We hiked out of Warner Springs and became part of a pack of other hikers. Met Grandpa Kilt, Spider, Bob, Red Rambler, Dipper and Weebugger, Sanne, and a few others. Fun and diverse group of people. Stayed at a trail angel’s abode-a large set of land in the middle of the desert, named Mike, and were privy to water, toilets, and a spot to camp. This hike is a nice balance of camaraderie and alone time, where conversations, those between J and I, or with other hikers, flow. The thru-hiking culture is a neat one, close and tight-knit, and the support from the community on the trail, and off from people who help out hikers, is a welcome net.
Took three days to get to Anza and were greeted at highway 74 by two boxes full of the largest most delicious grapefruit I’ve ever seen, thanks to a trail angel named Doctor Hector. Never met him, but thanks go out all the same. Anza isn’t typically a resupply point for hikers, but we managed to hitch a ride from a gentleman named Bill, on his bi-monthly routine that included going to the dump, the hardware store, and the post office. Since we needed to go to the post office, he took us on a small tour of this surprisingly spread out town in a valley between the mountains, and we were able to pick up our packages for the next leg and get back about a mile from the trail. After thanking Bill, we grabbed a lunch at the hiker friendly roadside resturaunt, the Paradise Cafe. Sanne laughed and said, “I thought vegans were healthy before seeing you two…” when he saw us order a ginormous plate of fries as it was pretty much the only vegan option available.
With packs full for 6 days we headed up towards the mountains and towards San Jacinto. The next couple of days and miles were more arduous than the beginning. Lot’s of climbing, but with that brought stellar views, fresh mountain air, and new surprises from the changing bio-zones surrounding us . Days became longer, legs were more tired, and pains migrated,and oscillated in intensity. By far the hardest day was when we hiked from Deer Creek where we had camped at about 9,000 feet, just a mile or so from the start of Fuller Ridge, to the Snow Canyon Road faucet in the desert valley, at about 2,000 feet. Although Fuller Ridge was allegedly the more challenging part of this section, J and I agreed that the 6,000 foot descent after the ridge which is a 15 mile meandering on switchbacks that don’t always go down, was the most tiring and frustrating. Scenic, yes, necessary, no. The snow situation wasn’t as bad as we had heard through talking with people. The best information we actually got was from a couple who was day-hiking and said, “yes, there will probably be snow on the north facing slope when you get off the top of the ridge, but if people have gone through and cut steps, it shouldn’t be too bad.” Turns out they were pretty well on. We didn’t need crampons or ice axes, although the ice axe would probably provide a certain level of comfort and would be a safety net, but we did need a good dose of patience and care when watching where we stepped. If people hadn’t gone on before us, it would have made it difficult without the proper gear, and we started the 6 mile stretch from our campsite at about 8, which meant the snow was hard for the first few hours, softened up a bit, but not to the point where we were slipping and sliding around. Got to the Fuller Ridge Trailhead at 12:30, with 15 miles to go.
Both of us hit our limit in that stretch. I developed a pain in my right leg above my ankle, but below my shin, which hasn’t gone away. J said at one point that if there was any part, at this point, on the trail that he wouldn’t want to do again, that was it.
The metallic smell of the desert at night was pretty neat, though, and J was thrown back in memories of growing up in a not so far away place. Over dinner he said, “this reminds me of high school, except I’m not drunk, and you’re not a girl that will never love me.” Nope, he wasn’t drunk, and I certainly am not a girl that will never love him.
Next day included walking under the 10, and walking through a junk yard, and then up into a wind farm. Deserts are funny. Small communities, abandoned tires, random buildings, and hearty plants and animals.
Had more trail magic at the Mesa Wind Farm, where Roland invited us in to get out of the heat, and enjoy some cold water.
While finishing up a day on the top of a ridge between two river valley’s, with a view both of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, J told me about the parasitic Tarantula Hawk, a 2 inch long wasp that captures tarantulas as food for it’s larvae. They hunt for female Tarantula’s during their reproductive cycle, paralyze them by stinging them, then drag them to a nest. They then lay a larva, which eats a hole into the abdomen of the Tarantula after hatching, and feeds off everything but the vital organs so it can hang there for a few weeks to pupate, until it comes of age as an adult wasp, and then emerges from the spiders body, ready to continue it’s life cycle. Pretty creepy, and straight up Aliens like. But nifty, all the same.
The last two days leading up to Big Bear were brutal, and the pain in my ankle became much more acute, and no amount of pain killers could keep it at bay. So we bailed off the trail near highway 38, and caught a hitch from an awesome local couple who introduced us to this cozy mountain town. Akari and Spoon, many many thanks! We stopped into a small bookstore to find out where the Big Bear Hostel was, and walked up to a hiker haven. Friendly hosts, comfortable rooms, showers, washer and dryer, kitchen space, and internet; it feels like a home. So yesterday and today have been full of good conversation with the likes of Ryan, Adam and Colton, Chris, Buffalo, Kate and Ben, Sandrine and Erik otherwise known as Popeye and Olive Oil. Got to eat a homemade meal of coconut curry and wild mushroom couscous, yum!
Hope this leg heals up soon, want to get back to the trail.
Happy May, with love and hugs,