Day 8: May 2nd
Start: Idyllwild, mile 178
End: Camp at 193
Miles hiked: 15, plus three mile side trail to pct from Idyllwild

Waking up early and getting on the trail by 7 transformed into a very leisurely morning of errands and packing. We were on the trail just after 11. I sent many items home in the morning, and sold my umbrella. My pack felt much lighter on my shoulders. Beautiful. As we climbed steeply back to the PCT, the landscape became much like that of the sierras. Not A Chance said that this area is called the little sierras. The ponderosa pines and incense got taller and more prominent as we continued on. Before long we were in a nice forest with a blanket of pine needles over the trail. My broken feet sighed with relief. The scent of this forest was awfully familiar, and brought me back to my first long distance backpacking trip on the John muir trail in the sierras back in 2009 with Badger. Although it was my most uncomfortable trip to date, it will always be the one I look back on most fondly. The impact that trip had on me was so large. And despite the pains, aches, and borderline starvation, my strongest memories from that trip are of new landscapes, adventure, and friendship.

Carrot, McButter, woody, Not a Chance and I wanted to make it to the water at mile 206. We made it to mile 193 (not a chance made it, she’s a boss). From mount Jacinto, it is a 20 mile, 8,000 foot decent into the scorching desert floor. The constant pounding on the rock going downhill really took a toll on my feet. I was happy to stop and cowboy camp. Several more hikers trickled in and before we knew it there were ten of us all camped out on a small flat area. It was pretty windy. So much so that they out a giant wind farm at the valley floor. Good conversation before bed with my group, hi-tek, Snack Shack, chimp & RD and many others. I started at the border with chimp and rd, who are from the uk, so it was fun to see them again. All I can think about while writing this in the dark is pizza, burgers, and a cold IPA. I’m going to bed hungry!

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Ready for bed below Mt. Jacinto

Day 9: May 3rd
Start: camp at mile 193
End: Creek at mile 220
Miles hiked: 27

It’s the desert. It’s hot. The desert floor was nearly 110 degrees. My feet got destroyed on the giant descent to the furnace floor. It was 14 miles and 5,500 feet down. We all got to the drinking fountain dehydrated and in low spirits. Not even McButter was joking around. We were depleted, and looked like zombies. Tarzan, a trail angel, was at the fountain with veggies and hummus. I want to town, and actually enjoyed it. It was so weird, but the celery, carrots, and cucumbers tasted good. After resting in the shade and forcing down a few liters of warm water, I made the three mile desert floor hike to Ziggy and the Bears. I walked this alone, and it was rather miserable. I took some strange videos, and found a ski boot in the desert all on its own. I wish there was snow. How did this get here?

Ziggy and the Bears is a hikers oasis. It was loaded with pct hobos. I got my resupply and raised my feet in the shade. Soon after carrot, McButter and woody arrived. We shared many laughs as our food melted in the shade. I was surprised to get a package from my cousin Chris and his wife Meghann. Included was an amazing bandana (everyone was super jealous) and some amazing cookies. I shared one with my friends, and devoured the others myself. My friends and I send you our thanks :). Really boosted my spirits getting the letter from them.

We decided to leave at 4:30 to hike on. Damn. It was still hot, and my body didn’t want to move. However t was no longer 350 degrees. My group now goes by Not a Chance and the pink blazers. Someone who is “pink blazing” is chasing a woman on the trail. Not a Chance is the strongest hiker in our group, and the rest of us spend our days trying to catch her. We snapped a quick picture before leaving, packs fully loaded for a long haul. It was a slow, difficult 9 miles we struggled through to get to a bubbling creek in a beautiful valley. My body was falling apart. I made shells and cheese and instantly felt better. So good. It was a warm night, and I slept great cowboy camping with everyone. It was a nice end to an otherwise miserable night.

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Passing mile 200 on the way down Mt. Jacinto.

Day 10: May 4th
Start: camp at mile 220
End: Creep-city Coon Creek Cabin, mile 246
Miles hiked: 26

Zombie hiked the first 10 miles today on my own. Up and down many times over the wrinkles of nearby mount San Grogonio. In a daze of confusion, hunger, and commitment to not hike in the heat of the day again, I pushed and pushed with my head down, not really enjoying what was a beautiful morning.

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Alpenglow looking back at cottonwood creek valley where we had slept the night prior.

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Mt Jacinto in the far background.

After time McButter and woody caught up. Again, it was roasting hot, and my body was drenched with sweat. My lower back was starting to chafe from the salt and was beginning to bleed. Shoot. We had a slight panic when woody thought he may not have enough water to get to the next source. It was 11:30, and brutally hot in a burn zone. No relief from the punishing sun. Luckily we found a tiny bit if shade next to a barely trickling creek. Good enough for us. We dropped out packs and payed for a few hours, carrot joining in. All the while, McButter pushed on, scaling the side of the cliff of trail on a stubborn, dehydrated confusion. He got himself into a pretty hairy situation that we weren’t aware if at the time, and I’m glad he ended up in one piece.

We pushed on, eventually losing Carrot as she was struggling to keep up as she wasn’t feeling well. We made it to Coon Creek Cabin, which is said that you have to reserve 3 days in advance. There was no one there, and it looked like it hadn’t been rented out for over a century. No windows, no doors, just log cabin walls and cement floors. And a ton of disgusting graffiti. There was one piece of furniture, a desk chair half broken. It was a creepy place. But we were exhausted, so the three of us stopped. I’m curious as to the history behind this place. There were lots of strange noises. We all had violent dreams. I didn’t like the feel of this place. Real sketch. But when you’re exhausted as we were, you settle.

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In the creep cabin…

Day 11: May 5th
Start: Creep-city Coon Creek Cabin, 246
End: Big Bear City, highway 18 crossing at mile 166
Miles hiked: 20

Woody’s 5am alarm went off. No movement from any of us. Good. Again 15 minutes later. Still no movement. Perfect. A few more times before we actually get moving. It was crisp, as we had climbed over 7,000 feet yesterday and were camping at over 8,000 feet. It felt good, and we hiked fast, eventually seeing Carrot still in her sleeping bag next to the trail on a nice perch. She must have passed us at the creepo cabin. Good move on her part. She thought it was rented when she heard noises from there last night. It was just us guys, likely clowning or egging on the weird vibes we got from the place.

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Sheriff Woody and McButter.

In the morning the trail passed these cages with tigers, grizzlies, and other exotic animals. Supposedly these are the Hollywood animals that appear in many films. Makes sense, as we are only a few hours from LA. It was awful seeing these beautiful animals trapped in tiny cages, with no room to run, and absolutely no shade from the sun. They looked miserable. One tiger just stared at me for several minutes. No expressions. He looked defeated, miserable. It made me want to cry I felt so bad. We kept chugging, and I put in my head phones and cranked some ZZ-Top to cheer me after seeing the caged animals. I thought of my dad, and our annual boys trips to Hessel up in Michigan. This music always brings me back. I really miss my dad so much. He’s been the best father I could ask for, and the rock of our family through hard times. I wish we could spend more time together. Soon. I am hopeful.
We pass a dumpster and a couch on the trail near an intersection with a seldom used two track. The dumpster says “pct magic”, and is filled with soda and snacks. The couch is even better. So nice. We stop here and laugh for nearly an hour, drinking mountain dews. We are true hiker trash, dumpster diving on the trail.

The pink blazers catch a ride into big bear city and get a room together at the hostel. We go to a local Mexican restaurant to celebrate cinco de mayo. As we all laugh and eat, telling tails from the trail, I think to myself of just how lucky I am to be here, now. My friends I’ve made here are amazing, and I’ve loved hiking with them. Sometimes, things work out just how they should.

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At the dumpster.

Cinco de mayo with Sherrif woody. Photo and caption courtesy of Mr. Molly McButter.

Cinco de mayo with Sherrif woody. Photo and caption courtesy of Mr. Molly McButter.

Highlight of the day is when Sheriff woody finds a horned toad lizard and quickly catches the little demon. I made it well known that I wanted to see one of these guys more than any other animal on the trail, and I was so excited when he spotted the little guy. Such an amazing creature. His scaled and spikes so hard. He just calmly looked at us as we snapped a few pictures and marveled over his uniqueness. The animals in the desert are crazy.

The pain is still strong, but hiking with McButter, woody, and carrot has helped so much. Experiencing all of this together dulls the pains and aches, as we are all experiencing the same things out here. The bonding has been so natural and easy.

Day 12: May 6
Zero day

Today I am taking a zero. This is when a hiker hikes no miles, but instead rests, catches up on little things, and usually enjoys some town food and lots of naps. We are all zeroing together. Made a few errands, walked to a sewing store and made some quick edits to my backpack. Ate strawberrys, bananas, oranges, and an unhealthy share of Nutella. My brain was telling me to push on, and it’s hard to turn that off. But my body (feet) desperately need the rest. We’ve been crushing miles out of the gate, and my feet are in rough shape, still. Plus, I don’t want to push in without my friends. It just makes sense to stay here. I’m definitely not regretting t, as a snow storm is pushing through right now. Would be miserable out there, as I’m not quite prepared for that.

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McButter wanted to put the lost ridiculous thing he could think of on his hat. “Down with Hubble, menace of our skies” has been an inside joke that really has no meaning outside of the fact that Hubble is the most harmless piece of equipment. McButter often breaks out into tangents “hello, can I have five Minutes of your time to talk about the space garbage Hubble is producing? DOWN WITH HUBBLE!!!”