PCT Mile: 190
A complete zero day is exactly what I needed! My body is well rested, and my legs feel great. Idyllwild is a cool little town but it’s time to push on.
In conversations around town, I discovered that number of PCTers also wanted to take the alternate route and summit Mount San Jacinto. The owners of the Inn where I stayed offer a shuttle service to the Humber Park Trail head for two dollars. So at 8:15 AM, there were my snowboarders and a few others waiting in the parking lot.
The summit is at 10,800 feet so we had about 4,500 feet to ascend over 8 miles. See the black arrow below…
Since the shuttle had to go back-and-forth a number of times to get all of the hikers, we were all just chatting about our day and half in town. One thing led to another, and Brooke said, “You are just like a Trail Dad.” Now you don’t assign yourself a trail name nor do you push for one. They must happen naturally. All 13 of my snowboarders agreed in unison that it is a perfect name for me. So therefore, I am now known as “Trail Dad”! (Funny story on this later 😜)
There was a Ranger standing at the trailhead checking for PCT permits. He asked if we all knew each other because we were having such a good time. Nope. We just met less than 2 weeks ago. That’s what the trail does. (More on this later)
Just before 9 AM, we are bombing up the hill, packs fully loaded with our resupplies.
We were all trying to summit and get to a lower elevation in the afternoon because a storm was coming in. Yep, there’s the “and then”. You know what’s coming. With my body fully rested, my legs were strong and I was climbing fast. It was a beautiful day and the temperature was perfect.
I usually smell them about 10 yards before I actually see them. Yep, normal humans. They are fully perfumated and deodorized. Deathly afraid of their primal scent, they’re hoping that they have put on enough to last the day. It’s a crowded trail and we just keep blowing by normal humans huffing and puffing their way to the top. It’s kind of an ego thing and it feels good. All kidding aside, this is a spectacular hike. I highly recommend it for normal and abnormal humans. I was just bragging a little.
Once I reached the 9000 foot level, I had to slow down because I was feeling the altitude. It was about 11:30 when I reached the hut at 10,000 feet. There is no trail for the remaining 800 feet to the summit, just snow and large boulders. I reached the top at noon and checked my GPS. I summited in just over 3 hours and averaged over 3.2 mph.
The view from the top was spectacular. Everything to the east was clear, but everything to the west was very cloudy! After about 30 minutes, I told some of the snowboarders that I was heading down because I was afraid that the storm was going to catch us. They agreed with me, packed up their stuff, and we headed down the mountain.
Our dissent was on the northwest face of Mount San Jacinto. It is very steep, there’s lots of snow, and it’s very difficult to follow the trail. Our going was slow and we were losing time against the elements. We can see the clouds coming in and the wind is starting to pick up. We start walking down this one ravine because we knew the PCT was somewhere below us. Wrong one! We should have traversed over a different ridge. Now we had a choice…climb back up and go to the correct ridge or keep going down the steep ravine in front of us. Andrew walks over to the edge and looks down. He turns around and says, “I think we can do this!” Instantly out of our comfort zone, all 6 of us look to see if we can actually do this. Raging creek on the right, large boulders in front of us, it’s super steep, and nothing but snow all around… piece a cake! This is where I reached total consciousness. I’m carrying a fully loaded pack. I’ve been hiking for five hours and a storm is coming in. Focus!!!!! A total adrenaline rush!
We navigated boulders, glissaded short sections of snow, post holed in sections and finally reached the PCT. You should’ve seen the looks on our faces. We were grinning from ear to ear and high-fiving each other. It was a wonderful experience!
Enough of that. The storm is almost here! I could tell there was no way we were going to make it to a low enough elevation to escape this storm. We all just started hiking as fast as we could. Our goal was to at least get to the Fuller Ridge Campground at 7,800 feet. It wasn’t nearly low enough but there was shelter in the trees. Ahhhh, but first we had to climb over Fuller Ridge. I was running out of energy and the temperature was dropping precipitously. I just kept going as fast as I could.
By the time I reached the Fuller Ridge Campground, it was starting to snow and the wind was howling. I was freezing! I had packed my tent on the top of my pack so it was easy to get to…only I needed my fingers to unclip my pack. There was one thing on my mind, set up your tent! Finally! I threw my pack under one of the flaps and climbed inside my tent. Slowly, I began to pull out the items, one at a time. First, I wrapped my legs with my down jacket. I then blew up my mattress and got into my sleeping bag. It took me an hour to warm up.
I was fortunate enough to have picked a fairly sheltered spot where the wind would not hit me directly. The reports called for 30 to 40 mph winds through the night.
I cocooned myself into my bag and tried to sleep. What an incredible day!!!!!!
To be continued…