Day 21 – Double Springs Trail Camp to Little Bear Spring, 27kms

Morning rocks

Last night was freezing! I (Quiz) cuddled Layers in the tent and she gave me her puffy to put in my sleeping bag over my butt, which is always my coldest bit. Pinecone suffered away in the other tent in silence and only told us how cold she was this morning, next time we can just top and tail it in one tent to save on suffering.

Coffee with a view

Pinecone was taking it easy today as she has been feeling a bit of Achilles tendinitis. Even so we made good time and got the main days climb in before breakfast. We climbed in more high desert pine forest amongst huge pines with very little undergrowth. I later had a chat with Tamika about how this environment still feels alien and a big factor was the lack of undergrowth or scrub. We ate breakfast and made coffee in a patch of sun overlooking the Lucerne Valley badlands below. Coffee is a regular fixture in the mornings now and what we all crave when we’re heading into town, we’re such Melbournites lost in the desert.

Watering in Van Duysens Canyon

Layers has been walking poleless today after leaving them in the car yesterday. Last night we tried everything we could think of to find John to get them back. Tamika even called the local radio station and asked them to announce it on air (they didn’t). But low and behold at our first road crossing for the day there was Layer’s poles with a little note from John, the bestest most lovely man and a true angel. If by chance you are reading this John, thanks so much!

The best kinda trail magic

After the road the trail clung to the Big Bear Lake side of the ridge and we got excellent views of the lake, town and San Gorgornio towering over everything. We ran into heaps of day hikers on this ridge, lots of them kindly offered us scrogin (Sultanas, chocolate, raisins and other goods including nuts). One lady was standing by the trail looking expectant, I started chatting and it turns out she was waiting for her brother who is hiking the trail to give him a Coke. Cute.

Big Bear Lake

We ate lunch just before the beginning of a large burn area. Apparently the burn is from over 10 years ago but in high desert the revegetation seems to take ages. The hillsides still are really barren with scattered pine saplings about a metre high at best. It’s an eerie landscape. We are camped in a small grove of unburnt trees near the start of Holcomb Creek which we will follow all of tomorrow. Layers and Pinecone found a nice little pool and all us ladies had a wash and sang the siren song from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. We are getting up at 5am tomorrow as we plan to make it 21 miles to the Deep Creek Hot Springs, fingers crossed. Xx

The burn the burn

Day 20 Big Bear to Double Springs Trail Camp – 2 miles

Joshua trees and Lucerne Valley

You guessed it, today’s been huge…that is if you consider waking in a hotel room filled with 7 freshly cleaned and well fed hikers, all of who promptly devoured a complimentary al a carte breakfast. Thanks Best Western Big Bear, and mostly thank you Togs. She left at a sparrows fart and the rest of us ate our fill, finished off our chores, which included uploading photos (that was me: meg), dunking fake nails in acetone to remove them (Harriet/Pinecone/bangs/…), walking to the sports store for a new top (phoebe, tamika and I), and getting a hair cut (dave). Busy bees we were, not really. We packed our now very full and very heavy packs and checked out by 1. On our way to a burger place for lunch, John a local pulled over and offered to come back in an hour and shuttle us to the trail head. Wengrstefully acdepted this, ate some more and waited his arrival. He shuttled phoebe, Harriet and Joe to begin leaving dave and I with tamika who was waiting on her food still. John came back, I was dubious he would, but he proved me wrong and was a great guy. He has lived in Big Bear for 7 years, loves to hike and interestingly spent a year going to school in Australia..Christian Boys College in St Kilda in the year of 1969. He hasn’t been back since, but wants to take his boys there one day. We piled out, all was well, waved John good bye, applied sunscreen and then I realised. I stupidly have left my trekking poles in John’s car. 


I’m hoping they are still there, or even better on their way magically to me on the trail, or being forwarded to wrightwood. My poles were great, and expensive so it’s a bit of a loss. I waited roadside anticipating John’s return, alas it didn’t happen. I did talk to some nice hikers arriving in to big bear however and had the 2 miles hike to our camp to myself. It was a little taste of solo hiking. I’m glad I’m not doing it, I would be very lonely I think. Tonight we sit around a picnic table.

Waiting for the shout out, and the poles

 Joe is lighting a fire, a first for us, and smors will be cooking shortly. Smors are an american delicacy. You heat marshmellow over the fire, then sandwhich between to chocolate gram crackers. These Americans they know how to eat. Tamika’s porta radio plays a variety of music. She did a shout out  on the local station to John…maybe my polls will be returned via the airwaves. It’s nice to be back out in the trail. The great outdoors, the fresh air, the calmness, silence and private way in which we can conduct ourselves. The cliches are real. I get it. 

Close enough to town for some world wide webbing

Shout out hero

Ps: we made the smors. 

Smors in the making

Day 18 – Mission Camp to Arrastre Camp, 26kms

Pinecone (Harry) and I (Quiz) decided pretty early on that today was pleasant. It was so pleasant after the last 2 days of walking up up and up desert valleys in the heat. Today was full of gentle ups and downs, well established pine forests and great views of San Jacinto and San Gorgornio.

Bye San Jacinto

It was another windy night and while 5 Layers (Meg) dreamed weird things next to me I farted the night away after last nights beans making our tent a warm poopy bubble. We woke feeling pretty sleepy at our usual time of 5.30 and packed up 2 to a tent to keep it from blowing away. Our campsite was on the edge of a fire that went through last year, but luckily the trail moved us up our of the burn area and into beautiful pine forest and past small patches of snow. There is one pine tree in particular that I love as it has warm burnt orange bark the grows like a beard giving it a very wise magical air, I must find out its name!

Eating all the scroggen

We moved quickly today and the trail was nice to us with only 2 major ups and lots of sidling. Often the track would take us to a saddle and give us another glimpse of San Jacinto behind us and growing smaller. We also got many great views of San Gorgornio, SoCals tallest mountain, and it’s many snowy ridges. I’m glad we just get to look at it but not climb it as the amount of snow on top looks formidable.

Snowy San Gorgornio

At one saddle we too a shot side trail to Coon Cabin. I have no idea of its ?questionable history but it had a pretty freaky feeling. It was a many roomed cabin with a paved floor, windows open to the elements, no doors, lots of graffiti, fireplace and signs prohibiting fires everywhere. We were thinking of camping here yesterday and I’m so glad we didn’t. 

We also passed right along the perimeter of a private zoo. Inside were grizzlys, lions, tigers, and even a white tiger pacing about in tiny cages looking depressed and board and hot. The whole place was too depressing for photos. I was cross that this was the first bear I was to see in America, I’m hoping to see lots more wild ones up the trail. I also don’t wasn’t to watch any more movies with animals in them as apparently that’s what the animals are kept for.


We ate lunch one a couch at a trail magic spot run by a local hostel. We pushed on an extra mile for the promise of soft drinks and fruit only to be disappointed by an empty bin. But due to our big morning we only had 3miles to do after lunch, all down hill, and arrived at our camp by 3 in a excellent clearing by a stream in a sheltered valley surrounded by towering pines. We all are the last of our food, which for some of us meant double dinner, shared the last of our snacks for desert and chatted around the picnic table and joes tiny fire. 

Joe is building the safest fire ever

Day 17 mission Creek to Mission Camp – 23 kms

Today on paper: 1,500 m elevation, through fire ravaged country with intermittent poodle dog bush affected areas (note: poodle dog bush is a plant, it smells and looks like marijuana, and when it makes contact with your skin causes a rash which turns into blisters and welts, then scabs up). Good day huh? 

Screen shot of the days elevation

After our lovely evening by Mission Creek we woke well rested and headed out of camp leaving two (tamika and Joe) of our party of six horizontal. The trail initially follows the Creek up a valley. I (meg) begun to count how many times we rock hoped across the banks but lost count at 8. 

Boulders I like

Sometimes the pink and grey granite boulders would guide us, and sometimes we would wade into mucky mud flanked by saplings. It was the first time on the trail it had felt anything other than dry (albeit San Jacinto). The Creek babbled around boulders and under tree roots, oaks mainly. Other times we would move up and away from the Creek into boulder country. The granite here is beautiful. Big chunks of grey stone marbled with the loveliest soft pink or white. We breakfasted on an old log by the Creek. Everyone felt tired so we made a large pot of coffee and anticipated a short day of about 20kms. Looking up the dry valley we began walking again crossing the Creek several more times. Eventually the trail leaves the creek and continues to gain elevation. 

Dave, Creek crossing

Our old friends the cacti, manzanita, yukka and various other familiar desert plants returned along with an abundant array of lizards. They splay themselves out of the rocks warming their bodies in the sun, then run hell for leather across the path away from you at the last minute. Their long legs and toes paddling out to the side lifting their seemingly heavy bodies in a quick sprint for survival. 

Desert plants

I listened to my Spotify, I seem to have a collection of offline songs I didn’t know I had. Some good, some bad, all are a great way to make miles when you’re feeling the heat. Dave and I pulled into some minimal shade and took further refuge under his umberella. These unlikely gadgets are a popular tool on the trail for giving savvy hikers shade. We waited for Harriet who was also feeling pretty spent, and then phoebe who also agreed that today was extra tiring. Maybe it was the collateral of San Jacinto, or maybe it was the long days coming off the ridge and then the long ups we’ve done since the i10. This break was 6.5     kms from our final destination, and it seemed easily accomplishable. Alas, we stopped only a few kms later to refill our depleted water supplies and look another lengthy break. The next 5 kms or so was exhausting and long. We hit the fire affected area which was interesting for about a km and then quickly became frustrating and tedious. Just when you think your close to the top the switch back flicks around and you’re faced with another incline, another ridge line. 

Fire affected ridges

On top of this the trail at times crumbled away as you walked along it. The death of the trees wreaks havoc on the ridges. The soil is left unprotected and without binding from the roots. There is evidence of land slides and it is obvious just how much everything is struggling here. The brightest signs of life are some sweet succulent type purple flowers. We passed some south bound hikers who were completing this section as it had been closed last year. 

Burnt pines

Eventually, after much huff and puff, a little swearing and much sweating we rounded out final ridge to the creek crossing. In such a desolate landscape I had been slightly worried up until this point that there might not be any water. Something about valley after valley of grey black soil and charred pines is very lonely and a bit spooky. 

As we came upon the Creek we would eyeball the blackened pines. Huge trees lifeless and beaten by the Lakes Fire. The creek was sweet releif, we flopped down on its edge not caring how filthy the black soil was making us. A lunch of rivita, tuna, cheese, hummus and ranch dressing pilfered from yesterday’s breakfast at Burger King. 

Beware: Poodle Dog Bush

After an hour or so we saddled up again and walked to last 2 kms up to tonight’s camp. We are still in the fire zone, behind an old car park. The wind blows through the camp, where there are at least 10 tents pitched. Behind some old horse yards Mission Creek runs over some mossy boulders and we washed our dirty bodies and filtered enough water for tonight and for the next 17 miles (over 20 kms) tomorrow. 

Bark of a huge burnt pine

Tamika and Joe just arrived as we scraped the last of our packet mash potoate, beans, and some Aussie dehyradted veggies with salmon out of our bowls. Everyone felt it today. We all struggled together which makes it easier. Dave says he is beat and it’s a good description. Your body feels broken in some ways, muscles ache and don’t do their job properly, or you just don’t have your regular get up and go. It will pass, and these feelings of weariness are always overwhelmed and pushed to the background of your mind by the ever changing landscape, or the camp jokes and laughter, or washing by a cold creek, or seeing a chipmunk for the first time, or eating your 10 th piece of chocolate for the day. You get it right? The struggle of hiking is part of the satisfaction you gain. Our bodies are no longer things for which we must simply look after, they are vessels, our means of transport and our greatest allies in completing the next hour, the next day, and the PCT. 

Wet feet from the morning

Day 16 – Interstate 10 to Mission Creek – 28kms

At 6am we waited outside Burger King in Cabazon for it to open. It was situated in a parking lot with giant dinosaur statues. Of course Phoebe (aka Quiz) was ecstatic and got her photo taken running around. It’s nice to do something a little touristy amongst all this hiking. 

Dinosaur statues at Cabazon

In Burger King we shove as many flavour sachets will fit in our pockets to spice up our trail meals. Hillbilly them drives us back to the I-10 to start hiking from where we left off. It was an awesome and  funny experience to stay with trail angel Hillbilly and he’s definitely conversation point amoungst our group now! 

The trail climbed very gradually at first lifting us away from the noise and smells and sight of civilisation and back into the wilderness. Our walking troop spread out along the trail, all getting comfortable with our speeds and hikin our own hike. As the path near reaches the edge of the valley it switches East and weaves up a valley occupied by wind turbines. It is the last couple of days of the seasonal Santa Anna Winds and all the windfarms in the valley are on over drive. 

Mesa Windfarms

I (Pinecone) enjoy the aesthetic of the power grid, wind turbines, train lines and highways in this desert environment. The infrastructure elludes to the mass of America that we are not seeing through this  journey but also shows how the desert can be a place of production and economy. 
The path today climbs steeply out of the valley with the windfarms and skirts around the side of a ridge until it plummets back down to meet white river. Signs tell is that we are now in the San Grigorio Wilderness Area and technically White River is the first annually flowing stream we cross on the PCT. 

Looking down on Whites River

We take a turn off the PCT to go to Whites River Preserve for lunch. We hear there is swimming there and little fish that will eat the skin off your feet. In reality it’s more of a strange urban park with tranquil fish ponds situated in a beautiful valley. The shade from trees was greatly appreciated and the day visitors there with poodles and terriers seemed absurd after spending days mountain climbing. 

Palms at Whites River Preserve

Crossing Whites River

After lunch we head north upWhites River Valley. It’s amazing to see such abundance of water after sourceing it from so many troughs and water cashes. We cross the river and head east up a valley. The path undulates 3 times slowly climbing, glimpsing view of San Jacinto and San Grigorio. We finally switchback down off a desert ridge to camp at the picturesque Mission Creek! Over all a tiring, hot and windy day with Meg seeing her first rattle snake and phoebe and I seeing an unknown  yellow and orange snake. Just another day on the PCT. 

Camp with Ozmosis + groupies

Day 15 – West Fork Snow Creek to I10/Hillbilly’s House, 26km

The wind howled all night, moving down the mountain behind us and funnelling into the small valley where we are camped. Today had 3 main themes, windy, hot and down. 

Morning cloud, Mt San Gorgonio out back

We hit the road early and heading out onto the exposed ridges and the start of a 20km, 1500m descent back to the desert floor. We traversed the steep sides of San Jacinto via switch backs (about infinity of them), and promptly stopped at number 2 for breakfast and coffee. The wind was strong but we managed to stop behind a pile of rocks protecting us from the wind.

Mile 200!!!

We were passed by about 6 other hikers while we stopped for breakfast, you sometimes forget that your on the hiker superhighway. Snakecharmer lived up to her name a few kms later showing us a boa she found by the trail.

Megs new buddy

It was either hot hot hot or windy as all hell, and we switchbacked our way slowly down the mountain crossing below our path sometimes by as little as 10m. We saw more snakes, baby black ones or angry rattlers, and lizards that have camo tails. And finally ended up camped out in a small cave escaping the sun and the wind.

Camo tail

After lunch we only had 2kms till we reached the desert floor and our next water source, a poorly designed drinking fountain that was nearly impossible to use in the high wind. 

Water = life

The heat increased as we walked deeper and deeper into the valley towards the I10, a busy freight train line and multiple wind farms. But so did the wind and soon we were wading through hot sand, with dust being blown into every crevice of our bodies. It was only 5km to the I10 underpass but those kms seemed to take forever and made us question our sanity.

Walking into the valley

Meg had called trail angle Hillbilly at lunch to see if we could stay at his house tonight and like the angle he is he was waiting for us at the I10 underpass with his show truck. We all piled in and then after a 5mile drive piled into Hillbilly’s house where he cooked us dinner, gave us beers, let us dirty up his shower and even wash our clothes. Thank you Hillbilly you are very gregarious, friendly and generous.

Hillbilly and his prize truck

Oh and also, Meg/5Layers has been busy getting everyone a Trail name. Names given today ~ Quiz, that’s me Phoebe, Mouse, our new friend Danny, ?Blossom for Tameika, Fun Dip for Dave. We have also named our troop Osmosis as we are a bunch of Aussies who suck all single hikers into our vortex.