The plan was to get to Idyllwild. We were more than ready for a town: beds, showers, laundry, no tents, clean feet, pizza, more supplies..
The setback was, it was going to be a hike and a half. More than 30 kilometres – doable – but the vast majority of which were going up, with a 2 mile 1,500ft killer ascent to boot before we would climb right back down the other side, get to the road and hitch to town.
Big day, but the lure of a cabin was enough to wake us up at 3:45AM and kick off early.
Hiking in the dark is easier – not only for the lower temperatures – but because time seems to pass quickest when you can’t make out the mountains that somehow don’t get closer as you walk and walk towards them.
Khaleesi, Dario and I agreed to stop for breakfast when we found a spot with sunlight. It was a game of hide and seek for a while, as the sun peeked over a ridge only to be hidden by trees as we continued along the path, or a different peak covered it again.
By the time we found our breakfast place, we’d been walking nearly two hours. But it was out of the wind, with a little flat ground for us to set up our pots and boil water for porridge and coffee, and ticked the sunlight box. I don’t mind the repetitiveness of oats for breakfast here. Have I mentioned I stir through a trail mix of almonds, cashews and MnM’s into it? I look forward to brekky every day 😉
Time passed by and we unconvincingly started talking about hiking again… It was easier to get into gear after Rob came by. He offered us a lift into town from the highway if we arrived by 3, when his wife would be waiting for him. More than enough motivation!
The changing landscape also took some of the effort out. We were currently in a sea of green, but knew what was coming up.
Back in 2013, a wildfire had ripped through the mountain. A week after that fire, a flash flood bucketed down. Nothing was left on the mountain apart from bare skeleton trees; much less any clear trail. For the past five years, teams have been working on restoring the path, but the last 10 mile stretch of the PCT won’t be opened until 2019.
Hence, the Spitler Alternate Route we had to take.
Now, we didn’t have to take that route. There was an easier one two miles before it (which skipped the killer climb!), or you could do what nine out of ten people seemed to do: hitch in after the Paradise Valley Cafe.
We’re not exactly purists here, but we’re definitely not cheaters. If there were miles we were able to walk along the PCT, we would tackle them.
And tackle them we did.
Even though I feel the fittest I have been on trail (excluding a still-sometimes twingey knee), this was physically the hardest day I’ve had. Easily. Mentally, I was strong and motivated, and walking with the Swiss couple was a game changer compared to my nightmare of a Day Nine alone. Still, it reminded me of a gaming ‘boss level’: just about unbeatable.
It wasn’t, though.
We beat it.
Khaleesi’s phone died coming into the big climb, and I thought I’d help out. Like listening to music helps me walk, I thought I might be of help to her.
And so I started singing along.
Trying to climb up a whopping big hill and sing at the same time just isn’t as easy as The Sound of Music would have you believe.
I gasped out ABBA’s Dancing Queen and she was able to join me for snippets, but I had to admit (in my head – no spare oxygen for thoughts out loud here) that it wasn’t the best system. Lucky for both of us, she suggested I just take my headphones out and we listen to it on my phone’s speakers. Backstreet Boys sounds better with a chorus of voices anyway.
At one point we stopped to regroup, breathe and have a quick snack. Kahleesi thought to buzz ahead to Silver Pines Cabins and make sure we had a place reserved. Our prayers were answered, and Princess and Speedy were on their way into town already, so could go and have their showers first (and have a bottle of red waiting for our arrival!).
Dario continued on ahead as us girls did our best to put one foot in front of the other. An age later, I thought I could smell bacon. We joked that I must be hallucinating, but as we climbed one last set of natural stairs, we saw I wasn’t too wrong! That amazing man had hit the top, and set about cooking ya some lunch so when we got there the ramen would be perfect and ready to go.
I think Khaleesi’s bagged a good one ❤️
Sorry I didn’t take any photos of our evening in Idyllwild – we were too excited for hot showers (my first one!) and that wine to get the camera out.
I can promise you though, I forgot about those thirty kilometres pretty quickly.