Hello from Idyllwild, California! We happily arrived this morning after a short hike in, and we’re granting ourselves our first full “zero” day here tomorrow. It feels absolutely luxurious to be off our feet – not to mention all showered and laundered up. After 10 days, we finally smell nice!
The last few days have been a great start to our journey, but they’ve also brought up some interesting trail musings. Thus, the theme of this blog is Hikers’ Conundrums: Little Dilemmas for the Road. Here are the things that we spend too much time thinking about:
1. Rest up OR put in more miles?
There’s nothing quite so appealing as putting our feet up after we’ve been on them all day, but taking the time to rest – whether it’s for a shoes-off snack break under a tree, or a full zero day in town – is hard to commit to when the trail awaits. When other hikers talk about “putting a few more in” before the end of the day, it’s tempting to strap on our packs and follow suit. We’ve been putting in some big miles (perhaps pushing too hard), and we’ve decided it’s time to rest now. The miles can wait until Wednesday.
2. Carry a lot OR a little water?
Water is heavy. At about 2 pounds per liter, it adds a lot of weight to an already heavy pack. But in the desert, the days are hot, and given the extreme drought, the sparse water sources aren’t as reliable as they’ve been in the past. Thankfully, there’s a trusted water report with all of the information about available water in the desert, so we can hike assured that we know where our next water will come from. But all in all, it’s always better safe than sorry, and that means lugging a heavy, heavy, water-filled pack.
3. Where to sleep?
When we want to cover a certain number of miles in a day, we always seem to face the same little issue. Just before we want to camp – but a little too early – we see a dream campsite. We hesitate for a moment, look longingly at it…and then pass on. When we pass by a campsite, we never know if the next one will be as wonderful – or if there will even be a worthy one in the next stretch. It’s a little leap of sleepy faith, and – thankfully – “the trail [usually] provides.”
4. Where to take a siesta?
It’s painful to hike during the heat of the day, but it can also be hard to find shade. A good shady spot – like the perfect camping spot – is a bit of a gamble. Is it just around the corner, or a few miles away? Is it worth hiking a bit longer in the heat to find the perfect spot? These are some hefty decisions. Shade is gold, y’all.
5. Hike during the day OR at night?
During the hot, hot heat, lots of thru-hikers have been opting to hike at night, either illuminated by the [mostly] full moon or by headlamp. Thus far, we’ve decided that night hiking isn’t for us. We prefer waking up early and taking in the views. (We may change our tune if the temps get too high, or if we hit a monotonous section. We’ll keep you posted.)
6. What to do when the trail is closed?
This was the big dilemma and hot topic of the week on the trail. Due to wildfires in the region two years ago, the PCT is closed for 15 miles to help the land recover, which it has been particularly slow to do given the drought. So, here are the options for hikers (1) Hitch into Idyllwild from Mile 154.8 on the trail, missing 10 open trail miles and passing the 15-mile closed section; or, (2) Hike the open 10 miles and take HalfMile’s Unofficial Alternate Route, which adds an additional 5 miles of total hiking, but gets you on your way by foot; or, (3) Road walk all or some of the way; or (4) Some creative variation/combination of these three.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: hike your own hike. For us, we decided – in what is called “purist” fashion out here – that we wanted to walk the whole way. So, we took the less popular route: #2. And we are sure glad that we did. It was tough on the feet, but we took in some amazing views, and happily made it to Idyllwild all the same.
We’ve only been here a few hours, but we are loving this town. We’ve tweaked some of our gear, tended to our minor ailments, met friendly folks, and eaten lots of raw vegetables. What more could two hikers ask for?