Day 18 - Bad Idea Alternate, Plague Squirrels and Too Much Roadwalking

This morning was pretty, a little overcast but nice. Maybe we'd get a break from the sun. Breakfast was mixed instant and regular oatmeal with chia seeds and raisins, soaked overnight. All out of the hiker boxes in Idyllwild except the raisins. Yum.

It was about 1 mile to the next water. Daniel's calf started hurting him almost immediately, so he was going very slow. I figured I'd see him at the water, so I went ahead. There were larger patches of snow on the trail, some going across the trail as much as 20 feet. The snow wasn't on a big slope like it would be on Fuller Ridge, the worst that would happen if you slipped would be about as bad as if you fell in a parking lot. It would send you sliding out of control down a steep incline into trees. I'm happy with the traction on the Altra Lone Peak shoes for a little bit of flat snow.

I ended up waiting at the water source for Daniel at least 30 minutes. I was worried about him and thinking, there's no way we're going to make Big Bear in 6 days at this rate. When he came up, he told me he had decided just to go to Cabazon or maybe even go back to Idyllwild, then take a week off to rest. I think he probably pulled a muscle. We'd been hiking together for the last 100 miles and I didn't​ want to say goodbye, but at the rate he was hiking I was going to run out of food. I hoped to see him further up the trail.

I continued on to the intersection of seven pines trail. It was very snowy, there was more snow than dry patches. I gave it a shot, but I was postholing and the slope was just steep enough in places to make me nervous. I turned back, deciding to try the Marion Mountain Trail instead. Marion Mountain had a few snow patches in the beginning, but then it was dry. Soon I came to a series of downed trees I had to go around. Going around them made me go off the trail and then it was hard to find it again. Bushwhacking to try and find the trail again and going up steep slopes. I'm not the only one having trouble, I find plenty of places with footsteps. I keep referring to my phone app to get closer to the trail, but I'm picking my way according to how hard it is to get back up. After a particularly hard incline, I stopped for lunch in a nice sunny spot. I'm a bit bummed out being separated from all the people I was hiking with, but I'm fine. I have plenty of food and water, I know where the trail is, I just need to find a safe way up to it.

I find my way uphill to the trail. The ground is steep and the soil is a little loose, so it's tricky. I was so glad to be back on a trail, even though I was actually further back than before. I quickly made my way back to the downed trees to try again. I went up the same way at first, to the right, but his time I sat there for a minute trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. I saw another hiker coming, and I expected her to come behind me and maybe she'd see something I wasn't seeing. I waited and she didn't pass me, so I backtracked and realized she had gone on somehow. Then I saw it. The tree had landed directly on a switchback, at the very end right where it turned. All I had to do was cut the end, I didn't even need to go past the tree! Yes! I was cruising for a while now, making up for lost time. The trail was going downhill on switchbacks, but it was easy to follow from there.

I reached a paved road and turned right, going down until I hit Azalea Trail, which was actually a dirt road. At stream crossings, there were signs not to go down to a the stream, it being a protected habitat for the endangered Yellow Mountain Frog. I could see fresh footprints in the dirt, from another set of Altra Lone Peaks. Another thru-hiker had been through recently.

Thead led to the closed Dark Canyon Campground, which had warnings about rodents in the area having the plague. Of all the things to worry about on the PCT, plague squirrels was not one I expected. I wasn't going to camp near there.

Continuing on the interminable dirt road, I reached a gate in the road with signs that said No Trespassing, 24/7 Surveillance and Trespassers will be prosecuted. Great. I'm miles from another road that could connect to the PCT and I don't like the idea if hanging out with the plague squirrels anymore. I see what sorta looks like a trail to the left. I'm hoping the private road is just a short section I can cut out. Going down the sorta trail, I realize it leads to the backyard of a house, but I just steer around it and hit the road again. It's a bunch of cute mountain homes, probably second homes for people in LA or San Diego. Several have solar panels. I get through as quick as I can, but I'm lucky and don't see anyone. I get through another gate, back into National Forest land and there's a water source. I stop and get some, I haven't been able to fill up in a while

Soon I reach Black Mountain Rd and head uphill. It's a narrow winding gravel road and since it's Sunday, there's cars going up and down. One going down stops behind me and honks, probably offering a ride, but I waved them on. They looked nice, but it's not a good idea for a woman alone to get a ride from strangers the road winds up and up. My feet are tired, but I've just got three miles before the first campsite. I find lots of trash in the road to pick-up. At this rate, my pack will be heavier at the end of the section, even without food. I also found a fire, with a little water bottle next to it. Inspired the water on the coals and they hissed. Still hot. Morons, there are no campfire signs everywhere. Just because California had a wet winter doesn't really change the climate and the dryness of all the brush.

I finally reached the campsite, ate half my dinner and went into my tent before the sun finished setting. I need all the rest I can get, tomorrow is another big day.


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