Day 23: Ten Percent
Thursday, April 12, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: CA 18 / Big Bear Hostel (266.1 miles)

It was cold and windy overnight. The winds peaked just before 1 am, when a singular gust hit my tent hard enough to pull out four of its stakes. Aside from having to restake my tent, though, I slept pretty well, thanks to the flat, soft sand. And, unlike the last cold and high wind night, it was low-humidity, so my tent didn’t develop condensation inside.

I had a long hike planned today, so even though it was cold, I had to resist the urge to stay in my sleeping bag too long. Somehow, I managed to leave camp shortly before 8, and hiked off at a pretty good pace, thanks to the much cooler (and windy) weather.

Clouds Rolling up to San Gorgonio
Clouds Rolling up to San Gorgonio

The first part of the day breezed by quickly. An initial climb to a windy campsite was followed by a nice downhill about as long, and the trail wound around the outside perimeter of a private zoo. The zoo, which apparently houses animals trained for film, had (that Patch and I could see) two grizzly bears and a tiger in what seemed like entirely too small cages. It seemed a pretty sad state of affairs for the animals, but I suspect it’s better than the alternative the animals might have had. (The zoo is also for sale; I couldn’t decide if it was tacky, or marketing genius to put for-sale signs along the perimeter and on the other side of the trail from the zoo.

After another few miles, Patch and I came across an empty water and soda cache from trail angels Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama. Wind (or someone irresponsible) had blown one of the soda boxes down the hill a bit; Patch went and collected it, and stuffed it in one of the boxes that hadn’t blown away, so it shouldn’t happen again.

About a mile after that, we reached a trail magic and information center for Big Bear Hostel, along with a comfy (if cold) couch to sit on. That trail magic, also empty, was housed in a pretty sturdy dumpster. Making exceptional progress so far because of the much cooler temperatures, I decided I was going to try and go into town today, rather than staying at the campsite shortly before town and neroing in tomorrow. I estimated I should be able to make it to the trailhead by 5 pm.

As the trail progressed, Lake Baldwin came into view. From the trail, it looked like it was frozen over, though I learned on my ride into town that it was dry — and actually had been for awhile, due to the ongoing drought. Later, as the trail continued to wind around the mountains near Big Bear, the desert to the east came into view, with quite a lot of dust kicked up into the air from the winds.

Dust Blown by Desert Winds
Dust Blown by Desert Winds

After the trail returned to the west side of the mountain, San Gorgonio’s range came back into view. Or at least, it would have, had there not been a thick cloud billowing over Sugarloaf Mountain, which sat between Gorgono and I.

Clouds over Sugarloaf Mountain
Clouds over Sugarloaf Mountain

As the day progressed, I was able to maintain my unexpectedly rapid pace, and revised my trailhead goal to 4 pm, and actually wound up getting there at 3:45. Shortly before the Highway 18 crossing was a cache of sodas and a trash bag, along with Patch and Squish, who had gotten there ahead of me. With the cache was a note, congratulating on the completion of the first tenth of the PCT — 266.1 miles out of 2661.4 to Manning Park, BC. (I didn’t even realize that was going to be the day’s milestone when I started out today.) I grabbed a soda, and chatted with them; they were waiting for a trail angel, Papa Smurf, to pick them up so they could stay at his house. When someone else pulled up to the trailhead parking lot, they realized they couldn’t actually see the whole parking area, and so we all walked up to the parking lot, maybe 100 feet from where the soda cache was.

The person who had pulled up was Doc, a trail angel who was maintaining that cache. She was there to check on the trash bags at the cache, but also offered to give me a ride to Big Bear Hostel, where I would be staying tonight and tomorrow.

After checking into the hostel, and getting a much needed shower, I went to dinner at the Big Bear Lake Brew Pub with Sparky, Ghost Hiker, and Trooper, whom I first met at the Whitewater Preserve. Afterwards, we went to The Copper Q, where I got a delicious raspberry pie with ice cream.

Returning to the hostel, I fairy quickly climbed into my bunk and fell asleep, a long day of hiking quite well accomplished.

Tomorrow: resupply, laundry, and relaxation.