Hours on Trail: 11
Mile Marker: 364
Last night we had layed awake discussing the plan for today. Ideally we would make it into Wrightwood today for our resupply. But we had about 17 miles of climb, which if we awoke at 5am and were on trail by 6am would be cutting it close to the time the Post Office closes. Much less being able to have enough light and energy to return to the trail. Acorn Trail meets the PCT at about mile 363 and descends roughly 2300ft in 3.6 miles “ending” at the Wrightwood Post Office. I place “ending” in quotes because the trail is technically only 2.1 miles long, but since we have to road walk as well, its all the same to us. Apparently most hikers hike to Hwy 2 (which is about 6 miles further down the PCT) and then hitchhike in. Keith and I would rather hike a few miles and after ascending Devil’s Slide in Idyllwild, we weren’t afraid of steep climbs. Keith and I discussed if we would make it or not. I wanted to rather badly but also understood if we didn’t. We had enough food to last us no matter what, so we would make the call in the morning.
When the alarm went off at 5am, it was raining pretty good outside. We knew it would rain and weren’t worried, but packing up a tent in the pouring rain is something we like to avoid. I went back to sleep and Keith kept an eye on the rain. Around 6am we woke up and began to pack everything up. It was a chilly, damp morning and put Keith and I right into our element. After hiking the Oregon Coast so often, a rainy, misty, cold morning makes us both feel right at home. We packed up a dripping tent and around 8am were out on the trail. Given our late start, I tried to let go of the hope of making it to town today. If we had left at 6am, maybe we’d make it, but two hours later, most certainly not.
We began the morning off right with a climb right into the clouds. I was thrilled. Wearing my rain jacket and waterproof pants, my hood back and my hair in a bun felt perfect. We kept a pretty fast pace, I think because we were both so happy about the weather. I eventually had to trade my waterproof pants for shorts, but the happy feeling stayed the same. I didn’t take very many pictures today. Mostly, because of the constantly impending rain and my slowly dying battery. But we hugged ridges and climbed all day in the foggy, damp mist.
By around 10am we realized how quickly we were heading up this mountain. This climb is currently famous as being a hot, intense, and very dry climb from 3500ft to about 8200ft in 18 or so miles. There is currently no water between Cajon Pass and Wrightwood (no matter which way you get into town). But with the weather we were having today, we barely noticed the incline and it certainly wasn’t hot. We both drank a grand total of 2 liters all day, which is 1-1.5 liters less than usual. It was the perfect day.
We soon broke above the clouds and saw the mountains stretching high above us. They were glorious in every way. A little bit of snow clung to the very top trees and stormy clouds fell between every ridge top. The view and the suddenly ice cold wind took my breath away. We had crested over a ridge and were met with one of the colder winds I’ve ever felt. It stung my face and my ears, reminding me of skiing weather. By now it was around 12 and we were holding a pace which would get us to Acorn Trail by 2:30-3pm, given the continued climb didn’t kill us. My hope of making it to town rose. We were so close yet so far away. I kicked myself a little bit, even if we had left an hour earlier we certainly would make it with time to spare. But now we’d be up against the wire. I tried not to think about it too much and told myself that it didn’t matter either way.
The mountains and their glory eased my racing mind as we continued to hike up. The air got cold enough that I stopped to put my winter gloves on to keep my fingers from freezing. We reached what had been the snow line. There was no snow to be seen but some still clung to the conifers’ tops. When the wind blew the icy slush released and fell on our heads a bit, chilling both of us. Soon, Keith pointed out the Acorn Trailhead. It was 2pm. We arrived 15 minutes later and after a brief discussion began skipping downwards towards Wrightwood. You can do a lot when you’re practically at your baseweight.
As we made our way down I joked that we’d make it to the Post Office by 3:30pm. This was funny to both of us given our original estimated time of arriving to the Trailhead was 5pm. It was a steep climb down, but nothing we hadn’t seen or delt with before. I could see why some hikers decided not to take this path. But at the same time it offered such fantastic views that I couldn’t see why so many passed it up. We soon arrived at the road and walked through a very nice community. We took some back roads and enjoyed the houses we passed.
By 3:30pm we werr at the Post Office. I couldn’t believe it. I would’ve never guessed we’d make it here, and so early too! Keith went inside to get our boxes and when he returned we began packing. I decided I could split up the resupply and pack everything while Keith went to the hiker-friendly hardware store next door. Keith wanted to see if they had some patching supplies (for our pads and other gear) and I wasn’t feeling too social and knew we’d be more efficient if we split up. Keith soon returned and we went behind the hardware store where they had some hiker boxes and a little picnic table.
We dropped our bags next to another hiker and walked inside. Keith already knew what he wanted and by now I was just curious about the store. They had so many things! Everything you’d think of for a normal hardware store plus a mini REI-like section. It was pretty cool. Keith bought what he needed and bought enough to qualify for a $.01 fuel canister. We couldn’t pass that deal so we got a fuel canister too. We went back to our packs and chatted with the other hikers a bit before heading back to Acorn Trail.
While the descent had gone quickly, the climb did not. We started around 5pm and knew the sun set around 8pm or so. Which is plenty of time to hike 2-3miles, even at an incline. With our packs heavier than they were 3 hours ago we slowly made our way back to the PCT. When we arrived at the trail we sat on a bench nearby and took a break. A mile down was Guffy Campground where we now planned to spend the night. The last mile felt wonderful. We had just had such a fantastic day. We remarked on how great of a day it truly was, and soon made it into camp.
Keith found a spot right near the edge of the ridge with a gorgeous view of the mountain opposite the canyon from us. We set up quickly as it was very very cold. Keith suddenly couldn’t find the stake bag and we pulled everything out of his pack. Our tent is free standing so stakes are incredibly important. We couldn’t find it anywhere and assumed it had dropped out of his pack somewhere along the line. Feeling slightly defeated we began to think about how we’d set up the tent that night. “There it is” Keith said as he pointed to the bag. It lay on the ground right near the tent, in plain view the whole time. We both couldn’t believe it and quickly set up the tent. As soon as it was up I hopped inside and fluffed up the sleeping bag, crawling in.
Keith soon joined me and we huddled together for warmth before blowing up our pads and heading to bed. It was a long 24 mile day, but it felt great. Neither of us regretted any part of it and we had an absolute blast. I’m just hoping we sleep well tonight in this cold.