Days 18 – 25 Big Bear to Wrightwood

Day 18 29.03.18 0 Miles / 0km

The group of us started our morning at the Teddy Bear restaurant for the famous $6 Hiker Breakfast. I finally got to try a side of biscuit and gravy though even after eating it I’m still not sure what it is…some sort of bread with a thick sauce? I probably wouldn’t get it again.

We threw our clothes on to wash then managed to overload the dryer with our washing. After too long of being tossed around cold and wet I made the most of the afternoon sun to dry the majority of it out then finally got the last of the wool items dry in the working dryer. Mmmm everything smells like mildew.

Trout was managing the hostel. He’s a 20year old hiker who completed half the PCT last year, and is starting again in April to complete the trail from start to finish. His experience on the trail proved extremely helpful as he gave Scott, Jerry and other hikers pack shakedowns. All contents of the pack are laid out and gone through to assess how necessary each item is. Usually there is a whole pile of things the hiker either hasn’t yet used or can reduce. I didn’t have this done to my gear but I learnt a lot of tips and how to be brutally honest with myself in my packing. Next chance I get I’ll be reducing my suncream and moisturiser quantities. It’s so hard to draw the line between being wasteful and unnecessarily carrying items, but at least you can leave stuff in hiker boxes for other hikers to use or share.

After going through my gear I had a pile of items I could post with my old pack to Canada to take home with me once I finish. I took everything to the post office then explored the small village strip near the hostel.

My new Osprey Luminus Pack was shapped very differently to my old Gossamer Gear bag so we all had a go at packing it until it eventually fit. Gandalf packed my food bag amazingly neat to fit in well, and with Trouts advice I’m now stuffing my tent and clothes down the sides of the sleeping bag. It’s a true explosion when I unpack now, but it’s all starting to make sense.

making the most of internet I also ordered a new Big Agnes -10C sleeping bag since I’d just been so cold and was concerned about the upcoming Sierras. This is due to arrive in Wrightwood where we’ll be resupplying in a few days, I can’t wait.

Making the most of our last meal in town we order pizza and beer, consuming as many calories as we can before going back to dehydrated meals.

After sleeping for what seemed like days Four Eyes emerged looking significantly better and confirmed she’ll be rejoining the trail with us tomorrow.  Hooray!

Day 19 30.03.18 13 Miles / 21km

After our leftover pizza breakfast Trout gave us a lift back to the trail for $5 each. He had to make two trips so I joined the first shuttle to get a head start on the boys. The terrain was easy all day so I figured they’d have no issue catching up.

Once finally alone on the trail I cast my mind to my favourite childhood memories with my Nanna and started to cry. I’d received news of her passing the day prior but hadn’t had the space to really deal with it yet. I cried harder, undoing the waist strap of my pack so I could breath while I sobbed and walked. The funeral will be another week away so I’ll make sure to do something special on the day while I’m out here on the trail. It’s sad to be away from my family during times like this, but they understand this journey.

I catch up to Gandalf for lunch and eat the last of my cold pizza, grateful that three meals later it’s finally finished.

My new ultralight pack is over loaded with 5 days food and 5Litres water for the upcoming dry stretch. My shoulders hurt more and more throughout the day until it was almost unbearable by the time I reached camp at 4pm. I email my Osprey contact and ask to swap the pack for a different one designed to carry the 17kg I had on my back. For now, I’ll focus on eating all the food I have as quickly as possible.

The tentsite was a gorgeous flat in the pine forest. I was so at peace while waiting for the boys I didn’t actually do anything. While I had writing to do it still felt like time well spent, appreciating how amazing trail life is. We also had a full moon that night so my midnight pee didn’t require a torch… Winning.

Day 20 31.03.18 15 Miles / 25km

After turning my alarm off and promptly falling back asleep I woke up at 8am with most people already up. Lazily I stayed in bed to eat breakfast and procrastinated the pack up process for as long as I could. I even added hot chocolate with marshmallows to my coffee to lighten my pack. Ray was ready to go before me which rarely happens so Kyle suggests future breakfasts should be eaten outside my tent. One lazy day and I loose all my privileges.

Once I realised how behind I was got up and packed quickly, leaving my chapstick in the tent so Kyle let me use his.

Heather: *twists chap stick up*

Kyle: “ whoaaa, rule number one of using this, don’t twist the chapstick. What if it gets stuck?”

H: *twists it back* “oh sorry, it’s back now, all good”

K: “yeah all good this time….one day it won’t be. Don’t. Twist.”

Finally back to shorts the weather we stroll downhill for the day pushing past thorny bushes as we go. Passing the river I stop to collect and filter some water after a long dry stretch where Kyle and Scott catch up to me.

Breaking for snacks I pull out my melted kit Kat. Kyle gasps and says “Don’t do it Heather – you’ll make such a mess”. Disappointed but in agrence I put it away till after dinner when it will have set again.

I catch up with Gandalf finishing his lunch behind rocks sheltered from the wind. I join to have my lunch, taking a seat when Just Scott passes. This was a big occasion. Scott’s knees have slowed him down so often he’s trailing the pack, but not today!

Gandalf and I continue with insightful conversation most of the way to camp until I’m eventually quiet and grumpy with sore knees from constant downhill. I make more successful water crossings, though still uneasy when there’s any form of running water under a log. On dry land my balance is fantastic.

In the final 100m to camp I walk square into a fallen branch stabbing a pine one into my shin. Those mofos hurt. Good thing I have a kit Kat.

Day 21 01.04.18 18.5 Miles / 30km

We woke up this morning to find the Easter bunny came! Tucked under the fly of each of our tents were chocolates that Kyle had left when he rose early to get a head start on the day.

We covered a hot dry hilly 20km canyon to the Deer Creek Hot Springs. It took me longer than usual to cover the distance on my own, but I was in another world listening to an audio book. The clothing optional Springs had lots of friendly nude people who shared wine and fruit with us. The springs were surprisingly hot and the surrounding river was breathtakingly cold.

Gandalf taught us Happy Birthday in Hebrew so he could record a message for his Nephews Fourth Birthday which we aced on the first go. I am loving these experiences on trail.

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Ready for a treat I again pull out a melty kit Kat. Not ready to wait I open it and make a huge mess licking the chocolate off the wrapper. A snickers bar would never do this to me. I vow to not prove Kyle right with messy melted chocolate bars again.

Pushing another 10km (6 Mile) to camp we start down a long stretch with no marked campsites on the map. We pass Mojave River Forks Dam as the sun set over the mountains and camp on a flat next to the Trail setting up in the dark. We also passed the 500km mark on the trail, which I promptly missed then realised 1km later. I’ll have to get a celebratory photo at 600km. Our feet are starting to look trashed, but most of the pain from blisters has gone away.

I made up a huge pot of mashed potato with salmon and shared the tent with Kyle. Being a clear night we took off the fly to enjoy the night sky, only the wake up very damp in the dewing morning.

Day 22 02.04.18 18.5 Miles / 30km

The morning started early and with a shallow water crossing. Shoes came off and the knee deep water froze our toes as we crossed.

Eager to keep up today I set a good pace with Four Eyes and keep up with the pack for lunch together under some shelters at the lake. We’re starting to make the most of longer midday breaks to escape the heat, making our afternoons to camp much more efficient and enjoyable.

The shelter also had bins so I could finally throw out my fermenting baby spinach that didn’t make it past the heat of day two. Maybe this is a better ingredient for the cold weather in the Seirras.

Ray said his goodbyes as he heads off trail for a few days and will eventually catch back up to us. We’re sad to be leaving him but know he’ll cross our paths again.

Finally at the campsite other hikers Good News and Foodie order pizza with beer and mashmallows. There are so many cool services available in hiker towns. Kyle lit a campfire and we roasted marshmallows and drank beer together for hours. It felt like midnight but realistically it was 10pm. Hiking is exhausting.

Day 23 03.04.18 18.5 Miles / 30km

I get up at 6am, packing up and ready to leave by 7am. The others were still packing up so I head off knowing we’ll catch up at McDonalds in Cajon Pass or somewhere along the way. Making good time I cover 4.5km per hour. The boys still catch up and we climb the final hill together at midday, drooling over the burgers we’ll soon be eating.

Waiting for town to use ammenities is becoming a risky game. I couldn’t belive it. I was only 1km from a flushing toilet but was ready to go NOW. No way am I digging a hole in the flat shieldless field so close from luxury. I hold it and walk as fast as I can to the road that leads to McDonalds. Once inside we find the rest of the gang, with no time to spare I say “Hello, can’t talk” then head straight to the bathroom thanking my lucky stars there’s no line.

We gorge ourselves silly on McDonalds and after 2 double cheeseburgers, a medium fries, an Oreo McFlurry, a cup of coke, a cup of iced tea and a cup of iced coffee we shopped for a quick resupply at the petrol station despite thinking we may never need to eat again.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be washing my face, brushing my teeth and refilling my water bottles in the restroom of a McDonalds in California without it being a midlife crisis, it’s crazy where life takes you.

After letting everything settle we head off at 2:30pm for the final 10km (6 miles) of the day. We are looking at a long stretch without water so carrying 6Litres though grateful to only have 2 days of food. It was hot and uphill but easily the most amazing section of the PCT so far. From the top of the ridge line there was a 360 view of the surrounding mountains. The hot desert sounds of buzzing power lines, crows and distant cargo trains blaring their horns surround us. I’m sure if you listened hard enough you could even hear the sweat dripping from my pours. Gross I know, but I speak only truth.

Bluejay pointed out what real poodle dog bush looks like, which finally put an end to the game of “iiiiiis this puddle dog bush?” which we’ve been playing since we started the trail. It’s a plant that causes extreme dermatitis if you come in contact with it…and the trail is littered with it, and other look alikes. Pictures below is real vs fake PDB.

Real PDBFake PDB

Before we knew it we’d arrived at camp. I set up my tent, aired out my clothes and sleeping bag, added electrolytes to my water and chilled out updating this blog. For a big distance and elevation day I’m still feeling relaxed and rested after our midday break. This really is the best way to do it.

Day 24 04.04.18 17 Miles / 27.5km

Knowing we had a big day I started early and packed up my tent in the desert sunrise. We had an all day climb of 1400m over 20km (12 miles), so I wanted to get started before the heat of the day.

Signing a trail register I see only The Frenchies are ahead of me. They are a couple from France who we keep passing. Stopping for a snack Four Eyes catches up with me stating she’d just broken one of her beloved purple hiking poles. A part had finally snapped after a long life of use well before the 580km (360 miles) it’s covered on the PCT. Using her tent pole repair kit she used the sleeve as a rod inside the poles and I helped her tape it all back together with my tape.

We endured a 1400m climb over 20km (12 miles), so once I reached the peak I stopped for lunch appreciating the view of the Mojave desert which we’ll be crossing in the coming weeks.

Finally gaining my hiking legs I smashed the miles for the day and reached camp by 3pm. With the increase in my pace my hunger has also grown now consuming chocolate bars, 4 granola bars, 2 wraps with meat and cheese, breakfasts and dinners. It feels like we’re always snacking.

After spending longer than I care to admit to find the water spring I make a sign on the path pointing the others to water for when they arrive. Our final walk to town with minimal food and water tomorrow will be awesome.

While at camp Four Eyes points out a woodpecker in action. They are so small for the amount of damage they make, I’m surprised. Bluejay later points out there are three different kinds and the other two are much larger.

The campsite had bear warnings so we decide the hang out food bags for the first time, despite seeing any actual signs of bears (like poop). It wasn’t until after dark that we were all standing around the tree with head torches throwing a stick with string tied to it. After a few entertaining attempts we get it, and Bluejay holds 5bags in the air while Four Eyes hoists it all up and ties the end off to the tree. Once back in the tent I was horrified to realise I forgot about my suncream, moisturiser and chap stick. Next time.

Day 25 05.04.18 6 Miles / 10km

Taking a Nero to resupply in town we walked the final 10km of the trail to reach the highway and hitch hike into Wrightwood. With no cars passing in 10mins we start the walk into town. Immediately someone coming the opporsite direction pulls over and offers us a lift. Turns out he hiked the Appalachian Trail last year and plans to hike the PCT next year to trying to gain good karma. What a legend.

Once in Wrightwood we drop our packs at the Hiker friendly hardware store, charge up our electronics and resupply our food at the grocery store. At the post office I receive my new sleeping bag (which is SUPER exciting!) and post off my old sleeping bag with a few other items to lighten my pack. Still coming is my new pack from Osprey. They sent an Aura 50, now that I’ve accepted I’m not quite lightweight enough for an ultralight pack. Sweet shoulder comfort is coming my way.

We’ll be staying at a trail angels place together to do laundry and then heading back to the trail tomorrow.

(15) Comments

  1. If you plan on a zero in Wrightwood check us out. Very hiker friendly Canyon Creek Inn 760 249 4800.

  2. Mike B says:

    Excellent as usual. One bit of advice would be to search for a video on how to do a PCT food hang. I’ve read that many bears have learned to break the line to drop the food bags, so tieing off to a tree isn’t the recommended method. I’ve had evenings like that where it takes me 10 throws to get my line over the branch after spending 10 to 15 minutes just to find a suitable branch. I tie the line to a rock though. I don’t think I could throw a stick with a line tied to it over a branch 7 meters off the ground.

    1. Ah this is amazing! Great advice already

    2. Hobbes says:

      Forget the bear hang, just get an Ursack. You still (legally) need a can for the Sierra, but the Ursack protects against both rodents & bears.

      1. The z packs bags are rodent proof too 👌🏼

  3. A blue jay says:

    Great post, hope you’re having a great time. I wish I could do that stuff!

    1. 😂 It’s so great, I’m sure you’d love it out here 😉

  4. Just wanted you to know I am really enjoying your blog! I look forward to your updates every day and am wishing I was out there on the trail, too. Much love from another Heather, this one in Texas 🙂

    1. Ah thankyou!! I’ll have another one up in a few days from Agua Dulce 🙂

  5. Laszlo Schuster says:

    Hi Heather, great read of your blog, don’t know if you remember me but it is Laszlo from 1st Bateman’s Bay Scouts – we did the first mountain biking course together last year. I just stumbled across your blog from a visit to Ray’s Outdoors in Canberra as we recently did the 6 Foot Track – our scouts are going to love your blog!

    1. Hi Laszlo – I do remember 🙂 The 6 Foot Track is such a nice hike. Definitely share this with your Scouts and follow along while I hike the PCT, it would be great if it could inspire a few journeys ⚜️✌🏼

      1. Laszlo Schuster says:

        You know what would be really cool if you are in a town somewhere perhaps we could do a quick video hookup with our troop maybe just 5-10 mins…How much longer are you on the track?

        1. Absolutely, I’ve got another 4 months. I’m due to finish mid August. The time difference might be hard but if they want to send me questions I’d be happy to answer them 🙂

          1. Laszlo Schuster says:

            Ok sounds like a plan – I will take a look at the time difference and we might be able to do something with an overnight activity with the scouts – they won’t sleep anyway 🙂 Stay safe!

          2. I’d be happy to!

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