9/1/2012 – 9/5/2012
When we woke up we had two things to do: we had to get to the trail head and we had to make just one phone call.
Our niece, Dakota, is awesome. You need sunglasses to look at her. We were going to need help to get to our starting point after dropping our car off at Lake Arrowhead, our final destination. With all the maps and resources at our disposal, we had it figured out. It was suppose to take only five hours of Dakota’s time. Even that was a little over-asking, we knew, but Dakota agreed to help us out.
She met us at Splinter Cabin trail head. It was a little hard to find but we got there in three hours after going a bit out of the way to get an Adventure Pass. We forgot to buy the pass at REI while we were there. It took Dakota about two hours to meet us from her home. What took such a long time afterwards was getting to our starting point. All these wonderful technological advances we have directed us to go through the town of Big Bear, instead of around it on Highway 18. The traffic was bad and slow. We laughed at remembering a bumper sticker we once saw, “You are not IN traffic, you ARE traffic.” We were now two hours behind our planned starting time. At this point we cut our hike plans three miles short and got dropped off on Rainbow Lane off the 38. This put us just south of a private zoo with a few animals that are visible from the trail. We saw the only bear we would see on our trip along with a lion, a black panther, and, oddly, a German Shepard. It took Dakota all day but it was great spending time with her. She was very patient with us. And we appreciated that she helped us out.
That phone call we mentioned was to Kelly, our ten-year old niece in Austin. Happy Birthday, Kelly!
The amount of planning that went into this trip was ridiculous. Each time we had plans in place, we found our route either on fire or that we were too late to obtain the proper permits. We still can’t believe we need permission to walk on tax supported property. At one point, we were making plans to do a segment in Yosemite National Park. Officials there explained that their daily limits on permits for back-country hiking wasn’t so much to keep an eye on trail activity as it was to guarantee a real wilderness experience to those that did get the permit.
In the end, we picked a segment in the San Bernardino Mountains, specifically Coon Creek Jumpoff Group Campsite to Deep Creek Bridge near Lake Arrowhead. This segment was unique in a number of ways. First, we were entering bear country, so, now, we would need to carry and store our food in our new Bear Vault. Second, as this would be a five-day stint, we would be carrying more supplies than any other hike. And third, we would finally be camping at undeveloped sites on the open trail. One other new feature of this segment was that we would be using our new Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system on water that we collect from streams on the trail.
One particularly big challenge this segment was the weight of our packs. Previously, we had decided that we would never carry any more than 30-pounds. This seemed to be a realistic limit based on past experience. However, once we got everything packed up and we weighed our packs, we were astonished to discover that Patti’s pack was 34-pounds and Lynn’s a whopping 52.5-pounds.
Our goal is to have our backpacks as light weight as possible. But there are just some luxuries that are really just needed. For Lynn is was an extra pillow and a smaller Platypus of scotch. For Patti it was an iPod and wine. The iPod weight was minimal. Carrying two bottles of wine in a Platypus weighed 3.5 pounds. Once it was emptied of the wine, we would use it for water.
Well, about that wine. The first night I was too tired to have much. But I did have about a cup and half. That night I put the Platypus in Lynn’s backpack to keep it safe from any party raccoons. I could have sworn I closed the lid…but I didn’t. Of course, right before we were ready to sleep, Lynn realizes the wine spilled all over. There was about a cup left. It soaked his hat, the bottom of his pack, and a few other things. I got up and sopped up the mess. My wonderful husband replies, ” Well, I guess you’re going to learn to like scotch.” I learned the hard way to ALWAYS close what you open, and next time I think I’ll bring martinis in a bag. That will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “shaken not stirred.”
So, we have this new term, “dobled,” which we made up after arriving at our second night campsite, Doble Trail Camp. There, all the maps told us, we would be able to collect water. Based on that information, we allowed our supply to dwindle to almost nothing as we approached the site.
But, once we got there, we found that the water was for livestock only and, worse, that the flow of water from the faucet was down to a trickle. Only a mere dripping of water was coming out. Panic swept over us (well really it was Lynn) as we realized our nearest water source was either several miles further up the trail or 2.7-miles back to a water cache we found on the trail near Highway 18. These water caches, supplied by “trail angels” are left for hikers by locals. This particular cache was left by Nature’s Inn in Big Bear. But we didn’t take advantage of it as we knew water was ahead at Doble Trail Camp, and, at that exact time, we seemed to have enough on board. So, “dobled” will now refer to the believing water is available at a particular source but finding that it isn’t. We were dobled at Doble Trail Camp.
With just drips to collect, we got up at the break of sun light and began, painstakingly, collecting the non-potable water one slow drip at a time. After two hours, we did have our water carriers full and our filter system ready for use. We plodded on, hoping the stream we knew was ahead had water to collect. Luckily, we did find the cherished water source and collected enough additional water there to get us through to the next day.
This five-day, 54.3-mile segment of the PCT was a complete joy. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, we began hiking at Rainbow Lane just south of a private zoo holding just a few animals that we could see. We read that these animals are used for stunts and Hollywood productions. We wondered why PETA wasn’t all over it. Later, we agreed that the animals were probably given nothing but the best and that they may be happy. But it was weird to see a bear in a cage in the forest where he should be roaming free. And as he peered out toward us on the trail, we couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him.
Most of that first day we descended about 800-feet through mostly dense forest. The weather was perfect with temperatures in the 70’s. We arrived at the Arrastre Trail Campsite right about 6-o’clock and we hunkered down for our first night.
Sunday, our second day out, was sensational. For much of the day, we hiked a narrow range of elevation in forested areas. Redwoods and pinyon pine mixed with a soft underbrush. Pine cones by the thousands along the way bordered the trail.
On our third day, we encountered our biggest challenges. In addition to carrying extra weight with collected stream water, we had to climb Gold Mountain. Right from the start, we came across switchbacks that took us to about 7800′. From that summit, we then hiked down into the Van Dusen Canyon. One of the highlights of the day was finding Big Bear Lake in the distance.
On Tuesday, our fourth day out, we hiked more than 15-miles. We intended to set up camp after 12-miles, but could not find a suitable site at that mark. We were feeling good and still able to do more, so we continued on. We found a nice off-trail site with access to a creek. There we were able to wash the dust off and to rehydrate. It felt good to be near a water source. Earlier, during the day, we ran into a burn area. It looked to us that the fire was probably about a year or more ago. But we could not find out on the internet for sure which fire caused what we were seeing. For many miles what was likely once a lush forest was more a desert.
Our fifth and final day brought rain and humidity as we approached Lake Arrowhead. The hike would be only 7.6-miles, but was more than we planned or realized remained. We largely followed the path of the Deep Creek. We gathered a last bit of water along the way and we were glad we did. By the time we left the trail that day, we had only about two-thirds of a glass worth of water. It all worked out almost perfectly.
We have now completed a bit more than 122 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. We are about five-percent through the total and did this in just four short months. There is a ray of hope that we just will eventually get this thing done.
Please visit the other pages on the site to see other new pictures of the PCT!
Patti and Lynn