April 22, 2017
Mile 155.9 – Hurkey Creek Campground (PCT Mile 155.9 – Mountain Fire Alternate Mile 9.1)
10.6 PCT miles + 9.1 alternate miles = 19.7 miles
Today was a loooong day. I slept like a log last night, so comfy in my sleeping bag. My alarm went off at 5:30, and I lay in my sleeping bag until I heard someone else start to move. We all hiked out around 6:30.
I walked for less than half an hour before stopping to sit on a rock and enjoy my morning coffee shake, with a great view of the morning sun on the hills. Over the course of yesterday afternoon and this morning we climbed 2000 feet up from the highway, and then slowly descended all the way back down to highway level this afternoon.
The views today were gorgeous. It is a really cool section of the trail that a lot of people are missing by hitching straight into Idyllwild. When we got up on top of the ridge, there were expansive desert views to our right, and an awesome view of San Jacinto and the surrounding peaks to the left. There were several times when I felt like I’d been transported into Middle Earth.
The San Jacinto snow getting closer and closer…
After about 6 miles, we entered the area that had been burned by the Mountain Fire in 2013. They just managed to open this section back up recently. It was pretty desolate looking, with the trail lined by burnt skeletons of shrubs. As we started to enter a more forested area, a huge swarm of bees flew just over our heads! I had never seen anything like it, it was a legitimate black cloud of bees.
We spent a long time twisting through the forest of massive fir trees, some of which had survived the fire, over ground covered by new green grass. We had amazing views of Mount San Jacinto, and Palm Springs far below. When we finally reached the point where the PCT was closed and we had to get on the alternate, we collapsed in the shady grass for a while for a lunch break. Getting forced off the PCT felt like being kicked out of our home.
Spooky burn section
We didn’t have much reliable information on the water situation on the alternate, and we were all starting to run a bit low, so we were super happy to finally find a small creek running alongside the trail after a couple of miles. Not long after, we had our first poodle dog bush sighting, which was weirdly exciting.
Soon, the trail was gone and we ended up walking on a dirt road. It was hot and exposed and seemed to take forever to wind down to the highway. Several people driving jeeps passed us. When we finally made it to the highway, we collapsed in the grass for a second time, and laid there for a while eating more food. I think hiker hunger may be starting to hit, because I ate a lot today and never really got full.
Longest mile ever…
We crossed the highway and walked along a dirt road that ran parallel to it. Once again, it felt like it went on forever. The dirt road eventually spit us back out on to the highway, and we had to walk a mile on the shoulder to get to Hemet Lake Campground. That was the longest road walk of all. We saw the campground in the distance as soon as we got out on the highway, and seemed to walk forever with it never getting any closer. Finally we reached it, and were elated to find that the store was still open. We bought chips, ice cream, and a 6 pack of beer, and sat at a table on the patio to eat and drink. It felt soooooo good to rest our feet. The road walks and long day had mine hurting pretty badly. While we were sitting there, Salty Dog appeared! He had done the whole alternate route in one day.
When we found out that it cost 15 dollars a person to camp at Lake Hemet, we decided to walk another half mile up the road to the next campground at Hurkey Creek. The half mile felt like nothing after some rest, food, beer, and laughter. Me, Gummies, Cougar, Dr. McDirty, and Salty Dog are all sharing a campsite. Camping in a public campground on a Saturday night is definitely interesting. There are tons of people all around playing music and talking loudly, even though it’s past hiker midnight. Hopefully I’m so exhausted that I’ll just fall asleep anyway. Tomorrow morning, we’ll have a short day into Idyllwild, and then a zero!