Today we went full hobo. After hiking the fire closure alternate that almost no one else wanted to do, we walked out 4 miles to the Highway to hitch into Idyllwild. After several just awful human beings in BMW’s whized by, a 1980s Ford Diesel Pickup pulled over. A young man emerged from the truck and said there was a child in the cab. So if we wanted a ride, we would have to jump in the back and hide ourselves under a tarp. We surprised ourselves by saying yes without hesitation. We climbed into the bed and hid ourselves among the empty soda cans on top of a plastic garbage can lid. It was better than walking the highway. As we whizzed down the highway breathing diesel exhaust, Sarah remarked that it is usually people who have less that give more. I think that is true. When the truck pulled to a stop we emerged from the tarp and found ourselves on the streets of an idyllic little mountain town. I thanked the young man for the ride and asked his name. He said his name was Lou, but his Trail Angel name was Yogi. Our first nonrelative Trail Angel!
Speaking of going full hobo, I thought it might be useful to give all of you a guide to distinguish a PCT hiker from a homeless person:
1) A PCT hiker may technically be homeless, but do not like being referred to as such.
2) Generally speaking, the homeless will smell quite a bit better than a hiker, due to the availability of library restrooms and shelters in which to clean themselves.
3) A thru hiker will be much, much more dirty than even the most far gone hobo. The hiker will only have one shirt, while the homeless person will have access to a shopping cart half full of clothes. That one shirt will be disgusting from sweating constantly and lying in the dirt.
4) Both may try to get a ride from you, but the hiker will not say “God bless you!” If you comply.
Basically a PCT hiker is a smellier, dirtier highly motivated homeless person with trail runners, trekking poles, probably a ULA or Hyperlite backpack containing unreasonable priced gear and, if encountered at night, a shiny light puffy down jacket. See? Easy.
We headed to the nearest coffee shop and sat on the patio planning our lodging. Today would be a much needed near zero. While we looked up hotel availability on our phones, a woman stopped to ask if we were PCT hikers. When we replied that we were, she gave us a bag of homemade cookies and wished us good luck. Idyllwild is by far my favorite trail town. It is very hikerfriendly. There were free charging stations, discounted rates and even a welcoming banner for PCTers.
Finding no vacancy anywhere in town, we decided to stay at the State Park Campground, less than 100 yards from the edge of town. The Hiker rate was $3, there was a laundromat across the road, a bicycle someone had donated and warm showers for a dollar big enough to fit four people, which I’m sure has happened. In the hiker box there was a Hawaiian shirt that I took to wear while my clothes were in the wash. I decided to keep it at the urging of other hikers. I decided I would drop it off five days later in Big Bear. I liked the idea of the Dad shirt slowly making its way to Canada. The hiker area of the campground was filled with twentysomething hikers who by evening were circled around the fire, drunkenly trying to impress girls. They quieted down at 10 promptly which, remembering by 22 year old self , impressed me. These were good kids.
That evening we decided we would hitch to the nearest side trail to cut out Fuller Ridge as it still had a lot of snow and we had decided to send all our snow gear ahead to Kennedy Meadows, which is the last stop before the Sierra.
I awoke at one in the morning to find I was laying on the ground. My mattress had gotten a hole and deflated. At least it happened in town, I thought. Sleep was fitful from that point on.
The next day we checked at the outfitter in town and the newer report said that Fuller Ridge was now described as passable with micro spikes recommended, so we changed our minds, bought some micro spikes (we will return our unused ones) and made plans to hike the ridge early the next morning. We met Toggs for breakfast, she was the only other hiker we knew that took the alternate. She even hiked the highway portion we had hitched Toggs offered to let us stay in her cabin. She would head for the ridge tomorrow as well.
We stopped by Toggs cabin around 10am. The two hikers she was rooming with, Butcher and Young Gun, were on the porch waiting for their friends who would be along soon. They were going to hike the ridge that day. They were both young lean and muscular and they had both successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail. We talked with them for the next four hours with intermittent calls from their friends who were apparently wandering around town high, with little to no sense of urgency. The rest of the crew finally arrived around 2:00 and proceeded to charge their phones, fill their water bottles, treat their blisters, and show off their new purchases. These included several avocados, a bag of Frittos, two large packs of cookies and a foam sword. The foam sword was jokingly referred to as an ice axe. One of the group was dressed in short running shorts, a half ruined straw hat and a cotton Tee he had written on with magic marker. His gators were sparkly gold. His name was Ropeburn. They decided it would be best if they got a little more high before setting out and 30 minutes later, they were on their way. They were planning on climbing the 4000 ft to the trail then hike several miles, in snow to the peak of San Jacinto Mt to camp in a brick shelter. I have no doubt they made it. We spent the rest of the day milling about town. We met the mayor, an elderly golden Retriever riding in the back of a pickup and ate some overpriced fish and chips. That was pretty much the day. Tomorrow should be more eventful. Goodnight.