Day 18: Idyllwild to Saddle Junction to mile 177.3 to mile 190.5

5.3.18. 13.2 PCT miles, 19.9 total miles hiked.

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Today was a challenging day! Leaving town my pack was so heavy with food and water for the next stretch to Big Bear. We got a ride with local to the Devil’s Slide Trail which we took to rejoin the PCT. That trail was a foreshadow of all the climbing to come!

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Because of the fire closure, this was one of our best options for getting back to the PCT, but it doesn’t rejoin at the north end of the fire closure, so we actually stowed our packs and hiked 2 miles south to tag the north end of the closure and then back to our packs. We already hiked 6.5 miles and hadn’t even made forward progress on the PCT yet! I’m happy I went back and tagged the closure though because we weren’t summiting San Jacinto. I was disappointed we weren’t going to do the side trip, but sometimes you have to go with the flow and make sacrifices for what the group wants to do. After all the climbing today, I can’t say I’m super sad about skipping it.

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I felt sooo slow today. My pack weight combined with the altitude (mostly around 8,000-9,000 ft) and the elevation gain was just very tiresome. I felt like I was panting like a dog during all of the hiking.

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Today was so gorgeous though. It felt like I was in the Sierra. The rocks are huge and there were so many pine trees and distant mountains. We got water at mile 186, the last source for 20 miles, and then we began down the infamous Fuller Ridge. This part of the trail brings us from San Jacinto around 9,000 ft all the way down to the desert floor at 1,200 ft over 20 miles. We have about 15 more miles to do tomorrow to be finished with the descent.

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It took me so long to hike to our campsite tonight because of how beautiful the scenery was. I even took out my Sony and took some pictures. It was surreal seeing green mountains on one side and the desert mountains & wind turbines on the other. Hard to believe we’ll be down in the desert again after so many days of being in the mountains/ being in a mountain town like Idyllwild.

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We’re camped at a large campground that I guess has a dirt road up to it? There’s a car in the “parking lot” but there’s only hikers at this large backcountry campsite. A bunch of us ate dinner together and some guys got a small fire going in the fire ring, which was nice to warm up to. It’s going to be pretty cold tonight we think, maybe even below freezing.

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