Section 18 – Wrightwood to Big Bear Lake

This section went through the San Bernardino National Forest and Silverwood Lake State Park. The terrain was rolling with some long water carries. We also encountered front country infrastructure around Cajon Pass.

D137 Mon 28 Oct. Wrightwood to Gobblers Knob mile 356.4

11.00 – 17 15 PCT miles 12.9

A jeep pulled up just as we left the motel. Reuben, a 79 year old local, had spotted our backpacks and guessed we’d need a ride! What a superstar.

We’ve been occasionally seeing random bits of pottery around Wrightwood. It’s almost as if elves live in the area.

1000′ steep ascent by a ski area carrying 12L of water and 5 days of food was quite a stiff climb. But its MUCH cooler today, around 65°F, making it a lot better for our tastes. We passed some water, but it wasn’t available to hikers.

Met 3 SoBos at the top of the climb. Slippy, Field Trip and Sprinkles. Had a great chat about the trail, SHR and wind river high route.

Downhill all afternoon along a ridge, which is great!

Found a site at what used to be a USFS campground but seems to have been decommissioned. Only here half an hour when Solar and Lunar turned up!!! Folks we net >2000 miles ago in Washington, we’d had great chat back then and Solar gave me my trail name. We’ve followed their blog ever since (link) and weirdly feel like they’re old friends. So we know they’ve been catching us up and its superb to finally meet them again, along with their trail companions. So lovely to have a chat in the evening.

D138 Tue 29 Oct. Gobblers Knob mile 356.4 to Silverwood Lake picnic area mile 329.8

06.00 – 17.45 PCT miles 26.6 + 0.7 bonus miles = 27.3 miles

Fortunately downhill all morning, it was going to be a long day, dictated by water availability.

Saw the early morning commuters followed by dawn. Poor folks who have to go to work on such a lovely sunny day!

Easy going winding down to a colourful valley, with mild temperatures and moderate wind. All morning we could see Interstate 15 and a train line with those huge American goods trains pulled by at least 4, sometimes 6 engines, and going on for half a mile or longer. Looking down on it from above, with 4 tracks winding past each other and through tunnels, it brought out the child-like fascination with model railways.

Lunch and today’s water was at the services on I15…a delightful choice of McDonald’s or the Chevron gas station. We went for the latter as they had fresh fruit, which we washed down with a pint of Haagen dazs strawberry ice cream. The garage kindly let us fill our water bottles from the soda fountain (drinks machine).

The afternoon was mostly up Cajon pass. Steady with views back toward Baden Powell, but not too scenic with power lines, motorway and train tracks inbetween.

Finally downhill to Silverwood State Park which, although the campground was closed (gates locked, toilet and showers locked), had very kindly left a water tap switched on, had lamp light picnic tables and trash cans. Perfect campsite after a long day. We very much enjoyed an evening chatting with Lunar and Solar, and Sprinkles and Field Trip over dinner.

D139 Wed 30 Oct. Silverwood Lake picnic area mile 329.8 to unmarked campsite below mile 305.9

06.00 – 17.45 PCT miles 23.9 +0.1 bonus mile = 24 miles

It was a very cold morning. And quite difficult navigating out of a closed campground in the dark. But we managed to find an exit, followed the road under a flyover, used a bit of cycle track before the trail resumed around the circumference of Silverwood Lake. So much water, with waterfowl!

But not much going on again this morning, just contouring around scrubby hillsides until we met Deep Creek, quite a substantial stream where we stopped to cook dinner. Solar et al. Caught us up there (they all get up an hour later than us, but are significantly fastet down the trail) so we had rather a long lunch and pleasant chat.

We had a simple, calf-deep crossing of the river before following it up, up and more up along the valley. Many more plants here of course, adding colour to the generally beige desert background. As did the large bridge painted with a rainbow.

Solar and co. Stopped at Deep Creek Hot Springs for the evening, but we didn’t want to go there for two reasons:

1. The springs are contaminated with meningococcus and despite fairly low risk we just don’t want to risk an infection

2. We need to make the post office in Big Bear Lake (actually a town despite the name) on Friday to collect my replacement credit card. More miles today reduces the number of miles on Friday into town. I feel sure we’ll see them again tomorrow as they move faster than us.

D140 Thr 31 Oct. Unmarked campsite below mile 305.9 to another unmarked campsite mile 282.5

06.00 – 18.20 PCT miles 23.4

Waking up to frozen water bottles was an unpleasant surprise! The first 3 hrs in the shade were also rather cold. However we found some sun at a bridge over Deep Creek so stopped to defrost a bit and have second breakfast. This was just past the 300 miles to go point.

Today was continuously up hill. 4000′ of ascent spread over the 23 miles meant the gradient was fairly gentle as we basically followed a series of rising valleys.

Took a long lunch break to cook dinner at the only water, 13 miles in on a sandy patch by Holcomb Creek, then just more up and up and up.

Lovely colors for sunset with a smoky valley (there are some big wildfires behind us!) and views back to Mt San Antonio.

Found an unmarked campsite on a ridge, perfectly flat, no wind (hurrah!) But feels like it’ll be another very cold night.

Bit frustrated that one of our thermarest inflatable mats has a slow leak…hopefully it will last the night and we can try to patch it in town tomorrow.

D141 Fri 1 Nov. Unmarked campsite mile 282.5 to Big Bear Lake (Hwy 18) mile 266.1

06.10 – 12.45 PCT miles 16.4

Pretty chilly overnight, but above freezing, thankfully. We finished off the last few hundred feet of the long long climb from yesterday, and cruised gently along through sparse pine forest, then more open desert scrub, the day warming up comfortably. We had views of Big Bear Lake (our destination for today) and out onto the desert plains.

Passed a water cache about mid morning, but unfortunately it was still frozen. Instead we filtered water from a nearby stream.

Arrived much earlier than anticipated at the road; the lure of town comforts and mainly downhill must have helped!

Got a ride into town reasonably quickly, from a really nice dude: a seasonal outdoor worker, teaching climbing and backpacking to kids in the summer and a ski patroller in the winter, living in his transit van all year round.

Got a room in the Village Lodge…not exactly pristine up to date accommodation, more old appartments converted to hotel type use. But Wes the owner is very pleasant and offered a substantial discount for cash (he apologized for not giving a $50/night hiker mid week rate – thats the problem wirh arriving in a tourist town at the weekend). The advantage is that there’s loads of space to spread out our gear (which needs a bit of maintenance) and a full kitchen. So as I stand in the laundromat, K is off shopping for a nice big steak!!!

Zero tomorrow as we’re both a bit worn out and can take full advantage of the kitchen facilities. Only 2 weeks left until Mexico!

D142 Sat 2 Nov. Zero in Big Bear Lake (Hwy 18) off mile 266.1

A restful day in Big Bear. A long lie in followed by skyping parents, updating the blog, and trying to eat all the food we bought in the supermarket yesterday.

Summary: A bit of a different section for us, with much more socialising with fellow PCT hikers. The route since Tehachapi has also felt less isolated with more front country infrastructure and services.

Current stats:

Total miles walked: 2469.8

Miles to Mexico: 266.1

Days out: 142

Days when it rained or snowed: 21

2 thoughts on “Section 18 – Wrightwood to Big Bear Lake

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