Mile 209.6 - 266.1 | Big Bear (the lake not the animal!)
Day 20 continued.
Once we got to the road we immediately tried Uber and got a ride - we didn’t even wait to see if we could hitch. The boys were hungry for in and out burger and I just wanted to get to Claire. Gourmet who was about an hour behind us initially had decided to take the road walk all the way to the highway instead of cross the horrible desert-like sand and had already had a coke by the time we got in a car, lucky thing!
Seeing Claire again was such a relief and very surreal, it had only been 3 days but it felt like a lifetime. Trail time is a whole different concept of time it seemed! The in and out burger menu is pretty limited but great (so I hear), I headed to Panda Express to get my rice and broccoli fill - worth it! I even picked up some packets of hot sauce for Miles and Matt. Again time got away from us and we found ourselves rushing to the post office before it closed, we gave ourselves 15 minutes to get there! I’m pretty sure I got out the Uber as it was still pulling up. I had ordered a down hood after freezing my ears on San Jacinto in the through draft of my tent’s mesh - my quilt doesn’t have a hood like a normal sleeping bag! I also picked up a solar charger after my battery pack died and phone ran dangerously low while I was navigating in the snow before Idyllwild. Claire’s GPS on her phone doesn’t work which renders Guthook somewhat unhelpful and Shakers Guthook didn’t provide any directional arrow. Either way, it was enough to scare me into wanting another battery back up and the solar charger only weighed 70g and cost $17 so it was worth a shot!
Our trip to the post office provided fruitful as we spied a Dollar General, a cheap supermarket and worthy resupply point! We did a quick trolley dash and bought about 5 days of food, tuna packets were only $1! It was way better than the incredibly expensive service station and fancy food shop near the casino, the boys all ended up with pot noodles and spam - they had to carry out the styrofoam cup and spam tin over the next few days which was annoying!
We chatted briefly about the mileages over the next few days, eager to push bigger miles but not wanting to put Claire at risk of further injury to her knees and collapsed into the flat ground just after a dirt road, 2 miles from Cabazon. The spiders here were intense and ran towards our blockades and hands/feet we stamped. They were tall and spindly, with black and yellow markings. Someone suggested they weren’t dangerous just over zealous, we were also so tired we let them be and cowboy camped knowing they’d be running over us for sure in the night. Just as we were tucking into bed, Gumby an Australian girl, Valley girl (a guy) and Crispy joined us - we were to run into them fairly often from here onwards!
We set our alarms early and were out on trail before 6am! It was going to be a hot day and we determined to get some miles in before the sun got too high in the sky. We entered into the wind farm and San Gorgonio Wilderness area, we could hear the drone of the wind turbines as we closed in on them!
It was a very hot and and seemingly endless climb, there were comments suggesting we could pop into the windfarm’s maintenance building where they sold ice cream but we passed it too early in the morning. We charged on in the heat until we found a little oasis by White Water River, we crawled into the shade where Jay and Silent Bob who we had just met joined us. Jay was from Las Vegas and Silent Bob was his dog!
We walked parallel to White Water River until it turned across our path, we broke for lunch and paddled in the water to cool down, it was lush! There was very little shade so we all squished in and made room while we had lunch and tried to wait out the middle of the day heat.
The PCT has a fun way of giving you glimpses of obstacles to come, just like San Jacinto - we will spend the coming weeks walking our way towards the next big mountain to climb!
Even though we felt like we had waited out the worst of the afternoon heat, it was still very hot! The trail wound on endlessly, up and then along - the ground was scorched with heat! Eventually we started long switchbacks down hill, twisting and turning with the view of Mission Creek teasing us. Eventually I got down into the flat and carried along it until the terrain changed to sand. We cowboy camped here on the beach of Mission Creek and it was the best sleep I’ve had!
After all of us suffered our own struggles in the heat we decided to get up and out by 4am, our earliest yet! Somehow we all thought each other had told Gourmet the plan but none of us had! We left without him in the morning and he’s still not let us forget, sorry Gourmet!!
The trail had been washed away in this section so we spent the whole day glued to our Guthook apps navigating over and back across Mission Creek. I lost count how many times we crossed, eventually we took to wading across as there was no way to stay dry! Someone had left little cairns closest to where the trail was distinguishable, thank you whoever did this!
We found a shaded spot for lunch but had been warned about two rattle snakes that had just been sighted near there, we ate with caution but it wasn’t until I went to get water did hear the shock of a rattle! Even though I knew to expect it, I still jumped out of my skin! Luckily for me it had half a mouse in its mouth so I knew I wasn’t in any danger of being bitten, still a shock though!
We had seen Julian in the distance so we stuck around so we could warn him and other hikers of the rattlers, we met Carson and Steph while we waited then Enterprise (formerly Smokey Bear) turned up out of nowhere! We hadn’t seen him since Paradise Cafe! Enterprise told us that we had pretty much done the uphill now and it was easy going to camp - well that was a lie! It was hot and steep almost immediately after we left our lunch spot! We climbed and climbed, at one point going through a recent burn area. It was eerie and sad to see so many trees devastated, I was glad we were pushing into a different campsite!
We pulled into Mission Creek camp site and were joined by Carson, Steph, True Grit, Snake Charmer, Enterprise and a few others. There was a fire ring so a few got a fire going to dry out their socks from the many river crossings we’d done in the day! Forest Gump came in late and cowboyed near us too, it was nice to see so many friendly faces!
After our successful early wake up, we decided we’d try it again and aim for our first 10 miles before 10. This time we told him about our early morning plan!
It was a lovely walk, more mountain winding around and along, we even passed the 250 mile marker! We made it down to a camp ground with picnic tables (hurrah!) and there was quite the crowd! Silent Bob slinked in the shade under our feet as we made our dinners, Jay planned to push to the road once the heat died down, we were planning on camping early so we only had less than 10 miles into Big Bear the next morning.
Carson and Steph rolled in along with Forest Gump, we chatted about injuries and stretching and Carson let us know he was trained in yoga massage - what followed was a hysterical night of group stretching and massaging each other with our feet awkwardly under his direction!
More and more people kept coming, the campsite was the busiest one we’ve been in, everyone had the same idea! Claire, tuna, Gourmet and I all decided to cowboy camp to save space but the mozzies were out in force. Gourmet and I slept completely unaware but Tuna got up at midnight and pitched his tent in the dark and Claire got bitten across the only bit of skin she had exposed, her eyebrows! This earned Claire the trail name Botox!
Once we got over the confusion of Tuna missing in the morning and Claire coming to terms with her trail name, we bounded down the trail to Big Bear with the conversation being driven by eggs and breakfast choices! We paused momentarily when we heard screeching, turns out there were donkeys in the field nearby! We also crossed over a 10% marker on the trail, how mad!