PCT 2018: Big Bear Lake

PCT 2018: Days 12-19, miles 179.5-266

Day 12:

Hiked 0 | at 179.5 miles

For all who are asking, my trail name is Jam. I gave this to myself pre-trail. Our friends who thru-hiked the AT chose their trail names before setting off, so I thought I’d do the same. Why Jam? Well, my initials spell JAM and my maiden name was Berry, so I went from Berry to Jam.

We took a zero day in Idyllwild. Zeroing means we hiked zero miles for the day. A nero is when hikers walk less than ten miles in or out of town. Nearly a zero, a nero.

Our zero was a much needed rest day for me. Nicholas could probably make it to Canada without breaking once. It also helped that it was snowing in Idyllwild, making the zero even more worth it.

We woke up in our warm room at the Idyllwild Bunkhouse. (Shout out to Rog, the owner, for hooking us us with a ride in and out of town.) For future hikers out there: call the Bunkhouse directly and Rog will give you a PCT discount. Plus he will pick you up.

Idyllwild became a hiker reunion due the snow. All the PCT-ers took zeros. We started the day off eating breakfast at the Red Kettle with Milkshake, Erik, RooShooter, and Birdie. As we made our rounds about town—going the post office, doing laundry, eating ice cream, buying snacks—we ran into hikers we had met at one time or another: Waterfall, Spyglass, Giancarlo, The Breaker Boys, Jolly, Groovy, Mammoth, Bill, Bo—to name a few.

We got dollar tacos and scored splitting a room with Spyglass.

(Spyglass finally got antibiotics for his cough and is doing better.)

Day 13:

Hiked 10 (on South ridge Trail) | at 180.8

I woke to the smell of burning feet. SHIT, I thought, my socks! I hurried over to the heater to find my wool socks scorched, burned black, the toes crumbling to the touch. Not a great start to the day. Luckily they were Darn Tough socks that you can trade in for a new pair if they are ever damaged. The Nomads gear shop honored the warranty and I was walking away with new Darn Toughs.

We met Milkshake and Giancarlo at a bakery. Nicholas found Shauna and Rapuzel—the SoCal hippie chicks we had hiked with into Warner Springs—in the small grocery next door. They were zeroing in Idyllwild as we were heading out. We hugged and hoped to see them down the trail.

Milkshake, Nicholas, and I rode in the back of a truck to the almost-trailhead. We decided on a short day up San Jacinto, so we could summit and begin the mega downhill the following day.

Our climb was steep but full of sauntering. Milkshake said in her German accent, “A day without sauntering is a lost day.” We took to heart the John Muir quote at Mary’s Place: “People ought to saunter in the mountains, not hike!”

We climbed on huge boulders and took in San Jacinto’s massive rocky shoulders, still bearing snow from winter.

It was a good day. A day full of sauntering. A day not lost.

Day 14:

Hiked ~18 (Peak Trail + PCT) | at 195.4

Saturday was an early morning. At three o’clock we rose to the cloak of night. We decided to hike to San Jacinto’s peak for sunrise, four miles until we reached 10,834 feet of elevation.

I hustled up the trail as I saw the orange light peek over the mountains. We reached the summit just as the sun made its sleepy ascent, casting golden rays towards our rocky seat.

Milkshake and I made soup to warm our stomachs. We then headed down the mountain. Approximately fifteen miles of descent. People who train for Everest ascend what we were going to descend.

I was nervous about the downhill as it affects my knees the most. But I got through every step with prayer and the many prayers from home.

Despite its tedium we got through it with a splash of sauntering.

Day 15:

Hiked 19.5 | at 214.9

The following day was not a saunter. We hiked 10 miles down San Jacinto’s giant body, then hiked four miles across a hot, shade-less wasteland. The heat burrowed sunbeam bullets into my head as I marched through the sand and shrubs. There is trail magic under the interstate, hikers said. My hopes swelled. The underpass drew closer; my head felt wobbly from the heat. I couldn’t see any tables, just an empty underpass. My heart sunk. Then waddling towards me was a short women saying, “Are you a hiker?!” My eyes welled up with tears. “Yes,” I said in enthusiastic exhaustion. She wrapped me into a hug and said, “I’m Mama Bear, are you hungry?”

I found a table covered in fruit, chips, cookies, and hot dogs. I snapped open a sprite and gorged on my goodies.

We said goodbye and thanked Mama Bear and Molly. We now faced 9.5 miles. We wanted to get to the Whitewater Preserve, a hiker oasis according to the Guthook App comments.

But the heat and miles were punishing. We walked five miles before I collapsed into a jam-jelly pile. 19.5 miles makes for a long day.

Day 16:

Hiked 8.6 | at 223.5

We hiked 4.5 miles to the Whitewater Preserve: the oasis. I arrived at ten, shortly after Milkshake and Nicholas. There was a crystal clear wading pool at the preserve. We waded in the pool, relishing the cold water on our hot, sore bodies.

We had been discussing In-n-out burger for two days. Nicholas advised a plan to ask someone to give us a hitch to one.

I asked two people walking by how close was the nearest town and whether there was an In-n-out burger. Kenten and Kate replied there was one only five miles away. They offered to take us. We were floating on burger ecstasy. Kenten and Kate were siblings who were happy to indulge our hiker hunger. They explained the menu, telling us “animal style” was the way to go. We ordered and ate an epic amount of food. Kenten and Kate became our trail angels for the day. Truly awesome strangers.

We pushed another five miles out of our grease-slogged legs. Coming out with a nero of 8.6 miles.

Day 17:

Hiked 17.8 | at 241.3

A summary in three words:

Quiet

Streams

Reunited

Day 18:

Hiked 20.7 | at 262.0

The trail’s easy curves brought enjoyable hiking. The whole day smelled of foot-scratched earth and tangy-sweet pine.

The miles flew by with few breaks. We hiked 20.7 miles to ensure a short day prior to Big Bear Lake.

Day 19:

Hiked 4.1 | at 266.1

“What is that? Cows?” I asked half awake. “No, a chainsaw orchestra,” Milkshake said deadpan. The section of trail was being manicured at 6 in the morning. Our alarm for the day, I suppose. We had only 4.1 miles to hike until we reached highway 18, where we would hitch into Big Bear Lake, CA.

Soda was perched under a tree as I made my final steps out onto the pavement. I don’t even like soda but drank the Cherry 7-Up anyway. We lucked out and got a ride within 20 minutes.

We took showers, indulged in naps, ate lots of Mexican food and milkshakes, a great day.

1 thought on “PCT 2018: Big Bear Lake

  1. The views you are seeing are so amazing. I envy the two of you sauntering(whatever that means) on huge rock mountains & cooling off in such beautiful water BUT to me I hear exhaustion in your words & loads of determination!! The both of you look skinny & sunburnt. Julia I hope you’re drinking enough water!!!! We are all so proud of you. It baffles me how you get up every morning after burning socks, aching knees, & it looks like blistering feet. Your trail angels are your salvation!!! I’m so thankful for all the mama bears out there. I love you guys ❤️😘💪

    Liked by 1 person

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