Cajon Pass (PCT 342)

Arrived at one of the most famous PCT landmarks this morning…. the McDonalds at Cajon Pass!

They even get a sign on the trail!
Some of the high quality clientele at the Cajon McDonalds

And, there is a Best Western just up the road! So, after 68 miles or so I am taking a zero day to let the sores on the top of my right foot to heal a little.

My right foot (sounds like a movie)

I am currently hiking in Crocs. This is my fourth footwear option. My last pair of sandals seemed to work okay but I was constantly stopping to get rocks and sand out and I got a blister on my heel from a rock I ignored. So I switched to the Crocs and they seem to be working.
This weeks hiking footwear solution. I have about 25 miles in these guys.
 I want to be in good shape for the hike out of here because it is a killer, 28 miles with no water, so at least 6L of water (13.2 lbs!) and it is all uphill (5500′).

The climb out of Cajon Pass

Leaving Big Bear Lake

Spent a couple of days in Big Bear Lake hanging out with “73”, a retired continental pilot (age 73). We rented a car together to get from Ziggy and the Bear’s. I ditched the sandals I got in Idyllwild – they were giving me huge heel blisters. Bought a cheap pair of sandals and some Crocs. 

View of Big Bear Lake from the trail

Headed out of BBL on Thursday (May 12). It is now Sunday, May 15. I have covered 60 miles in four days and am currently typing this post in my tent at PCT mile 336. This will be my first post from the trail – the first time I have had decent cell coverage.

This section is a bit unusual in that there is plenty of water. The trail spends a good bit of time near sizeable rivers and passes a couple of good sized lakes.

Trail Side Creek

Silver Lake

Typical PCT Obstacle

I hit Cajon Pass in the morning, a big deal because there is a McDonalds 1/2 mile from the trail. Also a Best Western which I intend to take advantage of!

Ziggy and The Bear

Wandered into Ziggys (PCT mile 211) yesterday  morning (May 9) around 8:30 AM.  Took two days to go over Mount San Jacinto. Left Idyllwild on Satuday morning and elected not to go to the top because the weather was so bad. Left Idyllwild trailhead around 6500′ and climbed  to just over 9,100′. 

Hiking through snow on Mt San Jacinco

Camped at 8500′ and woke up to ice on the tent. Then  descended 7,000′ over 15 miles which was a real killer on the knees and …. YES! The blisters are back! NOOOOOO!

View coming down the north side of San Jacinto
PCT Mile 200!

Ziggy and The Bear are trail angels that live about 200 yards from the PCT. They are in their 80’s and have been hosting PCT hikers for at least 20 years. 

Ziggy (left) and The Bear checking in a hiker

They provide a solar shower, place to hand wash clothes, coffee (important!) and logistical support for hikers to get around the fire closure north of their place

Some of the amenities at Ziggy’s

Ran into another hiker (“73”) and we agreed to go in on a car rental to get to Big Bear Lake (the shuttle spots were all filled for the day). Not sure what I am going to do about he blisters… Sigh…

Leaving Idyllwild (PCT 177)

Nearing the end of my “double zero”  (two no mile-days) in Idyllwild. Plan to head out tomorrow (Saturday) morning.  Hopefully the storms will have passed by then. 

I have new shoes – hiking sandals which I am hoping will stop  blister-pocalyse. I mailed my orthotics and camp shoes home and am dropping my shoes in the hiker box.

My new shoes!

The people at Silver Pines Lodge are great. They gave me the hiker rate ($65) for all three nights even though the last night should have been at the weekend rate. They provide washer/dryer access with soap and loaner clothes so you can wash ALL your clothes (I’ve been hanging out in size 16 womens pants – kinda like ’em) and they provide a free lift to the trail!

View out my back door (my tent on the railing)

The PCT climb out of Idyllwild from the Humber Park trailhead (6500′) is the biggest climb so far. There are two options – most people take the route to San Jacinto Peak (10,833′), the highest point on the southern part of the PCT (the blue trail in the picture below).

PCT triail out of Idyllwild

This is seriously steep – 4500 feet in about 4.5 miles and there will likely be new snow. I will make the decision about the peak based on the trail/weather/snow where the trail splits.
Have enjoyed my stay in Idyllwild but it’s time to be moving on….

Idyllwild Update

Hobbled into the Paradise Cafe yesterday (1 mile east of where the PCT, mile 152, crosses Hwy 74), 75 miles and five days since leaving Julian.

Had one of the best burgers of my life with fellow hikers Andrew (New Mexico) and Rose (England), then hitched to Idyllwild with Kobo (Japan). Kobo said this was his first hitch so I gave him pointers (take of your sunglasses, smile, stand where a car can pull over). We were picked up by a very nice lady (Gary) driving a 20 year-old, beat-up, Toyota (after being passed by many, many, mostly empty, huge, newish SUVs and trucks – hmmm).

Currently holed up at the Silver Pine Lodge letting my blisters heal.

My home in Idlyllwild

So, after 150 trail miles, my health is holding up – no leg problems, just some stomach issues the last few days that seemed to have resolved. My only big issues are the foot blisters. My plan is to switch to hiking sandals for the next section. Checked with the outfitters in Idyllwild and they are having some Chacos send from another store. Also having Bert send my longjohns – snow expected in the next section over the next few days!
And the hiker hunger has kicked in! Ate an entire medium pizza last night.

Blisters! And Warner Springs (PCT 109.5)

Okay I’ll start with the blisters. They hurt. They are everywhere on both feet. And they are multilying. I don’t really have feet anymore, I have blister support systems attached to the ends of my legs. Left Jullian early yesterday in the morning with the Tin Man and his oddly Canadian wife, Kathryn (their blog is Actually they are both Canadian and both doctors (which could come in very handy – I intend to stay close). Did 17 miles or so and camped and operated on my blisters. Today I did 7 miles or so to the first water (Barrel Springs) and after could simply not put my shoes back on. Every step was agony. So…. I hiked the 9 miles or so in my sandals. 

Jason’s new hiking shoes… (note the blister on the middle left toe)

So the afternoon hike was actually enjoyable, not agony at every step. My plan is trade off between my shoes and sandals til I get to Idylwood in three days and buy some real hiking sandals. I’d get some here (Warner Springs) but there is nothing here. Not even a restaurant.

So…Warner Springs. The nice people have opened their community center to host hikers. You can get a free shower (bucket, towel and water), some supplies and camp near some real bathrooms. There is also a rumor that they will be cooking burgers this afternoon – which I intend to verify.

Camping area at the Warner Springs Resource Center
Oh… And here is the requisite Eagle Rock pic.. 

Jason on Eagle Rock (Rose is on the left)

Julian, CA

Spending my first “zero” day (i.e. no mileage) day in Julian. The wind has died and the sun is out. Julian is a lovely little town about 12 miles from the PCT. And it is VERY hiker friendly! From the free first beer at Carmen’s to  the free slice of pie (with ice cream AND coffee!) at Mom’s, it would be hard to find a more hiker-friendly place. 

Mom’s on the main street in Julian

Had dinner last night with a swarm of other hikers at Poncho’s (mexican food and pizza) which met all the hiker requirements for a good restaurant: large portions and not too expensive. 

General Store with the “Welcome PCT Hikers” sign

Have done all my shopping, reading email and checking the news (Cruze and Fiorina… WTF???) so I am ready to hit the trail first thing in the morning. Next stop (my planned first stop) is Warner Springs, about 33 miles or two days (hopefully) but it is a dry stretch so will be leaving with 4-5L of water.

Week One

Writing this in a small hotel in Julian, California. Didn’t really mean to end up here but circumstances …. … here is a brief summary of the first five days.

Day 1 (PCT 15.4): Scout and Frodo (they deserve a post all to themselves) got me (and 22 other hikers) to the souther terminus of the PCT where, after a bout of picture taking we headed out.

Whole crew from Scout and Frodo’s

It was very hot  – did not make my planned 20 miles – stopped at mile 15.4 and rehydrated.

Day 2 (PCT 33.0) : Did the climb into Lake Moreno in the cool early morning (stopping at the general store for a lovely breakfast burrito) then back on the trail. Tough day (all the days are tough starting out!) ending at a campground about a mile from the trail (with water and toilets!). Windy but it stopped when the sun went down.  

Day 3 (PCT 42.0): Very easy day – about 10 miles. Want to give my legs and feet a break (yes, the blisters are back!). Stopped in Mount Laguna, had lunch at a hiker friendly restaurant with a bunch of other hikes. I see, on average, 10 hikers are so over the course of the day.

Day 4(PCT 56.0): Another pretty easy day – though extremely windy – 20-30 mph and colder. Not bad hiking most of the way and some great views:

Got to camp and the wind is really blowing. Tried to find a place out of the wind but not a lot of choices. A Korean film crew doing a PCT documentary stopped and asked to interview me. Very surreal.  With a lapel mike and everything. They also asked to film my feet. So my feet may end up in a Korean documentary one day! Two other single hikers camped near me but the wind was still building. 

Day 5 (PCT 59.5): Terrible night! Wind gusts to 60 mph. One of the tents near me blew  out and  a hiker had to ask to join another hiker in a single person tent. No sleep, wind and tent flapping sounds like a jet. And COLD! My tent never blew out but almost everyone I talked to today had collapsed tents. One couple (from Canada) said they spent the whole night holding their poles up. T-Bird (Ohio) said he finally gave up and just rolled himself up in his collapsed tent. 

Charlie and Lauren Hiding in the toilet with me

Up early and on the trail – wearing everything I have but still very cold. 37 degrees and wind is still blowing 40-50 mph. I hike 3.5 miles to Sunrise Trailhead (PCT 59.5) and stumble into the toilet – already occupied by another hiker (T-Bird) drying out his clothes and getting ready to prepare breakfast. He says the weather is for a strong wind advisor all day with intermittent showers. Okay – enough flirting with hypothermia. Call a shuttle service in Julian. He asks how many – T-Bird says wait a minute and runs to some other hikers camped nearby. We finally end up with 6 headed into Julian and some warmth and a hot breakfast and to regroup.

Most people are stayting one night but I need a day to clean and dry all my stuff (a tent acts like a filter in strong winds – you end up with about an inch of blown dirt in your tent/sleeping bag/pack). 


Okay I am now five days from the start of my little adventure. And it is appropriate to ask…

So just how dangerous is it?

The following rigorously compiled list of fatalities on the PCT is from PCT Fatalities:

  • FALLING | 3
  • CARS | 2
  • MURDER | 0
  • ILLNESS | 0
  • SUICIDE | 0

I don’t think you can count on the ALIEN ABDUCTION statistic. I mean, they could have abducted lots of people and brainwashed them. I was kind of surprised there were no heart attacks. Speaking as a 59 year old.

So, number 1 is “falling”, followed closely by cars. This is not a big surprise. 80-90% of the trail is along mountain ridges. But the real problem is snow. Traversing a steep slope that is snow covered can be dangerous.  I plan to have my micro-spikes (mini-crampons) and ice ax when and if I hit those spots. And I will be skipping over the highest part of the Sierra this year (since I did it last year) . The picture below shows my friends Jim and Leigh Ann  coming over Forester Pass (the high point on the PCT) last year. This is late June in a very low snow year.  We did NOT have spikes or axes because we had talked to some south bounders at Kennedy Meadows and they said they were unnecessary and they were right.

Snapshot 1 (4-19-2016 6-45 PM)

Next is cars. Another no-brainer. You do have to cross some major freeways (I-10 comes to mind) and hitching requires standing near moving cars so I guess I understand this. Gotta be safer than walking in Houston though!