Day 12: San Jacinto Kicks Our Butt

April 29, 2017

Total miles: 14.3 miles (2.7 mile roadwalk, 2.6 mile Devil’s Slide trail, 3.2 miles PCT, 5.8 miles up and down San Jacinto)

Start: Idyllwild

End: mile 185.7

Total elevation gain/loss: 5717.6/2066.9ft

Today kicked my butt. The mileage may not be as high as some of our other days, but it was a tough one.

We left the comfort of our awesome cabin by 6:30. First up was the road walk to get us to the Humber Park Trailhead. With my pack heavy with 5.5 days of food and microspikes, I quickly dumped out one of my bottles of water. The guys at the outfitters said there was a faucet at the trailhead, so why carry the extra 2 pounds?


We saw a couple yeti crossings.


Only one hiker crossing though.

We were stopped by locals offering us rides three separate times as we walked to the trailhead. Considering how few cars drove past, these are better odds than our prior hitching attempts (and we weren’t trying). We declined the offers so that we could connect our footsteps and continued trudging uphill.

At the trailhead we ran into Stefan and Jean Marc again. Of course! I looked around for the alleged faucet, but couldn’t find it. Oops. I figured I’d grab water once on trail.
The climb up Devil’s Slide trail back to the PCT was a good reminder of why we try to pack light. The food felt so heavy and I couldn’t bear to stop at the many streams crossing the steam to load up on water (more weight!).


Looking out at Suicide Rock.

At the junction with the PCT we chatted with some day hikers, including a 73-year-old man who had climbed San Jacinto 87 times!! Looking south along the PCT, we couldn’t see any snow. We decided to walk south for as far as it was possible to further our attempt to walk all open PCT miles. We made it about 0.7 miles (back to mile 178.7) before reaching a large snow pack and turning around. No point pushing it. I tried to warn off a couple of young day hikers on our way back, but they continued on unphased. I hope they turned back before it got too bad!


Going backwards on the PCT.

Having backtracked, we were now ready to tackle San Jacinto. The trail climbed and climbed, occasionally going over patches of snow. The trail was steep. For a while all I could think was — Why is food so heavy?

After a while, we stopped to put on our microspikes for the first time. The difference was noticeable. My shoes suddenly gripped the crusty snow as I walked across it. At this point, the trail was completely obscured by the snow and I made my way by following the footprints in the snow. Until they sort of stopped. Hmm. The Guthooks app indicated that we were well below the trail. We started trudging uphill, making our way across the untrodden snow until we hit the trail again. Finally, after miles of hiking since I dumped out my water earlier this morning we stopped at a small stream that went across the trail to fill our bottles. I’d had less than half a liter to drink since starting my day. Oops. I guess that’s what the cold will do to me.


The rest of the way up the mountain was much slower going than I had anticipated. We stopped for lunch in a sunny spot — a rarity for us thus far but the morning wind had been cold and it was still chilly in the shade.


The trail cleared up for a bit before being plunged back into snow and ice for the last 1.5 miles or so. Occasionally we’d lose the trail only to find it again. Weekend hikers were out in force. It took me awhile to figure out why they suddenly all appeared and were so chipper. There’s a tram up the mountain from nearby Palm Springs. Their walk had only just begun. And they weren’t carrying 5.5 days of food.


It was a relief when we finally reached the summit shelter. It meant we were almost there! The final bit required was a cross country slog, but then we were on top.


The views were amazing. We could see the valley down below. All 360 degrees of it! We took the obligatory photos and then it was time to head back down. It was almost 3:30 and I was worried about the trail condition on the way down because the northern approach is less trafficked.


Just a bit of snow…

We were joined on the way down by a young man named Kevin. He’d hiked up the northern trail and so we followed him down the “trail.” Of course, there really wasn’t any trail at all — the entire hillside was covered in snow. We simply headed downhill, bypassing the hidden trail’s switchbacks, until we finally found the trail at the bottom.

I’d love to claim that we both stayed on our feet the whole time, but that would be a lie. I “glissaded” (slid down the hill on my butt) a couple times on purpose (and a couple on accident) and Michael earned a small cut when he postholed through the crusty snow. A good reminder of why some kind of long tights are needed in the Sierra — glissading in short shorts is no fun!

We parted ways with Kevin when we stopped to take off our microspikes. Only to put them on again a few minutes later when we encountered more snow. By this time I was exhausted. Just dead tired. There was no way we were going to fit in Fuller Ridge today.

When we finally reconnected with the PCT we were able to squeeze into a camping area with Gabs, Avo, and Kurt (we’d met Gabs and Avo a couple days ago at Hurkey Creek Campground). It was so nice of them to let us join them — I’m not sure i could have made it much further. They’d also started a small campfire (the area was really wet with a stream running by and lots of snow) and treated us to a quesadilla! Devine! I contributed some peeps — sort of like roasting marshmallows for s’mores. A pleasant end to a long day.


Current ailments:

Elizabeth: a couple lingering blisters; inner thigh chafing; sore left thigh muscle

Michael: 1 old blister

3 thoughts on “Day 12: San Jacinto Kicks Our Butt

  1. Will you be changing out your clothing and gear for the climb through the Sierras? There is so much snow this year and tons of water. I was hiking yesterday in Yosemite and came across flooded trails in the Valley.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our current plan is to add microspikes and whippets on the gear side. For clothing, I plan on adding running tights because glissading in short shorts was not fun! I’ll continue to use my trail runners though, since I figure that my feet will be wet most the time anyway with all the river crossings. Sounds like I might need a boat though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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