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.