The view of Big Bear before we disappear to the North side of the mountain.
This past weekend we hiked from Big Bear to Lake Arrowhead on the PCT. It was a 24 mile journey and another opportunity to see how I feel about taking on the entire 2600+ miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.
RC, WG and myself left on March 21, a Saturday morning around 9:30 from the trailhead at Cougar Crest near the Big Bear Discovery Center. The weather was perfect with sunny skies, no wind and rather cool. The plan was to hike 12 miles a day. We had our maps, apps, WG’s hand-held GPS and my GPS watch. We were each carrying about 32-34 pds in our backpacks including food and water.
WG and RC making their way over the snow-covered trail.
We hiked 2.0 miles up to the PCT and started around mile 276.4 on the PCT. The trail was clear for a while and then we reached the north side of the mountains where we encountered our first snow. We walked in and out of snow on the trail most of the first day. It slowed us down some but we made it to Little Bear Springs in about 6.5 hours and to our surprise found an outdoor bathroom which opened up to the stars (no roof). It was super clean. We had only walked about 10 miles and decided that this was a nice place to set up camp for the evening. The camp also included a picnic table, fire ring and a spring nearby to filter or boil water. We setup camp, RC (aka Firestarter) started a nice fire and we each ate our own dinners that we had packed in. It was a great first day. We also had a guest camper from Ohio who was traveling through western United States.
The night was crisp and I thought I would sleep well, but I didn’t. If I was able to sleep a couple of hours I would have been happy. The moon was almost full, so it appeared like the light was on all night from the inside of my tent. Finally around 4 or 5 am the moon went down behind a mountain and it turned dark. Still no sleep. The temperature dropped below freezing at one point as some bottled water left on the table was frozen. I was pretty warm in my down sleeping bag. Not sure why I haven’t managed to sleep while camping in the last year and a half. I was not going to let it ruin my second day.
We all got up around 7:30 or 8 am and packed up our tents and backpacks and headed down the trail again. If I remember correctly the snow was behind us and now it was time to cross Holcomb Creek a few times. We also started to see hikers coming from Mexico. They had begun their journey around March 2. They were traveling light and moving what I thought was a much faster than us. However in the last 3 miles we had caught up to one of them taking a break and getting fresh water from an underground spring. So, slow and steady still makes good time. The three water crossings were quite the challenge as the water was deeper than we expected. At the last water crossing, we ended up taking our hiking shoes and socks off and walking through the cold water which was super refreshing. We left our shoes off and walked to a nearby place to enjoy a snack. It felt great to take a break and ground my feet with the earth for about 15 minutes. It gave me the energy to finish the hike. We were now about 5 miles from the end of the trail. The last mile was a bit difficult as my feet were pretty tired and my brain was trying to tell me I wasn’t going to make it and my heart was telling me to push through to the end. We finished 14 miles in 6.5 hours. Super happy with the second day and being able to do an additional 4 miles in the same amount of time.
I made an interesting comparison to my time on the Camino. I was worried about the last two miles as we would be arriving in the late afternoon and walking through a desert like landscape. As on the Camino, my God was with me and provided a nice breeze all the way to the car. Amazing……. There were a few other places on the trail when I felt Him with me as He was with me in Spain. I made some great strides and conquered some fears, washed out trails, crossing a creek via a log about 2-3 feet above the water and hiking over snow-covered trail on a ledge without micro-spikes. It’s amazing to me how my relationship with my heavenly Father seems to grow out on the trail. Why was I worried? He always takes care of us.
As for taking on the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada… the jury is still out. We are planning another 3 day backpacking trip to San Bernardino Peak in May. I would like to see if I can sleep better. I will be making some adjustments to my sleep system. A wider airpad and a flannel insert for my sleeping bag. As for my food I was happy with my choices.
Until the next adventure…..