PCT Southern California-Wrightwood

Wrightwood Next day (20th May) we walked on in clear air along the snow crusted ridge with the path visible now and then. We lost trace of the path completely as we descended in deep snow down the steep north slopes to Wrightwood.

Along ridges above Wrightwood

Arriving at midday, we enjoyed a blow out of pizza and coke at the Yodeller Inn before collecting our forwarding package at the Post Office. There was a PCT log at the Post Office and we located Brian Sweet from his entry in the book- he had just left and was now striding on ahead of us. I felt I needed an extra days rest to help my calf recover so we relaxed and got a room in the local Pine Lodge. Wrightwood was a very pleasant mountain town and ski area surrounded by forest and it was no hardship to rest and put our feet up.

We headed out on Friday 22nd May and walked along the closed mountain road rather than rejoining the PCT on its ascent of Mt Baden Powell straight away (to allow my calf a bit more recovery time). Before starting the hike in April we had driven up to here and climbed Mt Baden Powell to check out the snow and so didn’t feel the need to climb up again.

Baden Powell

Large patches of snow still engulfed the road as it weaved upwards through pine forest and, with no cars around, it still felt like remote hiking. It reminded me of the movie ‘The Shining’ where the hotel is set amongst forest and is closed for the season. We rejoined the PCT at the end of a long day and camped on a bed of pine needles just off the road. Further on, the PCT joined the ‘Rattlesnake Trail’ and right on cue we saw two snoozing on the trail!

As this was now Memorial Day weekend we actually saw some other hikers- only our second set of non PCT hikers so far. This group each had a deckchair attached to their rucksack plus a twelve pack of beer! A far cry to our attempted minimalist lightweight style. We had a good day that day covering 19.8 miles and we crossed the 400 mile mark for the trail in total. Our route still headed westwards and to the north we could now see the shimmering heat rising from the Mojave desert. We were in hotter conditions too and we made use of any shade we could see such as trees, bushes or cliffs.

Camp Life

We had been hiking for almost a month now and had established a fairly steady camping routine to make our night comfortable. On some days we would have a specific objective and hike until we reached it, however most of the time we just hiked until early evening or to near a water supply and found a good spot for our tent. We have a free standing mountain tent which we came to love on the trail. Made by Terra Nova an English company, the ‘Voyager’ was a solid dependable shelter which could withstand almost any weather.

Usually we would stop hiking and pitch the tent on a flat spot then throw our gear inside and inflate our sleeping mats. One person would collect water and filter it using our Pur Hiker filter that operated a bit like a small bicycle pump. The other would set up our stove- a petrol/Coleman Gas fuelled MSR Whisperlite- prime the stove by heating some fuel in it, then set it alight. Mostly we cooked and eat whilst lying down in the tent- our legs were pretty fatigued at the end of each day and it helped to take the weight of our feet as soon as we could. Our liquid intake was important and we often would have soup and tea to add to the water we drunk throughout the day. After food our bodies were ready to give in but with a little effort we each wrote up a diary and even read novels until we couldn’t stay awake any longer! Sleep wasn’t usually a problem and we slept soon after dark in the evening and woke up early to make the most of the cool mornings. In the morning we started hiking about an hour after waking after having a tea and muesli breakfast and packing up the gear. There was something satisfying about leaving no trace that we had ever camped at the spot and heading off carrying all our needs on our back!

As we headed north again we approached the small town of Aqua Dulce situated in semi desert terrain. This was our next supply stop and it was two dusty, dirty hikers that arrived into the friendly town on Tuesday 26th May.

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