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Day 18 – April 21, 2022

Mile 256.2 (Arrastre Trail Camp) to 266.1 (Highway 18/Big Bear)

9.9 trail miles | 9.5 tracked miles | 1,014 ft elevation gain | 59 F / 15 °C

This morning, we glided effortlessly down the easy 10-mile path to Highway 18, the gateway to Big Bear, CA.

We were blessed with mild temperatures, which was fortunate as there was very little tree cover on this section. The trail often meandered aimlessly, gaining and losing elevation for seemingly no reason, but it was smooth all the way down to the highway.

Approaching Highway 18

The unmistakable sight of the glistening white Baldwin Lake was the highlight of our arrival into the Big Bear area. The lake is famous for its distinctive appearance, which is caused by the accumulation of naturally occurring minerals, such as calcium carbonate and sodium chloride, that are left behind as the water evaporates.

Baldwin Lake

Christie, Joe, Michael and I soon arrived at the deserted Highway 18 trailhead, and we pondered options to get into town. I had a local trail angel’s phone number, though a brief exchange on Instagram revealed that he seemed to be more interested in offering drugs than a ride into town.

Michael was hell bent on hitch hiking for the sake of the experience, though there wasn’t a single car in sight. I decided to try my luck at ordering an Uber, despite reports from previous hikers that Uber didn’t work in Big Bear. At a whopping $5 per person, the option of a guaranteed ride sounded much more appealing to me than a long wait for an unlikely ride. Time was of the essence; we had errands to run and empty stomachs to fill.

An Uber promptly showed up and whisked us into town. We were lucky. As it turned out, there is indeed typically no Uber service in the area—our driver happened to be on his way back from a personal errand and figured he might as well make a buck.

The deserted PCT trailhead at Highway 18

We soon arrived at the centrally-located Holiday Inn, and rushed to the shower.

After weighing our options as if our decision was about to determine our fate and the course of the entire universe, we settled on Himalayan food for lunch. The food was fantastic and surprisingly authentic, considering the restaurant’s location in a tourist town in California. After devouring two entrees, I reveled in the satisfaction of a job well done.

All smiles at the Himalayan restaurant in Big Bear, CA!

Michael and I then set out on a mission to do laundry while Christie and Joe chose to rest at the hotel. We found a large laundromat just a few blocks away, and I covertly changed into my wind and rain gear.

I tapped into my stash of small bills and exchanged them into quarters for the coin-operated machines. Indeed, as the birthplace of the digital economy, California is an undisputed leader in technology.

We laundered our filthy clothes, transferred the load to a dryer, inserted coins, then pressed start. The unmistakable sound of rushing water spelled our demise. The dryer was, in fact, a washer. Oops.

The great President Trump once said in his remarkable wisdom, “Remember the dishwasher? You’d press it, boom! There’d be like an explosion. Five minutes later you open it up, the steam pours out. Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me, you know, they give you four drops of water.”

President Trump should visit Big Bear. This machine was a gusher.

We threw our now soaked clothes into a (real) dryer, but promptly ran out of quarters. Oh well; I knew quick-drying fabrics would turn out to be a lifesaver. We swore not to share the incident with Christie, and left.

What does a hiker wear while doing laundry? Wind and rain gear! (I only have a single outfit)

After our laundry mishap, I went to the gear store next to our hotel and bought new shoes. I will ship them to Acton, CA (which is located around the 450 mile mark) before returning to the trail tomorrow.

Then I went back to the hotel to rest, while Joe headed to the laundromat. I advised him on the pitfalls to avoid. To his credit, Joe was able to successfully locate and operate the dryers. But the laundromat would still have the last word—he was missing three socks by the time he came back to the hotel.

Small bears in Big Bear, CA.

For dinner, we chose an American restaurant, which was just okay. The vibe was a bit off—it felt a little pretentious for Big Bear, or perhaps I’m projecting and I was just uncomfortable dining at a semi-formal place in hiking gear.

On our way back to the hotel, I spotted a sock on the sidewalk. Yes, you guessed right—it was one of Joe’s socks. Joe admitted that “perhaps” there was a gaping hole in his bag.

Emboldened by this fortunate turn of events, we embarked on a sock rescue mission. Incredibly, we were able to locate every missing sock on the five blocks between the restaurant and the hotel. Big Bear is truly the land of miracles.

Tomorrow morning we’ll resupply, make a quick trip to the post office, take a dip in the hotel’s hot tub time permitting, then get back on trail. Big Bear is awfully quiet at this time of the year. It’s a cute little town, but one night will suffice.

While it’s hard to believe, it’s supposed to snow overnight, so we’re fortunate to be in town!

The Big Picture

3D path
3D video

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