Idyllwild to Big Bear City

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 14

Unfortunately our zero day seemed to only make us more lethargic. We struggled to check out of our cabin before 10am and after a disappointing breakfast (turns out lightweight trail breakfasts seem pretty bland when in trail towns) we decided to go to a cafe and get grilled sandwiches.

To make matters worse by the time we were finally hiking the weather had become truly miserable. Despite the foul weather, Physio insisted we should just hike in shorts and our jackets to keep our other clothes dry for camp. We also chose to disregard the ominous weather forecast of rain, near freezing cold temps, and howling wind with gusts up to 100mph.

As we climbed back out of Idyllwild towards San Jacinto peak we ran into a few PCT hikers who were retreating down from the ridge. They informed us it was snowing and hailing up there and they were not prepared so were heading down to town. Seeing us walking past in shorts and our heavy duty Macpac jackets they wished us good luck.

At this point Physio became apprehensive about pursuing a hike above 8000 feet in these conditions. However, we both felt as though we did not want to return to Idyllwild for another night so pushed on with gritty determination.

As we passed hikers a few commented on us hiking in shorts, one saying we were “hardcore”. As we gained altitude and started seeing snow and ice all over plants and trees we concluded we might just be stupid.

Soggy and cold Cashmere - Oh and yeah, that's snow down the hill.

Physio was determined that we needed to reach a lower elevation to make camp. He thought we should aim to make it to Fuller Ridge Campsite, which is at a mere 7710 feet. However, after hiking above 8000 feet in freezing rain and strong wind we were getting extremely cold.

To warm her hands Cashmere would take a break from using her poles, tucking her hands in her jacket sleeves, only to find the top of her poles to be covered in ice. The final straw was traversing a horribly exposed section of track where Cashmere began to fear hypothermia.

Upon climbing and switching to the other more sheltered side of Fuller Ridge, Cashmere identified a flat piece of ground sheltered by trees and rocks and declared we had to make camp immediately.

We quickly set up the tent as best we could and climbed inside to change into our much needed dry clothes and hop in our sleeping bag. Once the uncontrollable shivering subsided (approximately 1 hour later) and we were able to combine body heat we were actually pretty comfortable…so long as we stayed in the sleeping bag.

Peanut butter feasting in the "Warm Zone"

While we sheltered from the howling wind and precipitation outside the world around us was changing. Physio briefly braved the elements to re-stake the tent and in doing so discovered the surface rain water outside was turning to ice. Later Cashmere briefly left the tent to relieve herself and discovered a build up of snow outside.

The view when Cashmere opened the tent
Double Rainbow meets Fuller Ridge

In the warmth of our tent, sleeping bag and dry clothes we prepared for sleep by taking turns blogging and reading books on Lorelei’s early birthday present from her family – a Kindle. Not a bad way to spend a cold snowy night on the side of a mountain.

We certainly fared better than two girls who spoke to us as they walked past our tent, telling us they were going to call to be rescued. We had seen them earlier on our hike setting up camp in a nice sheltered spot on the ridge.

We also fared better than two others, who to our knowledge are still missing. Our moms were worried about us when it was just blisters…not ice storms on Fuller Ridge!

Day 15

So as was forecasted the wind eventually died down and it stopped snowing. In fact, we woke to a mountain dusted in snow with blue skies and no wind.

Mount San Jacinto from our camp

We tried to give our gear a little time to dry before setting off down the mountain. However, the tent was a lost cause. After scraping the ice off the outside of the tent, the tree that sheltered us during the night started “melting” and raining heavily directly on the tent.

Before the Great Thaw

All around us trees were releasing avalanches of ice. We were grateful our tree was merely raining, not dropping 5 pound ice chunks on the tent.

Descending down the mountain was certainly made interesting by the snow covered rocks.

Snowy Descent

More interesting still were some fresh tracks we found following the trail.

Is a Cougar hiking the PCT?

After descending below the snow the rest of the day was spent on an agonisingly slow descent. I swear it felt as though we were climbing almost as much as we were descending. The trail zig zagged across the width of the entire mountain and often dropped only a few metres each time. The knowledge that we had to drop around 7000 feet (~2500m) made this all the more painful. At least we did pass the 200 milestone mark and had some good views.

200km Down, a lot more to go!


At the bottom, after 18 miles of walking, we were directly below the mountain we had camped on the night before. It was time to make camp and join all the other hikers in complaining about the ludicrously slow route the trail took down the mountain.

Day 16

We woke the next morning to howling wind, no wonder they have so many wind turbines in that valley! We admired the sunrise hues colouring San Jacinto and headed down the track, crossing under Interstate 10 and on. We stopped in at a very hiker-friendly wind farm office for some water refills.

Good tooth brushing views
The gorgeous but ominous San Jacinto Peak

The highlight of the day was definitely stopping into the very hiker friendly Whitewater Preserve and going into a lovely wading pool, the water of which is continually refreshed from springs rising from the San Andreas Fault. There even used to be a trout farm there, in the middle of a desert! Our feet liked the cool water…but then they had to keep hiking.

Of course I (Cashmere) got too cocky about how much water this section of track had and didn’t get enough which led to a bit of a parched 4 miles at one stage with ‘water controls’ in effect. Oh man how the PCT winds around, try not to think of how long this trip would take as the crow flies, it will make you crazy.

Finally we got to a creek, cooked dinner, ate it and walked another 2 miles to an exclusive camp site by the creek where we washed up before bed (beats our usual moist towelette bathes). Although we had dinner we were both still a bit hungry, the hiker hunger was building.

Day 17

As we often do on the trail we awoke just before 5am to try and smash some miles before the heat. We followed the creek for many hours and miles up the valley.


Then we passed our first patch of ‘poodle dog bush’ which can apparently give one a rash from hell (like poison oak) and had a few breaks when we could find shade.

We had some big climbing this day (around 6000 feet). The prospect of cooler air higher up helped drive us though and we smashed it. Also California is kind of weird, usually there aren’t many trees in the lower lying deserts but once you get up high there are lots of trees which we crave for shade from the usually relentless sun.

We love getting up to tree growth area heights, feels like washington!

We had a nice dinner spot with views of San Gorgonio peak, the highest mountain in southern California (over 11000 feet) which also had some fresh snow from the same storm that got us.

San Gorgonio Peak

We did our usual few more miles of hiking after dinner, enjoyed sunset hued views, set up camp, and promptly fell asleep. It had been another big day,  despite the epic climbing we had walked over 20 miles.

Day 18

We still had 18 more miles to walk to Big Bear City and we were getting pretty excited for a town.

It’s funny, we have a love-hate relationship with trail towns. We get so excited for them then often eat too much and feel a bit sick and lethargic and want to get back on the trail.

Physio started the day a bit lethargic and moody. Cashmere tried to help him along. A few miles in, we had a hard time finding a water source we needed, which didn’t help matters. Then we saw all these bears and lions in small cages and it made us sad (apparently they are for movie sets, we aren’t too far from LA).

As we carried on our town hunger grew. Our trail food just wasn’t satisfying our growing hiker hunger. Cashmere became obsessed with getting to a pizza shop. Then we found a water cache from the trail angels that were going to host us in Big Bear City. Trail angels are really nice people who help hikers. Our town excitement grew.

Next we stumbled upon some serious ‘trail magic’ from a hostel in Big Bear: a sofa and a dumpster full of snacks, blankets, emergency food, creams and things hikers may need, rubbish bags and a water cache. We melted onto the couch and ate heaps of our food to fuel Jacob. Oh my god! It was the first couch we had sat on since we started the hike. Couches are so amazing! Needless to say it was hard to get up and keep walking. Our town hopefulness grew and almost overwhelmed us.

Cashmere  became psychotic about going to a pizza shop to get a mushroom pizza and salad but the harder she walked, the more her latest blisters hurt. She grimaced looking at the desert views (“do we have to go there?) Physio tried to hold the team together.

Hope we aren't headed down there

Then this guy got between us and getting to pizza:

We were scared...

And apparently the baby rattlers can be way more poisonous than the big ones! New desert flora abounded:

This tree thing was super weird.

Eventually we emerged to the road and were delighted when the family of some of the fellow hikers we had met on the trail offered us a ride into town.

We laid down in the flatbed of their truck and stared at the blue sky and clouds as we rode the pizza shop express. The pizza and salad were the best food we have had on the trail so far. When we finished we called local trail angels, Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama who whizzed over and swooped us to their house where we got to shower, do laundry and indulge in a delightful second dinner.

We got to stay in ‘the trailer’ out the back which was cosy. I (Cashmere) had an epic 13 hour sleep, interrupted only by a 5am toilet trip and leftover pizza eating party with Physio.

Our trailer pad

Day 19

I (Cashmere) had said I would help cook brekky in the morning. But then despite falling asleep at 8pm I missed my chance to cook by sleeping until 9am. However me and Physio did our part in eating the epic breakfast that was left for us….

Our amazing trail angel, Papa Smurf, took us to do a few errands. Cashmere got a little too loose at the ‘dollar value’ thinking of how hungry the two of us were on the last section. Meanwhile Physio got about as out of control as one can get at the jerky shop. We tried to get ourselves organised and then around 4pm, Papa Smurf brought us to the start of the trail so we could sneak in a ‘Nero’ with 9 miles of hiking. I’ll let Physio document that in the next post.

Physio, Papa Smurf and Cashmere

Thanks for reading:)