Day 14 – San Jacinto Hut to W Fork Snow Creek – 16km

Part of the gang crossing some snow

Tonight we slumped under San Jacinto, a stark contrast to last night. We are once again back in our tents. The wind is still with us, but it’s warmer, there is dirt instead of snow and we are once again gearing up to carry water for quite some distance tomorrow. 

We climbed that! Last night we stood at the highest point of the mountain in the background

Back track many hours: Picture waking up in a hut bursting with 11 sleeping bodies, 11 bodies which all wake at 5.30 and begin to pack up their things. Our morning slumber turned into a slow rumble of letting out mats, stuffing sleeping bags, small chit chat, and the occasional serenade from a hiker who is carrying his guitar. The sun rose pink over San Jacinto, it was beautiful and still. We waited like horses about to head out for our party to be ready. Stamping our cold feet, the condensation of our breath visible we donned our microspikes and headed out into the morning. The cold night had turned the slushy snow icy and walking was easy. Majority of the first section of today’s walk was straight down hill. No path was apparent and we navigated our way down switch backs always checking we were headed in the right direction. Dave and fibs navigated and I led the others down less steep gradient routes. Pine trees look particularly nice in the snow. When there isn’t snow there is often only dirt as understory, but in the snow the pines look beautiful and stately. We were aiming to join up with another track on the mountain and along the way passed a portaloo standing lonely in the snow. It was half buried and filled with snow inside. 

Portaloo in snow

Walking in snow is slow going and exhausting. You focus much more on each foot fall and when the snow is soft it can really take it out of you. Each foot step requires judgement, and tentativeness. You often slip and slide and have to use your walking polls as extra balancing arms. 

Sunrise at San Jacinto

Eventually we met the fuller ridge trail. This had been quite an adventure often heading steeply down off the white mountain. We crossed a few creeks and one larger river. While crossing I (meg) pegholed, my foot went down through some soft hole and hit the water. I pulled up my sodden shoe and kept going. 

Fuller ridge would take us over the San Jacinto range and down to meet a road which the path crossed to leave the mountain area. It consisted mainly of gradual downs with snow drifts in which we would walk across using our microspikes. After the ruggedness of yesterday Fuller Ridge was easier than I expected. About half way along we walked down to the largest river we have crossed so far. Icy cold water raged down over granite boulders and the flanks of the river were heavy with snow. We stopped here briefly to filter water and kept walking. 

Crossing the river


At one point I led us off the trail and while the others turned around I scrambled up through some trees, grabbing their trunks and pulling myself up. My pack broke branches and I finally got myself up over the boulders and back to the track. Now long after as we crossed a snow drift Harriet took a big step onto a muddy patch and fell on her bum. She let out a little shriek, got quite a muddy butt cheek but was thankfully okay. She remedied her dirty behind by crouching down and using the snow to get some mud off. It worked, kind of.  About a mile before the fuller ridge car park we took a long lunch break. 

Pinecone looking a little muddy

 

There was no snow after the car park, and we found out selves once again in the low chapparell. We had our first view of the i10 highway. A big scar running through the desert. Exposed again to the sun and the wind we walked steadily for 5 kms to the hikers coliseum. It’s a cute campsite by a stream with a big old oak and lots of pines. I can’t imagine any gladiatorial battles taking place here. 

Tamika & Joe, happy at camp


During the day we stuck together mainly in the snow. I stopped to fix something on my pack at one stage and was left behind. There is beauty in the silence of the snow and at this point I appreciated while people enjoy solo hiking. The forest opens up. Little birds come onto the trail, you can hear their songs. The breeze whispers in the canopy and for me it is a time of being absorbed in all that’s going on around you. 


Tomorrow is a long day of switch backs to the i10. We will watch San Jacinto fade into the background and again begin to feel the heat of the desert floor. 

At cradle rock


Note from Phoebe – I found walking in the soft snow really quite scary, pretty much after I postholed while traversing a really steep slope and then really struggled to get out. I was quite anxious last night about walking in the snow again not realising that in the morning it would be hard and easy to grip to. Meg and Pinecone made a plan to walk as a group early the next morning and stick together and that really helped me.

Day 13 – Devils Slide Trail Head to San Jancinto Summit – 8.5 km

Tomorrow will be two weeks on the trail and we climbed 5000ft today! We set out from our plush abode in Idyllwild at 9am and got a lift to the trail head. A man (Bruce?) from the hotel gave us a lift in his pick up and we all sat in the tray at the back. It was very exhilarating and we met Joe our new hikin buddy! 

Tarquitz rock through the pine forest

Pine Cone under a pine tree

 

The trailhead ascended rather steeply up a pine forested Spurr, the air was thin and we immediately felt the affects of the altidide. I ($$PineCone$$) have never walked this high before and hadn’t really estimated how hard it would be. Tight chests and short breaths later we walked the first 2.2 miles up to where the trail met the PCT. There has been quite a discussion around skipping sections of the trail due to closures and alternate routes. Today I made up a saying:

No pride in a road walk.

No shame in a hitch.

I guess that’s my priorities for trail. 

After a short break we set foot toward San Jancinto Summit. The snow appeared gradually in large mounds around the base of trees. Soon we pull over and put our micro-spikes on as the snow gets thicker and thicker. The path also gets harder to define and you have to keep on checking the gps to stay on track. We climb more steeply towards the top of the ridge of the mountain. It’s now 3pm and the snow is slushy as hell! It’s quiet a trecherous climb as we all experience sliding and post hole-ing*. It was a very intense hike to the hut at the top of the mountain indispersed with breath taking views of the Salton Sea, Palms Springs and finally the I10 interstate freeway. 

Dave perched on a rock

Views south east

The snowy trail to the Summit

 

At the hut at the Summit of the mountain we dumped our stuff and felt so exhausted but so ecstatic to be there. 

Views from the Summit


It’s a cute hut made of stone with windows, 4 bunks, and a filled in fire place. We bags our bunks make dinner and Joe comvinces us to put on our wet sodden shoes and walk  up to Summit for sunset. It was definitely been my most magical moment on the walk yet, as cliche as that is, the expanse of Southern Californian desert all around you is just astounding and facinating. 
Back at the hut at around 8pm, Phoebe, Meg, Myself, Dave, Tamika and Joe are joined by 4 new hikers; Fibs, Young Gun, Butcher, Rope Burn and Boots. They all packed in and we fit 11 hikers in the hut tonight. It makes for warm air in all this freezing snow but it’s also gotta be pretty stanky-stank in here! 


* Post hole-ing: sinking through melted snow. 

Day 11+12 – Idyllwild 0kms

Rest. Relaxation. Long sleeps. Eating. These have been our goals over the last 2 days, but it’s such a change in lifestyle that it’s a bit harder than imagined to achieve.
We woke up behind Paradise Cafe to tents stiff with frozen condensation (I made all that water myself 💪). I was awake at 6am, wide awake, ready to hike kind of awake, to pass the time till a more ‘relaxed’ hour to get moving I listened to Flex Your Heart podcast. Sadly I have now heard all episodes but if you are a women who is active and doesn’t fit with the stereotypes it’s a really empowering show. At 7.30 we did the only logical thing when camped within 20m of breakfast/coffee, we imbibed and it was great! Zippy, Rebecca/buttons and Hamlet rolled in half way through and delayed our departure. Paradise Cafe really does live up to its name!

True Paradise


We stuck out our thumbs yet again and after a time got a ride with Janeene, who is supporting her husband ride the PCT. We chucked our packs in the huge horse trailer with her husbands second horse and squeezed into the truck to cuddle Rose the Australian sheep dog. She was a beauty. Io has an affinity with pups and she used to be a dog walker and even got some kisses on the lips. 

We are so friendly and not stinky, promise

Rose


Not really knowing what Idyllwild was or how big it is we got dropped off on the edge of town thinking it was the centre. Thanks for the ride Janeene! The smell of the towering pines is everywhere and it’s way cooler up here in San Jacinto’s foothills. There are blue jays(?), Squirrels and woodpeckers everywhere. We called David and Goliath who are letting us all crash in their cabin and started the 1km uphill walk there. Meg jokingly put out her thumb to a passing truck and we actually got another hitch for the final km to the cabin.

This is Goliath and David (left to right) on trail

Beautiful Idyllwild


Wow a shower is a magical thing! We brought clothes from the local opp shop to wear while we washed our super super stinky hiking stuff. I have been aware of my brewing dog perfume but after a shower the contrast really showed. We went out for lunch with Goliath and Dave, visited the post office and the supermarket and brought beer and prosecco and salad. 

So hot


Back at the cabin we got sleepily merry, played dice and cards and eventually Harry roused us all to go and meet Tameika at a campfire somewhere in the camp ground. Walking through a strange town, where the cars drive on the other side of the road, was a bit of a challenge when tipsy, but with the use of google maps we found the hiker trash sitting around a campfire, fuled by donated wood, eating snacks from the hiker box. We met a bunch of Tameikas hiker gang, including one very large bushy impressive moustache. Dave Meg and I returned home at a very tame hour (but well after hiker midnight/9pm) but Harry and Tameika partied on at another fire, but are being coy about the details.
Today we are all feeling seedy, some more than others. Sleeping on the couch was not as comfy as I remember, but I did manage to sleep in till 7.30 and then had the luxury to lie around and read. I’m going to buy some electrolytes as i have been feeling twitchy in my legs. I have woken up with a rash and mild swelling to my hands and forearms, must have touched something in the dark last night? We also have to buy food for the next 6 days. All in all time off has been nice, but trail life when walking is so simple I have missed it. It’s an escape where you have to trust in your body it’s powers, it’s such s rewarding lifestyle. Tomorrow we are back to it, facing our biggest challenge yet, San Jacinto under snow. Thanks so much to those following us and leaving comments (including Our number 1 fans our parents) xx

Miss this already

Late addition: we have had a bunch of friends over for dinner at our fancy cabin. It was pot luck. We had soup, salad, BBQ and sides, garlic bread and yummy dips. Talk consisted of life stuff, snakes, and the Sierras. 

Day 9 – Agua Caliente Creek to Coomes Peak Nth Camp – 29km

We packed up camp in record time, 30 mins (not too fast) and were up walking by 5:30am. Up and out of Warner Springs Valley the landscape changed drastically. Manzanita in full bloom dripping with flowers to boulder fields and misty valleys.

Mist over Lake Henshaw

Manzanita in full bloom


Climbing all morning meant great views but no water until lunch time. We pasted fellow Australian hiker ‘convict’ who we met at Warner Springs. She is hiking with Tamika, but Convict’s knee was giving her grief and she was moving slowly up the trail. 

22km up the trail we arrived at ‘Mike’s Place’ a trail angel who lives on the actual trail. He provides a tank water for hikers but we also stopped in at his house for a beer and a place to chill for lunch. His yard was full of collections of scrap metal, cars and outdoor cooking stations like bbqs and a wood fire oven. We got a strange vibe from Mikes Place. Mike wasn’t there himself but the place felt eerie and seedy and usually I (Harriet/Pine Cone) love a good yard hoarder. We met Tamika there and waited for Convict to arrive. She is talking about pulling out of the hike so we invite Tamika to hike with us, at least till Idyllwild. She is funny and matter of fact, I like her! 

The last five miles brought new views of the next valley over and San Jacinto on the horizon. Clad in snow and cloud it marks our destination in two days time and we are excited to hear that folk have been crossing it with just micro-spikes and walking poles! We are definitely going to try our luck with the snow. 

Coomes Peak, looking Nth to Paradise Cafe and San Jacinto

We also got a fantastic view east to the Salton Sea which is a landscape I know and love and it makes me excited for the deserts still to come! Good night, more tales tomorrow! 

Coomes Peak, looking east to Salton Sea

Day 8 – Werner Springs to Agua Caliente Creek, 9kms

Today we could sleep in! And I think Meg won the longest sleep in till 7am, stupid jet lag hiking body clocks + sun power. I (Phoebe) was up at 6 reading about the snow pack and making plans. We are all pretty petrified of the snow, which for those at home in Australia, is 80% above average in the Sierras and still blizzarding. Ski season has been extended till mid July and we have been advised to take crampons and ice axes. We have no snow experience and also no equipment for such adventures. I was hoping we could flip up to NoCal and walk north and leave the Sierras till the end, but the whole trail has had higher than average snowfall and will still be covered. Meg and I started chatting while we ate Cheetos in our sleeping bags and our loose plan at the moment is to hike to Kennedy Meadows and then bail out to Colombia and Ecuador for June and go hiking there. Meg has had some hikes recommended to her from friends including walking to the rim of an active volcano! We would return in July and either hike the Sierras or flip up north. We have had a few people try and talk us out of this plan (thanks for your faith in us Goliath and Hobbes), but we worry that we might be going too far out of our comfort zones.

Bingo vs Werner Wildcat

Back in reality the call of a cooked breakfast (our first in 8 days) lures us all out of our tents and across the neighbouring golf course to a Bar and Grill where I eat a mountain of french toast with eggs and bacon. We all drink copious amounts of coffee (still excited by the endless refills) and buzz our way to the post office to sort out our resupply. We haven’t been eating all our food and we posted about half of our 27 pound box to Idyllwild. We are still learning I guess.
We patted a bunch of friendly horses on our slow return across the greens and then really got about relaxing. I read my book (1984, so good) and Meg went and got an Epsom salt foot bath/massage. Caddyshack rolled into camp along with Zippy and Rebecca. We have decided that Zippy is our trail ‘mom’ as she has been giving us good advice as she has walked the PCT before, but we haven’t told her that yet. I hope we walk with all 3 for the next little while.

Leaving civilisation- the gateway

 

We finally left camp after most of the days heat at 4pm. The trail returned to the magical grassy meadows before finding Agua Caliente Creek and following it up into the mountains. We walked along flat wide sandy creek beds shaded with huge old oaks. We passed a weird obstacle course and an eerie old empty campground. 
The frogs are croaking and the stream is audible. I feel better about the snow now we have a vague plan and have all talked about how we feel about it. Plus we are on holidays (!!) and i want it to be fun. My sleeping bag is warm and my head heavy. Goodnight xo

Walking along that ol’ sandy creekbed