Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail Hike: CA Section C – Mile 209 – 342

PCT CA Section C

Pacific Crest Trail Hike: CA Section C – Mile 209 – 342

Hello from the Pacific Crest Trail! It has been awhile since my last update because I have been cruising along and have not had as much internet connection as I need to upload these blog updates. But all is well and I am still on the trail – in fact, several sections down the road!

The PCT CA Section C was longer mileage wise than previous sections at 132 miles. There was tough terrain that varied from hot canyon/desert floor, snow fields, and river crossings.

Part 1 of Day 20 was included in the last post, Pacific Crest Trail CA Section B, which is why some of the mileage may look a little off. Additionally, as you will read, there were a few alternates that I had to take based on trail conditions.

Overall I am still having a great time so please enjoy my journey!

PCT CA Section C Summary

Statistics:

  • Days: 9
  • Full hiking days: 6
  • Zeroes: 2
  • Neros: 1
  • Total Trail Miles Hiked: 132
  • Total Miles Hiked: 128.2
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 19,562 ft
  • Trail Elevation Loss: 17,898 ft

Highlights

  • Accomplishing a hard section with several alternates and work arounds that tested logistics planning and trust with others around me.
  • Relaxing time in Big Bear Lake and celebrating being 10% done with the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • A medical provider that is available to me, even when I’m on the trail.
  • Building community with other hikers!

Lowlights

  • Tough physical section that made me wonder if I was able to accomplish this big goal.
  • A tick bite that forced me to change my planned schedule.
  • Weather continuing to also add chaos to my schedule.
  • Feet still not 100% reliable.

PCT CA Section C Detailed Version

Day 20 Part 2: Mile 209 – 220.3

  • Trail Daily Miles: 11.3
  • Total Daily Miles: 11.3
  • Total Trail Mileage: 220.3
  • Elevation Gain: 2512 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 1218 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Hot
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Am I capable?

Part 1 of this day was in Section B, while Section C began at the I-10 underpass. There is often trail magic here, but we arrived too early in the morning before the trail angels were set up. Still, it was a nice shaded spot to relax in on a very hot day.

Bobcat and I finally mustered up the energy to continue on. It was pure sun and hot hot. While I understand that it can get a lot hotter than we were experiencing (full sun, 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit), I am a pale northerly person and it was a lot. I whipped out my sun umbrella for the first time but previously had neglected to put the hands free clip on my bag.

After wrestling the umbrella and my need for two trekking poles, I sat down on the side of the trail and got service enough to watch the hands free clip tutorial and got it working! Nothing like problem solving in the moment.

The climb through this canyon was brutal. It was hot and steep. This was the steepest trail I had yet encountered and my Achilles/calves were feeling it.

Bobcat and I had heard rumors of a magical place – read: a wind farm office building – that had sodas and ice cream for sale about 70% up this hot climb. The rumors were true! We were treated to great treats and company for over an hour while we escaped the heat. I nearly cried when I saw the ice cream and freezee pops! This was the morale boost, also sugar boost, I needed to get up that hill.

After the climb was much descent, which made me wish for a tunnel that went through the mountain! This descent took me all the way down to the Whitewater preserve which is a wide river bed that we eventually had to cross. We both camped near the river along with some other hikers (Elizabeth, HardStart, Alex, and Aaron) which was a nice treat as I got to cool off in the river a bit. This river was very silty so rinsing off was a loose term. It felt strange camping in the sand and along a river – made it feel like a trip to the beach!

Day 21: Mile 220.3 – 235.6

  • Trail Daily Miles: 15.3
  • Total Daily Miles: 15.5
  • Total Trail Mileage: 235.6
  • Elevation Gain: 4447 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 1033 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Hot
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Where am I?

My day started early because oh boy was there a day ahead. Temperatures were also getting higher and it was important to get rolling early for my sanity’s sake.

After 5 miles in for the day, we hit the infamous Mission Creek area. This area is along a massive creek (previously raging river!) and in February 2019, the trail was partially wiped out. This was only compounded by Hurricane Hilary in August 2023 in which it nearly completely wiped the PCT from the area. We were some of the earlier hikers to go through so there was not much intel and much fear mongering.

All in all, it was a walk up a river bed on rocks and sand that crossed streams 50+ times. Try as I might, my shoes and socks were a lost cause and I ended up just walking through the streams. Soggy feet/shoes/socks over long swaths of time while waking through sand and on rocks did not help my blister and foot situation.

This was an extremely challenging day that tested my mental strength to continue because I didn’t know if I was capable of the trail if these past two days were any indication.

Luckily I made it the infuriating 10 miles upstream to just below the next obstacle – the ridge walk – and was able to camp with some treasures of individuals. Chuck and Boulder are some fellow Michiganders that I adore and were able to hang with for awhile. There was fresh water near camp and interesting campsites. This ended up being a bottle neck for many hikers who would attempt the ridge line work around the next morning.

Day 22: Mile 235.6 – 266.1

  • Trail Daily Miles: 30.5
  • Total Daily Miles: 23.6
  • Total Trail Mileage: 266.1
  • Elevation Gain: 4510 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 3892 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Snow, Cloud
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Impending weather AGAIN?

The extreme weather of the past few years hit more than just the trail near Mission Creek itself, but rather it hit the whole area. Mile markers 236-245 were nearly all gone and we were told it was not safe to traverse the “trail” in that area. Luckily there was a work around off trail that was 2-3 miles and jumped from mile 235-245. I’ve included a picture below for reference.

We camped at the bottom of the ridge and knew we had a lot of vertical gain to do. Leaving early with Bobcat, Chuck, and Boulder we went into bushwhacking mode. It was nice that a slightly larger group went just in case we ran into anything hairy or uncomfortable.

Though steep, the ridge walk was actually okay. It was clear that many other hikers had gone through it with the volume of footprints on the ground. There was even an arrow in rocks pointing to the junction and turn that we needed to take.

In total, it took us about 2 hours to do the 2 miles but in reality we had jumped 10 trail miles ahead. And as I have mentioned before, I will skip miles or take an alternate if there is not a safe route crossing. Safety comes first for me, always. One other hiker documented in detail how the ridge walk looked, feel free to read here

After our joyous ‘summit’, we were greeted with snow – womp womp. There were some snow traverses on steep angled hills that required traction devices as by the time I got there, it was a bit slushy. From there, it was somewhat smooth sailing with a few more shorter and shorter snow traverses as we approached Big Bear.

At mile 14 for the day, we got a new weather update and once again, a storm was rolling in and quickly. Bobcat and I made the tough decision to push for about 24 miles that day to get into town in case the storm hit as predicted.

Though I did not feel great doing that many miles, I felt much better than the previous week’s big weather push. After seeing some burros (so cute!) and getting a ride from wonderful day hiker trail angels. we arrived in Big Bear Lake and planned to stay for 2 full zeroes due to the weather. Mexican food and margaritas were just what I needed after a long day of a variety of hiking conditions!

Day 23-24: Mile 266.1

  • Trail Daily Miles: 0
  • Total Daily Miles: 0
  • Total Trail Mileage: 266.1
  • Elevation Gain: 0
  • Elevation Loss: 0
  • Weather: Sun, Snow, Rain
  • Overall Days Sentiment: Relaxed, PROUD

As mentioned, I took 2 full zero days in Big Bear Lake and it was a relaxing time. I received some packages from my at home Support Person including a new pair of my pants because I had already gone down a size! After years of struggling with my weight after a hypothyroidism and PCOS diagnosis, it was weird that in a few weeks I had gone down a pants size. I also got a full resupply and a different rain/wind coat.

Zeroes are relaxing but also are for chores. In addition to the post office, I went to the laundromat, grocery store, gear shop, and of course restaurants! A highlight was Thai food with Bobcat, Squirrel, and Canuck.

Big Bear Lake marks the point of 10% completion of the entire Pacific Crest Trail! I am utterly proud of myself and despite some challenges, I’m excited for the next 90%.

Day 25: Mile 266.1 – 283.8

  • Trail Daily Miles: 17.7
  • Total Daily Miles: 17.8
  • Total Trail Mileage: 283.8
  • Elevation Gain: 2272 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 1974 ft
  • Weather: Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Maybe I don’t like snow?

I left Big Bear Lake around 11am so I could have a good breakfast and not rush. That breakfast (thanks, Grizzly Manor) left me with a slight bout of food poisoning that made me nauseous for most of the day afterwards, which was compounded by a trail angel’s… enthusiastic driving.

The first 8 miles were cruisy even though we had heard that this section was rough with the recent snow. We were lulled into a false sense of security and then were greeted with much snow. It was over 9 miles of a snow slog fest through the late afternoon slush. I can’t say too much more about that day because it was just a march through.

Finally I called it and gave up at over 17 miles in. I quickly set up my camp as the sun was setting and assessed the foot impact of shoes being wet for so many hours. Alas, my feet looked terrible but I knew they would need to get me to my next location the following day.

Day 26: Mile 283.8 – 303.9

  • Trail Daily Miles: 20.1
  • Total Daily Miles: 20.1
  • Total Trail Mileage: 303.9
  • Elevation Gain: 1355 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 4410 ft
  • Weather: Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Just an okay day

This day I awoke and was just plain sore from slipping and sliding in the snow. My calves wouldn’t seem to work, but luckily this was a primarily descent day.

There were a few (Holcomb) stream crossings that required me to get my feet and shoes completely wet again. Though I have camp/stream crossing shoes, there was a bit of distance in between the crossings which would have added much time to the day. Trudging along in my shoes (that were still wet from the day prior), I made the crossings.

Because of the recent spring storms, the creeks were higher and the brush was denser. This area, known as the Deep Creek section, was also deep in shrubbery. In fact, I discovered that the brush stole a water bottle AND my sun umbrella from my pack. Luckily there was a decent amount of streams and not too long of water carries, but being down 1.5L of carrying capacity in the desert was scary.

I crossed the 300 mile marker this day and was excited that miles were coming slightly easier!

Day 27: Mile 303.9 – 329.5

  • Trail Daily Miles: 25.6
  • Total Daily Miles: 26.1
  • Total Trail Mileage: 329.5
  • Elevation Gain: 2802 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 3344 ft
  • Weather: Hot, Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Panic to make miles

It was going to be a warm day so I decided to get up at sunrise to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. While getting dressed, I noticed a distinct pain in my right side, level with my belly button. I look and find a tick half buried into my stomach. I was able to get the tick fully out with only about 15 minutes of tears. Fear surrounding the variety of diseases they carry is my pervasive thought. I saved their corpse in case I needed to send it in to get it tested for diseases. I made a plan to reach out to my healthcare provider for antibiotics as soon as I got phone service.

This general area had a lot of damp, thick brush so it was not surprising that there were ticks. I had done a tick check the night before but I suspect that there was one getting a ride in my hair that I missed. This area also has a natural hot spring that the public can access. The timing didn’t work out because I was afraid of going in the hot springs while having an open wound from this tick bite.

After finishing the Deep Creek area, there was one major crossing left to do. This ended up being the deepest and widest stream (river??) yet. I decided it was worth not only putting on my crossing sandals but also worth going across in my underwear as to not get my pants wet! The entrance was pure mud (Bobcat took a cartoon-esque tumble) and we went across as planned. The river was deeper than we originally thought and I was up to my backpack line with water. Never thought I would be so thankful I took off my pants in public (for the crossing)!

I wanted to make as many miles as I could this day so that I was closer to Cajon Junction to pick up my antibiotics. With that in mind, I trudged over 26 miles with the last 5 around Silverwood Lake. There was a camping/campsite drought until the west side of Silverwood Lake, but that site had been recently plagued by a black bear. We went just over a mile past that site to a group camping site that had running water and electricity – score! Luckily we had no bear encounters, but found out that the next night the bear walked the mile to the exact site and terrorized another group! This was also the day I saw my first rattlesnake, luckily it was docile in the middle of the trail, not rattling. 

Day 28: Mile 329.5 – 341.8

  • Trail Daily Miles: 12.3
  • Total Daily Miles: 12.8
  • Total Trail Mileage: 341.8
  • Elevation Gain: 1664 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 2027 ft
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Get me to civilization!

There are several iconic stops in the desert section of the PCT and stopping at the McDonalds that is nearly on trail is one of them. After the long day prior and the urgency of getting antibiotics, I wanted to get moving as to get the day done with. I decided to stay at the Cajon Pass Inn for the night in case the antibiotics gave me any weird reactions.

It was an unusually overcast day which made the 12+ miles fly by. I also ended up hiking with Elizabeth, which made it go by even faster!

We arrived at McDonalds and though I do not eat it in regular life, I sure do on trail! I got a myriad of items including chicken nuggets that I stripped the breading off of (because I’m gluten free), large fries, a Diet Coke, and a chocolate shake. There were several of us there at that time and we took up a section with our packs. The McDonalds workers were kind and understanding that hikers look forward to this stop. I also met some lovely patrons (Hi, Ed + Al!) and overall it was a fun few hours.

After that, Bobcat and I headed to CVS/Target where I picked up my prescriptions and a new replacement water bottle – yay! A night at Cajon Pass Inn meant I could do laundry and shower, which is always a treat.

All ended up well from the tick bite. I received antibiotics within the appropriate window of time, there was no indication of a “bullseye”, and I did not feel sick.

Enjoy photographs from this section! Please know I am not including any stomach rolling pictures of my feet or the tick bite!

Xoxo Leeann

 

PCT CA Section C

Introducing PCT CA Section C

PCT CA Section C

A sweet treat from the Wind Farm Oasis

PCT CA Section C

A view of Whitewater Preserve from on high

PCT CA Section C

Hot day is made better with my sun umbrella. Featuring clothes that are now officially too big.

PCT CA Section C

A “beach” campsite within Whitewater preserve the day before Mission Creek.

PCT CA Section C

Beautiful view of San Jacinto from the next high point over.

PCT CA Section C

Finding shade at the beginning of Mission Creek section.

PCT CA Section C

Nighttime view from my tent just after Mission Creek and before the ridge walk.

PCT CA Section C

View from the top of the ridge walk looking down on Mission Creek section.

PCT CA Section C

Alternate path of ride walk to avoid Mission Creek closures.

PCT CA Section C

My great accommodations in Big Bear Lake. See the fresh snow?

PCT CA Section C

There were cute bears decorating everywhere in Big Bear Lake.

PCT CA Section C

Beautiful view of Big Bear Lake from the north side along the PCT.

PCT CA Section C

A great sunset to round out a snow filled frustrating day.

PCT CA Section C

A huge accomplishment, 300 miles complete on the Pacific Crest Trail.

PCT CA Section C

Deep Creek area was lush and full of ticks!

PCT CA Section C

My river crossing shoes for a mild crossing – definitely not for the waist deep one!

PCT CA Section C

Beautiful cliffs just before arriving to McDonalds.

PCT CA Section C

Never been so excited for fast food.

PCT CA Section C

The glutinous breading carnage.

PCT CA Section C

A good group of hikers at McDonald’s

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