Idyllwild had been a great place to take a well earned day off but we’d had to hitch in from the Paradise Café due to a fire closure on the trail from Mile 162. Each year a number of trail sections get closed due to fire, landslip or as in the case of one upcoming section, for the protection of the yellow-legged mountain frog!
The small mountain towns that the PCT passes near appear to welcome the annual throughput of dirty, smelly hikers and it is clear that the communities there appreciate their position as an important supply town for hikers. It’s hard to imagine any member of the community demonstrating that appreciation more however than the little old lady I met in the centre of Idyllwild handing out homemade cookies, in carefully wrapped bags of two, to PCT hikers she met. They were good cookies too!
Getting back to the trail from Idyllwild meant a long steep climb up the devil’s slide trail including the ascent of Mount San Jacinto. Like Mount Laguna this took us to an elevation where the desert scrub gave way gradually to an alpine environment of huge pine trees and fresher scents. This was fast becoming my favourite environment and we would have lingered longer had we not been pursued by a bank of building cloud that spilled over the summit crest and began to cascade down the far side of the mountain in a manner and at a speed reminiscent of an avalanche.
We’d hiked up with a small group of other hikers and a sociable camp that night in a small clearing clinging to the mountainside between boulders and bushes. Inevitably many conversations amongst hikers are frequently drawn back to who’s using what kit and how much it weighs. The diversity of nationalities present only added to that with an equally diverse range of equipment in use.
The following day was a long hot descent with no water sources until we hit the valley where a faucet (standpipe) had been provided for hikers to help with crossing the long dry section, 5 miles across the dusty floodplain to Cabazon and Interstate 10 where we faced a challenging reroute to avoid the 2nd major trail closure that remains closed since a major fire in 2013.