… and we kept on hiking!

May 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Warner Springs to Big Bear – 165 miles 11 days Total: 275 miles 20 days + 1 zero day

Fuller Ridge. That is the name you come to fear and pronounce with awe and respect on the PCT. You weigh the option of taking an alternate route and anxiously ask other hikers about their plans. In early season or in a heavy snow year, as is 2011, Fuller Ridge in the San Jacinto Mountains is the first place where thru-hikers might encounter snow, which can make it a potential hazard. As it turned out, Fuller Ridge was a piece of cake, almost disappointing. By the time we got there, most of the snow had melted and only a few patches were left to cross.

We hit our first real climbs in the San Jacinto Mountains. Until then the trail had been fairly level, going alongside hills, and if it was going up, it was in nice, long and lazy switchbacks. With the altitude we left the chaparral behind and reached pine forests, which was a welcome change as once chaparral has lost its novelty, it gets quite monotonous. There were fantastic views of Tahquitz Peak and San Jacinto Peak (the second highest mountain in Southern California – we’d get to see the highest, San Gorgonio Mountain, a couple days later). There’s no denying we’re Swiss, mountains hold a special place in our hearts. But when you go up, you have to go down at some point, and that was a seemingly endless descent!

Isabelle insisted on bringing a big knife so she’s carrying it on the side of her backpack. One night, we were camping on our own in the forest, it was cold so we left our stuff outside and huddled in the tent to eat – a little thought for Lysiane here as we can both SIT in the tent 😉 Later, we were gathering our stuff for the night, Isabelle was getting her pack under the tent when she asked: “Where’s the knife?” “I don’t know, I haven’t touched it.” We looked at each other and for the next five seconds a horror-movie scene played in our heads: the evil murderer stole the girls’ knife while, oblivious to the outside world, they were having dinner in the tent, he will attack anytime now that the girls’ panic level is rising at the discovery of the knife’s disappearance and of the fact that they are NOT alone… until Isabelle turned her pack on the other side and the knife was there! (sigh of relief)

We got our first rain as well as LOTS and LOTS of wind, which might have been expected as the PCT skirts a wind farm! This led to some troubled nights as our tent doesn’t hold the wind very well, but Isabelle, true daughter of her father, managed with a few tricks to solve the tent’s weaknesses.

Regarding animals on the trail, we’ve seen two bears, one panther and two lions! But you’ve certainly seen them too. In the movies. The PCT meanders close to Predators In Action, the place where they train wild beasts for Hollywood.

We turn a bend and there are iceboxes with soda cans and fresh fruit on the side of the trail. No, we are not hallucinating. This is trail magic. Trail magic is anything unexpected that brings you comfort on the trail. Trail magic is freaking awesome. It’s a bag of sweets tied to a fence, watermelon and soda under a bridge. Trail magic is like Christmas; you’re that overexcited child again that doesn’t know what’s in the box, can’t wait to find out and marvels at the wonders it discovers inside. “Oh, oranges.” “There are soda cans in that icebox.” “Look at that, marshmallows!” It doesn’t take much on the trail to make you happy.

The first week is really hard on the body. It doesn’t understand what is happening and protests in every possible way. You have to ignore the question in your head: “Why am I doing this?” as the answers – the beautiful landscapes, the challenge, having a blast with your sister – don’t hold up together as the hiking isn’t as great you thought it would be. But the first week is never great so you just have to tell yourself to hang on.

By the second week the body has understood there’s no point screaming its pains, it’s not gonna make it stop; it goes quiet and from now on feet, legs, shoulders and back will only whisper their respective aches. But the body is still adjusting, tiredness is accumulating. You’re still struggling to find a balance regarding your daily mileage. Canada is far away but the final goal is nonetheless vivid in your mind so part of you wants to push the miles as any day you’re still hiking in October you risk the snow and having to leave the trail before the end. But another part of you knows that to make it all the way you have to enjoy it so you need sleep-ins, after lunch naps and zero days.

On the third week the body feels good. It still has its bad days and always will, but it shows the first signs of becoming a junkie asking for its daily dose of miles. You push Canada at the back of your mind, you start to relax and enjoy the moment. You appreciate the after lunch naps not only as an occasion to rest but you remember they are part of THE reason you undertook this trip: to take the time. You already knew this from your last hiking trip and you bet you swore at the time that you would keep spaces for such moments once you’d be back in the fast moving world. But you forgot. Not entirely though, as that’s what’s been calling you back out here. And it took three weeks to learn again.

The third week, that’s when you start to really enjoy it!
So see you down the trail!

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