Date: Wednesday, 03 May 2017
Start: Campsite on ridge near Thule Spring at Mile 137, 3471 ft
Finish: Lake Hemet Campground
Daily Miles: 14.9 PCT, 9.9 on road deviation
Total PCT Miles: 162 approx
Weather: Very warm and sunny, with a little cloud in the afternoon
Accommodation: Tent in Lake Hemet Campground
Lunch: Chilli burger and fries
Dinner: Rehydrated Chicken Teriyaki
Aches: Just very tired.
Highlight: Reaching Paradise Valley Cafe on Hwy 74 after an arduous and hot 15 miles. About 50% of the customers were PCT hikers, some of whom had been there most of the day and were looking a little the worse for wear.
Lowlight: Having to walk about another half mile to my campsite after checking in at the end of a long day. On the upside, they didn’t charge me to stay and there were free hot showers.
Pictures: Click here
Map: Click here for Google Map
The plan for the day was to reach Hwy 74, about 15 miles away as quickly as possible, and then road-walk about 10 miles along the highway towards the town of Idyllwild, hopefully leaving about 9 miles to reach there tomorrow morning. The reason for the road-walk is that an 11 mile stretch of the PCT between Hwy 74 and Idyllwild, is closed due to fire damage. I’m sure some people will just hitch the 20 miles of road, while others will add an extra distance by hiking to the point where the PCT is closed and then using a firetrail to get them back to Hwy 74 for a reduced roadwalk. However, this detour is an extra 8 miles just to do those few miles of the PCT that remain open, and didn’t seem logical to me. I want to be a purist, but I’ll bet all hikers have missed some of the PCT already, for example the route around Mount Laguna where all hikers just head into town and rejoin the PCT on the other side. A very long-winded explanation!
Anyway, I started hiking at 6:30am hoping that there would be some relatively easy trail given my ambitions. I decided to walk the first two hours before stopping for breakfast, but found this incorporated a very long and exhausting climb. I passed one of the Japanese girls who was moving very slowly, and a long way behind her friend, and wondered whether she was wishing she was somewhere else. Actually, everybody I saw today looked exhausted, not to mention grimy and sweaty. One of the reasons the climb was tough was because there was supposed to be no water until the Highway, and I was carrying 4 litres. Imagine my disgust when I found a well-stocked water cache, that we had been told was empty, soon after the climb ended. My sentiments were shared by a fellow hiker who had done the same as me.
I was hoping that was the end of the big climbs, but there were two more, the first of which had me struggling and wondering about the wisdom of doing so much. However, an hour later I think my breakfast kicked in and my mood lifted. For most of the day, to our left, we could see an agricultural valley and some expensive looking houses not that far from the trail. It seemed a stark contrast to our grimy hiking through the parched high desert. Later there was a pretty wildflower-bordered walk along a narrow ridge, and some meadow-like dry grasslands for a few short sections. Then it was back to scrub, cactus gardens, lizards and the occasional small snake.
Eventually the trail descended to the highway and I walked west for a mile to the Paradise Valley Cafe, which was very friendly to hikers. I didn’t want to stay for too long, but didn’t rush my chilli burger and constantly refilled glass of Diet Coke. At 3:30pm, I started what I knew would be a long grind of 9 miles of road-walking, as some other hikers took advantage of offers to drive them to Idyllwild. The walk was tedious, because I was already tired, but did actually pass through some very pretty ranch country and there was generally a verge to walk safely on. It was also nice to get a few friendly toots from passing motorists, as well as the offer of a lift from one lady (politely refused).
I eventually reached the campgound at about 6:40pm, grabbed a flavoured milk and large bottle of Pepsi, from the soon-to-close store and walked to my campsite. Despite the expectation of being able to wash clothes tomorrow, I looked so grimy I washed my clothes as I showered and then ate dinner by my headlamp. Later than I would like, but I have a room booked tomorrow night in Idyllwild, and if I leave early enough from here, should have most of the day off in town.