Mile 175 - 179.4 | Idyllwild!
Day 16 - 17
Miles and Matt has camped a few miles on from us so Shaker, (a young German who shook tents to wake people up but accidentally shook the wrong one once) and Claire and I headed off in the morning. We only had a few miles and had aimed to be at the junction to head down to Idyllwild by lunch time - we just hadn’t taken into account how much snow there would be and how long it would take us to pass! We were still a little shaken from Claire’s fall the day before so were keen to take it slow. Shaker agreed that we should just put our micro spikes on and not risk anything!
There were a lot of trees blown down across the trail, some we had to straddle to get over and others crawl under! We kept smelling Poodledog bush, a pretty horrific plant that causes skin rashes and pain and finally saw our first plant just as we were army crawling under a log! It smells like weed and is prominent in burn areas.
One good thing about the snow was the snow melt, more water sources! We came across quite a few little streams that weren’t registered on our Guthook app, this meant we could carry less water and be slightly more nimble across the water. The other thing about snow melt though was snow bridges, where snow forms a bridge over water. You have to be careful not to stand on these and they are weakened by the water flowing beneath.
At points it seemed like the snow was endless, our progress was slow. We followed footprints that sometimes looked like they were going backwards, we kept having to check the gps to see if we were going the right way. Just when it felt like we hadn’t seen any other hikers all day, we came across a man shouting from a tent about it being 4/20, the 20th of April - a weed smokers holiday! Just then, another man came seemingly out of nowhere saying his phone had died and he had lost his microspikes, could he hike with us? We said of course because we couldn’t leave him behind with shouty tent man! We hadn’t been on trail for some time as the snow had made it impossible to cross the switchbacks so we had to go straight across but we were in the vicinity of the trail at least, that was until now. The footprints just stopped and got seemingly confused and we had come off from the trail by quite a way at this point. I had to use my gps to point us back towards the trail, it looked like we were right below it but couldn’t see any trace! It was all quite tense but we manage to keep pushing forward towards the direction of the trail until I was convinced we were definitely just below it. We had to climb/scramble sharply straight up a bank and low and behold we were back on trail, the relief! Just as we all fell about the trail, clambering to get our microspikes off 3 hikes came by followed by some day hikers! They all said that we had done well not to come the way they had because it was terrible terrain!
Feeling refreshed by finally seeing other people, we pushed on the final few miles to Saddle Junction. We passed a steady stream of day hikers with kids and dogs skipping along the trail, where were they going? It was so funny to have felt so remote then to see so many people!
The two miles off trail down to Humber park car park where we got a hitch into Idyllwild was the longest two miles of our lives, we hadn’t quite appreciated just how high up we were!
The main thing you need to know is that the mayor of Idyllwild is a dog. The town is quaint and kooky and very friendly! Julian, Tuna, Bessie, Dan, Miles, Matt, Shaker, Claire and I all stayed in a cute mountain lodge together, we bought food for dinner (stroganoff!) and breakfast (eggs!) and did copious amounts of washing!
We took a well deserved zero here to calm our aches and pains. I was the only on up for exploring so I grabbed my empty backpack and headed the two miles down into town. It was quite nice to finally have some solitude and just mosey round at my own pace. I visited the bakery and sat out back on one of their many benches with a chai latte, it felt like a small slice of luxury!
I called mum and dad as I had a few things on my mind, I was struggling with feeling selfish. It had finally dawned on me that I really was out here on the PCT doing this hike for myself. All the decisions I was making were for me and about me and I had left family, friends and Eliot behind to worry. I’m not sure where these feelings came from and why they had come on so strongly now but it was good to talk it out and with so much support from my parents. I just can’t believe how lucky I am!