Up to this point, my mileage each day had been steadily growing. I started with 15 mile days and slowly work my way up to 20 mile days and eventually even did a few 25 milers. I never thought the morning I woke up at the hot spring, I would do my longest day yet. by a lot….
From the hot spring, interstate I-15 was about 35 miles ahead. At this highway a McDonald’s is located near the trail. This is a big deal for hikers struggling with “hiker hunger”. My original plan for the day was to do 18 miles and stroll into McDonald’s the next day for lunch, except by lunch time, I had already hit the 18 mile mark. At that point I knew it was possible to make it all the way. So I went for it. Along the way there were incredible vistas and I had good company.
Finally, at around 8 pm the golden arches were in sight. I’ve never been a true McDonald’s fan but I can say that moment was different. I went in and ordered a double quarter pounder with cheese, a large fry, large drink, and twenty nuggets. I finished them all.
After dinner we ended up having to walk another three miles in the dark to find a campsite.That made for a 38 mile day. I set up my tent and went to sleep happy and full. All was well, or so I thought… -Noel Nelson
After Big Bear it was back to the grind. Long days and big mileage. Although my motivation before was to make it to Big Bear my new motivation was to make it through the never ending desert to a hot spring. A true oasis in the the middle of nowhere. After a couple days trecking though very hot and dry canyons the hot spring was finally in sight. Multiple tubs are built in layers, connected only by the waterfalls as one flows into the other. In addition to the hot springs, the river flows through, so there are small cliff jumps as well as a slack line over the water. The original plan was for my hiking buddy Harry and I, to stay for a couple hours and move on but the spring enticed us to stay the entire day. That night I slept on the shore of the river with a view of the stars shining through the opening in the canyon. All in all it was a good stop. -Noel Nelson
While on a thru hike, a “zero” is a day you don’t hike at all. I originally planned to take very few, if any, zeros but after a few hundred miles and two weeks of sleeping on the ground,my body vetoed my original plan. Luckily the next town I would reach would be Big Bear and it just so happened that our family friend and comedy writing legend Mike Rotman (Southpark, The Tonight Show, Politically Incorrect), owns a cabin there. After talking to him I realized that if I could make it from Idlewild to Big Bear in four days, the cabin would be unrented and I could stay there! The only problem is, that would mean I would have to average 25 miles per day for four days straight. That’s longer than I had backpacked in a day this entire trip continuously for four days. Although difficult, a warm bed and shower were all the motivation I needed to make it there on time. After four brutal days of backpacking I finally reached Big Bear and was able to take my first zero of the trail. The cabin and even the town were everything I dreamed of and I was able to spend the day going to a farmers market and boating on lake Big Bear. Early tomorrow it’s right back to the trail but now I am refreshed and ready to conquer the rest of the PCT. -Noel Nelson (mile 266)
I was told this was a high snow year for the west coast but I had no idea how much snow I would encounter this early into my journey.
When my alarm went off at 4:30 am I was already walking down the streets of Idlewild on my way to summit Mt. San Jacinto. In the first five miles alone I gained over 3,000 feet of elevation.
Once off the side trail leading from the town and back on the pct, I encountered my first bit of snow. It was a small patch about 2×2 ft. I didn’t think much of it but as I pressed on the snow patches grew in number and size. A few miles after reaching the pct I the trail was buried and I had to follow were the foot tracks of those who had gone before me.
While trudging through the snow I realized how slow it really was. I was moving at about one to one and a half miles per hour, half the speed I normally walk.
After three hours of steep uphill elevation gain without a trail I reached the storm shelter close to the top of the mountain. The stone hut made me feel as though I had stepped back in time. Although amazing, I still had to press on a few hundred more feet to the top of t
Finally, after hours of climbing I reached the top (10,834 ft above sea level). From this vantage point I was able to look across the desert and see how far I had traveled, as well as what laid before me.
My successful journey to the top was celebrated by eating my lunch with a view that most people only in pictures.
Although exhausting and time consuming, the feeling of accomplishment I got from climbing my first mountain in the PCT was enough to fuel my journey for the next couple days. Many people skipped the summit but I think going for it is the true nature of the trail. It is the nature of adventure.