Day 14 – April 17, 2022
Mile 179.4 (Saddle Junction/Idyllwild) to 190.5 (Fuller Ridge Trailhead)
11.1 trail miles | 12.6 tracked miles | 3,983 ft elevation gain | 73.4 F / 23 °C
I am back in the wilderness!
A kind soul drove Christie, Joe, Michael, and I from Idyllwild back to the Fuller Ridge Trailhead, sparing us a two-mile uphill road walk. From the trailhead, we hiked the three-mile Devil’s Slide Trail up to the PCT at Saddle Junction.
As much as I wish we could have teleported to Saddle Junction and skipped the extra miles, the climb felt easier than I anticipated. Zeros are magical!
As the PCT kept climbing, the snow promptly returned, though it was easily passable and water was initially abundantly available. Within 90 minutes, we reached 9,000 feet of elevation. (Altitude sickness is considered a frequent occurrence above 8,000 feet, though fortunately I have no personal experience.)
We passed the opportunity to follow the San Jacinto Peak alternate, which reaches the highest point in the San Jacinto mountains. It’s a popular side trip that adds less than 2,000 feet of elevation, and the views from the peak are said to be spectacular. That being said, the conditions aren’t ideal at this time of the year. Plus, we only started hiking at 9:30 am today and had a long way to go!
I look forward to returning in the summer.
At mile 186.2, we reached the N. Fork San Jacinto River, the last water source prior to a 20-mile dry stretch. The next source is a faucet in the middle of the desert, which we expect to reach tomorrow morning.
I loaded up six liters of water on my back—3.5 liters in my bottles, and 2.5 in my CNOC bladder. A rule of thumb is to carry one liter of water per 5 miles. I typically like having an extra 2-3 liters when dry camping.
Three pounds of water on top of five days’ worth of food is a crushing load, and I don’t think that my pack has ever felt so heavy. The persistent snow added to the challenge, though it was more an annoyance than a tangible obstacle.
It felt odd to overlook vast expanses of dry and bare desert landscapes while hiking in the snow.
We could spot wind turbines in the distance, which are bound to become a common sight going forward.
We ended up stopping for the night at an established campsite at mile 190.5—a bit short of our mileage goal—near the Fuller Ridge Trailhead. The campground is managed by the Mt. San Jacinto State Park, and features picnic tables and fire rings (but, alas, no facilities.) More importantly, it is free of snow and well protected.
Looking at the map, I gather that our options tomorrow night include sleeping at a highway underpass, or at a wind farm. Oh, the glamour.