Day 16: 2.6 mile Alt to PCT mile 179.4 – mile 191.35, 14.55 mi (up/down: +4346/-3428ft)
Staying in Idyllwild was both a blessing and a curse. It was a great little town to hang out in, and I was able to do some cool things, meet some great people, and chill with an awesome dog. My knee also had 5 days to recover. Though the break from trail made the return my mentally hardest day yet.
The night before I was getting back on trail, definitely gave my mentality a beating. It was very stressful trying to workout logistics of trying to bring Evan (which ended up not working, though in the long run would have worked out perfectly), finding the best option financially for transportation to get me where I needed to be and to get someone back to Lake Havasu, Fire Closure routes and resupply.
I got to the Devil’s Slide Trailhead a bit late, and started trail at 9:50a, for the 2.6 mile alternate route back to the PCT. This involved a near 3,000 ft climb with even more of an elevation gain considering you had to go up up up, then down down down, just to climb back up to over 9,000 ft. As I neared Saddle Junction, I met to Forest Service Rangers who checked my permit. I was surprised to have it checked so soon! Having had stayed in town for so long, I lost my hiker legs, stamina, and trail motivation and the climb was quite difficult. The higher I went, the harder it got and I could feel the altitude taking a toll on me. My allergies mixed with the altitude made it all the worse as I was having difficulty breathing, which added to the feelings of doom. The views below me helped keep me going, but I kept having the thoughts of giving up.
I got to the highest point I would (I bypassed going to San Jacinto Peak) and started to decent. The weather was turning cloudy and soon rain/snow/ice began to fall. It was very demoralizing knowing that I had climbed so high, just to drop back down, and would have to climb back up to nearly the same elevation. I started to wish I had gotten dropped off at a different trailhead that would have avoided the double climb – in the long run, I was glad I didn’t as I would have missed some amazing views; and the trail was not meant to be easy. It was a slow and grueling hike, as I stopped what seemed to be every 30 seconds.
I was still struggling mentally and was still regretting that I wasn’t able to bring Evan with me. I was nearing another trail junction that would lead me back to town. I wanted to go back to the RV and start again the next day at mile 191 with Evan (but wasn’t sure if I could get a ride). I wanted to give up, but also wanted to keep going. Which feeling was stronger? I told myself that if I had service when I got the Deer Springs Trail Junction, I would call my mom and see if that would be an option. I didn’t have service. I kept walking.
To make it worse, there were a ton of trees down. These obstacles seemed to symbolized the mental obstacles I also had to get over. Thankfully the sky started to clear up later on and I would get a nice distraction. At about 3 o clock, I heard a helicopter. They circled the mountain many times. For quite some time they kept getting very close to me, and at one point was within a few hundred feet and I could hear them trying to say something over their speaker, but could not make it out.
They returned to my location a few times. I tried to call the State Park Office, but no answer. I then called my mom to see if she knew of anything. With no word, I kept walking. An hour later, the chopper returned, and I called the SP again. This time someone answered, but the Ranger said he had not heard of anything going. Very strange, considering something was very obviously going on. (Later on there were two rumors of the helicopter; a day hiker that got lost 100 ft from trail, or 6 hikers that got lost. I still have no idea what the reason was).
I had finally finished the hardest part of the day ( big ups and downs, crappy weather, and high altitude). I was now on Fuller Ridge, which had some amazing views, cool scenery, and interesting trail terrain. I also was getting some neat views to the East that I had yet to see. I even hit quite a bit of snow! I saw some people were practicing their glissading – I opted not to. There were still also a number of trees to get over/around. I was starting the big decent which I would finish the next day. Thankfully, my knee handled it well. I got to a nice camping spot at about 5:45p. I had wanted to go further, but this site was too perfect to pass up. I am glad I stayed as I saw an amazing sunset that really lifted me back up.
Overall, the trail beat me today but I was ready to come back fighting.