May 14, 2015 (Mount San Jacinto Peak)
Idyllwild Inn (Mountain Fire Alternate) to Campsite near tributary of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (186.2)
2.3 PCT miles today, 5.5 Alternate PCT miles today, 2.6 non-PCT miles today
199.3 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown
Right now there’s a huge snowstorm going on just outside our tent! We knew this was coming, and we’ve placed all our faith in our trusty 3-person Big Agnes tent. A lot of hikers chose to stay in Idyllwild a day or two more to avoid being caught in the storm, but we figured that if we got our hiking out of the way early, and set up our tent before any real precipitation happened, then we could just wait it out from our sleeping bags, and so far our plan is working out great. In fact, we’re loving the winter wonderland that is coming into creation just beyond our vestibules.
This section around Idyllwild provides ample opportunity to “choose your own adventure” and Don and I have chosen to do it all. Leaving town, we took the Devil’s Slide spur trail 2.6 miles to get back on the PCT (post-burn section), and then after only a couple miles on the official trail, we opted for an alternate route (adding just one mile to the hike overall) that took us to the peak of Mount San Jacinto (10,834 ft.) and then back down to meet up again with the PCT. I’m kind of a “peak bagger” and I’m sure Don will tell you that this morning I had mountain peaks in my eyes. Actually, hiking to the top of a mountain is probably my all-time favorite activity, so needless to say, it was a pretty awesome day.
It was a bit of a race against the clock since this morning started out with blue skies and we knew it was supposed to start raining/snowing at around 1pm. Of course, whenever you try to rush things out here, nature will inevitably find a way to slow you down. From nice chats with locals to multiple pee breaks (we loaded up on coffee in town) to thinking that I’d lost my rain pants and running back 1/4 mile just to realize they were in my pack all along…we had a few…set backs. But fortunately the hiking felt good and the weather held out and we made it all the way up to the top of San Jacinto (no views, but we expected that) and even a couple miles down before the tiniest flakes began to fall. By 2pm we found ourselves at our water source, which is currently a full-fledged creek complete with waterfalls and ice-cold snow-melt, and pitching our tent just in time for the real weather to hit.
Just since I began writing (and took a break for dinner), we’ve begun to wonder what exactly we’ve gotten ourselves into. There’s already almost 6 inches of snow outside and it hasn’t stopped falling. We’re safe and sound in our sturdy tent, but we’re anticipating some cold, wet feet tomorrow morning and hoping that the trail isn’t too hard to find. Fortunately, tomorrow we drop 8,000 feet over 20 miles, so I’m sure this winter wonderland will seem far away by the time we stop for lunch. It’s just a little ironic that we waited all winter for snow, and now here we are hiking through the desert in Southern California, and outside I keep expecting to see Santa’s sleigh. Oh nature, you’re so full of surprises.
Gear of the Week: Marmot Minimalist Gore-Tex Paclite Rain Jacket
We’ve had these jackets for awhile now, and this isn’t the first time we’ve praised them publicly. Especially with the weather we’ve been getting, it’s been imperative that we have a durable, waterproof, wind proof, and breathable shell that can help keep out the elements. Not just any jacket will keep you dry when it’s raining, still let your body breathe and not leave you soaking wet from sweat, and hold up to hours of backpack-strap rubbing. It’s not the lightest weight jacket on the market, but there’s none other that we would trust to keep us warm and dry on this hike.
Backpacking Food of the Week: Winco Wasabi Peas
Probably one of the most addictive foods on the planet. We dive into them first with every new re-ration, and they’re usually gone by day 2. Tons of flavor and they weigh practically nothing.