PCT – Week 1: 17 – 24 Apr 2016

I flew into Palm Springs on April 16th and my buddy B-squared (Bob) picked me up.  We walked around Palm Springs and had lunch before heading north to Palm Desert where he lives.
April 17th, 6.4 miles:  My buddy drove me to the town of Idyllwild where I started hiking the PCT around 10:30am.  I started at the Humber Park Trailhead (altitude 6,479 feet) with an immediate increase to almost 9,000 feet and then dropping down to 8,094 feet to camp for the night.  The number one issue with the PCT, especially down in southern CA, is that water is very scarce.  Consequently, I had loaded up with water at the start of the hike but ended up dumping some of it after an hour of hiking.


April 18, 10.3 miles:  Today started with a 1,000 foot climb over 2-3 miles and then a somewhat gradual drop down to 6,461 feet where I camped next to the trail in a nice spot.  Early in the morning there were a number of spots with snow although they were usually short and fairly easy to negotiate without crampons.  I filled up with some water at the last good source we were aware of but that was still going to leave around 20 miles before the next water with a night out camping before I got to it.
April 19, 12.1 miles:  Today started with a long drop to around 1,750 feet in elevation to a water faucet.  We lost almost 6,000 feet in elevation.  After an hour or two of hiking I was out of the woods and exposed to the sun all day.  The weather was very hot but due to the lack of humidity, it is actually tolerable.  However, I was forced to conserve water and never did drink as much as I wanted.  The vast majority of the trail was completely exposed with very few shady spots.  Near the very bottom, there is a water faucet that everyone was happy to see.  I had only a couple sips of water left and pretty much everybody that came into this spot was on fumes and out of water.
After relaxing and filling up on water for an hour, I started hiking down another 500+ feet with Spreadsheet and Mulch who I had run into off and on all day.  At the road at the bottom of the hill we debated if we wanted to go to the trail angels house or get to a motel.  We opted for the motel and after trying to work a ride with Uber, we started hiking down the road to a highway.  There was a small neighborhood but almost no traffic to speak of.  Spreadsheet did throw out his thumb and a woman named Kendra stopped and told us she would give us a ride into Palm Springs.  It was a small car, she had laundry and a dog, and the three of us with our packs on our laps.  But, what an angel she was for giving us a ride. To top it off, she said she would pick us up the next morning at 11am and take us to wherever we wanted to get on the trail!!!
April 20, 9 miles:  Kendra picked us up and we had her drive us to mile 255.3 on the PCT.  From where we were the day before, there was a 54+ mile closure of the PCT due to a fire a couple years before.  Everyone had to figure out how to get up the trail with most people opting to go straight to Big Bear.  We decided to hike into Big Bear instead and jumped on the trail before it.  It was a really nice day of hiking, much of it in the woods early and then mellow ridge hiking later in the day. It was a cool and windy night and I heard a prairie dog howling nearby much of the night.
From Left, Kendra, Spreadsheet and Mulch
I built this wall of brush to protect my tent from the wind this night.
April 21, 12.3 miles:  I hiked about 1.5 miles to route 18 and thumbed into town around 7:30am. I stopped at Mountain Munchies for breakfast .  The staff was SUPER nice.  6-7 people were sitting near me and started asking me questions about hiking.  An hour later an older and younger guy who were asking me questions left.  When I asked for my bill later, they said those two guys had paid for my breakfast!  Incredible.  I got a ride back to the trail from Gabriel who used to be a “Hot Shot” which is one level below a “Smoke Jumper”.  That night I cowboy-camped at 7,716 feet with an older couple, Instigator and Expeditor.  They were very experienced hikers and I ran into them a number of times over the next week.
Cowboy Camping just means sleeping out under the starts instead of using a tent
April 22, 15.8 miles:  Cowboy Camped at 5,384 feet with Clint and Jasmine.
A lot of the terrain today was hiking through a previous  burned area
April 23, 21 miles:  This was a long day. First one over 20 miles.  There were some natural Hot Springs and since it was a Saturday, there were a LOT of people there.  Probably 200-300.  Apparently a lot of the locals can hike in from a road nearby.  However, the guide books state it pretty clearly, since it is a clothing optional area, don’t dunk your head or drink from the hot springs or water in this area.  So, I did not bother stopping since it was so crowded.  In addition, it was a very hot day and much of the trail was exposed so it was a long day.  We camped below the Mojave River Forks Dam.  However, there was almost no water on either side of the dam so we could not figure out why it was there at all!
In this picture, you can just see a rattlesnake in the middle of the picture to the right.  To his right, it drops off 200-300 feet so we all had to go higher up the hill and try to get by the snake.  It was rattling the whole time while we went by him.
Mojave River Forks Dam
April 24, 15 miles:  Camped at Mesa Campground around 3,500 feet.
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