PCT Journal: Days 21-30 (Southern California)

Day 21

Zero in Big Bear City, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 266.1

Finally! Mama Duck, Steel Toe, and I all slept in past 7 am. It was 9 am when we woke up and 10 when we actually got out of bed. It wasn’t long before we headed over to The Broadway Cafe for breakfast. The employees were so incredibly sweet last time, we wanted to see them again. I really miss breakfast when on trail, so I never argue when we all debate on splurging for a morning meal. We were tempted to get another milkshake but decided against it. Before leaving, the woman who works there that we’ve been seeing for the past few days wished us good luck.

For the majority of the day, we lounged around. It always feels a little different when in town and relaxing, like I almost feel guilty, but I know my body needs to recover on occasion. Mama Duck was excited about relaxing and took full advantage of the day to lay in bed and watch television. Steel Toe and I walked to Big Bear Lake and explored for a bit. To accompany the cold, we could see the cloud cover over the mountains and were glad to not be out there just yet. We brought back some yogurt, fruit, veggies, and hummus for dinner time snacking.

After pushing our limit with being lazy, we all took the time to organize and pack our gear for the morning. We’re finally icing our feet and ankles, so here’s to hoping that tomorrow will be a good day when we get back out there.

Day 22

Hitch out of Big Bear City/Mile 266.1 to Mile 287.6

Daily mileage: 21.5

Total PCT mileage: 287.6

Getting out of an actual bed was more than difficult this morning. We packed up and headed to The Lumber Jack Cafe to grab breakfast on the go and attempted to get a hitch. It was cold and snowy, but just as we were about to leave we finally got an offer from a guy who knew we were thru-hikers.

We started out on the trail as it was snowing, but it was fun to feel like we were in a winter wonderland. The crunch of the snow beneath my feet made everything feel so different.

We knew there was the possibility of a thunderstorm as well, so we kept a constant pace throughout the day. Mama Duck is usually faster than Steel Toe and I so she scooted on ahead. We met some new faces, like Mark and Momento, and that’s always fun. We barely saw anyone on the trail all day, which can be a nice change of pace. The weather cleared up and the sun started shining as the scenery became more beautiful.

We finally made it to a water source after 21 miles but didn’t see Mama Duck in sight. We assumed she might have went a bit further, but we called it a day since our feet were hurting after being out of the game for a few days.

Day 23

Mile 287.6 to Mile 300.9

Daily mileage: 13.3

Total PCT mileage: 300.9

Today felt a little different. Steel Toe and I started with the mindset of just seeing how the day would progress instead of making prior plans in terms of where to camp. I remember reading blogs prior to embarking on this trip, and a few thru-hikers mentioned they wish they were more free spirited with campsite plans. In other words, they saw the benefit of just going with the flow on where the day could take them and camping at beautiful spots when they present themselves, but for some reason they found they didn’t do that often enough. I now understand that. There’s a lure about keeping pace with other hikers and trying to stay on a bit of a schedule, but the extreme of that can take away from the journey itself. Like back in the real world, finding joy in this experience on trail calls for a bit of balance.

After a late start, we realized we might not catch up to Mama Duck, but knew it would only be time until we would again. The day wasn’t as hot as usual, so it was nice to hike without the limitations of the heat. We ran into Ziggy and Sig, a father and son duo from Seattle. We chatted for some time while Sig and Steel Toe exchanged photographs of their favorite ramen selection. The daily chatter of thru-hikers is truly entertaining.

Miles later, we hung out with Ziggy and Sig again at another water source. It was fun to get to know them while we cooked dinner. We spotted a great campsite on the other side of the stream but decided to keep moving.

Not too long after, we hit mile 300! It truly felt like a great accomplishment. We found an awesome spot to camp afterward, right above where the stream was flowing. We’ve been looking for water to jump in and wash our clothes, so we were excited and immediately dropped our packs to run down to the stream to check it out. Man was it cold, but so refreshing! It took all of 5 seconds for my feet to go numb.

Steel Toe was resourceful and hung our food bags using our trekking poles. We had a little bit of daylight left and I was looking forward to making my snack of a snickers wrapped in a Nutella filled tortilla. The night is cold, but there have been worse. This spot is really great as you can hear the water running below and perfectly see the stars above.

Day 24

Mile 300.9 to Mile 315.1

Daily mileage: 14.2

Total PCT mileage: 315.1

You could tell it was going to be very warm today by the heat of the sun in the early morning. Steel Toe and I took off on the trail with the goal of getting to the Deep Creek Hot Springs for a lunch break. We actually found a great water spot right before and decided to dunk in for a wash. It was freezing but the sun made it bearable. It’s amazing how clean you can feel by going in fresh water, even without soap and shampoo.

By the time we got to the hot springs, we were okay with just stopping for a short break. There were a decent amount of people there, some in their skivvies and others nude. We ate lunch as we watched a small rattlesnake in the nearby bush slither around and eye a nosy squirrel only a few feet away. It was hot midday but we decided to continue on to the next water source. We climbed out of the valley and the view was quite rewarding. We could see all the way to the opening at the end of the valley where the Mojave River Forks Dam lies.

We grabbed water near the dam and besides seeing Rocket Arse, we ran into a bunch of thru-hikers we haven’t met before. It was a woman named Hardcore’s birthday so we all sang to her. We pushed on for a few more miles and called it a day near the ridge. We found a perfect spot just above the trail with an amazing view of the mountains that lay ahead.

Steel Toe has started calling me honeypot because he always thinks I’m up to no good. He finds it hilarious.

Day 25

Mile 315.1 to Mile 332.4

Daily mileage: 17.3

Total PCT mileage: 332.4

Today was another hot one. I listened to music most of the day until Steel Toe and I made it to Cleghorn Picnic Area. We skirted the mountains surrounding Silverwood Lake and it was a beautiful change of scenery. We hung out there for a bit with a bunch of other thru-hikers, including Ziggy, Sig, and Rocket Arse. The Lake was a walk away so we jumped in to clean off and then ordered a pizza. Yes, I said we ordered a pizza! A nearby restaurant delivers for a pretty penny, but we took advantage of it and indulged in a Hawaiian with a side of french fries. It hit the spot but boy were we full.

After waiting out the worst heat of the day, we took off for a few more miles. The plan was to make it a little further to place ourselves about 10 miles or less from the McDonald’s right off the trail so we could indulge in some deliciousness around lunchtime tomorrow. We found a spot about 4 miles further at the top of the ridge with an awesome view of the trail and mountains that lie ahead.

Day 26

Mile 332.4 to Mile 351.7

Daily mileage: 19.3

Total PCT mileage: 351.7

Steel Toe and I got an early start today and attempted to beat the heat on our way to the McDonald’s. The clouds offered a bit of relief as we hiked 10 miles to the interstate. We saw a few people on the way we didn’t recognize, but were excited to see some familiar faces at the restaurant. We walked in and were welcomed by a dozen or so thru-hikers, all occupying about half of the restaurant with their packs and poles taking up a few booths. We joined in and immediately ordered one of everything on the menu. Although we split it, we still felt a little uneasy afterward. Blame it on the extreme difference in diet.

We checked out the convenience store nearby and then caught up with Trash Mule and Cookie. The small space of grass outside was perfect for relaxing in until we were ready to head back out.

Six hours later, we left McDonald’s and hiked about 5 miles until we happened upon some trail magic. One of the hosts from Backpacker Radio, the podcast for which I’m a trail correspondent, was in the area and offering cold sodas, fruit, and chips. After chatting with everyone for a bit, Steel Toe and I decided to start the climb toward Wrightwood. We weren’t sure when we would come upon a tentsite, but weren’t too worried about night hiking. It felt good to be out of the heat, so we kept moving for about 4 miles and finally stumbled upon a tentsite overlooking the highway connecting San Bernardino and Victorville. All of the McDonald’s coupled with the hiking, I started feeling nauseous. Thankfully it dissipated with time, but my stomach surely wasn’t a fan of me today.

Day 27

Mile 351.7 to Mile 369.3/Hitch to Wrightwood, CA

Daily mileage: 17.6

Total PCT mileage: 369.3

Steel Toe and I woke up when it was still dark to finish the climb toward Wrightwood. We followed a dirt road that lie parallel to the trail for some time, but still enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains. We saw very few people today but we weren’t complaining.

We finished the climb to the peak, but I completely forgot about my summit soda that I carried with me. We passed by a few chair lifts and knew right away we were near a ski mountain. When we made it to the highway, we saw Marcus (now called Flash), Ruth (now called Duchess), and Opa getting dropped off to start the next leg of the trail. It was great to catch up with them!

I saw a few people getting dropped off a few minutes later and I asked the driver if he was headed back into town. Sure enough, we were offered a ride by a local and he even took a quick detour to have us straddle the San Andreas Fault!

When we arrived in Wrightwood, we stumbled upon Jeremy, Yin, and Parmesan at one of the local restaurants. They were also headed out of town today, but were waiting out the heat. We checked into the Grand Pines Cabins and said hello to a few other thru-hikers we recognized.

People in this town have been so unbelievably friendly to us. At one of the restaurants, the bartender mentioned to let him know if we need a place to stay. Similarly, at the Mountain Hardware store, an older woman offered her help, and fellow thru-hiker said there’s room at another trail angel’s house if we need it. We already made reservations for two nights as we made our way into town, but we were super grateful for everyone’s generosity.

Later in the day, we wanted to get to a store in a town about 10 miles away and were weary about finding a ride. The Mountain Hardware store with the registry of trail angels was closed, and Uber isn’t an option here, so we attempted to hitchhike. A young woman that saw us at the grocery store earlier pulled over and offered us a ride. She even gave us her number to reach out for when we wanted to go back to town. Like I said, the people here are simply amazing.

We’re ending the night with Always Sunny and snacks from the grocery store. And tomorrow, we sleep in!

Day 28

Zero in Wrightwood, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 369.3

So by sleeping in, we woke up 8 am. It felt odd to not have to be anywhere, so we took advantage of being lazy. We had a few beers leftover from the day before, so we sat on the porch and indulged, because it was our day off and why not. We met Magpie and CB who were headed back out to the trail today. Magpie told us about her experience on the Continental Divide Trail, which is another thru-hike that’s supposed to be just as beautiful, but more rugged.

After checking out, we headed to our next reservation at Bear With Us Lodging and were greeted by a fellow thru-hiker. It was a cute log cabin that reminded me of my childhood home. We then checked out Grizzly Cafe for lunch and weren’t disappointed. After our bellies were full, we explored what this small town had to offer and resupplied for the next leg of the journey.

For dinner, we ate at the Yodeler, a local dive bar with American fare. A philly cheese steak was calling my name.

Day 29

Hitch from Wrightwood, CA to 379.5

Daily mileage: 10.2

Total PCT mileage: 379.5

Steel Toe and I hung around most of the day in Wrightwood and planned on heading out to the trail later on. We said goodbye to our host in the morning and ate breakfast at Evergreen Cafe. I indulged in some biscuits and gravy in addition to my main meal and I was completely satisfied.

Afterward, we hung out at The Village Grind, a local coffee shop, and took advantage of their offer for a free cup of coffee for thru-hikers. Surprisingly, we ran into Dani, the trail angel that drove us back and forth to the town over our first night in town.

Our original plan was to leave around 2 pm, but that quickly turned into 4 pm. We hung outside of the grocery store where tables and outlets were set up for thru-hikers to lounge at, and caught up with Kevin and Alyssa.

It didn’t take long for us to get a hitch out of town. An older woman signaled for us to get in the back of her truck and before we knew it, we were back on trail. We started the climb toward Mount Baden-Powell and it was a rough one. We weren’t sure if we would make it to the peak before dusk, but we did our best. Sure enough, after a decent amount of sweat and a close call with vomiting on my part, we miracously made it to the top in time to grab a photo.

We kept hiking into the dark to find a good camp spot, and we did so not too much further up the trail. We joined Twinkle Toes and two others for the windy night that lay ahead.

Day 30

Mile 379.5 to Mile 398.7

Daily mileage: 19.2

Total PCT mileage: 398.7

Waking up today wasn’t the easiest as it was pretty chilly out. Steel Toe and I got an early start and planned to have breakfast a few miles up ahead. We took a short break at a campground and chatted with a local man who often travels due to his career in photography and videography. He mentioned that today is actually the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. He camped there and provided trail magic yesterday – fresh pineapple. He also noted that the largest bear he’s ever seen was in this area.

We had a few climbs today, but made sure to break beforehand and fuel up. Mentally these climbs can be challenging, but I’m finding it best to focus on small goals as I hike. The neat thing about today was that we saw almost no other thru-hikers. There were a few in passing, but we didn’t recognize or really chat too much with them. It felt as if we really did have the trail to ourselves.

After making dinner at another campground off of the trail, we pushed another few miles and happily ended the day at 18.5 miles. Steel Toe and I have been sharing his tent occasionally, and have been dabbling with the thought of sending mine home to save weight since I haven’t been using it. Therefore, tonight we both attempted to sleep in my one-person tent so I would have closure with my precious purchase before sending her home. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but a hilarious time for sure.

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