Backpacking · PCT

PCT Days 17-19: Mile 232.1 to Big Bear Lake

Where: Pacific Crest Trail – Mile 232.1 to Mile 266.1
When: May 9 – May 11, 2017
Who: Colin and me
Distance: 34.0 Miles

Day 17: Mile 232.1 to Coon Creek Cabin (14.3 miles)

Yesterday had been a long, hard day for me, and as we began hiking this morning, I had a feeling that today would be just as bad. My feet were hurting a lot, and our pace was slower than usual for the first couple miles. The first challenge of the day was climbing about 1,900 feet out of the canyon that we had camped in last night. Near the third mile, my muscles finally started to warm up, and I found a good pace again.

At mile 236.6, we reached the start of the Lake Fire Closure. We were allowed to hike through the closure, but we were prohibited from camping until after mile 242. There were some ominous clouds blowing in behind us, and I was anxious to get through this section as quickly as possible, since rain can cause some serious hazards in recent burn areas. (think mudslides, falling trees, etc.).

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Hiking through the burn area somewhere around mile 239

Around noon we reached Mission Camp Spring, where we took a long break and restocked our water supply. We learned from another hiker that there was only a 20% chance of rain after 3pm, which put us a bit more at ease about the weather. We also learned that several hikers were planning to camp at Coon Creek Cabin (about 7 miles ahead) for the night, and then do a 20-miler to Big Bear the next day.

After our break, we continued hiking, intending to go at least 9 more miles for the day. However, my feet were hurting pretty bad, and camping at Coon Creek Cabin with the others was starting to sound very appealing. We reached the cabin around 3:30pm and found about 20 other hikers hanging out at the picnic benches. We also saw someone talking on their phone, which meant there was cell service! We made up our minds to stay here for the night.

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Coon Creek Cabin at mile 246.4. It was surprisingly large, and had a pit toilet nearby.

The cabin itself was pretty shabby, so we opted to sleep behind it, using the back wall as a shield from the wind. A very chilly fog started to roll in shortly after we arrived, so we quickly cooked dinner and set up our tent so we could snuggle up in our sleeping bags. I took advantage of the cell service and called my mom, letting her know that we would likely arrive in Big Bear tomorrow (Wednesday) or the next day (My parents were planning to visit us for Mother’s Day weekend). I also gave her a list of foods I had been craving on the trail, including grapefruit, orange juice, English muffins with butter, and salad.

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Clouds rolling in…

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, and all the other hikers were in bed by 7pm.  I was surprised to find I had a hard time sleeping because of how cold it was! I was plenty warm a few days ago in the snow on San Jacinto, what gives?

Day 18: Coon Creek Cabin to Big Bear Lake (19.7 miles + hitch to town from mile 266.1)

We “slept in” the next morning and were nearly the last hikers to leave the cabin around 7:00am. Early in the day, we encountered a private zoo. From the trail we were able to see a mountain lion, grizzly bear, and even a tiger! We couldn’t get too close though since there was some seriously aggressive signage about trespassers.

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Grizzly bear at the private zoo near mile 250.

Our next highlight of the day was a couch! Big Bear Hostel set up a couch on the side of the trail with a large cache of sodas and cookies, along with some helpful information for hikers arriving to Big Bear. Thank you, Big Bear Hostel!

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Chillin’ on a couch with some soda at mile 253!
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That’s a lot of pine cones…
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Mile 265: 10% finished!

The rest of the hike was relatively uninteresting compared to our fun-filled morning. We originally planned to camp just outside of Big Bear and hitch a ride to the hostel early the next morning, but the comforts of town were impossible to resist, and we soon found ourselves at mile 266.1, where the trail intersects with Highway 18. Literally the minute we reached the road, a man in a van pulled over and asked if we needed a ride to town. Now that’s what I call service!

Our driver was extremely helpful, giving us suggestions of where to spend the night and good restaurants in town. I reserved a room at the Robinhood Resort during the ride, and the driver dropped us off right in the parking lot. He refused to let us tip him, saying he just really enjoyed talking with thru-hikers – a true trail angel.

We checked into the hotel, took showers, and then went out for dinner and drinks at Big Bear Brewing Company. The restaurant was a little pricey, but the food was very good and just what we needed after a 20-mile day.

Day 19: A Zero in Big Bear

The next day, we took advantage of our hotel room as long as possible before checking out. Then, we made our way over to the Big Bear Hostel to reserve cheaper accommodations for the night (i.e. a bunk bed in a dorm). With not much to do except laundry, we had a very relaxing day in Big Bear. We had some excellent Thai iced tea at An Ran Ju Gelato and Tea House (I highly recommend it) and a terrific dinner for a terrific price at The Himalayan (which I also highly recommend).

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