and bright. It was noticeably chilly at 7,900 ft as well, but it warmed up on the mountain eventually. I was really happy that we decided to start hiking earlier to beat the heat. We had three tough climbs to compete with, which we tackled by late morning. Soon enough, it was early afternoon and we already completed 15 miles. When walking all day long, conversation happens pretty often and so we’ve been coming up with different ways of entertaining ourselves, like the question and hypothetical game. Suffice it to say, you end up learning a lot about a person in a short amount of time.

We hit trail magic before our designated lunch spot and it was awesome! A couple of trail angels left a couch and dumpster filled with soda right on the side of the trail for thru-hikers to enjoy. We relaxed for bit and hung out with Tailspin. The root beer I had definitely hit the spot.

We took a lunch break at a picnic table we came across and were soon joined by Cat Food, Pink Panther and Snuggles. We watched in astonishment as Pink Panther created his version of a Ramen Bomb – ramen, instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, peanut butter, chili sauce, and raisins cooked together and wrapped in a flour tortilla. Sounds delicious, right?

We hiked on with the goal of camping a 1/2 mile away from the highway where we’ll hitch to Big Bear in the morning. We’re camping at the 265th mile, which means we’ve come 10% of the way! And although it’s super windy and cold tonight, we’ve decided to cowboy camp again since it’s a full moon. Having to pee in the middle of the night was most definitely a challenge. I couldn’t fall asleep until 4 am because of the cold and wind, but Steel Toe entertained me with humorous conversation while we struggled not to freeze.

Day 19

Mile 265.7 to Mile 266.1/Hitch to Big Bear City, CA

Daily mileage: 0.4

Total PCT mileage: 266.1

We woke up to the cold and it was quite difficult getting out of our bags. It was only a short hike to the highway to get our hitch into Big Bear though, so we were easily motivated by the thought of a big breakfast. A few steps away from the highway, we encountered more trail magic – all types of soda! It might’ve been 8 am, but we weren’t about to turn down a sugary delight, so grape soda it was.

It only took 5 minutes to get a hitch, woohoo! The minute we got into Big Bear City, we hit up Lumber Jack Cafe for a nice, big breakfast. Mama Duck managed to polish off Steel Toe’s breakfast since his eyes were bigger than his stomach. After an early check-in to the motel, we all lined up for the shower and did laundry. In my past life, showers were already precious to me, but now they’re like gold. Later in the afternoon we decided to head over to Big Bear Lake, a town adjacent to Big Bear City, to meet up with Tank for a quality meal of fish tacos and a refreshing IPA. Tank and Steel Toe re-enacted Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene with a french fry and it was quite entertaining. We then went to the local movie theater and watched the sequel to the Avengers! I couldn’t have been happier.

Although we were pretty exhausted when nighttime came around, we grabbed two bottles of wine, ordered Domino’s, and watched The Prince of Bel-Air. Quality down time for sure!

Day 20

Zero in Big Bear City, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 266.1

We planned to sleep in, but 6 am rolled around and we found ourselves awoken by the sun. Still, today was meant to be a zero (a day where zero miles are hiked), and I was super excited. Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I ventured off to The Broadway Cafe to grab breakfast and coffee to go, then walked to the post office to pick up Mama Duck’s new trail sneakers. Even the post office had a PCT trail register so we made sure to sign it.

On our way back, we stopped at the community market to resupply and I finally decided to try Idahoan mashed potatoes after hearing Steel Toe rave about them on a daily basis. I’m getting used to the resupply experience now when needing to stock up in town and know exactly what I’m looking for when I enter the store – oatmeal and pop tarts for breakfast… tuna packets, sharp cheddar cheese, and tortilla wraps for lunch… ramen, Annie’s mac and cheese, and Idahoan mashed potatoes for dinner… and Kind bars, Larabars, sour candy, beef jerky, Snickers, and Nutella for snacking.

When we returned to the motel afterward, Mama Duck took a nap so Steel Toe and I decided to try a milkshake at The Broadway Cafe. It definitely hit the spot! We relaxed and talked to a few of the locals for a bit.

Later on, the three of us headed back to Big Bear Lake to check out a sporting goods store. As we were walking toward the town center, we came across a ski and board shop and we all did a little bit of shopping. Mama Duck found a mid layer top, Steel Toe discovered a new pair of shorts, and I fell in love with a beanie. The upcoming days are supposed to include snow and rain, so I figured why not enjoy being a little warmer on the trail.

Dinner plans were made at a local Himalayan restaurant, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. I have to say, the tika masala was to die for! Shortly after, we made a stop at the liquor store where there’s a ton of food and toiletry resupply options, and made the final decision to stay an extra night in town due to the impending weather. We then grabbed a few beers and headed back to the motel to hang out. Tonight’s reel included Meet the Parents and the sequel, Meet the Fockers. It’s only 9:30 pm, but it’s past hiker midnight and we’re all ready for bed.

4 thoughts on “PCT Journal: Days 11-20 (Southern California)

  1. Carol marcella says:

    Gramma Jim,Donna,Janice and I just got home from Washington D.C. The first day walking around my feet and hip hurt. Everything was flat. I wouldn’t last an hour with you. Loving your blog. I am in awe of you. I’m happy to hear you’re getting to enjoy some civilization on your trek.

    Like

  2. Amanda says:

    Holy heck, I am speechless! Not really, but basically in tears because I am so freaking proud and inspired. I finally read your trail chronicles. Thank you for letting me live through you (in a very small way)! You are crushing it, Kate, and I can’t wait for all of the adventures that are still to come. Counting down the days till you make it to Washington and then I keep you in the PNW forever! XO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate says:

      Awe just seeing this now! You are too funny, thank you!! 🙂 Ah yes, so many people on the trail are from Washington and only have great things to say!

      Like

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