Big Bear City 13th May We hit Highway 18 in worsening weather and decided to hitch down to Big Bear City. Not surprisingly it took awhile to get a lift as we must have looked a very dreary sight at the side of the road in blizzard conditions. We were successful after Martina virtually jumped in front of a pick-up in an attempt to get a lift. Desperation knows no bounds! We collected mail from the post office then collapsed into a local motel to dry out and await the end of the storm. We reckoned that we would wait it out here for a day after the snow stopped to give the snow a chance to melt from the trail.
Trail stopover’s were already beginning to attain a ritualistic status – our appetite for food (particularly junk food) was enormous and seemed only to be bounded by the shrinking size of our stomachs. At Big Bear we had a huge Mexican meal, then were both gorging on huge quantities of tortilla chips followed by ice cream as soon as our stomachs had settled. We also made the most of our time by repairing any items and buying food for the next section of trail. My camera had broken and, as I had sent it off for repair, I found a cheap temporary replacement at a local Wal-Mart. Showers and washing our clothes were also important (we only carried one set of clothes each with us to reduce weight). After attending to these items and making some phone calls and sending letters, the time fairly whizzed by. In this way we spent a day and a half at Big Bear before we prepared ourselves for returning to the trail in brightening sunshine the next morning.
It was now May 15th and the sun’s strength was strong on the remaining snow such that it cleared at a rapid rate. Even so, it would take maybe a couple of days of snow free weather to clear the snow completely, but we decided to move on anyway. Fortified with a ‘full-blown’ breakfast of pancakes, chips, eggs at the Mexican café La Paws we posted our forwarding box to the town of Aqua Dulce and managed to get a ride back to the trail out to Highway 18.
It was very different conditions now from the blizzards of two days ago. It was bright, sunny, if slightly chilly, and patchy snow remained here at a height of 6,800 feet. Our rucksacks contained food for 6 days to get us to Wrightwood, 100 miles walking away and nestled in the San Gabriel hills north of Los Angeles. We walked on to 6pm that evening and camped on snow in the forest, melting snow for our meal. Next day, after defrosting our boots, we hike on through patchy snow and out into more open country.
Crossing Deep Creek, we stopped off at hot springs which flow into the steep sided river. There were about 20 people bathing in the pools here and – much to our amazement- most were nude! We were desperate for a dip and a rest so ‘when in Rome’ we stripped off into the pools. It was delicious! The main creek acted as a perfect cold dip contrast to the hotter pools. A highlight came when Martina was offered drinking water from a guy dressed just in sandals and a rucksack! We reluctantly dragged ourselves away after 2 hours relaxation.
The terrain now was a bit more arid as we followed Deep Creek then past the huge Mojave dam via a wet creek ford. Passing Silverwood dam the next day we stopped off at the Summit Valley Country Store for breakfast. We sat outside munching whilst the owner delivered us his rather right wing views on gun ownership, why everyone should own a gun and how he had to be ready to defend himself from the state. We took it in mostly in silence, reflecting on the road signs full of gun shot holes and on the thankful lack of guns back in Scotland.
We were now heading west, between the southern edge of the Mojave desert and the northern outskirts of LA keeping to the high ground. On the 18th May we made it to Interstate 15 and camped half a mile short of the road out of sight in our own little sandy canyon. The San Gabriels, our next destination, could be seen ahead cloaked in snow and we ascended upwards on ridges to 7,300 feet where we found a high campsite with snow patches handy for our water supplies. I had a sore calf and was happy that we could drop down to the town of Wrightwood the next day for supplies and a rest. One of our aims of this trip was to camp high up on mountains above the tree line as often as possible, even if that meant carrying water up with us. The high camps can provide fantastic sunset and sunrise views and cool mountain air- a godsend in this dry dusty area. Here we could see back to the San Jacinto and Bernardino mountains as well as to the nearby snowy peaks such as Mt Bauldie. Martina was excellent working around the campsite as I rested feeling sorry for myself and my sore calf.
Next day we walk on in clear air along the snow crusted ridge with the path visible now and then. We lose any path completely as we descended in deep snow down the steep north slopes to Wrightwood……….