We left Idyllwild last Tuesday after a very relaxing day in our own personal cabin and a BBQ eating frenzie. We got a hitch back to where we had left the reroute from a family who was on their way to the dump. Meaning, Kyle literally had to sit in an old toilet. They knew just where to take us and dropped us off at the bottom of the South Ridge Trail Road, which turned out to be a very very steep road. We huffed and puffed our way up it and were thrilled to get back on normal trail, until we discovered that the trail was practically as steep as the road. The whole day turned out to be a massive climb as we headed up to the top of San Jacinto, a 10,800ft peak that rises right out of the desert floor. San Jacinto is not technically part of the PCT, but there is a trail off of the PCT that heads up to the summit and another one that heads back down to the PCT and meets it at a later point. If you do the San Jacinto Alternate you end up doing an extra mile and a couple extra thousand feet of elevation, but most people choose to do San Jacinto because the views are stunning. From the top you get a 360 degree view of the desert and you can look all the way down the side of the mountain and see the creosote dotting the sandy washes far bellow. When we finally got to the very tip top of the mountain we stood on the summit for as long as we could bear the cold. Because this is the desert and, if it isn’t as hot as the surface of the sun, it is cold enough to turn your lips blue.
The rest of that day was a little rough. I have somehow become the official information specialist and math “doer”. Which is fine, except I am not very good at math. So what I had advertised as a nice short fourteen mile day ended up being something like a twenty mile day. And considering we didn’t start hiking until 11am, things were looking grim after we descended off of San Jacinto and met back up with the PCT. We decided to stop at the next water source and eat dinner there since it was looking like we wouldn’t get to camp until nine o’clock, or later. We were all feeling pretty down and out, frustrated by our surprise twenty+ mile day when nature rewarded us. Bellow us in the valley clouds had started to accumulate, building and building until they created a solid blanket only a thousand feet beneath us. As we hiked towards camp and the sun started to set the sea of clouds was lit up, fading between different shades of pink until the sun became a fiery orange ball hovering just over the cloud ocean. As it dipped below the surface everything lit up lavender and then finally fading away to blue. It was quite the show, the only problem being that it took even longer to get to camp because we had to stop so frequently to ooh and ahh and take a million pictures. The good news was that somewhere around hitting twenty miles we all got a second wind so we actually cruised down the trail and into camp on a bit of a high. When we finally made it to camp it was dark and windy. We set up quickly and hopped in our tents because we had a long day the next day and a deadline. I woke up in the middle of the night to find Kyles half of the tent collapsed, and the wind was smashing the trekking pole repeatedly onto his snoozing form. I got out and fixed it.
The next day was a big day. We had to do around eighteen miles out of the mountains to get down to I-10 in time to be picked up by our most amazing trail angel: Applebutter. Then she was going to shuttle us around the upcoming fire closure and drop us off at Onxy Summit so that we could hike another five or so miles to camp. Oh yeah, fire closure. So the last fire closure before Idyllwild has an official detour around it, a legit way to walk the miles that are currently closed due to fire damage. But between I-10 and Onxy Summit there are around 11 miles of trail closed and very few options for getting around them. The PCTA’s official stance is that they looked and couldn’t find what they believed to be a safe, legal way to walk around the closure, so their suggestion is to shuttle around it and just treat those miles like they don’t exist. That doesn’t mean people haven’t found ways around. Some people are road walking the fifty miles to Onyx Summit. Some people have strung together a crazy mixture of jeep roads and highways. Many people have posted their plans and many people have just walked right through the closure. We struggled with what to do. Walking through the closure was not an option for us, none of us like to break rules. We met this incredible hiker named Sonic who showed us her plan for hiking around and although it was well thought out and seemed within her abilities it wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. In the end we decided to just do what the PCTA says, and that is how we plan to make decisions in the future. If they say to hike around a closure then we will do it, if they say to skip it we will skip it. We are holding out hope that the section will open this year at some point and we an come back down and hike it, but this is part of being on the PCT. Being flexible.
So, ultimately we decided to shuttle around and get dropped off at Onyx Summit, right after the closure. We put a post up on Facebook and had a couple of people offer to take us around, which just shows how strong and amazing our community is. It ended up working out for Applebutter to take us. We had known Applebutter on the AT and she had actually started the PCT this year but had to get off trail early on. I had been looking forward to seeing her again on trail so I was excited that she would be able to take us up to the summit. It was a lovely ride around, with a glutinous stop at a Carl’s Junior. We got in the car surrounded by the hottest sandiest desert and when we got out of the car at the summit it was back to fresh mountain air and chill winds.
When we rolled into camp that night I knew I had blisters. A couple. I tended to them best I could but they were bad and we were running out of medical supplies. We were headed into Big Bear City the next day to grab a resupply so I figured I would just grab some more bandaids when we got there. It was a very cold night that night. All of our water hoses were frozen in the morning and we had a hard time staying warm in the tent. Cameron confirmed over breakfast that he had been cold as well. We packed up quickly and headed into Big Bear City.