Day 25 – April 28, 2022
Mile 369.6 (Wrightwood/Angeles Crest Highway) to 383.9 (Little Jimmy Campground)
14.3 trail miles | 11.3 tracked miles | 2,207 ft elevation gain | 60.8 F / 16 °C
After a restful night in Wrightwood, CA, we enjoyed a substantial breakfast, then ran a few more quick errands in anticipation of our late-morning return to the trail. In particular, I bought cheese as I’m craving it. While refrigeration would be ideal, hard cheeses tend to be relatively shelf stable, and I’m already used to stale food anyhow.
Wrightwood is an incredibly hiker-friendly town, and I had no issue finding a local trail angel who was willing to drive Christie, Joe, Michael, and I to the PCT trailhead at Highway 2 (also known as the Angeles Crest Highway), so we could avoid the climb back up the steep Acorn Trail ahead.
We waited outside the hardware store. I figured our driver might be fashionably late, but he didn’t turn up. I texted him, and found out that I had been communicating with his wife all along—she manages the household’s schedule because she doesn’t trust her husband to remember his commitments. It was hilarious.
While we left town later than expected, our trail angel was a kind soul who didn’t want any compensation for his time or gas. He shuttles hikers out of kindness of his heart, and I was grateful for his help.
We bid farewell to our driver at the PCT Blueridge Trailhead and put on our heavy packs with a slight sense of guilt for skipping 6.2 miles and thus breaking our continuous footpath. May the PCT gods have mercy on us.
The first few miles were easy and all downhill. Soon, we crossed Highway 2 again at Vincent Gap.
The Vincent Gap Trailhead marks the beginning of the ascent of the 9,407 ft. Mount Baden-Powell, a peak named after the founder of the Scout movement, Lord Baden-Powell.
Under ideal circumstances, the 2,500+ foot climb to Mt. Baden-Powell is a steep but relatively straightforward hike. But there’s a catch—it’s still early in the season, and the northbound PCT route actually climbs the north face of the peak. (This might be counterintuitive, but I literally walked southwest all day today, effectively moving further away from Canada.)
The combination of early season, high elevation, and northern exposure resulted in a snowy trail that significantly slowed our progress.
Although not deep enough to require heavy winter gear or pose a tangible risk, the persistent snow made navigation challenging. My GPS was of little help under the tree cover, and I struggled to stay on the trail.
I did not enjoy the experience. In hindsight, I probably should have forged my own path, considering that the only way was up, but I naively tried to follow the invisible switchbacks as much as possible, and I kept attempting to take clues from footsteps that would eventually lead me astray.
The weight of my pack, on the heels of a full resupply in Wrightwood, added to the challenge. And given our late departure—we started hiking shortly after 12:30pm—time was not on my side.
Hiking is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, and I became frustrated, which I believe impacted my performance. I stumbled and slipped several times.
Eventually I reached a clearing and saw the sign to the short spur trail towards the summit.
Mt. Baden-Powell is a somewhat unique feature on the Pacific Crest Trail, in the sense that the trail hugs the summit. Typically, the PCT goes through passes and stays clear of the highest elevations.
From the highest point of the PCT at Mt. Baden-Powell, it’s literally a five-minute climb to the top of the mountain. But I wasn’t motivated, despite the promise of panoramic views which which were unfortunately absent during our ascent.
I was about to stay on the lower trail when I heard my name. Joe and Michael were already at the top and yelling at the top of their lungs trying to get my attention so I would join them.
I’m glad I did, despite my poor mood, because the 360 degree views from the top were truly stunning. On clear days, one can supposedly see as far as the Los Angeles skyline, though the cloud formations added a hint of mystique to the scenery.
Near the peak is a monument to Baden Powell, which was erected in September 1957, on this 100th anniversary.
Michael and Joe were in better spirits than I was, but they were also looking forward to leave the snow behind. While waiting for me they met a southbound hiker who mentioned that the ridge alternate to the PCT was more exposed, and thus snow free.
We decided to follow the alternate and were rewarded with smoother terrain and stunning views.
The descent along the western slope of the mountain was much more gentle than the ascent, and the snow rapidly disappeared as we lost elevation and gained some southern exposure.
We stopped for the night at Little Jimmy Campground, a large established Angeles National Forest campsite. A local overnighter had built a roaring fire, which uplifted my mood instantly (even though she did not have the common sense or courtesy to put it out before going to sleep.)
Christie, Joe, Michael and I had dinner with a few other fellow hikers—picnic tables are such a luxury!—then I retired to my tent, had dinner, reviewed my photos, captured a few notes, and wrote my daily Instagram post.
Instagram crashed and lost my prose. Some days just aren’t meant to be. I decided to forget about it all and went to bed to Little Jimmy’s sweet embrace.