Backpacking · PCT

PCT Days 10-12: Warner Springs to Idyllwild

Where: Pacific Crest Trail – Mile 109.5 to Mile 179.4
When: May 2-4, 2017
Who: Colin and me
Distance: 43.3 Miles + a 17-mile hitch to Idyllwild

Day 10: Warner Springs to Mike’s Place (17.8 Miles)

After our much needed zero in Warner Springs, we set off early Tuesday morning to reach Mike’s Place (a trail angel’s house where there was rumored to be pizza) 17.8 miles ahead.  It was very pleasant hiking in the cool morning air, and we even got to travel alongside a mid-sized stream for a while, which was a nice change.

Walking through Warner Springs Meadows as the sun rises
A view from the trail just after sunrise

After about six miles the trail started to climb away from the stream, and we spent the rest of the day in the hot sun gaining elevation. It was an exhausting day. We eventually made it to Mike’s Place around 5:00pm and lounged around for a few hours with about 30 other hikers. We learned that some hikers had been there since 11:30am patiently waiting for pizza to be made! Around 7:00pm the pizza was ready, and it was delicious! Not long after eating, we set up our tent and went to bed, planning to get another early start tomorrow.

Day 11: Mike’s Place to Mile 144.0 (16.7 Miles)

We were on the trail by 6:30am, and it was already HOT! Today was shaping up to be a miserable day. We completed the 10 miles to our next water source, Tule Spring, by 11:30am and were relieved to find some shade to escape the ever-increasing temperatures. The “spring” was more of a marsh, and the mud was very orange. I suspect there was a lot of iron in the ground because the water tasted very metallic and Colin said it smelled “like blood.” However, being our last reliable water source for the next 14 miles, we weren’t really have the luxury of being picky.

Taking a break in the shade by Tule Spring at Mile 137

Around 4:30pm, we decided it was time to continue hiking to our camp site, which was still 7 miles away. The day had not cooled down much, and it was a very slow and sweaty trek.

About 1.5 miles from the campground, we had quite a scare. Colin was walking ahead of me when he yelled, jumped up, and scrambled backwards. Then I heard an angry rattling and saw a coiled up rattlesnake ready to strike! It was terrifying. We waited for ten minutes, hoping the snake would go away, but it just stayed there, coiled up with its head raised above the ground. Eventually, we decided to climb up the ridge on the side of the trail to circumvent the snake.

Shortly after this incident, the sun began to set and the air began to cool down. As we continued, it grew dark and we found ourselves doing our first night hike. It was fun, but we were still a bit shaken up about the snake to really enjoy ourselves. After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the camp site. We were so tired, we skipped dinner altogether and just went straight to bed.

Sunset from the trail near Mile 143

Day 12: Mile 144.0 to Idyllwild (8.8 miles + a 17-mile hitch)

We started the next day at 6:30am, and again it was already hot. Our goal today was to reach Paradise Valley Cafe for breakfast, and then hitch a ride to Idyllwild. Under normal circumstances, we would have hiked all the way to Idyllwild, but due to a fire in 2013, a large section of the PCT is closed for safety reasons. There is an alternate trail, but it sucks and almost everyone we met said they were going to hitch hike from the cafe to Idyllwild.

Even though we were walking less than half the distance of our previous day, it was still a very tough hike for me because of the heat. I was sweating so much I felt like I had just run through some sprinklers! Eventually, we made it to Hwy 74, 1 mile away from the cafe. We briefly attempted to hitch a ride to the cafe, but having no luck we just walked the final mile along the side of the road.

Finishing our 1-mile road walk to Paradise Valley Cafe

When we arrived at the cafe, most of the hikers we had been travelling alongside were there. The food at the cafe was delicious and the portions were huge! We had a very relaxing breakfast and reserved a room at the Silver Pines Lodge over the phone. After breakfast, we tried for about half an hour to hitch a ride to Idyllwild, but again no luck. Fortunately, there was an enterprising retiree who apparently spends his time shuttling hikers from the cafe to Idyllwild for $5 a head. We figured since he can fit 5 hikers in his truck at a time, and it takes about 20 minutes to get to Idyllwild, he probably makes about $30 an hour! We jumped at the opportunity and gladly gave him our money for a ride to town.

Enjoying a HUGE breakfast burrito and French toast at the Paradise Valley Cafe (Colin is on the phone trying to book us a hotel room)

When we reached Idyllwild, we checked into our room and I immediately jumped in the shower. It was amazing. The lodge also allowed us to do one load of laundry for free, with a REAL washer and dryer! After taking care of all our chores, we had a lovely night on the town. Idyllwild is a very cute town, and I would love to visit again on a normal vacation. For dinner, we went to an Itallian restaurant called Frattello’s, which was very good, and I highly recommend it. Then, we went to the town’s single-screen theater and got the see the premier of Guardians of the Galaxy 2! It was very exciting because I had just seen an ad saying the movie wasn’t supposed to come out until tomorrow. What’s more, it was the theater’s half-price wine and beer night! After the movie, we returned to the lodge and went to bed around 11:00pm, our latest night yet!

The Idyllwild Monument — a plaque states that the monument won a national competition for the “World’s Best Use of Gorrilla Glue” in 2012. Wow.



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