It was cold when I woke up. So so cold. I had draped my reflective mat over me to help block the wind and though it worked, it also held all the condensation so I got soaked when I moved. There were little shards of ice on the ground around the edges of my tent and frost on the walls. I got up to go to the bathroom and it was actually kind of pretty out- the sky pink where the sun was beginning to awaken over the ridge and the whole area frosted.
I packed as quickly as I could and was moving by 6:30. Almost immediately the trail left the burn area and went up and around a ridge. What was on the other side was astounding. The clouds had come in right at this elevation last night but it did not snow. Instead, the moisture in the clouds just froze on each pine needle, each leaf, each twig.
I stopped to stare at the incredible beauty I had just literally stumbled into and immediately noticed the lack of sound. All I could hear was the sound of my own breathing as the blanket of icy silence lay heavily on the mountain. It was comforting to be swaddled in this intense quiet, and I felt so strong walking through it.
I was awed by the beauty on each branch and around each turn. I actually felt good- nothing really hurt much (though I did take some Ibuprofen as preventative) and this forest really was keeping me enthralled. I probably would have made really great time if I hadn’t stopped so often to take pictures!
As I was walking, I met a middle aged couple who were hiking in the opposite direction (Southbounding) They said they were trail angels from San Diego and were section hiking from Big Bear to Idyllwild. “You know about the storm coming in, right?” [Oh great, not again] “This whole area is supposed to get 3 or ore inches of snow tonight.” [I am so tired of sleeping in the cold!] “You can get thumb in to Big Bear at one of the dirt roads where there’s an empty cache if you need to. Be smart!”
I kept walking, feeling good, thinking about the option of going into town as opposed to camping one more night. Camp was 4 miles past the dirt road, then 10 more miles to the highway where hikers traditionally hitch to Big Bear City or Big Bear Lake. The trail was mostly downhill through this area and began crisscrossing many dirt roads. I passed a large fenced-in area full of cages that apparently used to be a zoo/holding area for animals in movies. It seemed like a very sad place and I was glad to see that it was for sale and no longer operational.
It was cold but sunny and I was making good time despite a few complaints from my knee. I thought I would just stick to my original plan and camp tonight- I had enough food and the weather didn’t seem too terrible. As I came around the next bend, the trail started to climb and my knee began to scream. Progress was slow. The sun hid behind the clouds and the wind picked up, and soon it was snowing on me.
I reached the dirt road with the empty cache, followed it about a quarter of a mile to the highway and stuck out my thumb. Snow-covered and limping, it didn’t take long to get a ride. The middle-aged man who picked me up was a local who says he picks up hikers regularly. When I got in, he quickly started up conversation, cranked up the heat and opened my window a couple of inches. I apologized for the smell.
He took me all the way to Big Bear Hostel, about 25 minutes from where he picked me up. I offered gas money which he did not accept and he wished me well on my journey. I got myself checked in to the hostel and was immediately in love with the place. Looking through the registration list, I saw both Strider and Julia’s names, and when I looked into the common room, Nick and Zack were there as well. I got a shower, did my laundry, made myself a cup of tea and relaxed in this warm, dry, affordable, incredibly welcoming place.
At some point I wandered to a Mexican restaurant with another hiker (Meatbag from New York) and got a veggie burrito (mmm town food) and we talked over a beer. When we came back, AnnKristen was there as well. I scarfed my food and eventually a handful of hikers gathered in the common area to discuss the world, society, etc. We stayed up talking until midnight (by far the latest I’ve been up in weeks) and it was heartwarming and enlightening to talk to people from such vastly different backgrounds and hear their viewpoints on such highly varied topics. I felt like I really connected with a hiker named Maps (who also carries paper maps- I’m not alone!) but he hikes fast so I’ll probably never see him again. Ebb and flow.
Tomorrow I will take a full day off and spend another night here to let my body heal and give the snow some time to melt. There will probably be a whole new group of hikers tomorrow- we’ll see who shows up! Right now I am just looking forward to sleeping in a warm, dry bed.
Trail magic: 0
Hiked with: no one
Camped with: a bunch of others at Big Bear Hostel