Pacific Crest Trail—preview of May ’05 hike


è Jump to Nov 25 update


TO: Jeffrey, Kara, Ryan, (& Juli?).


Here is a preview visual of our hike this May term.  I’ve borrowed the pictures from others’ journals since I have not hiked this section yet.  I have hiked the 250 miles south of us—from the Mexico line to Palm Springs and it is pretty similar—except we’ll have two nicer ranges of mountains—the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel mountains.


The best place to see pictures (and read journal entries from people who hiked this trail last year or before) is online.  You can go here to see them first hand—but remember we’re not hiking the whole 2600 miles—focus on the Southernmost sections—from Mojave south to Palm Springs… which in most journals will be backwards—from Palm Springs to Mojave.  I’ve re-ordered these selcted pictures from the journals—but if you go to the site there are thousands of pix. (note also many of the hikers never finished.)  To see other pix and the journals go here—but see my selection first


To get an idea of what the hike will be like here are a few pix:




















Here is the “PCT class of 2004”—these hikers left Mexico for Canada, 2600 miles away.  They left usually during the last week of April--many did not make it—but some did.  We will pass a similar group headed North. If they start late April (some start earlier) we’ll meet many of them—at least the “front edge” of them. We may pass 50-100 of them in May.  If they are hiking north at 20 miles a day and we’re hiking south at that rate we will close in on them at 40 miles a day. However some of the starters will have already quit in the 250-500 miles they have to cover before they meet us.

We will start at the edge of the Mojave headed south--there are hundreds of windmills like this there.  Actually we’ll have them at both ends of our hike—at the beginning and at the end in Palm Springs where there are hundreds more—not many in between.  Note how this PCT hiker is dressed.

Typical high desert in the section where we’ll be.  In May it sometimes has a bezillon wild flowers… we have no hope of learning their names—but most hikers give them all a nickname then later look up what their real name is—only to decide their nickname is better.  Note the thru hiker’s clothing here—some experienced trailgirls wear skirts because it is cooler and easier to live in (actually Mark and I saw a guy thru-hiker wearing a skirt too).  Girls who wear skirts them swear by them.  Others wear running shorts.

Sometimes the trail is shady because of trees--at other times cliffs like these... the shade is our friend and invites us to rest every time we get some.  This is taken in the mountains where we will be able to walk in the shade of trees—sweet!  However still there is plenty of sun that breaks thru the trees—so you still need a floppy hat or some protection for ears.

Donna on Baden Powell

Here is a PCT hiker on Mt Baden-Powell above the Mojave Desert in May—actually a bit after well be there. If it is a big snow year in California we’ll walk on snow here after climbing up form the 110 degree blazing Mojave desert. In snow it is hard to find the “path”.  But we’ll never get really lost—though we might be mixed up for a half day or so at times.



Cooper Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains—plenty of trees here and neat canyon.  Again you can “feel” the dry high desert in the picture.  I can see a picture like this and taste it—there is a certain taste of desert air that is unforgettable.


Sometimes "trail angels" hike out from a nearby road crossing or “Jeep road” and leave snacks and drinks for hikers like this—what a delight to come to a cooler with ice and a few sodas when you are dry and dying of thirst.  But you never see the trail angels—but you are thankful for them—these angels even left chairs and some drinks (and a pink flamingo to mark the spot!)!  Some Trail Angels are former hikers “paying it forward.”  Others (about half) are simply people who want to help hikers in the desert.

When most people in the Midwest think “desert” they think sand like the Sahara desert.  However this is what California desert really looks like—often dry and high…picture taken on a ridge near Soledad Canyon.  OK try this.  Look to the last ridge in this picture—the one you can barely see in the rear center.  If we were at this picture point now—we’d be at that last ridge in a half-day.  Get the feeling.  We’ll outwalk our sight every day.




In the mountains above LA—Taken where we’ll be walking.  Here’s a good way to see “a day’s journey.”  That last ridge here is maybe ¾ of a day’s hike away—if we camped at this picture spot we’d camp tonight over that final mountain range—maybe on the other side half way down.


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Scarey!  Most hikers see a rattlesnake or two—some see ten—but usually only when they are alone. People who talk a lot see less or none.  I’ve only seen one—and that was at a distance in Northern California.  I saw absolutely none last year with Sam Bills when we did the bottom 250 miles from Mexico to Palm Springs which supposedly has plenty.  The only rattlesnake I saw this close was when I was 16 and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Oh no, I forgot another one in Northern California… the day we walked into California Mark was leading.  He stepped 5” from the coiled rattlesnake at the base of a bush—I saw it too late to warn him.  What happened?  Nothing.  The snake simply yawned.  (I circled around as if the snake could strike 30’). The snake must have been lazy—or perhaps it was waiting for “Brooke” a northbound hiker who would pass next—(ask me or Mark about Brooke)


We’ll see bear tracks—but I doubt we’ll get to see a bear.  In 2300 miles of PCT hiking I’ve only seen a few—all at a distance.  Well, not exactly I had one mother and cub encounter “up close and personal.”  She was (mistakenly) more afraid of me than she should have been.  She and the kid ran. I talked to her assuredly and confidently in a real high squeaky voice (I read that somewhere).  I doubt we’ll see anything but tracks. Oh yeah, we saw a Dead bear too—right on the trail—up in Washington.










We’ll sometimes cross miles of recent forest fires like this—you’ve heard of the California fires of course. This is definitely not fun—it is hot, dirty and you just pull your hat down, think about iced lemonade and sweet air conditioning at your home.  We grit our teeth and cross it hopefully in the morning or late evening.


Beautiful Big Bear Lake—we’ll be nearing the last leg of the journey when we see this… it is our last stop before dropping that next week down into Palm Springs. We’ll overnight at the town probably.




OK THAT’S A STARTER.  See the link above for other pix and especially note the journals where hikers have described their hike from Palm Springs (or even start at Big Bear) as they go North—remembering we’ll be headed the opposite way.


Our Goal: Help Coach D finish the entire PCT—by backpacking the 330 miles he has left to do.  And, of course, have a great time.  And of course help all the northbounders by telling them about the water ahead.



Paul Kind and Marcelo Santana (500 miles of Northern California)

Sam Bills (the bottom 250 miles in California

Mark Schmerse and Melissa Ruder (1100 miles of Washington, Oregon)

 (the rest of California I did solo—I have 330 miles left)



Jeffrey, Kara, Ryan, (& Juli)  When you scan that site and see other pix.. click reply-to-all on one of our mailings and make pbservations or ask questions.  The link again is:


è Nov 25 update starts here


SUMMARY OF OUR ROUTE (Look at a California roadmap to trace this best)


Sunday May 1—we’ll probably fly into Los Angeles this day (though driving out is always a possibility too).

On arrival we’ll figure out how to get up to Mojave/Tehachapi due North of LA.  A few years ago Marcelo Santana, Paul Kind and I rented a car in LA and dropped it off in Lancaster on Rt 14… We had found online about George and Anne Novinger—they own a restaurant in Tehachapi (The Apple Shed) and are PCT “Trail angels.” After an email contact George happily offered to drive down to Lancaster and get us where we had to drop off the car and George took us to the trailhead on Rt 58 between Mojave & Tehachapi. (They’re on my life list of BIG TIMETRAIL ANGELS  and get a post card from me at every post office since when I’m hiking).

            We might call them or hitch—we’ll see what develops—anyhow probably Sunday night we’ll be sleeping on the trail headed South either way.


WEEK ONE: Monday May2-Sunday May 8.

Hike 100.2 miles across the corner of the Mojave Desert.  We only gain 9807 feet in 100 miles—fairly easy walking (the Knobstone Trail gains more in 44).  We are “scheduled  (they are just guesses—who knows how fast we will really go?) to average only 15 miles a day this first week—fairly easy, yet this is desert and we’ll have 76 days of food and sometimes a gallon or two water—so that is a conservative estimate—if we get places early we’ll  just be able to rest a full day once in a while in town. Anyway Saturday night or Sunday we should arrive in Aqua Dulce which boasts a pizza parlor and tiny store right on the trail. I hope we’ll find a church too, but this is merely a crossroads not even on most roadmaps (near Sleepy Valley and Acton) so we might not.

Tehachapi to Agua Dulce

   100.2 mi
   9807 ft EG

 * Adjusted:

+1 days

6.7 days
14.9 mi/day
1454 ft/day

Agua Dulce resupply
Detour: 0.0 mi - on trail
Exit Pt: on trail
Pizza parlor, small store

Agua Dulce, CA (Submitted by Rainmaker on Oct. 17, 2000)

Rating: 5
By far, the most outstanding feature of Agua Dulce is the Saufley hostel. Its difficult to find the words to express the kindness and consideration that Jeff and Donna Saufley extend to
PCT hikers. Most likely, you will not even have to find the hostel; either Jeff or Donna will find YOU while you are in town. The hostel is hiker heaven; a well stocked and comfortable, large mobile home adjacent to the main house. I've never been in a hostel where the needs of hikers were so well anticipated.

The town also has a nice restaurant, a hardware store and a convenience store. I've heard that the large supermarket is no longer in business; if anyone has up to date information on this, let me know. I don't believe there was a P.O. when I was there in 1999. However, I think Jeff & Donna will hold hiker mail and packages, and so will the Century 21 realtor in town. Since Donna Saufley does the laundry for all the hostel guests, I'm not sure whether there is a laundromat in town or not. Other than the Saufley hostel, there are no overnight accommodations in Agua Dulce, however, none are needed. No hiker in his right mind would pass up the place!


Monday May 9 Our “schedule” calls for us to walk with almost-empty packs only 9.7 miles Monday morning then hitch the road 5.8 miles to Acton for a re-supply.  I can’t remember what Acton has to offer—we’ll have to check to make sure it has a Post Office and store. If not we’ll re-supply at the little store in Aqua Dulce and skip the hitch in to Acton and hike on.

   9.7 mi
   1122 ft EG

0.6 days
17.0 mi/day
1971 ft/day

Acton resupply
Detour: 5.8 mi - hitchhike
Exit Pt:
Soledad Canyon Road


WEEK TWO: Monday May 9 to Sunday May 15

On week two we hit the San Gabriel Mountains and turn East skirting LA in the basin to our West.  Now we climb one mountain after another including Mt Baden-Powell where we may walk on snow. We’ll cross rt 59 a few days in, and then parallel Rt 2 as the head to Wrightwood (on Rt 2) a delightful stop 79.3 miles from Acton.  Our “schedule” calls for us to make fewer miles in this section due to the elevation work—we climb 15,026 feet cumulatively in 79 miles—and average of 2467 ft per day—pretty much climbing (of course we have to descend that too every day).  This will blow our socks off with the views. It will seem like the Mojave is a long way behind us, but actually we’ll see it to our left (North) all the way across these mountains. The mountains are about 10,000 ft high here—but the valley floor is almost sea level so they are really tall. (about the climb up Mt Everest from base camp!).  Lots of trees here—you’ll love the San Gabriel mountains. If there are no motels in Aqua Dulce or Acton we know for sure there are several in Wrightwood—even a grocery store. For sure we’ll stay here—and Sharon will probably fly out to spend Saturday or Sunday night with us here in Wrightwood too. We’ll get a REAL rest here—maybe even two full days if we got no shower the last two towns. 

Acton to Wrightwood

   79.3 mi
   15026 ft EG

 * Adjusted:

+1 days

6.1 days
13.0 mi/day
2467 ft/day

Wrightwood resupply
Detour: 3.5 mi - walk
Exit Pt: Acorn Trail
Medium sized town with motels, stores, restaurants, etc.

Mountain Hardware Supply also accepts packages (they're right next door to P.O.)
1390 Hwy 2
Wrightwood, CA 92397
(760) 249-3653
hours Daily
8:30-5:30pm-no holding fee






Wrightwood, CA (Submitted by Rainmaker on Oct. 17, 2000)

Rating: 4
Wrightwood has everything that hikers need, except for a laundromat. I stayed at the Pines Motel; "quaint", reasonable, and the rooms are a bit small, but laundry service is available. There are bars, banks and restaurants, as well as a great sandwich shop and a large hardware store. There are a couple of stores / supermarkets in town, which can be used for long term resupply.



WEEK THREE:  Monday May 16 to Friday May 20

This is a “sweet week.”   First we drop down out of the San Gabriel Mountain range and cross Interstate 15 at a lonely spot where nothing exists, then we climb up into our second mountain range—the San Bernardino Mountains.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. You’ll love it.  Still dry of course (All of Southern California is dry) but these mountains are beautiful! Still we’ll see the lights of LA (actually the suburbs of LA all the way out to San Bernardino) below us at night. We’ll be hiking toward a beautiful Big Bear Lake—and near famous ski areas like Snow Valley etc. Still the Mojave desert proper will be to our left/North.  Our schedule calls for a Friday arrival which means rooms in the summer are all gone on weekends… But we can shower at the Fire Station and camp behind it. We’ve “just had showers last week” so we may not one anyway ;-)  We’ll stop no matter what… most hikers even take in a movie at Wrightwood.  Some love it so much they stay a week or more!  By now we’ll be seasoned hikers and feel like real thru-hikers. 


Wrightwood to Big Bear City

   89.6 mi
   7100 ft EG

 * Adjusted:

+1 days

5 days
17.8 mi/day
1412 ft/day

Big Bear City resupply
Detour: 5.0 mi - hitchhike
Exit Pt:
Van Dusen Canyon Road
The Fire Station in
Big Bear City offers showers and a place to camp for PCT hikers. A store, PO, motel, and bar are all nearby. The town of Big Bear Lake (accessible by bus) offers movie theaters, tourist oriented activities, and shopping centers.

Big Bear City, CA (Submitted by Rainmaker on Oct. 17, 2000)

Rating: 4

The fire station in
Big Bear City is legendary for the kindness that they show PCT hikers. They provide, without charge, grassy, shady campsites and hot showers. They are very friendly, and really make hikers feel welcome. There are restaurants (including a great pizza place) and a P.O. nearby, as well as a small supermarket. Its good for long term resupply, but you may have to get creative. There's also a reasonable Motel 6 down the road from the fire station a mile or so. I stayed two nights in Big Bear City; one at the fire station and splurged the next night at the Motel 6. Its a friendly town, but I detected a bit of hiker resentment at the supermarket. Walking around town is inconvenient and a bit dangerous, due to the lack of sidewalks.


WEEK 3 1/2:  Friday May 20- Monday May 23

OK lets get serious. We have 64.3 miles left, only 4500 ft to climb and three days to do it.  Let’s knock this out guys—just gotta’ do three 22 mile days.  More likely we’ll do one of these days as a 26.2 mile day just to “do a marathon in the mountains with a pack on.”  Most hikers I’ve gone with want to do one Marathon day just to try it.  I’ll hold you back form trying it until this last half-week.  When we pull, out of Big Bear City we’ll be acting like we’re just walking down to Wal-Mart to catch the bus home—even though it is a respectable 65 miles!  We’ll knock off a whole day’s miles before lunch by now.  We’ll be so tough that we’ll scoff at people taking breaks in less than 2-3 hours.  Except we’ll walk more alone and ponder the end of the hike.  We’ll want to finish yet at the same time we’ll feel regret for finishing.  We’ll wish we could walk right on to Mexico.  Or turn around and join all the Northbounders we’ve met and go right on up to Canada by October 15. We’ll notice this week that we’re different.  We won’t exactly know how exactly we changed, but we’ll know we are. 


Big Bear City to Cabazon

   64.3 mi
   4547 ft EG

2.9 days
22.1 mi/day
1561 ft/day

Cabazon resupply
Detour: 4.5 mi - hitchike
Exit Pt: I-10


Tuesday May 24

Suddenly we’ll drop down that incredible 10,000 drop to the noisy freeway (Interstate 10) and we’ll make that terrible-to-find-a-ride hitch into Palm Springs, catch the bus to the airport, and be home in Indianapolis by dark this day the final day of May Term or certainly by the next day. 


And we’ll search out a California road map like coach told us to do when we first read this (but we didn’t) and we’ll trace our trek…. 343 miles in 21 days…. Only 16 miles a day average with days off figured in… but we’ll remember our Marathon days, sleeping on the desert with tenzillion stars spread above us, we’ll recite the names of the interesting and strange people we met, and we’ll be friends for life.  And changed.


OK here’s a road map though it is a cheap scan--not as good as yours: