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No. 27- Crater Lake to Shelter Cove

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Mazama Village: 42.867529, -122.167295
Shelter Cove Resort: 43.581739, -122.040317
Oregon Skyline Trail: 43.525775, -122.069263

 

July 6- 15.5 miles, camping in the middle of nowhere

Since this may be the only time in my life when I get to see Crater Lake, I decided to play tourist a bit. I took a shuttle to the park visitor’s center to look at maps of the area and watch a little documentary that covered the geology and history of Crater Lake. I then road walked 3.5 miles up to the lake itself.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

It truly is a stunning view and I wished I could have stayed longer to take a boat ride or something. Instead of a touristy boat ride, I settled on walking along the rim to the lodge for a salad and chili. The entire area was crawling with summertime tourists and, despite the beauty of the place, I couldn’t wait to get back on the trail.

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The native Klamath people have a legend that says the god of the underworld, who lived within Mount Mazama, fell in love with a tribal princess. When she refused to marry him, he took revenge on the tribe by erupting the mountain. Two medicine men threw themselves into the roaring volcano in the hopes of appeasing the angry god. Another god witnessed the bravery of the two men and battled the underworld god until the mountain collapsed, creating the massive crater. The Klamath people still hold Crater Lake as a powerful and sacred place.

Wizard Island

Wizard Island

Mount Mazama once stood as a 12,000 foot tall peak over the place that is now Crater Lake, making it the tallest mountian in Oregon at the time. Around 7,700 years ago, it erupted, decimating everything within a thirty-five mile radius. It is the most massive explosion of the Cascade Range in the past million years. It took 500 million years to build Mount Mazama and only two to three hours for it to collapse to a crater.

View towards Hellman Peak

View towards Hellman Peak

View towards Mount Thielson

View towards Mount Thielson

As years past, snow fell into the crater and melted, eventually filling the crater with some of the purest water on the planet. At 1,943 feet deep Crate Lake is the deepest lake in North America and the seventh deepest in the world.

I’m camping alone in what seems like the middle of nowhere. It’s utterly flat and covered in tall, skinny pines. It’s kind of spooky.

Camping in the middle of nowhere

Camping in the middle of nowhere

 

July 7- 15.5 miles, camping at Thielson Creek

Hiker humor

Hiker humor

I had a Twilight Zone moment this morning. After packing up and hiking for an hour or more, I realized I couldn’t find my bug net. It must’ve gotten pulled off my pack when I’d pushed through some bushes or maybe it fell out when I pulled out my water bottle. I was so disappointed because I knew the bugs were going to be really bad in the upcoming section. An hour later, I found a bug net that looked exactly like mine lying neatly in the middle of the trail. For about three minutes, I panicked and thought this was my bug net and that I must’ve somehow gotten turned around and hiked back in the opposite direction. I was relieved once I verified my location on the GPS and found I hadn’t backtracked. Still, I’m secretly hoping I don’t run into the unlucky hiker who lost their net so I don’t have to give this one back!

As I emerged out of the Pumice Desert, surrounded by a wall of skinny pines, thunder began to rumble above me. I had heard that afternoon storms were rolling in and my response had been, “Good! It’ll cool things down from that heat wave!”

Mount Thielson

Mount Thielson

Well, cool down it did- and then it thundered and hailed and brought lightning with it. I had just crested above the tree line below Mount Thielson, also known as the lightning rod of the Cascades, when the lightning flashes began. I tried to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder, but there was so much continous thunder that there was no telling how far away the lightning strikes actually were. With the thunder clouds directly above and the thunder claps roaring continuously like that, it all seemed close enough to me!

Thunderstorms approaching

Thunderstorms approaching

I hustled down into the trees and waited while the hail dumped all around. At times I thought it was letting up and I’d try and make a mad dash along the trail to the next pocket of trees. When a lightening bolt struck just about a mile in front of me, I let out a yelp and my dash turned into a full out run for the trees. I stayed put after that scare and waited until I was sure the lightning had past.

I made it down to Thielson Creek and filled up my bottles. Since it was cold and I was soaked, I decided to set up my tent and rest a for a couple hours while until the rain stopped. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep hiking up and over the next pass if there was any chance of more lightning. As I lounged and snacked, a southbound hiker approached me and said the pass was indeed nasty and that I should just wait until tomorrow. He gave me one of his extra dinners, too, because he was ahead of schedule.

Thielson Creek

Thielson Creek

Just as he left, two firemen came down from their hidden camp up the hillside. There were four of them all together and they had repelled in yesterday from a helicopter to handle a small fire started by a hiker. They invited me to their campfire and when four handsome firemen make such an overture, I can’t say no! I set up the rest of my gear for the night and took my dinner and ukulele up to join them.

Firemen below Mount Thielson

Firemen below Mount Thielson

We had a great time playing silly guess-who games and swapping riddles. [Here’s one for you: A man with no eyes saw plums on a tree. He left no plums, he took no plums. How could this be?] I learned from all the chatter on their radio that there were now small fires all around the forest from the lightning strikes. I’m just glad that I wasn’t one of those strikes! I headed back down to my tent around 9:15, full of extra food the firemen insisted on giving me. Ugh, too much food.

 

July 8- 23 miles, camping at Windigo Pass

It was COLD last night! I kept waking up feeling chilled and damp because it was also humid- such an awful combination. Generally, I haven’t been sleeping too well. My sleeping pad and bag are great, but I just wake up at every sound, especially when I camp alone. I don’t think I’m getting more than six hours of solid rest each night and it’s catching up to me.

They're not too happy about carrying those packs!

They’re not too happy about carrying those packs!

I ate breakfast and packed up quickly so I could get a picture of the firemen before they left. They were just getting ready to put their packs on and head out. Each of them was carrying about 80-90 pounds. They said sometimes their packs weigh as much as 130 pounds. I guess I shouldn’t complain when my backpack never weighs more than 35 pounds!
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The storm from yesterday had mostly cleared out, leaving only soft, pillowy clouds high in the sky, illuminated to shades of lavender and pink by the morning sun. It was so beautiful and the temperatures stayed low all day.

The highest point on the OR/WA PCT

The highest point on the OR/WA PCT

I was so tired today. Most of the day past in a haze and I only perked up when a view or something interesting appeared. A couple of times, I sat directly in the trail, backpack still on, and closed my eyes. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually fall asleep and the drowsiness only got worse. By lunchtime, I turned on my iPod and listened to a few podcasts to keep me at least semi-alert.

Lichen-bearded trees

Lichen-bearded trees

It was only 4:30 when I arrived at Windigo Pass, but I was so exhausted that I decided to stop for the night anyways. I cooked some couscous with veggies and beef-flavored TVP- one of my favorite meals- and charged my iPod in the generous amount of sunlight. A ranger came by to post a sign indicating no campfires and we chatted about the little fires caused by yesterday’s lightning storm. He said they’ve all pretty much been put out and I don’t need to worry about them.

Camping at Windigo Pass

Camping at Windigo Pass

An older couple have driven up and are camping here tonight, too. The husband is section hiking Oregon and got off trail for a week to mend his feet. He’s jumping back on the trail tomorrow morning. It’s nice to have company again!

 

July 9- 23.5 miles, camping at Diamond View Lake

Today Oregon really started to show off some of it’s gems. At the higher elevation, I was able to see views stretching back to Crater Lake and Mount Thielson and forward to Diamond Peak and Three Sisters. Numerous lakes speckled the forests, each one having either clear blue water, green lily pads, or rocky little islands.

Coral fungus?

Coral fungus?

Lunchtime set-up for napping at Summit Lake

Lunchtime set-up for napping at Summit Lake

The clouds had been lingering in the sky all day, so I figured they would continue to simply linger and not cause me any problems as I climbed over Diamond Peak this afternoon. Wrong! Around 3:00 a light sprinkle began and as I approached the treeline on Diamond Peak the thunder began to roar.

I wasn’t about to make an attempt going over the peak if lightning might stike, so I put on my parka, covered my pack, and sat under a tree waiting to see how the storm would unfold. Lightning did kick in and I contemplated whether I should set up the tent to wait out the storm for the next two or three hours. As I sat there in the mud, a strike hit less than half a mile from me, in fact, I’m pretty sure it was only a tenth of a mile away. I could see where it hit through the trees and the thunder clash had been simultaneous and terrifying. “Nope, I’m not playing this game today!” I grabbed my pack and trotted down the mountain through the rain and mud.

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I knew there was another trail I might be able to take as an alternative to the PCT. I stopped under a tree, pulled my parka over me like a tent as I squatted down and looked at all my maps. By piecing together two different maps, I figured I could take the Crater Butte Trail at a lower elevation and connect to the Oregon Skyline Trail, which went parallel to the PCT on the valley floor. SOLD!

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Looking up towards Diamond Peak

Looking up towards Diamond Peak

The Crater Butte and Skyline Trails turned out to have beautiful views of Diamond Peak once the clouds cleared out. The bugs are eating me alive, but I didn’t want to put too much Deet on on case I wanted to wash in the lake where I planned to camp.

Diamond View Lake

Diamond View Lake

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Deet is pretty bad for delicate ecosystems and hikers wearing it can easily contaminate water sources when they wash up directly in the lake or creek. I’ve found a cozy little spot for my tent right next to Diamond View Lake. I took my much anticipated rinse in the lake and played my ukulele on the beach.

Camping at Diamond View Lake

Camping at Diamond View Lake

Tomorrow I’ll have an easy five-mile hike into Shelter Cove, a small lakeside resort holding my resupply box. A light rain has begun sprinkling in the setting sun, creating a sparkling, shimmering surface on Diamond View Lake.

 

July 9- 5 miles, camping at Shelter Cove

 

Shelter Cove Resort

Shelter Cove Resort

I hiked into Shelter Cove under a light rain all morning and arrived around 10am. There’s a general store that sells hot dogs and frozen pizzas, which became my breakfast and lunch. I also took a very expensive shower and did my laundry. I’ve been trying to upload videos I made of Crater Lake and the thunderstorm near Mount Thielson all day, but the Wi Fi is experiencing a traffic jam. I’ll try again later tonight once everyone else goes to bed. Ah, the stresses of blogging!

 

Odell Lake

Odell Lake

 

Links

No. 28- Shelter Cove to Sisters, July 2015

Mount Mazama USGS Article

Shelter Cove Resort and Marina

 

Installment No. 20 of My PCT Journey

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No. 20- Silverwood Lake to Vincent Gap, 2015

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Silverwood Lake: 34.288212, -117.356000
McDonald\'s: 34.309519, -117.471185
Evergreen Cafe: 34.360088, -117.634027
Vincent Gap: 34.373611, -117.752282

 

Day 1- 18.8 miles, camping near Swarthout Canyon Road

This is one of the final “connect-the-dots” hikes for me in Southern California. I’d hiked all of So. Cal. except a section near Idyllwild closed due to fire damage and a 30-mile chunk between Silverwood Lake and Acorn Trail. My plan this time was to start at Silverwood Lake and hike past Acorn Trail to connect the dots and shake-down some new gear.

Trail Angel Sabrina

Trail Angel Sabrina

After an incredibly fun weekend of some music teachers’ workshops and hanging out with Sabrina, Sabrina and I drove early in the morning to the San Gabriel Mountains. We’d planned on leaving my car at Eagles Roost Picnic Area, but as we drove higher into the mountains, I relearned the importance of checking the forest road conditions before heading out. It turned out that Highway 2 was closed starting at Vincent Gap near the base of Mount Baden Powell and parking at Eagles Roost was out of the question. Oh, well!  One thing I’ve learned about the trail is that you have to be flexible with your plans and that you’ll probably still have a great time!  So, we left my car at Vincent Gap and Sabrina dropped me off at Silverwood Lake.

Outlet creek at Silverwood Lake

Outlet creek at Silverwood Lake

The morning drop off wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. As we approached Silverwood Lake, I realized my MSR dromedary bag was leaking all over the inside of my pack. We u-turned it back down to the gas station at Cajon Pass and bought me four big bottles of water. What else went wrong? After leaving my house for Sabrina’s, I realized I’d forgotten my water treatment, my trekking poles, my camp spoon, and sunscreen. I had to find an REI to stock up on a new Sawyer Squeeze Filter and a spoon. Also, my totally awesome Suntactics solar charger turned out to be dead.  WhAAAAAAT??? That meant I couldn’t use up precious battery life listening to any podcasts or tunes with my awesome, new plastic cup speaker system (compliments of Ka’eo, Sabrina’s finance). I’m usually so organized with my gear that I really couldn’t fathom all of these problems happening at once.

Trailhead at Silverwood Lake

Trailhead at Silverwood Lake

None-the-less, I was determined to hike and hike I did! The morning was spectacular and I was excited to be back on the trail, even if just for a little shake-down hike. I tried several new things this trip:

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack- I used it for the first time on a hike in November and I’m still trying to get used to it.

Klymit X-Lite torso sleeping pad- I’ve been resisting torso pads for a long time, thinking they wouldn’t be comfortable. Klymit has been kind enough to sponsor me and sent me an X-Lite pad to try out. I loved their full-size version, X-Frame, when I used it last summer, so I was excited to try out the torso size.

Stove-less meals- I love my hot drinks and meals, so I’ve also resisting trying the stove-less approach. This time around, I left the stove at home and packed lots of jerky, bars, and dehydrated meals that taste good cold (lentils, mango sweet rice, and pasta salad).

Boots instead of trail runners- Trail runner are so flexible and lightweight, but the boots offer more longevity and ankle stability. After rolling my ankle too many times last summer on the PCT and burning through hundreds of dollars replacing worn-out trail runners, I thought I’d give boots a try. Using my REI dividend, I purchases a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilators.

Homemade smart-phone speakers- Sabrina’s boyfriend, Ka’eo, made some great speakers out of a paper towel  roll and two plastic cups. We fixed it up so it could sit just on top of my packet with my phone securely positioned in it, yet still easily accessible for those photogenic moments. Being made out of cheap materials means it doesn’t matter if they get damaged on the trail and they’re easy to replace.

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Wildflowers

Wildflowers

It was a short climb out of the Silverwood Lake area and soon I was skirting the edge of Summit Valley, exposed under the hot sun, but winding in and out of shaded gullies sprinkled with wildflowers. Something about Summit Valley pulls me back in time to the pioneers who attempted to settle there in the mid-1800’s and even further back to the native people who’d lived there for centuries.

View of Summit Valley towards Mojave Forks

View of Summit Valley towards Mojave Forks

I came across so many more snakes this day on the trail than I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t know if it was the heat or maybe it’s just this section of trail, but I had several rattlesnakes buzz at me from trail-side bushes, and multiple garden snakes and even a gopher snake crossed my path!

pct_section_c_san_bernardino_mountains_trail.jpg

 

Wildflowers and a velvet ant

Wildflowers and a velvet ant

Coming out of Little Horsethief Canyon, named for a supposed Native American horsethief, presented spectacular views to the north of the San Andres fault cutting between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. From there, it was all downhill to Highway 15 and the promise of McD0nald’s delights!

View towards the San Gabriel Mountains, Highway 15, and the San Andreas Fault

View towards the San Gabriel Mountains, Highway 15, and the San Andreas Fault

 

Just before hitting Highway 15, I decided to stop and soak my feet in the tiny Crowder Canyon Creek. My feet were aching in my brand new boots and it was the only creek I’d probably come across in this section. I sometimes get so focused on putting in miles, that I forget to stop and enjoy the “nooks and crannies” of the trail. To me, a nook or cranny of the trail might be a delightful view, shady tree, or cool stream. There are really so many that it’s difficult to take them all in generously and still stay on schedule.

Still, I’m making an effort to enjoy them longer because I also need the recovery time! It took me over a month last summer to realize how important recovery time is when doing long-distance hiking. An hour or two break mid-afternoon will gain me not only enjoyment and sanity, but also an additional chunk of miles at the end of the day that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do!

Crowder Canyon Creek

Crowder Canyon Creek

Arriving at Highway 15 marked my completion of Section C, officially!  YAY! It took three separate section hikes, but I managed to do it. Time to celebrate with some junk food.

McDonalds at Cajon Pass

McDonalds at Cajon Pass

I felt so dirty in McDonalds. I knew I was smelly from the exceptionally hot thirteen mile hike I’d just put in, but it was more than that- maybe it was the fact that I don’t usually eat fast food; maybe it was the contrast of standing in line with my pack next to people in their heels heading to work. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand to stay there too long. If I was going to look like a street urchin, then I’d rather lounge on the grass than inside a McDonalds. I took two full hours lounging on that grass before jumping back on the trail.

Walking under Highway 15

Walking under Highway 15

 

Bearvertail Cactus ready to bloom

Bearvertail Cactus ready to bloom

The next section of the trail, California PCT Section D, begins by winding around Ralston Peak, amongst the stark Mormon Rocks and over and under the high-traffic railroads. It was so hot and the sun was reflecting off the pale, sandy trail. I wrapped my Billi Bandana hat around my face to protect my poor Irish-German skin as best I could. By the way, I LOVE my Billi Bandana.  It’s been one of my favorite and most versatile pieces of gear, plus it now feels like part of my identity.

Mormon Rocks

Mormon Rocks

 

Sportin' the Billi Bandana

Sportin’ the Billi Bandana

 

Trains near Ralston Peak

Trains near Ralston Peak

My poor feet were killing me on the last couple of miles.  I really wanted to camp at the base of the big climb I was approaching so I could hit it early in the morning, but that meant I had to put in over five more miles after leaving Highway 15. My feet were hating me. I haven’t really been hiking since November because I’ve been working so much, plus the new boots felt heavy and cumbersome. Surprisingly, the bottoms of my feet felt okay, while my ankles felt bruised from having so much material supporting them.

I stopped at a campsite twenty to thirty feet from the dirt Swarthout Canyon Road. I felt comfortable, lying out exposed under the desert sky. A few cars drove by around sunset; I suspect they were ranch workers heading home, but I was glad I was tucked out of view. You never know what kind of people may be looking for fun on a dirt road in the desert. I was still full from my double cheeseburger lunch, so dinner consisted of only nuts and some cookies.

Campsite near Swarthout Road

Campsite near Swarthout Road

 

 

Day 2- 14.5 miles, camping along Blue Ridge

 

With a massive climb ahead of me, I quickly wrapped-up camp, shook up some Starbucks Via and Carnation’s Instant Breakfast in a bottle, and hit the trail. After just a few steps, I laid eyes on an incredibly beautiful coyote. He stood in the bushes just ahead of me and I stopped to watch him. I knew that the moment I reached for my camera, he would’ve dashed away, so I left my camera in my hip belt pocket and savored the moment. It made me happy to see him so healthy looking.

Approaching the climb out of Lone Pine Canyon

Approaching the climb out of Lone Pine Canyon

I tried a couple new recipes just for this trip. By going stove-less, I saved on weight, allowing me to carry the 6.5 liters of water I needed to hike out of Cajon Pass. Any dehydrated or freeze-dried meal can be rehydrated with cold water, but some just taste better hot. (It’s probably more of a psychological/emotional experience than taste.) Keeping that in mind, I assembled a pasta salad with sun dried tomatoes, freeze-dried chicken, dehydrated artichokes, and olive oil dressing. I added just enough water to cover the food the night before and the next morning it was fantastic!

Pasta salad with chicken, tomatoes, & artichokes

Pasta salad with chicken, tomatoes, & artichokes

 

On the ridge above Lone Pine Canyon

On the ridge above Lone Pine Canyon

 

Treating my hotspots

Treating my hotspots

 

Mount Ralston and Lone Pine Canyon

Mount Ralston and Lone Pine Canyon

 

pct-section-d-40-upper-lytle-creek-ridge

Another heat-free meal I really enjoyed on this trip was my mango sweet rice recipe. I assembled pre-cooked and dehydrated jasmine rice, dehydrated mangos, Nido whole milk, sugar, almond floor, and some crunchy, slivered almonds to make this tasty meal.

Mango Sweet Rice

Mango Sweet Rice

Exposed desert trail

Exposed desert trail

 

Finally, trees!

Finally, trees!

The higher I climbed, the cooler it got. It was surprising how hot it had been several thousand feet below, but on the ridge, it was getting windy and cold! I stopped for camp much early than I typically do, but my body was saying, “I’m done!” and it was a very pretty spot. I laid my shirt out to dry in the remaining sunlight while I unpacked and messed around with my bivy set-up. I could tell it was going to be a very cold and blustery night, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well just hunker down and brace for it.

It was indeed pretty damn cold, but my new sleeping pad worked great and the only cold spots I had were from the wind blowing across the top of my bivy. I periodically peeked out of my bag throughout the night in the hopes of seeing the sun rising. The city lights of Hesperia below were beautiful and comforting in my solitude.

Campsite along Blue Ridge

Campsite along Blue Ridge

 

Day 3- 12 miles

Sunrise in the San Gabriels

Sunrise in the San Gabriels

Knowing that this morning I would have a relatively easy 12 mile hike to my car and then a fun meal in Wrightwood motivated me to get hiking before the sun rose.  The morning clouds hung low between the mountains and it felt great to hike so early amongst the trees.  Between the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014, I section hiked all of Section D except for the portion from Cajon Pass to Acorn Trail.  This trip would finally mark my completion of both Sections C and D!

 

Most PCT hikers refer to the PCT Water Report for information on water sources along the trail. It relies on hikers to check out the sources and report back. When no one has reported on a particular source for over a month, the reliability of that source becomes questionable, especially in Southern California. Without the security of an updated Water Report, hikers sometimes have to carry twice as much water. I try to report back on every source I see because I know how valuable that information is for hikers coming after me. One such source that’s been neglected on recents reporting is Guffy Spring. It’s located nearly 300 yards off the PCT down a VERY steep trail. What a pain in the butt trying to reach it; no wonder no one’s bothered checking on it!

Guffy Spring

Guffy Spring

 

pct-section-d-64-san-gabriel-mountains

 

Only a bit of snow.

Only a bit of snow.

As I neared the first crossing of Highway 2, I passed my first fellow hiker.  His name’s Yardsale and has been section hiking the entire PCT (like me!) over the last couple of years.  He’s almost finished!  His pack was gigantic, with additional items tied on with cord.  Apparently, he got his name from spreading out all his gear at each campsite as though he’s at a yard sale.  Sounds familiar!  Yardsale was section hiking all of Section D and needed a ride into Wrightwood to pick up resupplies.  I told him if he still needed a ride after I hiked to Vincent Gap, I’d pick him up.

View south towards Mount Baldy

View south towards Mount Baldy

I scooped up Yardsale and dropped him off at the Wrightwood Post Office, then promptly took myself out to lunch at Evergreen Cafe.  I was still feeling dizzy and nauseous from the altitude, so most of my mushroom burger and milkshake went uneaten.

Epic PCT section hiker Yardale

Epic PCT section hiker Yardale

Despite my achy feet, feeling out of shape, and putting up with the cold wind and the hot sun, I still feel like this was a really successful hike.  I was able to check out some new gear and check up on the old.  I’m feeling much more prepared for my upcoming summer hike of 1,500 miles.  Now, I just need to assemble my meals, pack my resupply boxes, and get in shape!

Evergreen Cafe

Evergreen Cafe

 

Links

Preparing for Installments 21-34: Tahoe to CANADA

Klymit X-lite Sleeping Pad

PCT Water Report

Evergreen Cafe

 

 

 

Installment No. 8 of My PCT Journey

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No. 8- Mill Creek Station to Hiker Town, 2014

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Mill Creek Station: 34.391664, -118.080904
Hiker Town: 34.775883, -118.607798
The Rock Inn: 34.675211, -118.440562
Vasquez Rocks: 34.477827, -118.319831

 

Having been thwarted in my efforts to reach Kennedy Meadows Campground in InyoKern National Forest, I decided to head south to the lower elevations of Angels National Forest.

 

Day 1:  25.5 miles to the Acton Kamp of America (KOA)

Starting out at Angeles Forest Hwy

Starting out at Angeles Forest Hwy

Climbing north from Angeles Forest Hwy

Climbing north from Angeles Forest Hwy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been to this area before when I hiked from Mill Creek Station southbound to Cloudburst Summit (PCT Installment No. 3). Seeing this land again felt so familiar and comforting.  I must say, that’s the nice thing about section hiking. When I section hike one area, I usually get to visit it again when I hike the neighboring sections.

Looking towards Mt. Gleason

Looking towards Mt. Gleason

 

Fun Fact: This area, like so many other parts of the California mountains, was a staging ground for a gold rush in the 1880’s.The miners were supposedly looking for the legendary Los Padres Mine or “Fathers’ Mine.” The legend goes that a group of Spanish Franciscans mined and stored silver and gold near Pine Mountain sometime between 1748 and 1848. The mine and all its storage was forced to be abandoned during the political upheavals of the Mexican independence in 1821, the secularization of the Ventura Mission in 1836, and the Mexican-American War in the late 1840’s. The mine has never been found.

 

Poodle Dog City

Poodle Dog City

Treating a hotspot

Treating a hotspot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I hiked, I could see Highway 14 stretching far into the east and, to the north, the recently snow-capped Tehachapi Mountains. I was glad to hiking in warmer and drier weather. Many parts of this section were overgrown with grass and bushes, including the nasty, but sweet-smelling Poodle Dog bush.

Climbing over downed trees

Climbing over downed trees

 

Approaching the top of Mt. Gleason

Approaching the top of Mt. Gleason

There is a mountain near Mt. Gleason named for my mother’s great-grandfather, Mendenhall Peak. The Summitpost.org site mistakenly states the peak was named for mom’s grandfather, William Mendenhall, who was a superintendent to the Forest. William actually named the peak and the nearby fire road after HIS father, who was killed by a rock slide in the area when William was a young man. The pass over Mt. Gleason offered sweeping views of the area, but I couldn’t figure out which distance peak was Mendenhall.

I had considered camping at Messenger Flats just below Mt. Gleason, or perhaps farther at the North Fork Ranger Station for the night. Messenger Flats did look like a really nice place, with healthy pines, tables, and bathrooms. The lure of showers, however, pushed me towards Acton’s Kamp of America (KOA), and so I flew right on past the Flats.

20140328_144611_Richtone(HDR)

20140328_145212_Richtone(HDR)

The vistas spread before me on the north side of Mt. Gleason were incredible. The desert land looked so barren, but the mountains, hills, and valleys created a dynamic texture against the blue sky. Around 17 miles into the day, I reached the North Fork Ranger Station. It provided tables, bathrooms and a map of the entire Angeles National Forest. It was fun and so rewarding to look at the map and see how much of that land I’d already walked through.

Water cache provided by the ranger at the North Fork Station

Water cache provided by the ranger at the North Fork Station

Map at the North Fork Ranger Station

Map at the North Fork Ranger Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a long downhill hike towards Soledad Canyon. My feet, hips, and shoulders were aching from the mileage I was pushing for, but the views and wildflowers made up for the aches and pains. Since I had cell phone reception, I got to talk to my brother for about 30 minutes during the remaining downhill miles. Talking to him while in the middle of nowhere lifted my spirits!

20140328_163546

 

 

Section D wildflowers

Section D wildflowers

Reaching the Kamp of America felt like a milestone. I was excited to set up camp on luxuriously flat grass and bathe in the hot KOA showers. The office was already closed when I arrived, but I found a couple of PCT section hikers who’d already set-up their tent and I just camped near them. Just by coincidence, they were hiking the exact same section as me, from Mill Creek Station to Hiker Town.

Soledad Canyon, home of the Santa Clara River and the Acton KOA

Soledad Canyon, home of the Santa Clara River and the Acton KOA

 

23 million year-old rock formations of Soledad Canyon

23 million year-old rock formations of Soledad Canyon

Their names were Lynn and Patty, or 3-Guy and Glow in the Dark, respectively. It turns out I had actually read about Patty in Muk Muk’s post about crossing the Mojave Desert. In 2013, another hiker named UB- oddly enough, the same UB who had been three days north of me from Hiker Town to Tehachapi- had arranged for a Glow in the Dark night hike to honor Patty’s fight against cancer. She earned her trail name just after she began radiation treatment and joked about being so radiated that she could probably glow in the dark!

At the Acton Kamp of America (KOA)

At the Acton Kamp of America (KOA)

 

Patty and Lynn regularly blog about their fun and informative PCT section hiking and on hiking with cancer. You can check it out at the McShapPCTJournal website.

(R-L) 3-Guy, Glow in the Dark, and me

(R-L) 3-Guy, Glow in the Dark, and me

After I hastily threw up my tent and showered (using hand soap from the sink and paper towels to dry off), I joined Lynn and Patty for dinner. I cooked a home-assembled miso noodle soup for dinner and Patty made smores for dessert. We chatted for most of the night about everything from trail life to real life. It was delightful meeting such fun, intelligent, and like-minded people!

I fell asleep that night to the sound of a nearby boy scout troop, KOA golf carts, and the roars of African lions from the local wildlife preserve.

 

 

Day 2: 18.3 miles

Since I’d hiked so many miles the day before, I allowed myself to take time in the morning. Patty and Lynn packed up early, hoping to put in a fair amount of miles. The very last bit of Section D takes the trail through the Santa Clara Riverbed and past some interesting rock formations. Somewhere in this area, the Golden Spike ceremony took place in 1993 to commemorate the completion of building the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

The Santa Clara Riverbed

The Santa Clara Riverbed

 

I see faces. #CarrieWatson

I see faces. #CarrieWatson

The trail was dry and winding all the way to Highway 14. After about seven miles, I finally caught up to Glow in the Dark and 3-Guy. I’ve got to say, it’s been really fun having other hikers on the trail with me. As a section hiker, I don’t often run into many PCT hikers, let alone repeatedly!

View of Hwy 14 near Agua Dulce

View of Hwy 14 near Agua Dulce

 

Glow in the Dark and 3-Guy along the PCT

Glow in the Dark and 3-Guy along the PCT

Vasquez Rocks County Park was really stunning. Day hikers abounded, but it didn’t take away from the striking beauty of the massive 25 million year-old rock formations the trail winds through. The park is named for Tiburcio Vasquez, a bandit who hid out in the rocks from 1873-74.

 

 

3-Guy and Glow in the Dark at Vasquez Rocks

3-Guy and Glow in the Dark at Vasquez Rocks

I refilled my water bottles at the drinking fountain- which, by the way, is shared with the horses. They have a separate little spigot with a nose pedal. When the horses press the pedal with their noses, the water pours out for them. Indeed, they appeared to be enjoying playing with the pedals!

Water fountain at Vasquez Rocks

Water fountain at Vasquez Rocks

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Just past Vasquez Rocks County Park, Agua Dulce provided the comforts of Sweetwater Cafe. I ordered a giant salad, sandwich, and iced tea, which were all delicious. The waitress was surprised to see any PCT hikers coming through in March because the thru-hiker herd usually passes through Agua Dulce in late April. I hung around for about an hour hoping Lynn and Patty might catch-up, but they seemed to have taken their time back at the Park.

Agua Dulce, Ca

Agua Dulce, Ca

Officially entering Section E of the PCT brought me to Mint Canyon and a very long climb out of it. I was aiming for a campsite just at the top of the ridge, which would put me near Bear Spring. The hillsides in this stretch were as green as Ireland and covered with wildflowers.

Trail Registry in Mint Canyon near mile 458.5

Trail Registry in Mint Canyon near mile 458.5

 

Section E Wildflowers

Section E Wildflowers

 

The wind began to kick up just as I pulled out my tent. Looking up questioningly at the sky, I wondered if the storm I had escaped near Tehachapi would be back with a vengence tonight. I secured my tent in what seemed to be the most protected spot on the ridge and placed big rocks on the tent stakes.

Campsite just above Bear Spring

Campsite just above Bear Spring

It rained on and off throughout the night, but it was merely a spattering in comparison to what I will now refer to as the Piute Mountains Incident. I curled up with my hot water bottle and enjoyed a dinner of Mountain House’s Beef Chilli Mac before falling asleep.

 

Day 3:  22 miles to Lake Hughes

I awoke to one of the most beautiful mornings. The rain clouds from the night before, now empty of their moisture, hung lightly in the canyons of Soledad and Agua Dulce.

 

Looking toward Bouquet Canyon Reservoir and the burned/closed area

Looking toward Bouquet Canyon Reservoir and the burned/closed area

 

Bear Spring

Bear Spring

Just after refilling my bottles at Bear Spring, I began to encounter more and more people. Some were camping, most others were trail running in preparation for the Leona Divide 50/50 Race. There is a bench along the PCT dedicated to the man who mapped out the Leona Divide Race, which made an excellent rest spot.

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The trail was relatively flat, but didn’t inspire me much. Maybe I’m just not that into chaparral, or maybe it was because the trail didn’t offer many views in this section, but I felt bored. I hurried past the Oasis Water Cache, which is usually stocked with fun things like juice, soda, chips, etc. Once I noticed it was empty, I moved on. I guess I’m just too early in the season for those kinds of treats.

The famous Oasis Cache of Section E

The famous Oasis Cache of Section E

The Powerhouse fire of 2013 burned 30,000 acres and has closed the PCT from San Francisquito Road at mile 478.5 to Pine Canyon Road at mile 511. As a detour, I had to depart the trail an San Francisquito Road and road walk seven miles to Lake Hughes. I planned on staying at The Rock Inn for the night and then would road walk the remaining fourteen miles to Hiker Town on Hwy 138.

The road walk was actually really lovely. There were great views, interesting homes, and curious livestock to great along the way. I got numerous odd looks entering the Inn with my backpack, everyone in the restaurant seemed to be either a local or a biker. The Inn staff were incredibly hospitable and immediately made sure I was comfortably set up with a room. Since my Kindle broke at some point during the Piute Mountains Incident, I grabbed a random book from the Inn’s library and made my way downstairs for dinner.

The Rock Inn of Lake Hughes, Ca

The Rock Inn of Lake Hughes, Ca

Waiting for my burger and beer, I heard a familiar laugh coming form the bar and couldn’t quite believe that the man I was looking at was actually a friend and colleague from back home. I texted Tony, “Are you at a bar in Lake Hughes?” Two minutes later, I see Tony’s head pop and swivel around like a meerkat’s. We had a good laugh at the unbelievable coincidence of running into each other in a place so far removed from home, we might as well be in China! Turns out, Tony was rehearsing with a friend, Chalo, who lives in Lake Hughes. Rounds of tequilla, story telling, and music making followed through the night.

 

Chalo, Tony, and me at The Rock Inn

Chalo, Tony, and me at The Rock Inn

 

Day 4:  14.2 miles to Hiker Town

The last morning of this trip brought me a massive breakfast at the Inn and the joy of meeting two more PCT hikers and the famous Trail Angel Terry Anderson. Terry and her husband host hikers a couple of miles down San Francisquito Road in the opposite direction from Lake Hughes at their home, Casa de Luna. Two section hikers from North Carolina, Susan and her dad, had decided to stay with the Anderson’s for the night and then got a ride into Lake Hughes for breakfast. I had actually meet Susan and her dad the previous day near the Oasis Cache. They were adorable and fun, and Terry’s knowledge and enthusiasm was wonderful.

Breakfast at The Rock Inn

Breakfast at The Rock Inn

 

Trail Angel Terry Anderson, "Dad," me, and Susan

Trail Angel Terry Anderson, “Dad,” me, and Susan

 

The road walk to Hiker Town was nice, but I did miss the trail. Looking at the burnt hillsides, I could tell that absolutely nothing had survived the fire, and that meant there were no roots holding the soil together. If the trail had been open to PCT hikers, there would be tremendous erosion by the foot traffic and absolutely no shade.

Lake Hughes road walking

Lake Hughes road walking

 

Approaching Hwy 138 and the Mojave Desert

Approaching Hwy 138 and the Mojave Desert

I had originally started this hiking trip with plans of heading from Hiker Town north to Kennedy Meadows. A small, but powerful storm dissuaded me from that goal and it gave me the opportunity to be creative and flexible in my approach to the trail. Instead of the 184 miles I had intended, I hiked 160 miles, saw some lands I had never seen, revisited some familiar turf, meet new friends, and was the recipient of great, great generosity. I hope I can continue to carry the gratefulness, awe, and spontaneity this trip has brought me for years to come.

Hiker Town

Hiker Town

Links

Installment No. 9- Jawbone Canyon Road to Lone Pine

Glow in the Dark & 3-Guy’s Blog

The Rock Inn

Hiker Town

Vasquez Rock County Park

Sweetwater Cafe

Poodle Dog Bush

Leona Divide 50/50 Race

 



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Another old trail post

 

“The whole range, seen from the plain, with the hot sun beating upon its southern slopes, wears a terribly forbidding aspect. There is nothing of the grandeur of snow, or glaciers, or deep forests, to excite curiosity or adventure; no trace of gardens or waterfalls. From base to summit all seems gray, barren, silent — dead, bleached bones of mountains, overgrown with scrubby bushes, like gray moss. But all mountains are full of hidden beauty” -John Muir (1918). Chapter 11: The San Gabriels. In Steep Trails.

 

Installment No. 3 of My PCT Journey

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No. 3- Mill Creek Station to Cloudburst Summit, 2013

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Cloudburst Summit: 34.351391, -117.934735
Mill Creek Station: 34.391896, -118.081226
Hill Street Cafe: 34.204211, -118.200406

 

My next PCT journey took me again through Angeles National Forest and Section D of the PCT.  This 20.5 mile day hike began with Sabrina, my personal trail angel, shuttling me from Cloudburst Summit down to Mill Creek Summit Station.  With so many miles to put in and with daylight savings approaching, I started hiking just as the sun was coming up over the hill.  It was beautiful to watch and great to hike in the morning shade.

Heading up the trail from Mill Creek Summit Station

Heading up the trail from Mill Creek Summit Station

Skeleton trees

Skeleton trees

Leftover trees from the 2009 Station Fire

Leftover trees from the 2009 Station Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2009 Station Fire left this entire area toasted and barren.  There were no live trees left, but mother nature moves quickly and the new growth was billowing up around the skeleton pines.  The trail climbed slowly, as it would all day,  and soon I was able to get views of the valleys below.

Not too far into the hike, I was startled by gun shots and wasn’t really sure if I should be concerned or not about stray bullets hitting me.  Luckily, I had worn my red hiking shirt and hoped that’d be enough differeniate me from someone’s potential jerky.

Looking down on Mill Creek Summit Station

Looking down on Mill Creek Summit Station

It was a dry, dry desert out there, and yet it had a stark kind of beauty.  I really enjoyed the views and the little surprises of nature along the way.  I came across a spring emerging directly out of the bottom of a tree and Poodle-dog bush is always entertaining because it looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.  It also has an interesting odor, a bit like beer, and I could usually smell it before I saw it.  When I first caught the scent, I thought for sure some hunters had dumped a bunch of beer somewhere.  As funny as Poodle-dog bush looks and sounds, it can give you a horrible itchy, sore rash, so avoid it!!

Tree Spring

Tree Spring

Poodledog Bush

Poodle-dog Bush

 

“Not even in the Sierra have I ever made the acquaintance of mountains more rigidly inaccessible.  …  But in the very heart of this thorny wilderness, down in the dells, you may find gardens filled with the fairest flowers, that any child would love, and unapproachable linns lined with lilies and ferns, where the ousel builds its mossy hut and sings in chorus with the white falling water.”  -John Muir (1918). Chapter 11: The San Gabriels. In Steep Trails.

Approaching mile 415, the forest began to fill in around me.  The land looked more and more like the trail I had hiked near Guffy Campground on the other side of Angeles National Forest with Penderoso and Jeffrey Pines.

Reaching the trees

Reachings the trees

 

View towards Palmdale

View towards Palmdale

 

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Near PCT mile 417

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I approached Pacifico Mountain, I began to keep an eye out for the dirt road which I would be detouring on.  The trail going around Pacifico Mtn. had recently been reported to be overgrown with unavoidable Poodledog Bush.  I decided to walk along Pacifico Mountain Road leaving the PCT at mile 413.3 and rejoining it at Pinyon Flats.  The detour was roughly 4.5 miles along the very rutted and dusty Pacifico road and a tiny, but paved road called Little Rock Truck Trail.  The junction of Pacifico Mtn. Rd. & Little Truck Trail had a small parking area and quite a few trucks and vans were parked there, probably belonging to hunters.

Road walking on Pacifico Mtn Rd.

Road walking on Pacifico Mountain Rd.

Angeles National Forest, looking south

Angeles National Forest, looking south

Baby tree!

Baby tree!

I have never seen larger pine cones in my life than I did that morning walking along Pacifico Mountain Road.  They were bigger than my head!  I kept looking around trying to figure out which trees they were coming from, but couldn’t spot any equally impressive trees.  I’m guessing they came from the older pines, got so big in the Spring that they dropped off, and now all those pine trees have no cones whatsoever.

Didn't know they made them this big!

Didn’t know they made them this big!

Couldn't help myself...

Couldn’t help myself…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Yucca plant

A Yucca plant

Much later in the day, when I had reached my car and called my mother to let her know I was safe, she filled me in on a very personal family history she had with the San Gabriel Mountains.  As a child, her grandfather had been taken by his father and his brothers on trips through those mountains.  On one of these trips, a rockslide caught the young men by surprise and critically injured the father.  They carried him back to civilization and got him to a hosipital where he died within a few days.  Years later, that child grew up and became a ranger for the very same mountains who took his father’s life.  It was the early days of the Angeles National Forest, California’s very first National Forest, and he honored his father by naming Mendenhall Peak and Mendenhall Ridge Road after him.

 

 

Pacifico Mountain Rd.

Pacifico Mountain Rd.

Butterflies on wildflowers

Butterflies on wildflowers

Little Rock Truck Trail

Little Rock Truck Trail

 

The PCT follows a small road after Pinyon Flats for a bit and then turns off as a footpath at mile 407.  There’s a water resource called Sulpher Springs near this turn off, but somehow I missed it.  It didn’t matter much, as I had brought all my water for the day with me.  It’s just always fun to investigate things along the trail, especially water sources.

Near PCT mile 407

Near PCT mile 407

 

Through this next stretch, I saw several very old looking PCT signs and wondered if they might have been some of the original signs posted in the early 1970’s.

Old PCT sign

Old PCT sign

Another old trail post

Another old trail post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing higher

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I passed a large family doing a day hike, including a tiny little girl attached to her mother with a pink stretchy leash.  I thought to myself, I must be getting close to the highway and picnic area if SHE’s out here.  It’s great to see people hiking with their small children, it sets a precedent for that child and helps them build a relationship with the natural world that so rarely happens in modern cities these days.

 

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Just after Three Points Picnic Area and the Hwy 2i crossing, the PCT merges with the very old Silver Mocassin Trail (SMT).  This trail originated as frequently used footpaths by the Tongva people, a Los Angeles area Native American tribe.  Later, Anglo settlers used the same paths for hunting and in 1942 it was officially designated a wilderness trail by the Boy Scouts.  Parts of this trail are narrow footpaths, others look like they were once dirt roads that have been washed out season after season.

Three Points Picnic Area at the Hwy 2i crossing

Three Points Picnic Area at the Hwy 2i crossing

Stepping onto the Silver Moccasin Trail

Stepping onto the Silver Moccasin Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Glenwood

Camp Glenwood

PCT 400 mile marker

PCT 400 mile marker

Pinecone traffic jam

Pinecone traffic jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was pushing up toward the Hwy 2g crossing, I almost trotted right past the 400 mile marker.  Even though I’m section hiking Southern California and the mile markers don’t indicate how far I’ve come or how far I have to go, I’m always still excited to see them.  In a way, they are still milestones for me.  As I hike through the various sections, I’m slowly filing in the gaps on my map and each mile marker is symbolic of that section being completed, no matter the order or date of when I hiked it.

It wasn’t long after that I finally came out to Hwy 2f and Cloudburst Summit.  It felt good to put in my second ever 20-miler day and I looked back along the mountains I had just climbed up with great satisfaction.  As I was planning on a much earned dinner in a diner, I changed into some clean clothes before driving out of Angeles National Forest.  My diner of choice that evening was Hill Street Cafe in La Canada Flintridge.  I treated myself to a Tequila Lime Linguine with Blackened Chicken and Bell Peppers, a chocolate shake and a salad.  It was absolutely excellent and I highly recommend it to everyone, coming off a mountain or not!

View north towards Mill Creek from Cloudburst

View north towards Mill Creek from Cloudburst

 

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HIll Street Cafe, La Canada-Flintridge

HIll Street Cafe, La Canada-Flintridge

 

I travelled right to left of these Halfmile elevation charts:

 

Links

Installment No. 4 of My PCT Journey- Cabazon to Idyllwild

Halfmile’s maps

John Muir’s Steep Trails, Chapter 11: “The San Gabriels”

Hill Street Cafe 



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View of Mt. Baden-Powell

 

 

Istallment No. 2 of My PCT Journey

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No. 2- Wrightwood to Eagles Roost, 2013

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Wrightwood: 34.346590, -117.646151
Eagles Roost: 34.354774, -117.877614
Grassy Hollow Visitor Center: 34.375365, -117.722111

 

Day 1

With the beginning of the school year in late August, I wasn’t able to jump back on the trail until October. My success in August with Mt. Whitney trip left me feeling strong and grateful. I spent September looking carefully over Halfmile’s maps and weather reports, and decided that Mt. Baden-Powell in Angeles National Forest and PCT Section D would be my next victim.

This hike started with a car shuttle with a little help from my friend and personal Trail Angel, Sabrina. We left my car at Eagles Roost Picnic Area on Highway 2 and then she dropped me off in Wrightwood at the Acorn Trailhead. This was a lovely trail, but it was a steep climb with 1,500 feet gained over just 2 miles.

Acorn Trail, Wrightwood, Ca

Acorn Trail, Wrightwood, Ca

Unmarked Trailhead for Acorn Trail

Trailhead for Acorn Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True to my forgetful nature, I was 30 feet up the trail when I realized I’d left my trekking pole in Sabrina’s car. Luckily, she was still at the trailhead, texting on her phone. It was a delightful suprise to see snow along the trail that morning. One of the reasons I had picked this section of the PCT to hike next is because I wanted to hike it before it became too snowy for comfortable walking. The snow I got to walk through, however, was perfect and put me in the mood for Fall!

Found art

Found art

Snow along Acorn Trail

Snow along Acorn Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junction of PCT and Acorn Trail

Junction of the PCT and Acorn Trail

 

Acorn Trail

Acorn Trail

Reaching the junction at the top of Acorn Trail was a joy, not only because I loved the idea of being back on the PCT again, but also not having to climb UP anymore! I was immediately greeted with spectacular views of Mt. San Antonio, also called Mt. Baldy. At a height of 10,068 ft, it’s the tallest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Mt. San Antonio, Angeles NF

Mt. San Antonio, Angeles NF

 

This hike was my second time visiting Angeles National Forest, the first visit being only a quick drive along Hwy 2 earlier that year. To be honest, I unfairly presupposed that it wasn’t much of a forest, that the mountains were crummy and the views urban and smoggy. Turns out I was quite wrong. Yes, there was quite a bit of smog hanging in the valleys, but the drama of the San Gabriel Mountains rivaled that of the Sierras. There were plenty of trees to constitute a forest, and, to my surprise, I was particularly entranced with the views of Antelope Valley and the Mojave desert floor. Topping it off was a sweet, pine smell permeating the air which I didn’t recall smelling in the Sierras.

Mountain and valley views near Guffy Campground

Mountain and valley views near Guffy Campground

 

View toward Antelope Valley

View toward Antelope Valley

 

It didn’t take long to run into a few hunters, and it seemed they were all camped out at Guffy Campground. Guffy was car camping city! There were SUVs and sedans, blow up mattresses, grills cooking up hamburger patties, giant coolers full of beer and soda, and boom boxes blasting. I was pleased that there didn’t seem to be any hunters up past the campground and that I had the trail to myself again.

Guffy Campground

Guffy Campground

 

The PCT just above Guffy Campground

The PCT just above Guffy Campground

 

The section of PCT betwen Guffy and Hwy 2 at mile 369.5 gave me that sense of childhood adventure. The one where you feel safe because you’re just exploring your own backyard, but exciting because you don’t really know what you’re going to see around the bend. This was such a new forest to me and it was actually kinda fun to have views of cities and other areas that you could point to and identify. (“Over in that direction is Mojave; that must be Claremont, and that mountain way in the distance could be Santiago Peak in Orange County’s Saddleback formation,” etc.)

View towards Claremont

View towards Claremont

Mt. San Antonio, aka Mt. Baldy

Mt. San Antonio, aka Mt. Baldy

 

It’s funny how a little bench, a reservoir, or other man-made structures are so much more exciting on the trail than off.   Halfmile’s PCT maps have the ski resorts and reservoirs marked on his map, and it gave me something to look forward to as I marched along the moutain sides.  It reminded me of when I was a child (I see a theme here!  :-D)  on road trips and my mother would tell me to keep an eye out for funny things like Santa Claus statues, roller coaster towers, or special mountains.  Any kind of landmark on the trail is always something to look forward to.

Ski lifts

Ski lifts

Ski resort reservoir

Ski resort reservoir

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing Blue Ridge Campground, also a popular car camping spot, all sorts of deciduous trees lined the trail. Since we don’t see too much seasonal change in Southern California, small things like leaves changing color and bits of snow on the ground are very exciting. (In fact, shortly after this trip, I was in such a Fall mood that I bought THREE new very Fall-ish looking sweaters.) I’ve always found the natural world so fascinating.  Bits of information from middle school science class trickled into my mind about chlorophyll & leaf pigment. Thinking about all the chemical reactions going on inside each plant, geological histories of each mountain, and the daily lives of the local animals entertains me to no end.

Fall colors

Fall colors

 

373 miles to Mexico, 2,277 to Canada

373 miles to Mexico, 2,277 to Canada

Soon I was crossing Hwy. 2 and anticipating my arrival at Grassy Hollow Visitor Centor, where I planned to refill water bottles, eat lunch, and roll out my legs on a little foam roller. I’ve been going to physical therapy since I had knee surgery in June, and my new favorite therapy toy was a 6-inch long foam roller. I decided to bring it along for this trip and see how well it worked for me out on the trail. Would it be a nuisance to pack? Would it be worth it’s 11 ounces of weight? Turns out, it is a bit of a nuisance, as I had packed it into my bear canister and then had to stash my food every where else in my pack. However, it was pretty awesome to roll out my legs right there on the trail. Afterwards, I felt like I’d had a quickie deep tissue massage and could easily carry the next batch of water up and over Mt. Baden-Powell.

The visitor center had nice bathrooms, a deck and benches, which I took full advantage of for my lunch break.  I stuck my head inside the visitor center to ask where the camp water spigot was, but the ranger and volunteers were nice enough to just let me fill up my bottles in their kitchen sink. Whoohoo! Apparently, the water from the spigot, despite being good enough for drinking, comes out slightly orange.

The center was a charming little museum about the natural history of the forest, complete with maps, old photos, exhibits of pine cones and grasses, and an extremely large looking stuffed mountain lion. Looking into the dead cougar’s glass eyes sent shivers down my spine. No longer did I have that childhood sense of exploring my own backyard.

Grassy Hollow Visitor Center

Grassy Hollow Visitor Center

Lunch

Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I hiked around Jackson Flat Campground and on towards Mt. Baden-Powell. The 2 miles between Jackson Flat and Hwy 2b seemed to take forever. I was starting to get tired and, trying to determine how fast I needed to hike to summit Mt. B-P before dark, was getting a bit concerned about daylight.

Descending to Hwy 2 and Mt. Baden-Powell Trailhead

Descending to Hwy 2 and the Mt. Baden-Powell Trailhead

 

 

42 switchbacks to reach the top

42 switchbacks to reach the top

I saw only hikers coming down the mountain as I headed up toward the summit. It was already 4:00 in the afternoon when I started up and the sun would be setting in about two hours. I could feel the altitude changing as I became more and more out of breath, but I was determined to reach the top before dark. I hustled up the trail, slowly making my way into deeper snow, and counting every switchback along the way.

More snow meant more opportunities for spotting animal tracks, including any surviving relative of the stuffed cougar at the visitor center. There were clearly large cat tracks in the snow that evening, but I couldn’t tell how recent they were. They didn’t look old, but it seemed unlikely a mountain lion would’ve been recently hanging around with so many hikers going up and down during the day. Either way, there was a lion living in the area, and, with the sun sinking quickly in the west, my eyes darted over the terrain and I turned to look up and behind me every few feet.

An hour up the mountain maybe around switchback number 25, I began to feel really exhausted and sore. I was sure some meat eating monster would sense I was an easy target, like I was some wounded, sick animal, and make a meal out of me.  To boost my moral and, hopefully, convince carnivores I wouldn’t go down easily, I began shouting out the switch back numbers in the loudest, strongest voice I could muster. I did this all the way to number 39, when I was startled suddenly by two hikers coming down the mountainside. They must’ve thought I was either pretty weird or pretty funny. They promised me I had only a few more switchbacks to go. That was good news because the sun was just about down as I reached the summit of 9,406 ft.

Sunset near Mt. Baden-Powell

Sunset near Mt. Baden-Powell

Sunset, Mt. Baden-Powell

Sunset on Mt. Baden-Powell summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I quickly unrolled my sleeping pad, bivy sack, and sleeping bag on what looked to be the only flat spot, just under an old tree. I cooked up a black bean soup with chicken using my headlamp, and then packed all my smell-ables into my bear canister. I placed the canister up the hill just a bit, but as I started back towards my bivy, I heard a loud and very distinct CRACK. [Heart attack time!] I had done a bit of mental rehearsal on lion encountars, and immediately jumped to my defensive mode. Defensive mode for me consists of the most offensive words and threats that happen to fall out of my mouth in the moment at the top of my lungs:  threats of body mutilation, permanent emotional damage that will make a lion second guess ever approaching a human again, and maybe even certain death. So, all these obscenities fly out of my mouth into the stillness of the night on top of Mt. Baden-Powell, and my little Ace Hardware headlamp isn’t strong enough to illuminate my bivy site. I carefully approach my gear, listening for sounds and looking for reflective eyes or dark cat silhouettes. Turns out I’d been screaming threats at my fallen trekking pole. I climbed into my bag before anything else caught my eye, and pulled out a book. Even with a good book and a huge beautiful moon rising in the east, my imagination still got the better of me. For the rest of the evening, a dark animal-like silhouette, which I was sure I could see moving, creeped me out; and, upon morning sunlight, it turned out to only be a dead tree trunk.

Waiting for sunbeams, summit of Mt. Baden-Powell

Waiting for sunbeams, summit of Mt. Baden-Powell

Moon setting

Moon setting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

I woke before the first rays of sun and watched the soft colors of dawn feather out on the eastern horizon.  Scooping up my entire sleep set-up in my arms, I shuffled to the summit and popped myself back in bed to watch the sunrise.   To the west, the sky was still a dark blue and the moon was still making its way west.  It made for an enchanting morning.

Watching the sunrise over Mt. Baldy

Watching the sunrise over Mt. Baldy with my very portable Zpacks bivy.

Mt. Baden-Powell campsite

Mt. Baden-Powell campsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon setting, Mt. Baden-Powell

Moon setting in the morning, Mt. Baden-Powell

 

Since it was chilly, I didn’t bother to change out of my pj’s or eat breakfast until further down the trail.  As I tend not to like cooking in the morning, breakfast consisted of jerky and fig bars, with some True Lemon in my water.  I must’ve been a bit dehydrated because I just couldn’t seem to satiate my thirst that morning.  Less than 30 minutes down the trail I passed a couple who’d also hiked up the afternoon before, passing Mt. B-P and camping along the ridge, in a fairly exposed, but really beautiful spot.

Snow on the PCT

Snow on the PCT

Just past Mt. Baden-Powell

Just past Mt. Baden-Powell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View towards Claremont, between Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. Throop

View towards Claremont, between Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. Throop

 

I passed numerous day hikers that morning and was still lucky enough to see a couple of deer.  It always amazes me how agile they are; they practically glide up and down clifs, over rocks, and through thick bushes as though they were simply skating at the roller rink.  They often make me imagine that’s how so many dinosaurs must’ve moved millions of years ago.  Bambi: a gentle, little creature of Angeles N.F. or a window to the ferocious and primal Jurassic world!

Little Jimmy Spring

Little Jimmy Spring

The next goal on the trail was Little Jimmy Spring near PCT mile 384.  It was a 5.75 mile hike almost entirely on a gentle downhill.  The spring was just past Windy Gap, a trail junction to Crystal Lake with a nice little bench.  I met several campers coming and going from the Spring all doing quick overnights at Little Jimmy Campground.  This well-flowing spring is built up with a stone wall and deck, and a simple bench.

Another 2.25 miles later, I again found myself crossing Hwy 2 at Islip Saddle.  I was feeling tired and, eyeballing the height of Mt. Williamson, was extremely tempted to just road walk to Eagles Roost instead of hiking up and over the mountain.

Just a third of the way up Mt. Williamson, I panicked and thought I might be on the wrong trail.  Since there’s a trail closure between Eagles Roost and mile 394 due to an endangered species of frog, many hikers take a detour called South Fork Trail.  This detour trail begins at Islip Saddle along with the PCT and branches off toward South Fork Campground and Punchbowl Creek.  I didn’t remember seeing the trail junction at all, and I was in no mood to backtrack down the mountain and then up again on the correct trail.  It must’ve been my anxiousness to reach Eagles Roost, but I really felt like I couldn’t think straight.  I stared and stared at the map and couldn’t quite determine which trail I was on.  Looking at the map now and remembering the terrain, it really shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out.

At the time, I resorted to pulling out my smartphone and using, for the first time ever, Halfmile’s app to locate myself on the PCT.  Once a mileage position popped up, I still struggled because I didn’t know if Halfmile called official detours the “PCT,” which would mean I was on the South Fork Trail.  If I had only tested out the Halfmile app other places on the trail, none of that confusion would’ve happened.  The app is actually VERY clear about whether you’re on the PCT, a detour trail, or a road-walk.   It even tells you how far off trail you might been and in what direction!  I decided to trust I was on the PCT and not the detour, and hiked upward hoping to come upon a very distinct switchback to confirm my location.  Indeed, Halfmile had me covered and I was exactly where I should be on the PCT.  [How could I have ever doubted you, Halfmile?  <3].  It still bugs me, however, that I never even saw the junction for the South Fork Trail.

View from Mt. Williamson, Angeles NF

View from Mt. Williamson, Angeles NF

 

A desert forest

A desert forest

 

Downed tree

Downed tree

I was overjoyed to reach the top, round the bend and look down toward Eagles Roost at my little car. The day was hot and I was ready for a big lunch in town. I practically ran down Mt. Williamson to the Hwy 2d crossing and raced myself across the last little section between Hwy 2d & Hwy 2e. I was making spectacular time and not even a big, bushy downed tree on the trail could slow me down.  With branches cracking & limbs scraping, I charged over the tree and down to towards the highway and picnic area. Lunch followed shortly at Newcombs Ranch Bar and Restaurant down Hwy 2, which was not as awesome as I was hoping.

 

Eagles Roost Picnic Area, Hwy 2

Eagles Roost Picnic Area, Hwy 2

Links

Installment No. 3 of My PCT Journey- Mill Creek to Cloudburst Summit

Halfmile’s maps

Halfmile’s smartphone app