Backpacking · PCT

PCT Days 25-30: Cajon Pass to Acton

Where: Pacific Crest Trail – Mile 341.9 to Mile 444.3
When: May 27 – June 1, 2017
Who: Colin and me
Distance: 102.4 Miles

Day 25: Cajon Pass to Guffy Campground (22.4 Miles)

This morning we had our longest, driest, and hardest day of the trail ahead of us: 5,200 feet of elevation gain over 22 miles with no water in between (23 miles if you count the walk from the Best Western to the trail). We each packed six liters of water, our max capacity, which equates to about 13 pounds of water weight. Luckily, we only needed about one day’s worth of food, since we were planning to reach Wrightwood early tomorrow.

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Tunnel under Cajon Pass

Between the continental breakfast at the hotel and the mile-long trek just to get back on trail, we got a bit of a late start on the day. Generally, this should be avoided when traveling through the desert. The first five miles from Cajon Pass to Swarthout Canyon seemed to go by quickly, and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

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Lots of freight trains pass near Cajon Pass
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Interesting rock formations near Cajon Pass

After Swarthout Canyon, the real climbing began, and we found ourselves going up a seemingly endless mountain for the rest of the day. It was hot and difficult, and the scenery wasn’t that great either, since most of the area had been burned.

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Our view for most of the day

Near the end of our day, the trail returned to being forested, and it was a welcome change. During a short break about miles away from Guffy Campground, we encountered the first deer we had seen since starting the trail!

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The trail returns to the forest

The sun had already set by the time we reached Guffy Campground, and it was pretty dark. Before arriving, we had seen very few hikers all day and were worried about having to camp alone in bear territory. Imagine our surprise when we came upon a very busy campground full of Memorial Day Weekenders from Los Angeles! It was a happy ending to a very long, hard day.

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L.A. lights from Guffy Campground

Day 26: Guffy Campground to Wrightwood (5.0 Miles)

We awoke in high spirits, since today we only had to hike five miles to Wrightwood! Colin’s mom and her friends were hiking Mount Baden-Powell in the morning to celebrate Memorial Day and then going down to Wrightwood for lunch that day, so we were planning to meet up with them. Looking forward to food and rest, we hiked down to Inspiration Point on Highway 18, intending to hitch a ride into Wrightwood. As it turns out, within minutes of our reaching the highway, Penny and her friends drove by and saw us! They pulled over and offered us a ride to town, even though it was in the opposite direction (if you are reading this, thank you!). What luck!

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Mountain High ski lifts, sans snow
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The view from Inspiration Point

Our first stop was Mountain Hardware, a hardware and outdoor gear shop that serves as a sort of headquarters for PCT hikers. It being Saturday on Memorial Day weekend, we were there to check out the register of trail angels in Wrightwood who offer housing for hikers, since a traditional hotel would be very expensive (if we could even find one). Wrightwood is known to be a very hiker-friendly town, and we found a couple willing to take us in for the night.

After sorting out our sleeping arrangements, we were free to explore around town. We had a very nice breakfast at Cinnamon’s Bakery and a successful resupply at Jensen’s Market. Around 3:00pm, Colin’s mom and her friends had finished their hike, and we met them for lunch at Village Grind. Not really in the mood for coffee shop food, Colin, his mom, and I opted to order pizza from Mile High Pizza, and that was a very good choice because it was very good pizza.

After our nice lunch, we arranged for our trail angel to pick us up, and we were taken to their house where they offered us a bed, shower, and laundry machine. The rest of our night was pretty quiet, and we fell asleep quickly on our real bed.

Day 27: Wrightwood to Little Jimmy Campground (14.6 Miles)

In the morning, our trail angels drove us back to Inspiration Point, and we resumed our hike. Today’s big challenge was Mount Baden-Powell, a 2,800-foot climb over 3 miles of very steep switchbacks. We reached the bottom around noon, which was not ideal, but since we were only planning on hiking 15 miles today, we could afford to take the climb easy. Near the top, there were a few patches of snow, and I enjoyed stuffing some into my hat to cool down.

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Some snow and a view of the desert from the top of Mount Baden-Powell

Although we had passed many day-hikers along the way, there were not many people at the top of the mountain by the time we got there. We took a long break at the top to eat lunch and enjoy the expansive views.

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This 1,500 year old Limber Pine has been named the Wally Waldron Tree, apparently the oldest tree in the San Gabriel Mountains.
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Happy Memorial Day from Mount Baden-Powell!

Compared to the excitement of summitting Baden-Powell, the rest of the day was pretty uneventful, and we made it to Little Jimmy Campground without incident.

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King snake near Jimmy Springs
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Nice cold, clear water at Jimmy Springs

Day 28: Little Jimmy Campground to Sulphur Springs Campground (22.8 Miles?)

This morning started with a steep climb up Mt Williamson, followed by a steep descent down the other side. Oy. Next up on the agenda was a detour along Highway 2 to avoid a trail closure, which was in effect to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow Toad. (I am not sure how many miles the road walk was, hence the question mark in the mileage count). During our road walk, we encountered some trail magic: a trail angel was set up on the side of the road with chairs, sodas, beers, cookies, gummy bears, oranges, and a phone charger! A nice surprise on an otherwise uneventful day.

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Hiking along Highway 2

The rest of the day was pretty mellow. We stopped at a private camp called Camp Glenwood for our afternoon lunch break and then continued hiking until we reached Sulphur Springs Campground. Near the end of the day, we started to see some Poodle Dog Bush, which is a nasty plant that grows in recent burn areas and is worse than Poison Oak if you touch it.

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Mile 400, just before Camp Glenwood
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Watch out for Poodle Dog Bush!

Day 29: Sulphur Springs Campground to Mile 424.3 (17.2 Miles)

Today we left the forest and returned to the chaparral. We ate lunch at Mill Creek Fire Station and camped on the side of a hill at mile 424.3. Aside from a 2-minute rain shower, nothing very interesting happened.

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Retiring to the tent for the night

Day 30: Mile 424.3 to Acton (20.0 Miles)

After a few uneventful days on the trail, we were looking forward to reaching Acton, where some of Colin’s mom’s friends, Dave and Janice, had agreed to pick us up and take us to their house for the night. With an early start and a good pace, we reached North Fork Ranger Station by noon and took a short lunch break.

Anxious to get to Acton, we decided to hike through the heat of the day. It was miserable, but we made it to Acton by 4:30pm, marking the end of a 20-mile day. While we were waiting to the be picked up, we ran into Coppertone, and he set us up with some root beer floats! Yum!

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A long, hot hike with no shade

Shortly after, Dave and Janice arrived and drove us to their home, where we were welcomed by three very excited, attention-loving dogs (yes, we spoiled them). At the house, we took showers and did laundry, and I was able to soak my feet in an ice bath. While Colin was in the shower, Janice informed me that they were preparing a surprise dinner for Colin’s birthday tonight and that his mom was coming! I thought that it was very kind and thoughtful of them to take care of us like that. We had a lovely night.

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