I saw this big guy along the trail on the way to Silverwood Lake on Wednesday.

#2014PCT

On Monday I took a rest day--my first since starting the trail on the 4th! The horses have been able to trade off in terms of long days, with one or the other having a rest while the other one put in the miles, but I've been at it all day long each day, trying to take advantage of the time that Mom had to help me while she was on spring break. But on Sunday she went home, leaving me and the horses in Big Bear. She dropped the truck and trailer on a dirt road outside Fawnskin before she left, then took me back to the trail crossing at the 18, and I put in some more distance with Takoda on Sunday before taking Monday off. I also had a bit of a concern with Shyla, who was getting abrasions from the SMB boots that she was wearing; ironically, we were trying to protect her legs, but all the sweat and dirt was creating raw spots instead, and after the long trek up from Whitewater Friday and Saturday, she was swollen and sore on Sunday. So we're resting her for a couple days, and I spent my day off getting supplies to doctor her up. Then on Tuesday I hit the PCT again with Takoda, on my way to Deep Creek Hot Springs, where I plan to camp. It was hard for both Takoda and me to leave Shyla behind, and Takoda was neighing a lot as we headed down the trail and away from Big Bear.

#2014PCT

A hiker on the PCT that I met asked me what I was liking most and least about my journey so far. My least favorite part was easy--it's all the downed trees that block the trail and make progress difficult. And my favorite . . . that was easy too; it's all the amazing reptiles that I see along the way, like this beautiful little rattlesnake.

#rattlesnakealongthetrail #2014PCT

I climbed up out of Whitewater on Friday, after a two hour delay when I had to stop about three miles into the trail and re-pack Takoda's pack saddle; apparently I hadn't done quite as good of a job that morning as I thought, or needed a little more practice for "the real deal." But eventually I got things straightened out, and we proceeded to Mission Creek trail camp. We arrived after dark, due to that delay, so it was a little difficult to find the springs and the horse corrals and set up everything, but I managed. It was a very cold night, however, for a first night on the trail, and I shivered my way through till dawn, when it finally got a little warmer (then, just as I should have been getting up, it was finally warm enough to sleep soundly). So I got a slower start in the morning than I would have liked, and once again we found ourselves riding in the dark during the last few miles of the trail. But there was a brilliant almost full moon to light my way, so that helped a lot. Mom parked the trailer where the PCT crossed the 18 near Baldwin Lake outside Big Bear City, and she walked down the trail to meet me. Then we trailered the horses back to Shay Meadows Stables, where I was going to board the horses for the next couple of days. I was very late when I finally climbed into bed (a real one in the camper!) and I have to say that it sure felt good after that cold night on the trail.

#2014PCT

I'm on my way to Big Bear! And for the first time, I'm going to do what I always planned to do (but which was made difficult by the lack of water and the uncertainty about Shyla's fitness for the trail). So far, I've been riding light and switching off horses in order to get through this water-challenged southern part of the trail and to spare the horses as much as possible. Sometimes one has a long day and the other a shorter day (when Mom meets me to swap horses somewhere) and sometimes it is just one on the trail while the other rests. But today I'm actually packing for the first time. I'm riding Shyla and Takoka is carrying the pack with food and equipment, and we're planning to stay at Mission Springs Trail Camp in the San Bernardino mountains. I'm counting on there being water there (and the PCT water report has assured me there is), but Takoda is carrying 20 liters for the long, hot climb up the mountainside. It's going to be my first night actually camping out on my own . . . but hopefully not my last!

#2014PCT

The horses might not be afraid of snakes, but once I reached the valley floor on Thursday evening I did encounter a whole new set of frightening horse-eating monsters--or so Takoda seemed to think. First it was the Spinning Pinwheels of Death, as Takoda imagined the whirling wind turbines of the Cabazon Pass to be. Then it was the Freight Train from Hell that roared straight toward us huffing and puffing and whistling and honking. After that came the Tunnel of Doom, which was the underpass of the interstate that threatened to swallow us up alive. By this time it was growing dark (my mom had planned to meet us to swap horses at Snow Creek, but driving over the mountain three times--once with the camper then back with my dad and stepmom and Dad's cousin Gordon and then back again with the truck and trailer with Shyla--had taken longer than expected, especially after the long drive back down from Black Mountain road), and I was trying to find Ziggy and the Bear in Whitewater, the trail angels where we planned to spend the night. The Bear even drove out in search of me with my mom, but all they kept finding were our hoofprints in the sand, and by the time they got back, Takoda and I had managed to find our way there on our own. Mom and I made a make-shift corral by angling our two trucks and trailers together into a rectangle (literally circling the wagons) and then I got to meet some of my fellow PCT hikers who were also taking advantage of the wonderful hospitality offered by Ziggy and the Bear, who have already hosted 54 people this year--I was number 55, and got my mug shot taken by the Bear to prove it!

#2014PCT

Once Takoda and I started down the other side of San Jacinto, we were taunted by the vision of the 10 interstate crossing the desert below us on the way to Palm Springs. It seemed as if no matter how far we walked, it never got any closer!

#2014PCT

Despite all the Hollywood westerns that show horses rearing in fear of a snake, my horses have never shown the least bit of concern about any of the ones we've seen, either during this trip or on previous rides over the years.

#2014PCT

One of the exciting moments of our ride Thursday was coming across this rosy boa. I have two just like it at home, but this one was much bigger than mine and looked very fat and sassy.

#2014PCT

So Thursday was another interesting day on the PCT. It started early, when I drove out to Paradise Cafe in order to give a ride to four hikers who--like me--were having to skip the closed section between Highway 74 and Idyllwild, where a recent fire had made the trail unsafe. I had passed them--my three Russian friends and the young woman I'd hiked with the first day out of Warner Springs--on the trail on Wednesday and promised to give them a ride if I could before I headed out on Thursday. They all camped along the trail Wednesday night, when it proved too difficult to cover the whole distance to Highway 74, but they rose early and booked it to Paradise Cafe to catch the shuttle bus (which was me). It felt good to give back a little bit after all the kindness that so many people have shown to me just in the little time I've been on the trail so far. Between the volunteers at Warner Springs Community Center, other hikers on the trail, Dawn at Paradise Valley Ranch, and Lawrence showing my mom the back roads of Anza, we've been overwhelmed by the warm and selfless generosity of so many people.

And we encountered more of that later on Thursday. One of the things that Lawrence had warned us about and which Ziggy and the Bear, the trail angels in Whitewater, later confirmed, was that the Black Mountain road, the access road I needed to take to get up to the PCT from Idyllwild, was closed by a locked gate. It had previously been open this year, but was not mysteriously locked. That was going to add another 6 miles to my trek over San Jacinto. Lawrence had given my mom a number for the San Bernardino National Forestry office, and on Thursday morning a supervisor there that she spoke with several times on Wednesday told her that a ranger would call her, but he never did. So as we drove along 243 to Black Mountain Road, we did a little legwork of our own. We stopped at Idyllwild Park, hoping to find a ranger there, but it turned out to be a county park, so not the right agency. But the friendly ranger there directed us to the national forest ranger station in town . . which turned out to be closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays! Then we went across the street to the fire department, thinking they would have connections, and they made some phone calls for us, but their information was even more discouraging, as they were told the entire trail down the hill was closed (which was the reason for the gate being locked). The fire chief who was helping us actually said he didn't believe that was true (and we were sure it wasn't either) but he couldn't do anything else to help. But luck was on our side, for as we continued up the road we crossed another ranger driving the other way, and we managed to flag him down. It turned out that he wasn't part of the national service either, but he did have a key that he was willing to use, and he unlocked the gate for us and let us through!

Getting past the gate turned out to be only part of it, however; we had another six miles of very washed out, rough and rocky dirt road to cover (while pulling a horse trailer). We did get stuck once, when the tires spun out and we started sliding backwards, which was scary with the trailer behind us on a narrow, steep hill. But after backing up and trying again, we then off-loaded Takoda and managed to get through. I don't know if Takoda really thought getting back in the trailer was a good idea, but he did it, and I think in the end he appreciated the lift, because he had a long day's ride ahead.

Once we finally got to the end of the road, we saddled up and began our ride, cresting the mountain and getting a good view of the little bit of snow remaining at the top of San Jacinto. After that, it was a long, rugged descent to the valley floor 6000 feet below.

#2014PCT

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