Here's looking southbound on the PCT at the Highway 18 parking area near Big Bear.
Here's the parking area on Highway 18.
The trailhead where Trailhacker and I begin our hike!
The trail started out as right at the transition between desert and forest. It was really pretty and the temperature was perfect.
Looking down toward the desert. We had driven up here along that road below.
We encountered some Joshua trees.
You can see some of the high mountains still have a lot of snow.
There was a potty at the water source. Such a nice potty to go with a water source that warns you not to drink it.
This was a small campsite with a horse corral. The horse water in that tub was probably what a hiker would want to filter.
There were iris growing in the meadow.
This is the camp where the potty, the water, the horse corral and horse water and iris were.
Cactus grew here in this transition zone.
Spring wallflowers grew here too.
Looking back toward the end of the semi-dry lake to the east of Big Bear. There's a small community here. The PCT walks along the edge of it. I remember from my 2008 PCT hike how strange it seemed to be walking and seeing the nice houses there.
The dump. Dumps used to be canyons when I was a kid. Now they are mountains everywhere you go. Our way of life is not sustainable. We're going to find that out soon.
We came to a section of trail with a lot of rocks.
A very large tree on the trail.
We came to an interesting rock formation and took a rest.
We have climbed from the transition zone into consistent pine forest.
We came upon some llamas.
The llamas belonged to the Llama Lady who was clearing blowdowns on the trail with her husband.
Llama faces are cute. They weren't very friendly though.
We passed the llamas and continued into the forest. Great So Cal high country. Looks just like the area around Pine Mountain and Mt. Pinos in our area.
This could be in the Mt. Pinos area, but it's near Big Bear.
There were still the occasional cactus to be found. This one was rather large.
We are right below Van Duesen road. There's a little bridge over the small creek and on the other side there was a flat area good for camping.
We came upon some thru-hikers camping in the camping area beyond the bridge.
We walked another half mile or so and found a nice place for our own camp.
I woke up the next day and it was no longer sunny. I continued on the trail by myself now and came upon another camp with a picnic table. Trailhacker went home. I continued on. This was a farewell to semi-unemployement hike for me. I had gotten a job and would be starting in another week so I wanted to hike one more time on the PCT. It might be a while before I could do another somewhat long hike.
It was really cold. Some of the plants had ice on them. I came to this lookout point but there was no view. It was cloudy and seemed like it might rain.
There were benches at the Cougar Crest.
As I continued on the trail, it started looking frosty. It was almost snowing now.
It was end of May but spring was still evident in the frosty snowy conditions.
I thought the trail was really pretty through here.
More wallflowers. There were a lot of them.
Lupine in a burned area. In 2008 when I was on my first PCT hike this area was closed because of the fire. I hiked through anyway then.
Lupine. It seemed vivid under the cloudy, rainy conditions.
There were lots of tiny trees in these circular cleared out areas.
Here's another baby tree.
Sometimes there was a big log next to the infant tree.
I made it to a trailside camp. People can drive to this camp.
I stopped here to eat breakfast. I started to get hypothermia. I was low enough that I was getting rain instead of snow. I forgot my umbrella and didn't have a rain jacket. I had rain pants, a wind breaker and a plastic ground sheet. These would have to do.
I continued down the trail freezing cold. I ran so that I might warm up. I saw smoke down near the creek and found some thru-hikers trying to warm up by a big fire. I stopped for 5 minutes to warm up. I felt much better and continued down the creek.
I came upon a beaver pond.
There were ducks floating in it.
More wallflowers along the trail. Since I was all warmed up now, I was really enjoying the scenery. I was dropping slowly. Soon I would be out of the pines and back into a transition zone again.
But for now, wallflowers galore!
The burned landscape still looked wintry here at the end of May.
I came upon a small snake coiled up. I'm not sure if it was alive or not.
Holcomb creek. I have descended enough now that it's a substantial creek.
I would have to cross the creek several times. It was still flirting with freezing temperatures and it was raining. Crossing the creek wasn't fun.
The landscape now reminded me of the backcountry around Manzana or Sisquoc.
There would be these oaks, though, that look nothing like the oaks in the backcountry around Manana and Sisquoc.
Finally a view. I'm aiming toward those mountains. At this point I thought maybe that was Cleghorn peak, but it wasn't. Cleghorn was further away than those peaks.
I'm dropping out of the forest now.
I came upon a spring. If it would have been hot, the spring may have been welcome. But it wasn't hot so I walked on by.
I thought this was really inviting country. I felt happy walking through this area.
Blue dicks. Now I was feeling right at home.
I came to a spring near the Deep Creek junction and bridge.
Here's the bridge. There are a couple bridges on Deep Creek. One further down had been washed out. The main PCT had been re-routed at the other end of this bridge. Some thru-hikers were going through the main trail anyway so they wouldn't miss the hot spring, but all the ones I met were taking the detour.
I decided I would rest below the bridge and try to dry off my feet and some of my things in the weak sun. The cold rain had made me pretty wet. I thought I was pretty much finished for the day, but wanted to dry myself a bit before I looked for a place to camp.
A flock of Western Tanagers landed in the trees above me. I tried to take a picture but of course they aren't visible. You might be able to make out the brightly colored bird in the bottom left corner. The trees were pretty anyway.
I made camp by a large gazebo that once upon a time was a cabin.
Lots of thru-hikers camped here with me.
In the morning I made my way along the detour. I figured I would see something new rather than hike the trail I have already seen.
You can drive to Splinters Cabin but you will have to park on the other side of this road.
The road is washed out in the creek here.
The re-route was very pleasant. I loved the open country with just enough trees to make you feel like you were still in the mountains and not dropping back into the desert. I remember in 2008 how hot Deep Creek was. It was around 100 degrees and there's almost no vegetation.
The area around the Fishbowls near Pine Mountain looks a lot like this.
I really really enjoyed this detour.
There was lots of water along the detour.
Pretty flowers. I think these are bush senecio.
The re-route was following some ATV trails. The ATV trail was a creek in a couple places.
I came upon a rock that looked like Saturn.
The trail crossed the creek one last time. The water was really cold.
The trail started climbing back into pines again.
I found a nice wide spot on the road to stop and dry all my gear and my socks. I was hiking in these sandals. I prefer sandals to shoes these days. Chacos are like strap-on boots!
I was aiming for these rocky mountains.
Pinnacles staging area is a place for people to unload their ATVs and go for a ride. I didn't see any ATVs on my hike through the area. I was glad for that because it was really lovely.
I continued down the dirt road. The PCT re-route was marked with those red posts.
Another red PCT detour sign. Now I would begin a long paved roadwalk.
I'm really dropping out of the pines now. I'm right on the edge of the mojave desert near Hesperia.
This little bird would fly into the square hole to get water out of the tank.
I guess I'm not in the forest anymore. It wasn't hot though.
This bridge caught my eye with the blue sparrows painted on it.
Turned out that right at this bridge was a side-trail to the Deep Creek hot springs. Should I go take a look?
Here's the trail to the hot spring.
It's some hilly dry country down to the hot spring.
The trail down to the hot spring was really difficult. It was quite treacherous. But I made it down and here is one of the springs.
Here's the big pool. I decided I would soak here for a while. I soaked for about an hour. Some locals arrived. I had a nice time talking to some hillbilly-types who were getting more and more drunk and stoned and more and more naked. After an hour of that, I was ready to continue back to the trail.
The hike up the trail back to the PCT re-route was pretty grueling. It was a long hard climb back up. It can be hard to put in the effort after the relaxation of a hot spring. But I made it.
I continued down the road which quickly became a dirt road. The road was not open to traffic. I found these nice Flannel Bush or Fremontias.
Looking toward Mojave Forks Dam and Hesperia.
Looking back at the snowy mountains I left yesterday.
Pretty wildflowers in the desert.
The Mojave Forks dam. The biggest dam holding back nothing at all.
Looking toward the mountains around Wrightwood.
Mojave Forks dam again. This area is on the San Andreas Fault.
There's the dam again. The main PCT went below the dam down in that creek canyon below. The dirt road I was following was taking forever to get back to the main PCT.
You can almost make out the PCT dropping next to the dam. I hiked that in 2008.
A big pool below the dam.
Lonely highway in the San Andreas Fault zone on the edge of Apple Valley. That escarpment is along the San Andreas Fault.
At long last, I've returned to the PCT!
A memorial to someone's dogs.
The trail climbs now after descending to the dam.
Now we're in the chapparal.
Creeks still flowed along the trail.
Close-up of Fremontia. Also called Flannel Bush.
I found the campsite area I stayed in in 2008. There were lots of thru-hikers camped here. I had a rough night. The wind was very strong and my tent wouldn't stay up. I decided I would just take my tent down and sleep on top of it like a ground cloth. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling rain on my face. I looked up at the sky and saw stars. I thought I was dreaming. But soon I realized I wasn't dreaming. It really was raining. It was still very windy so I got inside my tent with it not set up and slept inside of it like being inside a bag. That worked out well, but it would flap around and beat on me so it was hard to sleep.
This is sunrise. I decided to just get up and get the heck moving again. There was a hotel almost 30 miles away.
I hiked in sunshine in rain that blew from clouds miles away. There were pretty rainbows in the valley below.
I made my way to Silverwood Lake. It was still raining and very windy. I wore my rain pants and my ground sheet like a shawl in the rain. I was pretty worried I might not find a safe place to camp.
Just beyond Silverwood Lake the trail gets a little confusing, but I found my way.
Here you can see the rain being blown in from the far-away clouds.
Wow, that's a long way to go!
The sun was sort of coming out. I'm in the chapparal. It was very nice.
I had lunch here in 2008. It was hotter than hell then. Today it was cold.
I crested Cleghorn Peak and began the descent toward Cajon Pass.
The trail was a bit overgrown on the other side of the mountain.
There's the rain cloud where the rain was being blown from. I was glad to be out of it now, but it was still pretty windy and I didn't think I could set up a tent in this wind. My plan was that in the little valley below, if I found a sheltered spot, I would stay there. Otherwise, it would be 10 more miles to a hotel.
Pretty pink cactus. A signature of the So Cal PCT.
Another signature sight of the So Cal PCT. It was staggeringly windy here. I could barely stand up.
This ridge was really exposed and I was being blown so hard by the wind I was getting concerned I might get blown away. I remembered this spot from 2008. It was windy then, too, plus all these bugs that sounded like rattlesnakes were scaring the be-jesus out of me.
Walking along this ridge in the wind was kind of exciting.
The little valley below wasn't sheltered from the wind. There had been a small area before these cliffs that was sort of sheltered. But now I was close enough to Cajon Pass I figured I could make it to the hotel and get some good sleep tonight.
These cliffs made me think of condors soaring before modern man made a horrific mess of the place.
These ridges were so incredibly windy! I thought about crawling instead of standing a few times. But I thought I might hurt my knees. I did my best to stay upright. It was not easy.
The mariposa lilies are bright orange here.
I made it the rest of the way along the trail. There was no place to camp so I continued on to the McDonalds. The guys we had seen camped at Van Duesen Road were here eating some dinner.
I camped at the Best Western. I slept well. In the morning, I headed back to the trail. The wind-blown rain was still coming. I only had a few miles to go to get to my truck.
Sometimes the PCT is less than glamorous.
Yep, that's the PCT. I'm going under Interstate 15.
There was still some water under the bridge. On the other side, the wind was very calm. I kicked myself for not finding a campsite here instead of paying for a hotel.
No wind, flat area. I could have slept around here.
The trail beyond Interstate 15 climbs into an interesting area with lots of railroad tracks and interesting rock formations.
They called this area the Mormon Rocks. Again, I could imagine condors here.
Again, the glamorous PCT.
I begin the final few miles.
My car is somewhere down in that valley.
The trail goes up across the valley. This was burned in the Sheep Fire in 2009 or 2010. When I hiked through here in 2009 it was all chamise chapparal. You couldn't see the trail on the other side.
I made it to the Swarthout road water cache. This had little mice living in it in 2008.
Plenty of water, no mice.
The road was just beyond the cache. Rather than continue on the trail, I turned and walked to my truck. My hike was over.
I spent much of this hike feeling sort of desperate. The rain and wind and my lack of good rain gear made me feel desperate. Not being able to keep my shelter up in the rain made me feel desperate. Coming close to hypothermia made me feel desperate. I really hurried out of the wilderness because of this. I arrived at my car a day early.
Despite all the hardship, or maybe because of it, I suddenly felt like this was one of the best backpack trips I ever took.
I drove to Wrightwood and got a nice pancake breakfast before driving home.