Friday, April 29, 2016

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, California Section B, Day 5: Patchouli, Water from a Puddle, and Triscuit Yogis a Ride

A day in the sun makes all the difference.
When we awoke, still the only souls in a huge campground, something was different. The sky was clear. There was no rain! Hallelujah! Triscuit and I made short work of packing up, but Man in Black lingered on in the campground, talking on his phone well out of our earshot. You meet nice people on the PCT, but they harbor secrets like everyone else. Leaving him to his rendezvous, or whatever it was, Triscuit and I found the mountain bike trails leading to Idyllwild easily. Why thru-hikers were skipping this section claiming there was no alternative to the fire closure, we couldn't figure out. It was a pleasant walk, our stuff was dry, and there was sun. We really couldn't ask for more.

Soon we attained the closed May Valley Road, a dirt road that runs through the heart of the old fire. As such, it is closed to vehicle traffic, so we could boldly walk through it, seeing nobody. There were only a few hiker tracks. Prior to the road we had been following some distinctive prints that had a castle like image on them. "King," I mused. "Chicken A La King!" Triscuit said. Whomever the tracks belonged to, he now had a trail name.  We giggled for miles. Sadly, we never found the person to let him know.

Trail messages

Near the South Ridge trail that would take us back to the PCT, we called the ranger station to see what conditions were like on Tahquitz Peak and to determine our fate--to Idyllwild or not? I harbored hopes of not touching a town at all.

"I'M SO GLAD YOU CALLED!" the ranger said. "DON'T GO UP THERE." He went on to elaborate that the trail climbed the shoulder of the peak and was icy and dangerous. People who had tried it had come back in defeat. It's always hard to know what fears other people carry, but we decided to be prudent and road walk into town. I was disappointed, but without additional information, this was the best we could do. On we walked, finally attaining pavement and walking through some delightful neighborhoods with cute cabins. I could totally live here, I thought.

But it was taking forever. Where the heck was town? Triscuit grew tired of guessing and flagged down a small car. The driver popped out, a lanky and handsome young man with a do-rag wrapped around his head, and reeking of patchouli. "Don't come near the car!" he warned, and two evil looking dogs surged the windows. "You're almost there," he said before retreating. What the..? The juxtaposition of a hippie and mean dogs was yet another mystery we could not solve.

Like a mirage, a restaurant appeared on the corner of the main drag. Despite our bedraggled appearance, we hiked in. Water! Tuna melts! Sweet potato fries! One thing I love about hiking is the freedom from the daily calorie count. Then we pondered our options. Most hikers were hitching to the Devils Slide, which took them up and over Fuller Ridge. However, we were hearing horror stories of people sliding and falling. It seemed to make more sense to take the Black Mountain alternate, which is the same in terms of mileage, so we wouldn't be "cheating." We just needed a ride to the Black Mountain Road, 8 miles away on a highway with no shoulder.

We scanned the dining room for possibilities. Would those older ladies be a good bet? Everyone's eyes avoided us as if they knew what we were up to. Triscuit marched off and managed to yogi a ride with two New Zealanders on vacation, ambushing the woman by the bathroom. Intrigued by us, they agreed to take us to the road. I wasn't able to believe our luck. We hadn't had to hitchhike!

Our trail angels the Kiwis!
The Kiwis dropped us at the road, which was actually driveable for two more miles before reaching a gate, but we were firm in our need not to cheat.  We would walk! Back at the restaurant, we had pondered the water report. It said that Posey Spring, eight miles up the road, was usually running. That had to mean it was, right? But our cautious nature compelled us to bring three liters. As it turns out, that was a good decision.

Triscuit and I trudged up the road, which was incredibly steep. We both agreed we wouldn't want to drive it. Near the top, Posey Spring was, in fact, not running, and we knew we had a long way to water--over 20 miles and not nearly enough water. I scraped some snow into my bladder and we gathered water from a puddle. That was a first. The water was a strange shade of yellow, but it would do.

Triscuit gathering water from a puddle

Finally we reached the intersection with the PCT and headed downward. This was a 6,000 foot descent to the valley floor. After having ascended 6,000 feet, we weren't going to do it all tonight. Instead, we hunted for the camping trifecta when it is windy: boulders, trees, and a great view. We lucked out at about mile 192.

Sparks, a section hiker finishing up his multi-year section hike of the PCT. Go, Sparks!

Later in the evening, a thick bank of clouds spilled over the shoulder of Mount St. Jacinto. It was a perfect campsite. A few other thru hikers trudged past, and two women, Seasoned Strider and Gadget Girl, came to share our site. GG's husband was supporting them in an RV, picking them up every few days and allowing them to rest, get showers, etc. That would be quite the luxurious way to thru hike, I thought enviously.

I often have a hard time explaining to others why I love backpacking so much. But this was it--a challenging day in the books, the right decisions made, nearly 100 miles under my feet, and one of the most beautiful campsites ever.

Saving Day 5.5 for last...because it deserves its own post. Ha ha.


  1. I love your hiking tales. And isn't that just like life? Any day you can say you made the best decisions with the info you had is a great day.

    Looking forward to the next post :)

    1. I'm a big second guesser so it is hard for me to accept and go on. But in this case, it was the right thing to do. I think. Ha!

  2. Yeah for better weather! And those Kiwis ... they are just so darn hospitable. Been meaning to ask you, what's your trail name?

    1. Monkey Bars! Nobody forgets that one!


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