Monday, May 9, 2016

Day 9 : Idyllwild, Thru-hikers Dream Town

25 miles today
2487 miles to go

High up on the top of the ridge. Somewhere around mile one hundred sixty one. We were in the sun while the valleys below were still shrouded in twilight. The wind had ceased sometime during the night. The air is still and almost not a sound to be heard. A small chirp, perhaps. Lonely and singular. The raging wind over the ridge of last night is gone as if it never was. In its place is a clear peaceful blue dome of sky punctuated by a searing yellow dial in the east, blazing it's way across miles and miles of empty hot desert. We sit beneath the trees eating breakfast and are overwhelmed at the serenity and tranquility of the morning. Our talk and banter is light and cheery. Braveheart is packed and down the trail long before I even get my tent taken down. It's not a competition nor do I need to get moving any sooner than I want. I pretty much have places for everything now. My pack is ordered and logical inside. I could find any one item easily even in the dark. 

I move down the trail at a good clip, down being up in this case. I climb up and up around ridges and sharp granite spires until I reach the top. I look down to the west to a sea of white fog a mountain to the west floating like an island in the cottony fluff. The coastal fog has reached its high water mark down at the foot of the peak on which I stand. I move across the ridge following the trail, bathed in the clear fresh light of the morning. Mt San Jacinto stands before me to the north. Clear of all clouds and fog. Majestic and serene, like a queen surveying her country. Powerful and unmoving. Like an ant I scurry across the ridge in her gaze, as if I am to be crushed with impunity by the sheer size and immensity of the mountain before me. 

A sharp right turn at Cedar Springs trail and the downward switchbacks begin. Far below is a small green sward, like a small putting green. That is our target, our path is anything but towards it as we descend slowly across the face of the steep. Like we are trying to be nonchalant in our approach as if it's going to detect our immediate purpose and scamper off before we arrive. Back and forth each cycle bringing us ever so slightly closer. Things that once looked like small bushes surrounding the green are immense oaks who knows how old. The green is at the bottom of the switchbacks and it is there that the trail meanders in and around the trees. 

I stop briefly to collect some water. An old man with a camera and ginormous lens comes up the path. Duncan has lived here his entire life so did his father and his father's father. His is a third generation descendant of the original pioneers who settled here in the eighteen sixties. They are the one who dug the springs, and built the fences. They have grazed cattle in this inhospitable bushy, stickery land for over one hundred and fifty years. Duncan’s going on seventy five years old. He comes up here with his camera to shoot pictures of wildlife. His primary goal is to capture an image of an elusive mountain lion. He tells us about how the Indians used to regularly torch the brush on the hills. Burning them clear to attract more game and improve the landscape. He tells us of old Mr. Wellman, one of the original pioneers, the Wellmans were part Indian. They were here before California was here. It was a lot of fun and very educational talking with Duncan. Finally the trail beckoned us on, Duncan offers us a ride to Idyllwild. I said, “I appreciate your offer but we prefer to walk.” He just looked at us as if we were bonkers and said, “Well, if you change your mind you can wait down by my car, it's the only one down there.” We pass his car, it was the only one.

The valley expands below us revealing stands of pine trees, perhaps ponderosas? Beautiful large symmetrical trees with big cones gathered in heaps below them. We turn right and head for the Hemet Market a store right on the road we are hiking. The Mt Fire has closed this portion of the PCT so we are taking the alternate route that lets you continue to walk the entire way from Mexico to Canada, even if technically I'm not on the PCT. I buy an ice cream sandwich at the market as we contemplate our maps. We decide we have another ten or so miles to go to Idyllwild.

My first time to visit Idyllwild. This is a hiker friendly oasis in trees that makes it hard to believe you're in Southern California. It's a beautiful mix of dumpy old cabins, gaudy unique ones and the second homes of the wealthy.  I see one that looked like it was a transplanted Russian dacha. All blended and wrapped around a convenient and easy to navigate central town square. I am in the middle of town staying at the Idyllwild Inn. A hiker friendly place to stay. I shipped my resupply box here in hopes that there would be a vacancy when I arrived. There was, one. I have a cool studio cabin with a kitchen. They even do a free load of laundry. This requires some adjustments to my attire. But first a long hot shower. I rip the tape off my feet and scrub as much dirt off as I can I drop off all my clothes except my shorts and town shirt. I am wearing my hiking shoes without socks. My clean feet on these dirty stinky sweaty shoes, disgusting. I squish my way across the street to the local pizza place. I order a pizza with all kinds of good stuff on it, they take my picture for their PC Hiker board. While my pizza cooks I go to the local market and get some Super Golden Crisp cereal, milk, sour cream (I've been carrying this French onion soup mix that is asking to become dip), Fritos and a couple of apples to make it healthy. Back at the pizza place to pick up my pizza I see my favorite Israelis, Yamima and Shi. They are planning on hiking out tonight. The mountain is covered in a cloud and it looks cold. I'm glad I'm staying here. I wish them well, I hope I see them again. They are a really fun couple to talk with. I pick up my pizza and head back to my studio cabin. It's such a cool cabin, I'll make a video. Later.

I eat pizza, wow! This is great! I eat half a pizza! For dessert I eat half a box of cereal and milk. Finally feeling full, I take another shower, wash my shorts, rinse my shoes. Turn on the heater cause I'm freezing. My pack is exploded on the floor stuff lying everywhere. My sleeping bag is out on my deck airing out in the sunshine. Tomorrow I have a few chores, the major one is the obtain more fuel for my stove. Braveheart is staying at a different inn here in town. We’ll meet for breakfast in the morning before doing our town chores. I am looking forward to my first Zero day tomorrow. Goodnight.


  1. Truly, a well earned break, enjoy it! And thanks for teaching me a new word, sward... :)

  2. Dear Gnarly,

    I just want to let you know that I am subscribed to your posts and I greatly enjoy them. I plan to hike the PCT one day, though I may have to wait until I retire in 10 years or so. Please keep posting the blogs. If I can't be on the trail, I certainly enjoy reading about your adventures on the trail as the next best thing. Jan