After sleeping all cozy and dry in the cabin, we were met on the deck by the greedy squirrels. Conditioned little buggers, they were standing on hind legs like meerkats waiting for us to come outside with peanuts. We did, but had things to do.
We checked out and started moving up the mountain. This decision would prove to be a poor one over the next few days. We should have stayed put in town for another night or two.
Up and up we went, first with a road hike out of town to the trailhead, then up a local trail appropriately named “Devil’s Slide”.
Climbing from the town’s elevation of 5,400′ up past 8,000′ was tough on already tired legs. Throw the elevation in there and the going was slow.
As Jen put it – “It’s beautiful, but the elevation is kicking my ass”.
Yeah, it is beautiful. And great to be back in the land of big rocks.
After making it to a nice camp, only about half the distance we were planning, we settled in for dinner with a nice view and early sleep.
Although we were already at 8,900′ and planned on summiting Mount San Jacinto, we still had no idea how much our decision to not zero in Idyllwild would affect us in the coming days.
Day 16 – 10 / 181
We woke early and got an early start, planning on taking a local trail spur off the PCT with the intent of summiting Mount San Jacinto (10,384′), then continue to a campsite that would give us a tough 15 miles for the day, but also set us up for a quick 15 downhill miles the next day for a bit of rest at the house of trail angels Ziggy and the Bear.
Early on we were reminded of the seriousness of the terrain as a Search and Rescue helicopter circled overhead looking for a day-hiker who had been missing for several days, including through the snowstorm and overnight frigid temperatures.
Later that afternoon we talked to some of the ground search teams who admitted that they were in recovery operations. They were now looking for a body. It was difficult to hike and not think about what-if’s and what-would-I-do’s.
But for us, we were doing well, but our movement showed the strain of the altitude. We pushed easily past 9,000′, but 10,000′ and the miles would be tough to gain. The stretch to the summit was but 4 miles and by the time we got to the summit, we had averaged just over one mile an hour.
But it was worth it. The views were fantastic, being able to see the Pacific Ocean to the west and the desert mountains to the west. We could also follow the ridgeline and mountain tops of our route, seeing Mount Laguna some 140 trail miles south.
To the north, Jennifer pondered the mountain route ahead as we continue trail north. She also pondered the descent into the valley some 8,000′ below.
We started our descent at just about noon with expectations of making the “easy” downhill hike to our planned campsite. Except the descent was anything but easy.
Scrambling over rocks, taking steps that Jen said were built for 7′ tall people and just trying to stay on rhe trail were tough. We could see how someone could get lost on this stretch of trail.
Once we made it back down to the PCT, we figured it would be a quicker stretch your camp. We need to just quit figuring.
Even though the course wad overall downhill, getting us down to 7,500′ by the time we camped, it was tough going. This is when we realized that we should have zeroed in Idyllwild.
Across Fuller’s Ridge we cursed every false descent. We couldn’t even really appreciate that we were traversing the ridge in safety. In a normal year it is a dangerous stretch due to ice and snow, even at the end of April. But it was dry and sunny for us.
A couple of hundred curse words later, we limped into the first campsite we could settle into. To say we were asleep before sunset seems pretty obvious to you, doesn’t it?
But before we fell asleep, we got word from an arriving thru-hiker that the missing day-hiker was found alive and in good shape. Apparently he did the right thing and stayed right where he realized he was lost and called emergency services before his cell phone battery died.
Great news to end a tough day.
Day 17 – 10 / 191