Pacific Crest Trail Journals

Warner Springs to Idyllwild

May 10 – May 13, 2010

Despite my initial reluctance to take a zero so early in my hike, the day that I took off at Warner Springs was both highly enjoyable and a great opportunity for my body to rest. The first day of hiking out of Warner Springs it felt like I had springs under my feet and balloons on my pack; I easily covered 20 some miles and made it into my destination at Combs Peak by late afternoon. My campsite sat on a relatively flat spot at about 7,000 feet on the side of a peak and was receiving the full brunt force of the wind when I arrived. Being the first to arrive, I quickly scouted the area, found an existing stone rock shelter and then the next several hours reinforcing it with rocks from nearby. As other hikers trickled in, they initially set up their tents before surrendering to the wind and moving in with me in the stone shelter. A group of us cowboy camped (sans tent) there for the night while the wind gusted and distributed fine layers of dust upon everything exposed.

Over the next few days, I ascended into the San Jacinto range. I covered much of the elevation gain in a single day, when I hiked from Highway 74 (Pines to Palms Highway) to a flat spot overlooking the snow-covered Tahquitz Valley. This was the first day that the available hours of daylight (rather than my body) were the limiting constraint of how far I hiked and as a result I hiked nearly until sunset, when I reached a snowy section of trail that I didn’t care to navigate in the dark. The next morning I rose with the morning light and despite losing the trail made my way across Tahquitz Valley with relative ease and dropped down into Idyllwild before noon. I had heard much about the hiker-trap vortex that is Idyllwild and had firmly resolved to be back on the trail before nightfall. Even so, I ended up spending much of the day there, resupplying my food for the next stretch, picking up my crampons (and several surprise candy bars) from the post office, calling home to family and friends, and eating pizza and beer. In the late afternoon I caught a ride back to the trailhead and set back out on the PCT, eager to tackle Fuller Ridge – a stretch of trail that I had been hearing described as snowy and difficult to cross.

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