Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 4

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Thru hikers are normally asleep by 9pm. Up and moving at first light.

Idyllwild is an exception. It’s a party town.

Everyone loves Idyllwild. It’s a great little mountain town.

Again without hitchhiking, I caught a lift from town with a hiker and her dog headed back up to the trailhead.

The Devil’s Slide trail. That’s about 2.5 miles of switchbacks up to Saddle Junction on the PCT.

This is Tahquitz Peak, the 1000-foot granite face where American rock climbing was born. Yes, before Yosemite.

Here I am — back on the PCT. I’ve travelled surprisingly few miles from where I started.

Saddle Junction

I headed south into a snowy wonderland.

I scrambled this rock with a local guy.

Unlike the PCT hikers, I was in no rush.

Even by California standards, this hike is gorgeous.

I was pleased not to be down on the hot, dusty desert floor.

The day was a gorgeous ridge walk. Mostly down.

I wanted to find a tent site on the ridge — to maximize both evening and morning light.

25 miles of this section burned in 2013. It was closed until fairly recently.

Another gorgeous sunset. Though windy, I did not put on the tent fly.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 3

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles 

Having hiked 1 day and 2 hours so far … I took a zero in Idyllwild, California. 😀

Most PCT hikers take a zero in Idyllwild. It’s one of the most popular towns on the PCT. Party time. But most hikers have put in 10 hard days or more to get here.

Civilization

I hadn’t planned on taking a zero. I was fresh.

But the day prior my beloved MSR Hubba tent pole broke in two places. It took a couple of hours, one splint and plenty of duct tape to hack a fix.

There’s one good gear shop in Idyllwild – Nomad Ventures.

By the time I got the tent fixed and packed up … it was Noon.

The library opened at Noon. Free internet. A chance to fully charge all my electronics. I couldn’t resist. One thing led to another and …

… the library closed at 5pm. Too late to get back on the trail.

I returned to the $5 PCT camping area and set up my fragile tent. Again.

Reportedly the least expensive rooms in town were $150 / night. And were full.

Dinner was rotisserie chicken, my favourite townie food. And then I headed over to Higher Grounds Coffee Shop for LIVE music on Friday night.

I hung around the campfire until 10pm. That’s an hour later than usual. Hiker midnight is 9pm.

PCT hikers were in holiday mode. One insisted I have a beer.

OK.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 2

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

The weather was lovely in the morning. As it so often is in California.

Unbelievably I’d forgotten to bring coffee! 😞 So it was Earl Grey tea for breakfast.

No worries. I was headed 2 miles back to the Mountain Station atop Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. They served coffee. Right? … It turned out to be the most expensive java I’d bought outside of Switzerland.

This morning the Ranger Station was open and I was happy to go register for my free trail permit.

I’d planned to take the most direct route to Idyllwild – Willow Creek trail. Unfortunately I learned it was still near impassible due to snow. My best bet was to return back the way I came and try to get through the snow to Saddle Junction.

Not having spikes or hiking poles I promised to return and take the Tramway down if the snow was too deep.

I was using the free Maps.me app for navigation at this point. It’s not all that accurate.

On the upside, this is the most popular trail to climb San Jacinto peak (10,834 ft). Crazies find a way to get up there in all seasons.

As it turned out the snow was still hard packed. It was fairly easy to quick step from one footprint to the next.

It got easier after Wellman’s Divide.

At Saddle Junction I ran into a PCT hiker in a hurry to get to Idyllwild. The Saddle is on the Pacific Crest Trail.

A teenager from Michigan, he had the smallest pack he’d seen so far over the first 10 days.

As we descended snow disappeared. The switchbacks very well graded.

PCT hikers were waiting at the parking lot hoping for a Trail Angel to arrive and deliver them a ride to town.

It wasn’t a local Trail Angel but tourists who drove up siteseeing. They happily agreed to make 3 trips delivering dirty hikers to the $5 PCT camp site in Idyllwild (pop. 3500).

I ordered a LARGE pizza and watched Game 1 of the Calgary Flames playoff series.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 1

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Fleeing Spring allergies in British Colombia, I flew to Palm Springs.

Where to hike?

My first choice was something on the Pacific Crest Trail.

North to South so I’d meet thru hikers headed the other direction.

I rented a car at the Palm Springs airport and drove a couple of hours to the famous PCT campground at Warner Springs.

The Warner Springs Resource Center runs this campsite (by donation) as a fundraiser.

With over 40 tents full of thru hikers it’s an ideal place to get information and tips. 😀

A fellow at the information desk recommended I return the car … then take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to start the walk to Idyllwild, one of the most popular towns on the PCT.

I’d hiked out of Idyllwild in 2011 and loved the area. Sounded GREAT.

Perfect. I left a bag at the Resource Center. I’d pick it up when I got there.

It was 5pm by the time I got on the Tramway. Late.

I took time to watch the video on Mount San Jacinto State Park.

There are more than 50 miles of trails, ideal for hikers trying to escape the Coachella Valley heat 2640 feet below.

By the time I got to the Ranger Station, however, it was closed.

The closest campsite was Round Valley … so I filled out the confusing paperwork as best I could … and hustled off to get there before dark.

I love hiking in California. It’s heaven.

Whoa. Though it’s 100F down in Palm Springs, there’s still a lot of snow up here on April 11, 2019.

Signage is rustic. And minimal. (Keep your map and apps handy.)

Some of that rustic signage is near buried.

I knew I’d reached Round Valley when I got to the long drops. 🤔

I set up the tent at the first clearing I found. Close to the Ranger Station.

Though I’d not seen any animal tracks aside from squirrel, I put my smellies in an Ursack. Bears are hungry in the Spring.

I cooked at 7:30pm. It was quite dark by 8pm.

Andrew Skurka interview

Backpacker Radio spoke with the thru hiking legend, author, blogger, and backcountry guide Andrew Skurka.

Very entertaining. Very informative. He shares strong opinion on gear.

Andrew names Cam “Swami” Honan and Justin “Trauma” Lichter as two thru hikers he admires in 2019.

Zach and Smiles host the podcast. Listen online – Backpacker Radio #33

Andrew Skurka

related – You Think Your Winter Was Rough (Trauma’s winter PCT)

tramp the Travers-Sabine Circuit, New Zealand

  • LENGTH: 50 miles / 80 km
  • DURATION: 4-7 days
  • TYPE: Circuit
  • START / FINISH: St Arnaud (or Mt Robert Carpark)
  • BEST TIME: December through April

At the northernmost end of New Zealand’s Southern Alps lies Nelson Lakes National Park. …

The park is named after two glacier-carved alpine lakes found at it’s northern end — Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa. These two lakes are tranquil and idyllic, making them great locations for car camping or day walks.

However, the real gems lie deeper into the park at higher elevations. Travers Saddle rewards the keen fit hiker with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Blue Lake — claimed to have the clearest freshwater in the world — is quite surreal, with colours that dance magically in the sunlight. Lake Constance offers the solitude of a true high-alpine lake environment. …

… this circuit is one of the most stunning multi-day hikes in New Zealand. This trail can get relatively busy in the peak season, although it is not nearly as crowded or expensive as one of the “New Zealand Great Walks”. …

Ultimate Gear Lists – NELSON LAKES & BLUE LAKE HIKING GUIDE