San Bernadino Camp to Big Bear City
Mile 253.1 – Mile 266.1
I had been looking forward to this day for awhile now so despite staying up way past hiker midnight, I woke just as the stars were winking out above me. Everything was lined up. All my tanks were topped off, the trail volunteered a generous easing, and the promise of comfort in Big Bear put a spur in my giddyup. I all but galloped the 13 miles I needed today easily making my second 10×10 with heart rate well within normal range this time.
At mile 266.1 the trail crosses California Highway 18 and here most northbound hikers bail out for the delights of Big Bear. As I exited the trail, I met Diamond Dave who had set up shop under a shade tree. He had bananas, tangerines, and water. Here again my timing was fortuitous since he was just headed back to town. Two other hikers and I squeezed into Dave’s small Jeep, hugging our packs, and chatting with Dave. He is a local musician and handyman who has lived in Big Bear since 1968. He had much to say about all the new investment in his small town but seemed to take it in stride remaining affable and good natured. Apparently the same company that owns Mammoth and other ski resorts purchased Big Bear and money is flowing into upgraded infrastructure- burying power lines, replacing water and sewer lines and repaving roads. Diamond Dave thinks the place will then explode but candidly, when I looked up at their ski hill, I can’t imagine attracting anyone other than Southern Californians. Granted there are plenty of those but to me the town feels like it wants to be Whistler but lacks the mountain to realize its dream. Beautiful place nonetheless but maybe Bend, OR is a better comparison sans Mt Bachelor.
Dave dropped me off at the post office where I prominently declared myself a PCT hiker without saying a word. Support poured forth from the people going about their day at the post office: “Welcome to Big Bear!”, “Hope there are lots of carbs and protein in your box” , “You’re out there doing it!”, “Good for you”. Resupply box in hand, I dialed up Motel 6 and spent the best $49 I can remember. Let’s just say it took some time to see the water run clean again on the floor of the shower.
Another fixture of many trail towns is the hiker box. This is where folks will cast off unwanted or unneeded gear and food. Like a wish fulfilled, the hiker box at the Motel 6 supplied me with laundry detergent to wash my clothes. I also happened to meet CatWeasel and FlowerMan, two jovial Germans also staying in relative luxury at Motel 6. FlowerMan did the PCT last year and liked it so much he’s back again this year.
I spent the rest of the day doing mundane chores, planning, and eating an embarrassing manifest of questionable food including: 3 piece fish and chips, 2 lemonades, 32oz Powerade, bag of corn chips with a tub of guacamole, and the coup de gras, double maple bars. Hey, my brother said I was starting to look thin.