Trail Junction (mile 179.9) to Snow creek Faucet (mile 205.7)
After having a great time at the ADZPCTKO, we headed to Idyllwild to climb the 2.9 miles up the Devils Slide Trail to reach the PCT. It was perfect timing as we had camp set-up just as night fell and the temps dropped. The PCT 31 mile section from Idyllwild to Cabazon at Interstate 10 crosses over the often dreaded Fuller Ridge. Dreaded, because the north facing slope often holds icy snow late into the season. Hikers often have trouble with navigation, post-holing, and slipping. This section also covers the 20 mile tortuous 8000 foot descent to I10. I was excited to experience all of this first hand.
We got a 6:00 am start. The trail was periodically covered with snow. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area has a maze of trail systems that can be very difficult to follow, especially if signs are buried under snow. At one of our breaks, I looked down and found a few fresh celery sticks under a bush beside the trail. Well… this spurred a series of questions to ponder over for the next few miles. This was especially weird since hikers usually do not waste fresh fruit or vegetables. Ideas anyone?
After reading many a hiker journal, I had always envisioned Fuller Ridge as this open, steep slope with lots of exposure. A dangerous place…so much so that there are multiple alternate routes hikers take just to avoid it. To my BIG surprise it is not open, not that steep, and has no exposure. Granted it might be easy to get off trail in the snow, but it does follow a ridge and yes post-holing is a problem if you are there in the late afternoon, and it can have rock hard ice in the early morning. In reality, it is a steep ridge under a canopy of pines. In the Sierra Nevada a ridge like this early season is encountered by the hiker multiple times a day. We did use our microspikes, which were helpful but not necessary and my trusty GPS on my iPhone to check our progress. Just sayin’.
Water, on the other hand is a problem in this section. Directly after leaving the ridge the next water source is a long, hot 17 miles away at the Snow Creek water faucet. We decided to go for it and get to the faucet. As reported by many a hiker, the long trail does indeed meander over and through every hill, around about, and in the most indirect nonsense manner. On top of that, the descent is so gradual it is aggravating. The route however does pass through interesting rock formations with incredible views. I will give it that.
We got to the faucet at dark, very dirty, thirsty and tired. After setting up our tent and cleaning up, I enjoyed hot peppermint tea and cookies in a warm quiet evening. A treat.
At daybreak we headed to our car 4 miles away, had fun crossing under the overpass, and viewed a spread of trail angel magic! A great finish and a cause for celebration because I now have finished hiking California Sections A and B, hiking in April part-time. A big 241 miles. Yaaaayyyyy.