Day 2.8-11: The Return of AppleJack

Agua Caliente to Fuller Ridge

Mile 115.3-191.2

First off, you will have noticed I’ve changed the way I am naming days as it was getting confusing. Since this is year two I’ll go with 2.x to name days. As any Microsoft veteran would confide, not everything goes right in first versions anyway.

Sweet camp spot on Fuller Ridge

True to form, I have benefited greatly from last year’s attempt. Knowing what’s ahead and adjusting plans accordingly has made this year easier. I’m self assured about water consumption, food, and doing what works for me regardless of anxiety laden trail chatter.

So I set off confidently to tackle the often hot and dry section leading to Idyllwild. I fell into a familiar groove despite carrying a water laden pack and wound up making good miles relatively easily.

Desert oasis

There’s an almost 20 mile waterless stretch through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The drought ends at a most interesting oasis dubbed Muir Woods South. Mary, an owner of private land adjacent to the PCT, has created an idyllic sanctuary there in homage to John Muir. Water, shade, places to camp, do laundry, a lending library, and my favorite, the Muir John.

Luxury abounds

In her guest book Mary poses the provocative question ‘Are you hiking or are you sauntering?’ referring to Muir’s disdain for the word hiking. ‘Ala sainte terre’, ‘To the holy land’ pilgrims in the Middle Ages would reply in response to questions about their destination. Hence the term and so I suppose I now saunter in reverence to Muir’s beloved California.

Palms to Pines road walk

The desert ends at Highway 74, the Palms to Pines Highway, connecting desert towns like Palm Springs with mountain towns like Idyllwild. It was here where last year my body screamed hitch to town and rest. This year though, I sauntered down the road the Paradise Valley Café for lunch. Studying my maps I realized the Mountain Fire Detour I slogged through last year was silly. An extra 18 or so miles of up and down again all because a short section of the PCT remains closed blocking access to Idyllwild. Most people just hitch into town but since I’m ‘waking my way home’ I decided a 9 mile road walk would put me in the same place as the masochistic detour last year.

My favorite PCT trail town

It was actually a nice walk and I spent the night at Hurkey Creek near the place I got my trail name AppleJack. I passed my naming tree with one eye peeled in case any bombardier squirrels were lurking. Fortunately not and I was soon enjoying the pleasures of Idyllwild. I ate, did chores, ate, and shared a place with Hoosier Daddy for the night.

The tree of naming

Good chow at the Red Kettle

Today was an early wake up to wander out of town at ~5400 ft to summit Mt San Jacinto at ~10800 ft. It was a spectacular day and I enjoyed the summit alone until two young men rolled in having just run ~22 miles up from Palm Springs starting at 400 feet. I was still proud of myself if not a bit humbled.

Morning climb looking south

Made it this year

Looking back and up at Mt San Jacinto

And so I saunter on, back in my AppleJack groove.