Following along the water’s edge

We’ve been busy walking! Sorry for the delay in Blog Posts. We’ve made it to Aqua Dulce (Mile 454) and are collating some Blog Posts that’ll come out over the next week. In the mean time, here’s what we did not too long Ago!

Big Bear was a lovely small town that we didn’t get to see much of because we just spent the morning there before heading out again. Maybe we can go visit another time in the future. Papa Smurf made us french toast for breakfast then gave us a lift into the town so we could do a quick resupply and then dropped us off a the next trailhead at Onyx summit along with Scabs and Shay. We were soon greeted with beautiful views of Mount San Gorgornio, the mountains we would have hiked through if the trail wasn’t closed.

There was a slight chance of rain, and we made our way out of a valley and looked behind us to see a massive grey cloud bringing in some rain. We quickly walked on to avoid getting rained on, which was successful (only a little drizzle). We did a quick 10 miles and decided to set up camp (mile 262) as it was starting to get dark, and we found ourselves in a perfect place to avoid condensation on our tents.

The next morning we woke up feeling good. We packed up our stuff and headed out to hike about 3-4 miles before breakfast. I insisted we hike on, and we did 5 miles before our first break. I am so thankful that Steve has a non-inflatable mat, we can just put it out anywhere we please to relax on it and it doesn’t get damaged. We hiked on and found ourselves in a forest, which was beautiful. Every now and then we would come to a clearing where you get a view of Big Bear from across the lake (which isn’t much of a lake at the moment,it’s pretty much all dried up). Steve asked me if we could try do a 20 mile day and I thought we could manage it. We had lunch at our next water source, at a slow flowing stream, and sat under a big tree. At about 18 miles in, I was feeling pretty tired and decided to put some music on to keep me going. Music definitely makes a huge difference, it distracts you from pain, tiredness and heat/cold. When we got 19 miles, Steve suggested we set up camp since there weren’t many campsites coming up, but I insisted we keep going. Steve was right. But I really wanted to do my first 20 mile day. We ended up hiking 23 miles to get to the next campsite, which was little bear campsite (mile 286) and it even had a long drop toilet! But I was so exhausted and my feet were incredibly painful!! That night was the first time we added tuna to our mixed veg, and it was so good.

The next morning, Steve let me sleep in such it was such a big day. When we did decided to pack up we realised we were both a little sunburned from the previous day and we were a little dehydrated. This made us feel lethargic and not up for much hiking. There wasn’t much water or shade that morning, so we walked slowly to mile 294 (8 miles) with only one short break and collapsed in the shade of the tree. We quickly filtered some water, put our mat down and napped through the heat of the day. Steve was hoping to get to Deep Creek Hot Springs, but we were both not feeling up for it, and we hiked on another 7 miles to a day use area along Deep Creek. We crossed the creek, and found our own private beach, with a swimming area (mile 301). It was great! I quickly got into the water after setting the tent up, but it was so cold, but lovely to wash the dirt off as it had been a hot dry day. We quickly fell asleep after dinner, and woke up feeling a lot better.

Today was the day we would hike to the Hot Springs, I had mixed feelings about it because I knew it was a nudist area and so I wasn’t looking forward to that too much. We did a quick 7 miles and got to the Springs late morning. There were mainly hikers there when we got there, a few day visitors. A lot of the hikers had all fully embraced the nudist thing and we decided to go hang out in a more private area to avoid the show. We found our own private hot spring which we quickly got into and enjoyed the hot water! It was easily around 40 degrees Celsius. We couldn’t stay in water for very long because we got way too hot, and decided to head out and get out of the mountains. We filled up on water and started meandering through the mountains before finally making a decent into the valley and had lunch in the shade after crossing a small stream. We met a lady hiker who likes hiking barefoot, which is really crazy. After lunch we started a very tiring uphill, I quickly got my music on and went up the hill as quickly as I could to avoid getting too tired. I find the slower I go on the uphill the more tired I get, its better to get some momentum going and get up at a good pace. We hiked 19 miles that day, another good day, and set up camp near a water source at mile 320.

Tomorrow we look forward to cooler weather and Silverwood Lake!

Conquering Mt San Jacinto

We woke up after our 3rd night in Idyllwild, feeling refresh and less painful after having been sponsored a great massage! We went for an ‘early’ breakfast at the Red Kettle. I had the great Mountain Muffin, and Kristin the French toast. They were both quickly polished off with 4 cups of coffee each! (We need that in RSA, bottomless coffee should be standard!)

We met our ride at 8 am, they would take us to the start of Devils Slide, a 550 m high 4 km climb up to the PCT. This put us just after the fire closure. It was around 8°c, so the climb was pretty quick, a far cry from us huffing and puffing up Table Mountain. As we started the next 300 m climb, we started seeing the ice that had settled on the trees. In the morning sun the ice had started to melt, and was falling down around us and in some spots, on us. After an almost continuous 2800 ft climb, we took a short break to admire the mountains down below us. Something that we must definitely return for is Taquitz Rock, which is a famous landmark in the climbing community, we may need to improve our skills, but it certainly looks like fun!

We spent the next few hours skirting round the mountain, dropping and climbing 1000 feet, in a spectacular pine forest. Most certainly one of the more memorable days so far, and a massive change from the terrain and heat we had experienced a few days before. Every now and then we had to scramble over/arround/under fallen logs as they blocked the trail. (I’m not envious of the forest rangers who come up to cut paths through them). At times the trail was covered in snow, and we gingerly stepped over the drifts lying in our way. For Kristin this was a completely new experience, but she handled it gracefully and was always just behind me.

It had been a tough day so far, but our greatest challenge was coming up. I had been looking forward to this part since i was forced to skip it in 2012 due to a snow storm. Fuller Ridge is a knife edge descending towards Black Mountain campsite that was perpendicular to the weather, lucky us! The views, however, were amazing to say the least. To the left we had could see the clouds rushing towards us in the gusty winds, and to the right we were greeted with the 7000 (~2133m) feet drop to the Whitewater valley.

We dragged our tired and sore feet over even bigger and wider snow drifts until they finally ended! We slowly made the last few miles and made camp with our friends Simon (Sunshine?), Bison, Stacy (Overstock), David (Hawk-eye) and Lisa.  We happily squished 5 tents into a space for 3, but it worked! The next morning, Bison, David and Lisa thundered off down the Loooooong downhill into Whitewater and soon after Ziggy and the Bear. It was a really tough day on our feet, knees and just about everything took a hammering from the constant downhill of 12 miles. We spent the day taking breaks leapfrogging Overstock and finally made it to the water supply at the bottom. (Which is under CCTV, why? Lol.)

We took a short stop at the faucet and set off for Ziggy and the Bear, knowing the next section could prove to be logistically difficult and an early arrival could help in our favour.

There is a section after Ziggy and the Bear extending to Big Bear Lake, that is currently closed from fires last year. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to get round, the only public transport being a 6+ hour public transport route out into San Bernadino area and up to Big Bear. Fortunately, Ziggy and the Bear have been organizing some Trail Angels to take people straight to the Mountain Transit bus that goes direct to Big Bear. We were very lucky to spend only a few hours waiting, not because we didn’t want to enjoy Ziggy and the Bears, but because we were eager to get around the closure and set off from Big Bear.

Fortuitously we also got a hold of some more Trail Angels in Big Bear, Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama who let hikers sleep on the floor and hike out in the morning.

It’s been quite the adventure with all the closures and stop start hiking, but we’re looking forward to the next uninterrupted 90 miles of hiking until Cajon Pass at mile 342.




Paradise, rest and zero’s

We survived another windy night, and started day 11! We found out later that it had actually snowed at higher elevations! The day started off with a steep 3 mile hike up the hill to get us started and climbing up towards the slopes of San Jacinto. The wind was really biting into us, but the strength of the sun, when it was out, had us constantly swapping out our jackets.

We only had 12 miles to do, but with our feet in a fair amount of pain, we were constantly walking slowly and stopping. Along the way we also bumped into 2 water caches, the 2nd being a fairly intriguing one. Alongside the standard Water bottles lay a library with a leave one take one policy, some benches, and a hiker box complete with a bucket of instant mash potatoes!

Malibu East - Water Cache with a library?
Malibu East – Water Cache with a library?

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Cold, wind and Friends

We left Warner springs on Day 8 around 10am after potting around and getting our feet ready for the next 50 miles to Idyllwild. Kristin was worried that we wouldn’t have many friends as we ended up travelling slower than some of the other friends we had made. We were pleasantly surprised to set off from Warner Springs with 3 other hikers, we quickly befriended. We spent the next 6 miles hiking together and getting to know them.

Kristin taking a break from the monotonous task of walking.

When the uphill started, we lagged behind a bit as our feet were still in a bit of pain. The next 6 miles were steep, and windy! A cold wind sent shivers down our spines whenever we crawled round an exposed corner. The view was spectacular though, the sun was starting to get low, and a few clouds were rolling in, so we had some beautiful rays coming through, and Kristin took some photos.

At the top of this climb, round mile 123, we bumped into our friends again. Bison, Stacey (Overstock) and Simon (Sunshine) had a nice sheltered camp on a saddle. Unfortunately there was no space for us, but we decided to park off and have dinner, sharing our dried veg with whomever needed it. (We had and still have a large supply of dried veg!)

The almost ran the last mile on our poor feet to find a campsite at mile 124. This was most certainly our worst night so far. The weather certainly likes to blow, and enjoyed blowing the fine sand into our tent, coating everything!

Steve: “Emergency Stations!” Some time in the night, a corner peg came out, and I had to rush out of the tent to get it back in before anything worse happened.

After a rough night of sleep we woke up to a fairly cold morning. Kristin was not happy with the cold! (she needed gloves) We hurried the best we could the next 3 miles to get to mile 127. This we expected to be our last water stop for awhile. Mike’s Place is a hiker friendly house in the middle of almost nowhere. Luckily for us they are actively feeding and watering hikers! For a small donation, they give out hot coffee and breakfast burritos! It was really cold though, so before long we headed off up the mountain and then a long descent. Again, luckily for us, the Trail Angels are very active this year, providing plenty of water in the form of water Caches. We found these at mile 137, 143 and 145.5!

We didn’t hike that whole way though, we parked off for the night at mile 140.2. We were able to camp with our new found friends this time and were able to share another meal together. Setting up the tent proved to be an adventure in it’s own right, we chose a spot on soft sand (only available spot), and our pegs kept being pulled from the sand. We ended up weighing each one down with at least 3 rocks.

Finally, mile 100!

Day 7! After a windy night of cowboy camping, we got back on the trail quite early round 5am. We still had about 2l each of water and only 5 miles to the water cache, but with the promise of no sleep, we just pushed on. Mile 91 came quickly and soon we had another 3l of water to add to our supply.

Our next watering hole would be in 10 miles, and predominantly downhill (or so I thought). What came next was a grueling 5 mile winding hike up to the top of the ridge. Earlier I (Steve) had remembered that round mile 96, there is a small cave in the side of the hill. I surprised Kristin with the refreshingly cool and comfortable spot to relax for the next 2 hours out of the heat of the day. It ended up being quite popular with a few people passing by who’d hoped to also relax in the small cave, only suitable for <2 people.

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