Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Million Miles Down and a Yellow Blaze

Day 12 - April 17
Mile 193 to 210 and 252 to 252.5
up/down: 600/6000

The wind came up like a freight train overnight and with it bitter cold at nearly 8000 feet elevation of camp. By the time we were ready to walk it had settled to a dull roar. Nothing to do but go down. A lot of down. Other than coming off Mt Whitney and returning to the Portals trailhead, I don't think we've ever done so much in a day. The meandering way of the PCT, always mindful of horses on the trail, kept the grade reasonable even if overly long for a hiking trail. One switchback that dropped just a few hundred feet was over half a mile long each way...  We started in pine trees with chickadees and Steller's Jays; and ended with creosote scrub and Phainopeplas. In the middle we had more Black-chinned Sparrows and Cal Towhees than you could count (I'm sure Susan did though). The views into the desert and back up to San Jacinto Peak were spectacular all morning. 

This was part of a 20 mile waterless stretch, kindly cured by the local water agency who maintain a drinking faucet at the base of the  mountain. We weren't out of water, like so many hikers who don't prepare for the heat of the lower slope, but we're glad to see the faucet. We tanked up for the 5 mile walk across the desert floor to the Hwy 10 underpass.

The 2015 Lake Fire consumed some 32,000 acres including many miles of the PCT trail south of Big Bear.  While you can continue a few miles past Hwy 10 at Whitewater where we stopped, you can't get anywhere. All the other fire closures in Southern California have reasonable reroutes. Not this one. Neither the PCTA or any other experts in this area could come up with a reasonable hiking route to get around the closure. This means pretty much all hikers have to shuttle around and start again in the Big Bear area. This is a particularly difficult shuttle to do with public transportation. From what I hear many hikers are taking a day or more to get to Big Bear Lake, missing 65 or more miles of trail. We were lucky that our friend Andrew, who lives just an hour from our stop point had a free Sunday afternoon and agreed to give us a ride to the point the trail reopens at mile 252 (Onyx Summit). After a wonderful dinner along the way, Andrew deposited us at the trail with enough sunlight left to walk a short distance and find a decent camp. Whether from previous year fires or active fires, there are years where it is pretty much impossible to walk continuous footsteps to Canada. This is one of those years and just do the best we can. Thank you Andrew for giving up your Sunday afternoon to help out these two wayward travelers. 

Tomorrow we will visit another friend Sandy who lives in Big Bear. We need some rest, pick up resupply, and to get town chores done. 

Yellow Blazing? That's a term coined on the Appalachian Trail for moving ahead on a road by foot or car.  I hope we are done yellow blazing this trail. You can read about all the different kinds of blazing here:


  1. Drought Buster...are you sure? Based on your So Cal tour so far you might consider "Drought Sometimes" or maybe "Rain Once In A While" ....just sayin. Hey, good luck through Big Bear and yes, you guys deserve some rest! Terrific pics as always.

    1. Glad to see you have your own account! I decided to drop that trail name days ago. The minute I did that it quit raining. I haven't settled for sure on a new trail name but I'm getting close.

    2. Someone else needs to anoint you with your "new" trail name. hope it happens soon!

  2. So you're the cause of the flat El Nino! Actually, rain on you is a bad thing so that was a good choice. Carry on--you have plenty of time for something to stick....

  3. You are such an amazing fount of information. Thank you for this blog and for just being such an amazing couple!