Day 14-April 27th
Given the snow fall in the Laguna Mountains, and down at 3000 feet, Apricots and I were hesitant to cover the San Jacinto peaks. The latest news brought harrowing stories of hikers sliding down slopes of snow, using a leatherman to self-arrest, turning back, and generally being less than enthusiastic about the trail conditions around Apache Peak, and Tahquitz Peak.
When I hiked in 2005, similar stories existed, but I went through two weeks later in the year, and there was no recent snowfall. When I went through, wind was heavy, rain was real light, and the trek was adventurous. Debi showed early signs of hypothermia, and probably me as well (if I weren't in denial). It was my first time I questioned what I had gotten myself into.
Naturally, this time, our course of action was up in the air. Today, we hiked 9 miles to the highway. When we reached highway 74, we chose to head into Idyllwild early. From Idyllwild we could get the latest weather reports, and hear what other hikers had to say about the pass. After a time consuming hitch into town, we arrived in the super hiker friendly town. Most every store here offers thru-hiker discounts, and business cards are laid across backpacks; locals offering rides and assistance to hikers who might want help.
The first hiker we saw was Trailhacker. He was on crutches, after taking a 100 foot plunge down the mountain, and getting a helicopter ride down. Sadly, he has to leave the trail while his foot heals. Fortunately he lived to share his story.
After showers, ten of us went out for pizza. While at the pizza joint, several of us saw someone who looked like a thru-hiker, but she was wearing jeans (not typical hiker clothing). Halfway through the meal, she approached us and asked if she could join. Luca sat down and introduced herself. She planned to hike this year, but life sent her on another path. Ideally she plans on making it out next year.
After asking us many questions, it was unveiled that today is her birthday. Ten thru-hikers sang her the birthday song and toasted to her. We sat around for an hour after dinner talking, and eventually invited her back to the cabin we are renting. The birthday girl arrived with two six packs of beer for us to enjoy. Happily consumed, we sat by the fire place and talked late into the evening.
Tomorrow the Portland resident will make her drive home. I hope that fate gave her the whim to spend her birthday in Idyllwild, specifically to give her the opportunity to see some trail culture, and inspire her to get out next year, or hit some sections this year if she can.
(Good Luck Luca)
(Hope I spelled it correctly)
Day 15-April 28th
Today, we are taking a zero. Temperatures are high, and the snow is melting fast. Apricots and I have gone back and forth a thousand times debating a logical course of action. Ultimately, I believe we will hitch back to highway 74 and take a shot at the mountain.
There is a group of about 15 of us who are all going up at the same time, and by now a trail is solidly blazed through the snow. It is our belief that the extra three days of melt afforded by this unplanned layover (plus ascent) will enable us safe travels. I have procured extra maps, and we have looked at all possible routes through, as well as backup routes in case we find the path to be too dangerous.
Tomorrow we will hike three miles. Friday we will make the ascent up to about 8000 feet and set up camp. From there we will be able to look over the snow traverse and decide whether to go for it, or back down. If we go for it, I anticipate getting back down to Idyllwild saturday afternoon.
We are leaving most our resupply food and extra gear down here in Idyllwild, so our packs our lighter. It should be a fun adventure. Try not to worry too much. I feel pretty comfortable that by saturday most of the snow will be easily managed. Besides, if Apricots and I just skipped trail here, now, it would set us up for bad snow outside of Big Bear. Covering these miles now allows for more melt time at the next pass, and the opportunity to do both passes in a larger group.
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