Day 27 + 28 – Wrightwood Whiteout, 0kms

This snow is making us stir crazy, gotta get outta this town before we do something stoooopid (well more stupid). Going from where Layers left off on Friday night, after Cards Against Humanity Tamika, Camel (Dave) Pinecone and I (Quiz) stumbled back into town lured by Karaoke and even more beer. We sang, drank, made many new friends, danced, and saw a bar fight. We were all escorted home by unwanted boys, even though we were dressed like nannas in our opp shop clothes; crocs, socks and floral dresses.

Camel and Pinecone being drunky the clown

I was bitterly hungover on Saturday and definitely non functional till midday when I made myself bacon and eggs. Layers who was slightly more sensible the night before made breakfast including pancakes for everyone! It started to get freezing around midday and by the time Pinecone and I made it out of the house it was sleeting which turned into snow later on. We went shopping for dinner and ended up at a cafe chatting with other hikers and locals and drinking some more beer. By this stage we knew the storm had set in and wasn’t going to end till Sunday night.

PC doodling on our Agua Dulce resupply box

Upon returning home we made dinner and then the Navy girls who we have been staying with came back with a bunch of veterans and more beer, cards against humanity and birthday cake (Happy Birthday Blanca). 

Sunday has been spent not believing the weather report, it has been sunny all morning but is currently snowing hard. We are now bored and sick of watching movies and reading and the internet and we just really want to be walking again. We did go out to brunch with Zippy (our trail mom) and Rebecca who we haven’t seen since Idyllwild. Zippy had her husband and giant cute wolffish malamute pup with her. 

Dancing in the snow

👌🏼 hiker fashion

Day 26 Baldy Campsite to Wrightwood – 12 km

This morning was the tail end of a big few days, and thankfully we were rewarded with sunrise over yesterday’s climb and the sprawling suburbs below. 

We slept in till 6, packed up and trekked out 4 and a bit kms uphill to Gussy Spring. It’s a large camp ground and the water source we had been waiting so long for is found down a steep climb. Luckily I hadn’t drunk as much as expected and Harriet had carried more than expected so we had enough left over so as we didn’t have to walk any further than needed. We were all feeling stiff and a little foot sore. The smell of town was a carrot dangling ahead of us keeping us moving on. After a quick breakfast which included chocolate, and bars, but no coffee we trekked on. 

This part of the hike was a taste of what yesterday could have been. Sweet pines and chapparell, replaced the burnt hillsides. We walked up and onto a ski resort. The trail passed a number of chair lifts, and a few fenced in pools. It’s kind of eerie being in a closed ski resort, all the things that seem so alive and filled when the snow is there are very vacant and still. 

The trail crosses the highway which leads to Wrightwood. We hitched a ride in with a some people showing some their family visiting from Europe and upon arriving grabbed our package of supplies from the post office and went to Evergreens, a quirky diner. The thrift shop up the street gifts Harriet and Phoebe some funky outfits, I (meg) didn’t find anything, but I’ve got my leggings so it’s okay. 

Some girls we met a few days ago at the hot springs invited us to camp on the floor of the cabin they have rented for the whole weekend. We are planning to zero here tomorrow, and maybe for Sunday also. A storm is predicted. It is potentially bringing snow and we are not in a hurry to get out there in those conditions. 

There is a virus going round and in some ways we feel like sitting ducks, hoping to avoid it. 

After showers we headed to the local brewery for beers. Many beers were drunk, and the afternoon progresssd as it does. In the evening we stocked up on things for dinner and breakfast tomorrow, which included more beer and fireball whiskey. 

We cooked up a huge salad, had shots of whiskey, and then begun a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was hilarious and dark at times. Harriet, who has never played won! 

Day 25 – Cajon Pass to Mt Baldy Tentsite – 33km

Another epic and exhausting day on the PCT, however so scenic and exhilarating! Today was another 20 miler, in 91•F heat and with no water all day, and gaining 1500m in elevation, it really tested our confidence, patience and our ability to pase ourselves. 

Guthook’s elevation guide

We started off eating the complimentary breakfast at the Best Western where we had stayed the night before. We all drank as much water as our bodies would hold in preparation for the hot desert floor. We had all agreed that 6L was a good amount to take each and we would be dry camping that night and the next water was 35km away.

Rocks in Cajon Pass

Rail Underpass

Highway Underpass

 Cajon Pass (pronounced Cahon) is a strange intersection of rail and highway infrastructure that dominates the landscape. Inbetween train bridges and gas stations arise beautiful sloped rocky outcrops and cliff making for quite the wild-west town. The freight lines and highways are alway moving, non-stop with traffic whilst the desert is so slow and moves minutely, unnoticeable in juxtaposition. I (Pinecone) loved walking through the under passes and bridges in the morning. It was exciting to be venturing into this new territory! 

Views north on the ascent

The climb started at 8am (probably should have gotten up earlier and I instantly regretted eating that waffle back at the hotel). Bloated and puffed (hehe) the first set of hills set in motion the climbing for the rest of the day. Our packs were really heavy and uncomfortable. I can’t believe we were carrying more water that this on our first day of the PCT. 

We cross a wide river valley to find an unsuspected water cash in the middle of the desert. Gotta love those trail angles. We all hang around a guzzle as many litres as we can before starting the main section of the climb. I see two of the Tarantula Wasps (please refer to day 22 post) and they make anxieties run a little high. This main section of the climb is airless, through desert that has recently been burnt out (10 months ago). It’s impossible to avoid the sun and it makes walking slow and sweaty. At 11:30 we have our first break under some burnt canopies and are happy with our 16km progress. 

The trail soon hits the top of the ridge. Whilst the burnt area still extends as far as the eye can see the breeze picks up and the gradient flatterns somewhat, making walking slightly easier. We kick on till 1:30pm looking for any morsel of shade to spend the hottest hours of the day. We finally get to some large burnt pine trees and we relax and eat some lunch. At lunch time I realise I have actually be carrying 8L of water. No wonder my pack is so heavy. I’m annoyed for not counting properly but also kinda proud of myself for walking 23km by midday with this load. 

Dead Pines

For the afternoon we are stoked we only have to walk 10km till we are at our planned campsite. We pass a PCTA worker who tells us of his adventures last year hiking the trail. Apart from that we don’t see any other hikers and the mountain appears deserted. We suspect most of our fellow hikers are planning to walk at night, although in hindsight the day heat was bearable and the views were too good to pass us for a night hike. 

Views east to San Grogornio and San Jacinto

Climbing the spur

Burnt Chapparel and Mt Baldy Summit

The last 5km are totally exhausting. I check our gps location on the app every 200m, convinced that we must nearly be there. We do get some very gratifying views back to San Jacinto and San Grigornio and of the Mt Baldy Summit, clad in snow. My feet are in complete agony and I stumble into camp and I really don’t think I could have walked 1km longer. 

Camp with our Swiss buddies

The campsite is glorious with desert views and pines and soft needles to pitch our tent on. We camp with a lovely Swiss couple and we all go through our food bags and make fun concoctions for dinner! Town tomorrow! So exciting! 🙂 

The purdy sunset

Day 24 – Silverwood Lake to Cajon Pass, 25kms

We did not make the same mistake as yesterday and get up late, even though we all wanted too. We woke just before sunrise on the beach of Silverwood Lake and got cracking to get to water and to beat the heat. We, but mostly me (Quiz) are glad to get to our first proper water source in 15 hot hot miles. We promptly made coffee and dropped the kids off at the pool in a well appointed campground.

So remote

After following a decrepit bike path and walking under a road we headed for the hills and started our main climb. It was hot by 8.30 but we still managed to power on up the hill to our only other water source of the day. There seemed to be hikers everywhere today, like ants swarming the trail, probably due to the very few water sources and camp sites in the area.

Meg and Dave at the top

After we collected water I started to tire and the thought of icy Coke motivated me for at the bottom on these hills was Cajon Pass and MacDonalds. We were passed by Jenny who is 68 and hiking waaaay bigger days than us, and she told us that Cajon Pass also had a super cheap Best Western hotel where (spoiler alert) I am writing this blog post now. With 2 such excellent motivators we all flew down the mountains through some amazing jaw dropping panoramas. 

Tamika and Meg in the water grove

Oh Mt Baldy, you’re lovely

We hit Cajon Pass at 2pm, dusty stinky balls of sweat with the hottest feet imaginable. The heat was radiating intensely from the ground and from the exposed rock and of course from the sun. It was 35 degrees and the locals said it wasn’t even that bad. We headed straight for MacDonalds and along with another 20 hikers quickly set about stinking up half the restaurant, one staff member even held her nose whenever she came near. After hiking food MacDonalds was intense and I was surprised that i didn’t want to eat more. 

Stinking it up 🖕

We then walked up the old Route 66, crossed the interstate on a non pedestrian car only bridge, crossed another busy road and finally made it to the Best Western where we did laundry, showered and got all cozy with other hikers including Jenny in the Jacoozi, they are the best for sore tired legs. We are currently eating sandwiches in bed watching Titanic and fighting over the remote.

Yep 3 doubles, delux.

Day 23 Deep Creek Hot Springs to Silverwood Lake – 30 kms 

67 kms in 2 days. It has been a huge few days, and to say the least we are not only sore but exhausted. 

Climbing out of the hot springs

Tonight we sleep lake side. This facade of beauty is an expression, unfortunately of human laziness and filth. We are camped along side a picnic area. It had toilets and a few gazebos with tables. Each gazebo is covered in trash. The trash spills out of the bins provided alongside each table and has found its way down into the murky lake waters. In the toilets someone took a shit in the corner, they didn’t even bother going into the toilet itself. This is our second night in a row of being disappointed at people’s lack of consciousness and care about the environment and common decency. 

Looking down to deep creek

Anyway, the day was hard. As in walking through burnt areas in sweltering heat hard. After leaving the hot springs we followed a donky trail along a ridgeline. Deep creek flowed below and both the creek edge and the trail we walked on were littered with graffiti and tagging. It’s a strange thing how urban this kind of art work is. In nature, away from a concrete canvas it looks completely out of place, ugly and lacking in consideration for the simple beauty of nature itself. 

The dam from far away

As we came off the ridge there was a huge dam wall. The girls and I had fun making echos noises.

We crossed the creek one final time, filled our water bottles for the next 13 miles and waded across. There seems to be a lot more people on the track now and at these stops we often bump into the same hikers time and again. 

Burnt lands

After the creek we climbed steadily for a while, it was hard going and sweat poured from my body. As we climbed the burnt landscape left us exposed and feeling the heat. Around 12.30 I came upon a bunch of hikers hiding in the shade of what would have once been a little creek oasis. It was now a charred mass of spindly tree trunks and branches. I waited for the others and we decided that this might be our last shade for a while so we took an early lunch. We sat in blackened soil, to hot and tired to bother about how filthy it was making us, dodging the burning midday sun while eating our cheese, meat and sweet biscuits. So much sugar in this country. 

A locals doggy graveyard

As the afternoon set in we began to get itchy feet and around 2.30 decided to make a dash for it and walk what we thought would be the last 10 kms of our day. A swisher couple had told us about a lone sushi place ahead and it was driving, especially Dave on. As I walked out the creek I rang Koby, she answered and I walked the next 10 kms talking to her and Joni. It’s a great way to pass the time through uninspiring lands. For a short time I was transported home into their world and my Australian life. 

Harriet, stoked on a second dam wall, and all human creations in fact

Harriet, Phoebe and I decided to ditch sushi and walk into the Lake. We left Dave and Tamika who caught a ride to sushi and walked for a little way along the road before heading up and over a hill to the Lake. It was a sight to behold. A huge lake, the water gently lapping at the shores, chapparell coming down to the steep lake edges and the sun beginning to set in the background. We followed the trail around to the picnic ground and reality set in. It was a sad realisation, and almost a little to much for our tired minds and bodies. We took some time figuring out what to do as drinking the lake water was not something we wanted to do. Dave came to our rescue and carried in 3 litres for us. We pitched tents, and the girls washed their sweaty bodies. Harriet came out covered in strange, grey lice which I helped her pick off. We cooked dinner and waited for our friends. They arrived after dark and we have now headed to bed, a little broken and ready for a shorter and easier day tomorrow. 

Huge pipes

Silverwood lake, a facade.

Day 22 – Little Bear Springs to Deep Creek Hot Springs – 37kms

Today was epic and exhausting but I’ll begin at the start. We woke up at 4:30 to prepare for the giant day ahead. Phoebe (Quiz) had a sore hip from the beginning which was worrying. We continued down Holcomb Creek and rose out of the valley and ate breakfast on a burnt out ridge. 5 Layers massaged out Quiz’s sore butt muscle to all of our relief it worked and she now walks like the well oiled machine she is! 

Sunrise in the valley

After breakfast the path turns west and walks toward the Giant Mt Baldy in the distance. We follow Holcomb Creek but the gorge gets steeper. We look down upon the river as walk. It gets bigger and bigger. 

We walk through a strange clearing before lunch that has a giant dead Pine tree in it filled with wasps. Back at Hillbilly’s house he had told us about these very painful wasps called Tarantula Wasps which lay their eggs in tarantulas and the eggs live off the tarantula and eventually kill it. They also paralize you for half an hour if the sting you. The wasps around this tree apear to be the same to me, but there is a swarm of about 300 of them. It terrifies me and I make my way quickly through the clearing. Later on I find out they are just carpenter bees. 

Looking toward the bee hive, Mt Baldy in the distance

For lunch we get to the first bridge and it has a decent Creek crossing to swim in. We all go for a dip to cool off. The temperature is around 30•C and we are feelin it and totally exhausted from already walking 22km by 12pm. 

First bridge crossing

Lunch time swimming hole

The last 15km to Deep Creek is very scenic. The river cuts an even deeper gorge and our path sores above looking down upon many tantalising swimming holes. We finally reach Deep Creek Hot Spings at around 5:30pm after our longest day yet! The Hot Springs are a strange mix of tranquil swimming paradise and a psy-trance new age hell hole. We all feel strange  about staying there but as soon as we hop in the pools we feel our muscles easing. It’s a natural hot spring piped off the PCT trail and then dispersed into a series of pools with different temperatures mixed with the river water. Apart from the human fecal matter around the camp sites is really was a nice spot to stay! 

Views down to Holcomb Creek