Archive for the ‘CA Southern – C’ Category

Saturday, May 15 – Cajon Pass–Miles Today 0.4 – Total Miles 342.1

Saturday, May 15th, 2010


Last night, a sort of tule fog formed on the canyon bottom where we camped, so we woke up to everything soaking wet— sleeping bags, packs, etc. Yuuuck.  But we could afford to be cheery, because we were headed for McD’s and then Best Western. So as soon as it was light, it took only a short but very impressive walk as the PCT twisted and turned its way through a dramatic canyon, before we reached the freeway frontage road, “hung a right” and headed for McD’s.

We ordered the biggest breakfast platters they had and scarfed it all down. Another hiker, Curly, came along, too.  He, like everyone else on the trail this year, was concerned about the big Station Fire detour just ahead.

After breakfast, we strolled down the road and arrived at the  Best Western in Cajon Pass at 7:20am— no problem. The fantastic staff people there gave us a warm welcome.  They quickly got our hiker box, gave us a room, maps of all the fire detours, and even did our laundry for free because one of the coin-up machines was broken down! What a wonderful bunch of people. While the front desk lady was doing our laundry (!!!)  I wrote journal stuff and diligently studied the detour maps. 

 Then we soaked in the hot tub and enjoyed talking to other hikers.  “Chief Daddy” is Scotch and hikes in a sports kilt.  “Chuck Norris”  was a very funny guy who told us, “Hey, did you know that you can be a Triple Crowner?  All you have to do is while you’re here at Cajon Pass, you eat at all three of the restaurants–McD’s, Subway and Del Taco.”  He grinned wickedly.  “Just say ‘I’m a Triple Crowner’–they don’t need to know it’s NOT the AT, PCT and CDT!”

So we started on the “second leg” of our Cajon Pass Triple Crown, and  ate a huge lunch at Subway–a WHOLE footlong EACH!   In the afternoon, I loaded up our food bags so we’d be ready for the PCT again tomorrow, made a “water plan” for the detour, then settled in for a relaxed time of reading the Gideon Bible from the motel drawer (Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah–they go together, Bible history-wise, and have a lot to say about priorities in your life!)

We completed the third leg of our Triple Crown by eating at Del Taco, and when I told the Del Taco guy about the Cajon Pass Triple Crown, he cracked up laughing and told us that he wants to do the PCT someday, too!

 Now it’s hiker bedtime (7:30pm)— time to hit the hay!  It’s been a great day.

Walk to Rivendell: Low hills, fifth day from Weathertop

Friday, May 14 – Silverwood Lake–Miles Today 29.6 – Total Miles 341.7

Friday, May 14th, 2010


The crickets sang us to sleep last night, and they did such a great job of it that I totally zonked out, and didn’t even notice when Bill got up in the middle of the night and took down the tarp.  He told me that it got really windy (which meant the tarp was flapping and noisy) and all the clouds blew away.  To save wear and tear on the tarp, he took it down. 

When we started hiking, we passed several other thruhiker tents.  Strange–almost everybody uses a TENT.  Very few use tarps, and even fewer ever seem to cowboy camp.  I prefer cowboy camping! 

And so we began a walk I decided to name  “Learn to Love the Gullies Day”. We spent most of the morning contouring and climbing in and out of 10 zillion gullies, on our way around the valley to reach the Silverwood Lake dam.  I joked about becoming a “gully connoisseur”, saying things like “Ah, yes, in THIS one the creek is quite exquisite”  or “Observe the rugged rock formations in THIS one!”  The wildflowers continue to be awesome.  I could easily stop every minute and take another picture of all their different colors and arrangements.  Even the GRASSES are beautiful–all different colors and types. Views of the green valley below with snowy mountain backdrop were also very enjoyable.

We were sitting by the trail eating breakfast when the Japanese guy we met last night came by.  His name is Shin, and his trail name is “Turtle.”  Why, I don’t know–he is anything but slow.  He is very nice, and it turned out that his parents own a sporting goods store in Tokyo.  He is testing backpacking gear for them!  We talked a bit and Shin headed out.  After breakfast, we did, too.  Back to the gullies!

To our great surprise and joy, we reached the Silverwood Lake dam by just before 11:00am.  It was a lovely, warm morning and we decided on a goal of  “eat lunch at the picnic area”— on the other side of the lake.


But we’d forgotten it was a long, tough trail to get there–all around the lake and over hill and dale.  I got hungrier and hungrier and hotter and hotter and tireder and tireder.  I was seriously thinking about just saying “Phooey on the picnic area–let’s stop now and go for a swim!”  It took till after 12 noon to get there, and I was so exhausted that I just collapsed under a tree for 20 minutes. We had done 16 miles already! (But the hike around the lake really is wonderful— gorgeous lake views, lots of little pocket beaches.)


Lunch and plenty to drink revived us both to face the big climb up to the top of Little Horsethief Canyon. The climb was a bit hard, but it rewards you with ever-bigger vistas of rugged mountains and the lake, and waisthigh wildflowers!  Finally we reached the top and began the long contour along the canyon, and that’s where we met two very tired ladies who were doing the PCT as SOBOs from Tehachapi to Lake Morena.  Their tails were really dragging, since by now it was a hot afternoon.  Because of the Sierra snow, their plan was to hike SOBO, then go back to Tehachapi and tackle the Sierras.  Since they do only 13 or 14 miles a day, it’s going to take them awhile!  They anxiously inquired about how much farther it was to Silverwood Lake, where they plan to camp tonight, and cheered at the thought that it was downhill!

A few minutes later,  three BAD bike riders (On the PCT!  For shame, for shame!) cheerily passed us by.  We scolded them in a friendly way, and they just laughed.  Eventually we crossed the canyon and began climbing up to the powerlines where we planned to eat supper.  Along the way, we caught up with another hiker who is being slowed down by his battle with plantar fasciitis.  Bummer!  The wind was blowing, and it was still quite warm, so we found a shady gully to hunker down in while we ate.

And so in the late afternoon/early evening, we were headed into the spectacular ” Badlands” — awesome, knarly cliffs with big dropoffs!  We had one great view after another in the beautiful evening light!  And I tried very hard to be brave and actually LOOK at the dropoffs instead of just the trail.  I also had fun looking at the trains going by in the distance!

Note from Alexa: Did you see Voyager? Or any Bajoran ships?

Hoping to find a campsite by 7:00, we hurried along all the twists and turns of trail down to Crowder Canyon where we camped in a sandy wash.  While we were setting up our cowboy camp, I looked at the animal tracks in the sand.  Some of them were rather large.  Hmmm!  Coyotes?  The only animals we saw today were lots of horney toads,  several garter snakes,  a bunny and a number of squirrels…no large animals at all.   Oh well–Bill and I were so tired that we just wanted to dive into our sleeping bags.  Instead of crickets, our lullaby tonight is the sound of trains at Cajon Pass.  It’s a good sound–I love it!

Walk to Rivendell: Reached end of valley, fifth day from Weathertop



Thursday, May 13 – Deep Creek–Miles Today 27.5 – Total Miles 312.1

Thursday, May 13th, 2010


Clouds moved in overnight, and we woke up to a 30 degree morning with dew all over our sleeping bags.  Bill’s socks he’d hung up to dry on the horse corral railing were all frozen stiff, as was my Platypus drinking tube.  But we knew we had a big hiking day ahead, so at 5 am, we were up ‘n at em.  We scarfed down a “bar” each (Bill likes ProBars; I like Larabars) and passed a number of other hikers who were just starting to get up.

 The first part of the morning, the PCT travels along high above Holcomb Creek, in a burn zone from a fire a couple of years ago.   I felt as if I were at a black and white ball, with graceful  white manzanita and stalwart black tree trunks.  It was actually very beautiful, in a strange sort of way.  We also had fabulous views of snowy mountains far ahead, and desert views to the east. 


Finally the trail went down  to Holcomb Creek, to a jumbled mess of logs, boulders and riparian greenery.  Little “flags” marked where the trail went, as it crossed the creek a total of 4 times.  But instead of the simple rockhop crossings we did in 2005, we were faced with genuine FORDs.  At each ford, the creek  got deeper— thigh deep on me at the end, with the water really moving, and so cold that after you get out and your legs “un-numb”, you are in pain for a few minutes! Ow!

At the 4th and last ford, we were crossing with another thruhiker, whose friend had already made it to the other side, and was taking pictures of us all.  A great cheer went up from the whole gang of us when somebody yelled, “Last ford!”   Now we were all eager to press on to the famous Deep Creek!


Of course the PCT had to wander all over the place, but then we began meeting dayhikers, so we knew Deep Creek must be close.  A few more switchbacks, and there it was, with a brandnew bridge to replace the wrecked one, AND a lovely trail angel (an injured thru-hiker waiting for her knee to get better.) She gave us an orange and M&Ms, which we promptly ate for lunch!  Meanwhile, down below the bridge, a film crew was at work on a production about the Creek, and there was a whole contingent of PCT hikers lounging on the beach.

 The entire rest of the day we followed the PCT through the many twists and turns of beautiful, beautiful Deep Creek canyon, with its spectacular rock formations, rushing cascades, and deep green pools.  All along the trail, the wildflowers were gorgeous.  They were mostly desert-type flowers, not large, but there were LOTS of them. 

For “height-challenged” people like me, the trail is often scary (big dropoffs; a couple of years ago, thruhiker No Way Ray died here in a fall off the edge of the trail) so there were stretches where I just tried to stay focused on the trail and ignored the dropoff right next to it.  But finding water was no problem–there were lots of side creeks.  We stopped at one of them for lunch and were entertained by the spectacle of HUGE black buzzing flies doing aerobatics nearby.

We passed the famous Deep Creek hot springs, where there were a number of people running around in their birthday suits.  We’ve heard that the hot pool is really nice, but in view of the ah…other activities…we opted not to stop.  At 5 pm we stopped at a lovely side canyon to cook dinner and were soon joined by two other hikers.  One guy is from Japan.  He’s very nice, but doesn’t say much.  He had noodles for dinner.  The other guy had mac ‘n cheese.  We had stuffing mix with freezedried beef and veges.  All of us agreed that we were determined to “finish” the canyon before making camp, even thogh there were still miles of canyon left to travel. 

By the time we reached the end of the canyon, the sun was low in the sky.  The PCT has to drop down quite a ways before it crosses the spillway of the big earth dam.  We hurried down the many switchbacks, across the dam and spillway, then into the wide, gravelly/sandy creekbed.  In 2005, Deep Creek was quite wide, but very shallow–an easy wade.  This time it was also pretty wide, but much deeper (thigh deep on me) and moving right along.  We walked along the shore a bit before deciding where to cross.  

Then we lost no time scouting out a campsite!  The sun had gone down and though it was still a pleasant evening, we were very tired.  Near our creek crossing, we spotted a grove of sycamore trees,  and set up camp underneath them.  Clouds were gathering, so we rigged the tarp just in case, and then collapsed.  Man, are we tired!  But it’s such a lovely evening, the crickets are singing, and tomorrow we’ll be at Silverwood Lake!   


Walk to Rivendell: In valley, fourth day from Weathertop






Wednesday, May 12 – Miles Today 27.7 – Total Miles 284.6

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


We got up at 5:00 am and enjoyed a “breakfast by firelight” in our room at Nature’s Inn.  We let Ed, the owner, know that we were starting back to the PCT and that we would be praying for him, then headed out on a cold (frost on roofs; could see your breath), clear, NO wind morning! What a relief not to be battling a cold wind all day!

We were just in time to catch the Erwin Lake bus, and enjoyed a fascinating “tour” of the many little neighborhoods in the area as the bus followed a very convoluted route! The friendly bus driver took us as close as he could to the PCT (he said he’s done this for many hikers!), then 2 miles of walking past Erwin Lake, up the hill and we were “home” again on the trail. We both feel 100% better than we did 3 days ago!

The first miles were quintessential “west” with sagebrush, ranches and horse tracks, but most amazing of all was that if you turn your head right, you’re looking at desert below, but turn left and you’re looking at snowy mountains, forests and lakes. What a contrast! I find it hard to believe that some thruhikers grump about southern California scenery being “boring and ugly”.  No way!

Note from Alexa: Sounds like Peter Jackson’s opinion of the Rohan landscape.


The PCT was basically fairly easy going, except for a lot of fallen trees to negotiate and snow to get across— fortunately the snow was not as scary, but I am still slower at it than Bill. We also enjoyed the stunning views of Big Bear Lake, and views of several large open-pit gold mines. The mines are much more extensive than they were in 2005!  We ate lunch at Doble Trail Camp, and found that a new “outhouse” had been installed.  It’s basically a pit toilet with a gated fence around it, completely open to the sky…which is fine on a nice day like today, but in the rain, well, not so nice. 


We met only a few thruhikers on the trail today. We heard at Nature’s Inn yesterday that there were plans for a BIG “hiker BBQ” at the hostel today.  Maybe that’s where everybody went??  I’m glad they had such a nice day for it, after all the wind and cold we’ve been having.  At 6:00 pm, we got to a sign that said it was 3.75 miles to Little Bear Springs Trail Camp.  A number of hikers had stopped to camp nearby.  Bill and I stood by the sign and discussed what to do. We had a choice between “camp now” or push on.  Could we do almost 4 miles before dark?   We chose “go on” and hiked as fast as we could through what turned out to be a forest fire zone of blackened trees and ashy ground. 

Just after the sun went down, we made it to the “camp”  (which fortunately had escaped the fire) and ended up laying out our sleeping bags IN a brand new horse corral, the only flat spot we could find!  Since the corral was new, there were no “meadow muffins” to deal with. We were tired, after doing almost 30 miles, and it was very nice to lie down and listen to Holcomb Creek rushing along not far away.  It is wonderful to be back on the trail!

Walk to Rivendell: Second day from Weathertop



Tuesday, May 11 – Miles Today 0 – Total Miles 259.2

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010


Last night  Bill went over to visit with Ed, who owns Nature’s Inn, and it wasn’t long before the two of them were in an animated “theological discussion.”  Turns out Ed is a real follower of Christ, but he’s had a long rough road to get there, and things are still pretty tough for him.   He told us how he grew up going to church.  “It was like having all the pieces of the puzzle in front of me,” he said.  “Only I didn’t know how to put them together.”  It was only a few years ago, he said, that he finally “got it” and truly gave himself to Christ.

Ed’s unbelievably busy job as singlehanded owner/manager makes it impossible for him to go to a church on Sunday, but  he attends a 6 am men’s Bible study at Thelmas’ (a nearby restaurant), and used to be able to help with a Bible study at the local jail.  Ed is a supernice guy, but he’s having a hard time making ends meet.  The PCT thruhikers are a big help to him, and that’s why he gives us all such awesomely good rates to stay here!

So this morning, Bill and Ed went to the Bible study, and later on I walked down the road to meet up with Bill once the Bible study was over.   The sky was clear, but it was freezing cold with a strong wind blowing.  Brrrr!  I was glad to reach the warmth of Thelma’s and met Bill there for a great breakfast.  We weren’t the only PCT hikers!  Lots of hungry guys (and a few of us gals) were busy eating everything in sight.  Many were staying at  Nature’s Inn.  Ed joked last night about how he was full up (people were even sleeping in the exercise room!), yet there was not a single car in the parking lot!

 After that, we spent the morning walking 5 miles over to the Discovery Center on North Shore. It was a great walk with beautiful lake and mountain views. Despite the cold weather, the snow is melting! In just the two days we’ve been here, we’ve seen quite a change in the size of the snowfields on the mountainsides.  We passed St. Columba’s Anglican-Episcopal church.  I wondered how they’d been able to bridge that huge controversy and be “both” sides.  But one of my favorite churches back home is St. Columba’s out in beautiful Point Reyes.  So this makes TWO “St. Columbas”, both in beautiful forests!


As we walked along the hike/bike path on the north side of Big Bear Lake, we were impressed at how different it was from the south side.  On the south side of the Lake, it’s tall evergreen trees and snowy mountains–very alpine-looking.  The north side is much dryer, and it’s mostly chaparral and junipers.  I guess that’s because it’s closer to the desert??  At any rate, it’s like two different worlds right next to one lake.  We passed a very nice “Bay-size” boat for sale, at only $2,300.  Bill said that was unbelievably cheap.  There were no boats on the lake today–the wind was making whitecaps and it was pretty rough out there.

When we reached the Discovery Center, we found that it wasn’t much.  I’d say it was 1/4  offices, 1/4 classrooms, 1/4 gift shop and only about 1/4 actual museum.  Bill took about 15 minutes to look at it.  As usual, I took a lot longer (my family jokes that they can go through an entire museum in the time it takes me to “do” one room of it.  My response is, “That’s because I actually LOOK at things and READ all the information!”) But  the Center actually was very nice— I talked for awhile with the volunteers about the Solar Observatory a bit further down the lake.  It looks like a huge white gumball machine by the shore. Turns out that it is one of only SIX solar observatories in the entire world, and it’s located here because Big Bear gets on average 300 days of sunshine per year, and has very clear air.  It’s currently being run by New Jersey Tech. 

We went back across the lake on a causeway with a plan to take the bus “home”, but after we’d been at the bus stop only a few minutes (with our thumbs out, hoping for a ride), a deputy sheriff in a patrol car pulled over and stopped in front of us. With a twinkle in his eye and a wicked grin, he said, “Don’t you know it’s not legal, what you’re doing?  No hitch-hiking!”  We hesitated, and he told us, “Hop in! Where are you going?”  and he gave us a ride back to Big Bear City!  We had fun talking to him, and it was the first time I have ever ridden in a police car!  The deputy said he was bored–nothing was happening in town except the “spring hiker influx”.  “But isn’t that a good thing?” we asked.  “I ‘spose so,” he replied.  “But it is really boring.”  “So you’d rather be chasing bad guys, then?” asked Bill, and the answer was, “You got it!” 

When the officer dropped us off, we thanked him heartily, not just for the ride, but for the job he was doing.  I told him how I had come to realize that law enforcement officers are like a very THIN brave line that stands between us “ordinary folks” and some really BAD dudes.  The deputy agreed, and said, “I wish more folks understood that.”

We ate up all our leftover trail food for lunch, then went to mail my camera back to the manufacturer.  It’s an almost new camera, but it has been giving me problems ever since Campo.  Back at Nature’s Inn, we discovered that a whole new “crop” of thruhikers had arrived.  It was fun meeting everybody!   Hikers were lounging about, watching TV, eating and talking.  By the way, I have decided that the MOST popular TV channel for thruhikers is—the WEATHER channel!  Everybody is watching it, and speculating on how the forecasts will affect their hike.  And most of all, everyone is wondering how the weather will affect snow conditions in the Sierras.  It is so cold that the snow is STILL not melting much up there.

One of the hikers was grilling himself a ribeye steak with lots of veges. We’d brought a barbecued chicken from the store down the road, so we also had a “feast” for dinner.  Bill had fun talking to a contractor who is staying in the room next to ours.  He was fretting because he has a big concrete pour scheduled for tomorrow, and it is so cold that trying to do the pour will be very difficult.  “What’s the matter with the weather?”  he complained.  “It’s not supposed to be like this in the middle of May!!??”  We sympathized, then loaded our packs ready to hit the trail again tomorrow. 


 Then we had a nice quiet evening of reading by the fire in the fireplace, and went to bed early.    We both feel SO MUCH better, and even though we know more snow, some big trail detours and other challenges lie just ahead, we are ready to go.  And it was a huge blessing to be able to hang out with Ed a bit and talk about Bible stuff.  PCT, here we come!

Walk to Rivendell: Thickets along Great East Road