Date: Thursday, 11 May 2017
Start: Highway 18 at Mile 266.1, 6830 ft
Finish: Campsite by trail and trickle at Mile 286.7, 6459 ft
Daily Miles: 20.6 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 286.7
Weather: Warm and sunny all day
Breakfast: Scramble & hash browns, toast & jam
Dinner: Rehydrated beef and vegetable stew
Aches: Left ankle playing up a little
Highlight: Getting a lift out of town quite quickly. Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City are two towns theoretically four miles apart on Highway 18. However, it seems the two have grown together into one long stretched out town and most of the traffic on the Highway was bound to be local. After breakfast, I crossed the main road to the place I planned to hitch from (life was complicated by ongoing roadworks) without any optimism I would get a lift quickly. Alas, there was a German couple (siblings……they tell me there are some Australian sibling PCT hikers in town as well) already trying to hitch from there, and had been for some time. They were increasingly pessimistic. I didn’t want to complicate the task so offered to walk along the road some distance past them and put my thumb out. They said no, they would like to try a new spot so headed off up the road. Five minutes later a woman pulled up and offered me a lift, going out of her way to take me back to the trailhead.
Lowlight: After I had set up camp, I realised there was a guy half hidden in a gully about 30 metres away who had been watching me set up. I could see part of a backpack, so assumed he was a hiker, but he made no effort to acknowledge me and didn’t respond to my wave. An hour later he was still there, making me feel a little uneasy, to say the least. However he finally emerged and set up a tent about 15 metres from mine and I went over and introduced myself. He’s a PCT hiker from Pennsylvania, and became more talkative later on.
Pictures: Click here
Map: Click here for Google Map
I left my room at 6:45am and walked across for breakfast to the Grizzly Manor diner where I had eaten yesterday. It was virtually empty, in contrast to yesterday, but at 7am the regulars, and a few visitors, rolled in. I was then treated to an hour of entertainment as they ribbed each other and the staff mercilessly, the cook discussed his upcoming urology examination, and Hillary was excoriated. The food was also excellent, so after eating my fill I began the hitch out of town, and most fortuitously was on the trail by 8:20am.
With about five days worth of food in my pack and a full stomach, the early miles were not particularly enjoyable despite a glorious morning. However, the trail was gently undulating and not too taxing, and I was soon back in the groove. The country was mainly pine forest, with little undergrowth – almost park-like in places – and very easy on the eye. As expected there were a number of other PCT hikers setting out, some of whom I seem to have been keeping pace with for a week or more now, but there was plenty of solitude as well.
Later in the morning, the trail, which had been circling around the north side Big Bear Lake, but behind a ridge so it couldn’t be seen, crossed the ridge and offered some spectacular views over the lake, town and to the snow-covered mountains beyond. It was a postcard scene. At a break soon after, I was joined by some day hikers who were vacationing from the Santa Barbara area, and we had a pleasant conversation about the US and Australia, and my trip.
From there, the trail gradually descended through an old burnt out area that wasn’t very picturesque, but did allow good views to the mountains in the far distance. I walked a mile past what I figured would be the most popular camping place for hikers this evening and found a beautiful little spot for a relatively early stop and a good night’s sleep.