A Slow Advance (PCT)
Bottom Line: It all adds up.
I’d decided, more as a perfectionist than a purist, to “backfill” by hiking the PCT from the Canyon Loop View Trail junction (mile marker 217.7) to the Whitewater Preserve (mile marker 218.5), a section that I’d skipped on my last PCT hike trip.
Confident, though reluctant, I needed to test my knee for tomorrow’s hike with Mark. This short section wouldn’t matter much in the overall length of the PCT’s 2,650 miles, but even a minor gap in my quest would needle me.
Slowly, I headed up the Canyon View Loop Trail incline away from the Whitewater Preserve entrance road. Scrub brush lined the trail, and with no trees to provide shade, I had no escape from the midday sun, except when an occasional cloud patch intervened. With ample water, I’d be okay, though didn’t relish the profuse sweating, prompted by a temperature in the low 80’s, according to my best guess.
Occasional light breezes from the south improved my disposition.
As I ascended the trail’s initial switchbacks, I made frequent stops to catch my breath and face the wind with outstretched arms.
As I topped the first hill, and completed the major portion of the day’s elevation gain, I met another hiker headed the opposite direction.
I guess neither of us had the wherewithal to banter under the blazing sun and so we exchanged cursory pleasantries before we moved on.
Beyond, the trail undulated in a gentle fashion as it paralleled a cliff.
Overlooking the Whitewater River and Preserve Headquarters.
The oasis of trees and pools of water, that I’d walked away from so recently, beckoned like the inside of a refrigerator.
I trudged along at a pace to avoid over-heating, while Prim8 chattered constantly about the heat and sweat. Though my ample water supply turned tepid and unsatisfying, I drank out of necessity to replace that fluid I’d already lost. Meanwhile, I imagined warm tea a suitable alternative.
Knee check. All good.
Another half-mile or so of modest elevation gain, I came to the PCT junction where I paused for a photo op, then headed northbound on the PCT towards the parking lot and my awaiting car . . . I hoped.
Deja vu - Trail Junction, PCT northbound on the left & Canyon Loop View Trail on the right.
This time I remained on the PCT and welcomed the gentle switch-backs leading downhill to the river, this section comprising the entire point of the day’s hike.
Two hours later, I discovered my chariot awaited me . . . thankfully.
Not far down the road from the Headquarters, I encountered the hiker previously mentioned. I offered him a ride to “civilization,” and on the way he explained he’d taken the wrong turn at the junction.
Bummer. “I’d have told you otherwise, had I known,” I told him. He didn’t seem that put out over it, though.
As planned, I drove to Big Bear for a rendezvous with Mark for our hike tomorrow.
I wouldn’t dare repeat the debacle of my last hike with Mark, and spent a decent night’s rest in the same hotel as he.
Following a Lumberjack Cafe breakfast, we left Mark’s car at the road junction with PCT about ¾ mile south of Arrastre Trail Camp, then I drove us down the deeply-rutted, rock-strewn road, marked for OHV traffic, “Off-highway Vehicle,” to Mission Creek Trail Camp at mile 239.9.
Properly “suited up,” both us with a day-pack primarily loaded with water, we began our hike “north” about 10 AM. Tree cover kept us cool at our start, though as we hiked, shrubs and grasses increased and the trees disappeared. I baked me under nearly full sun, as thin, scattered clouds drifted overhead.
Overlooking the terrain southward with San Jacinto in the distance.
Like yesterday, Prim8 reminded me.
We’re just a lizard, Prim8, sprawled and basking on a rock.
My feet complained—bionic knee quiet, no problem—surely a sign of developing blisters.
Keep going, Prim8. We got no other choice.
I wiped my forehead periodically, noticing my perspiration soaked my hat band. (You didn’t think I’d take Prim8 and myself out there without a hat, did ya’?)
I trudged onward. Mark seemed fine as he kept a fast pace farther up the trail.
We reached my car late afternoon, Prim8 and I caked with the residue of dried sweat and dust.
After I gingerly navigated my Camry down the “OHV” track to retrieve Mark’s car, we rendezvoused at the Hacienda Restaurant in Big Bear for a Mexican dinner, eagerly washed down with several cold draft beers.
Following bacon, eggs and coffee at the Lumberjack Restaurant, Mark and I dropped my car at Hwy 18 parking lot junction with PCT, mile 266.1, then left Mark’s car at the same spot as yesterday, near Arrastre Trail Camp and PCT mile 256.2.
Rinse, repeat . . . slowly adding mileage to my PCT journey.
Panoramic view from a welcomed shaded spot looking towards Lucerne & Johnson Valleys.
We enjoyed scattered shade early on, though gradually, taller vegetation left behind, we entered a zone of shrubs, more reminiscent of the low desert of Anza-Borrego.
More sweat, more sun, more heat, more foot complaints.
Hot, sweat, sun, Prim8 whined.
No shade, even if we try to squeeze under a bush, Prim8 . . . but this won’t last forever.
As per, we kept moving. The miles ticked away, then the quarter-miles. And I transitioned to shorter segments, Another hundred-yards, Prim8.
Our destination not in sight, yet, Another hundred yards, Prim8.
When my car came into sight, I sighed with relieve, We’re here, Prim8.
Two hikers examined the mile marker as I passed them on a beeline to my car. They approached Mark and I as we loaded our gear into my trunk.
Following a brief exchange, Mark offered them a ride into “Big Bear.”
Though in my car, I didn’t complain. We dropped them at a road junction with a store where they could purchase food.
Mark said, “I always try to help people out.”
“No problem,” I said. “I figure it’s good karma to help other hikers. A number of trail angels helped me on my hike from the Mexican Border and I’m passing it forward.”
After another cautious navigation of a “OHV road”—not an exaggeration—we descended into Arrastre Trail Camp to pick up Mark’s vehicle.
Whopped, I wanted to get home. Besides, Mark and I both knew we faced hours of driving, so we wasted no time sorting our gear, exchanging goodbyes with added comments about our next adventure.
I mistakenly drove into San Bernadino. Wanted to avoid “Berdoo,” but missed my turn onto CA State Route 138. Looked, but still missed it, and I coulda chewed nails. Prim8 and I spent added time wading through Berdoo rush-hour traffic before we arrived at Pearblossom Highway and veered westward towards Palmdale.
(My accumulated PCT progress: mile marker 266.1.)