From Warner Springs, I hiked to a hiker-friendly oasis in the desert – a roadside restaurant called Paradise Cafe. I ordered the much-talked about “Jose burger” with avocados and jalapeños. It truly did live up to its reputation and satisfied my insatiable hiker hunger. On the hike in I saw a good-sized snake that, upon first glance, I thought was a rattler. I was booking it around a corner and flew right by its head poking out on the trail. When I turned around and looked closer there was no rattle on it. Later, I found out from one of the locals at the restaurant that what I had seen was a gopher snake.
The next few days was spent hiking into Idyllwild. The hike had the typical long-contour switchbacks for which the PCT is famous. The PCT often does not go over mountains but along mountains; after all, the trail was graded for horses many years ago.
There was a portion of trail coming into Idyllwild that had a fire closure that has been in place for a few years now. There were a few alternate routes and hitch options but I chose to hike all open trail I could up to Spitler Peak (6969 ft) and take the designated alternate route (blue-blaze) Spitler Creek Trail down toward Idyllwild.
Once we came down to the first road crossing, there was trail magic (apples, oranges, and chips) by trail angel Ferris. The trail angel picked myself along with two other thru-hikers into the town of Idyllwild. This saved us a lot of non-PCT walking miles and we were very appreciative as were our legs.
Idyllwild is a quaint little mountain town surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. It is so charming and an ideal little vacation spot. I chipped in with another hiker and we stayed in this amazing little clapboard cabin with a cozy fireplace. The wooden cabins here were mostly built in the 1920s and are full of history. Inside the cabin rooms on the wallboards are inscribed initials of people who have stayed here through the years. These pocketknife inscriptions really tell a story and seem to be in no way discouraged by the camp staff. I left a small mark of my own (David “Outback” 5-21-2018 PCT 2018).
I split a 16-incher and a pitcher of IPA at the Idyllwild pizza joint and had a huge breakfast the following morning at the Red Kettle. I ordered the Junkyard omelette with a side of French toast and a coffee. Lots of calories before resuming hiking!
Heading out of Idyllwild, myself and two other hikers got a lift to the Humber Park Trailhead by a wonderful staff member of the Inn. She gave us a brief history of the area and we swapped stories about trail life. Once arriving at Humber Park Trailhead, we connected back to the PCT by way of the Devil Slide Trail. This intersection is known as Saddle Junction. Before continuing northward, my hiking partner and I ditched our packs behind a bunch of downed trees and summited San Jacinto Peak (10,834 ft). This blue blaze side trip was worth every minute for the above-the-cloud views at top. Summiting San Jacinto packless and getting back down only took us about three hours and, before we knew it, were back on the PCT.
As I crossed under Interstate 10, there was trail magic down at the underpass with ice-cold beverages and fresh fruit. I had a cold Pepsi and a banana.
The next few days getting to Big Bear City were predictably hot but bearable. Thank God for trail angels who place strategic water caches in some of the longer water stretches. Hiking in the desert amounts to hiking from one water source to another. The campsites have had some amazing sunrises.
Entering the San Bernardino Wilderness, we gained back much of the elevation we had lost after descending the other side of San Jacinto and enjoyed the beautiful forest canopy that gave some shade from the California sun.
After a hitch into Black Bear Lake from the trailhead, we settled into International Travelers House (ITH) hostel. The town was bustling with Memorial Day festivities including a town barbecue that us thru-hikers could not pass up!
At this point, I have completed 10 percent of the trail. A long ways to go and yet a long ways I’ve come. I can’t wait to get back on trail and continue this northward journey.