We left Idyllwild (and Infrared) in the mid-afternoon, after having ice cream for lunch. The four of us, Horizon, Merkel, Captain Dead weight, and myself, walked through town and eventually reached a trail that would connect us back to the PCT.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and there were a lot of people out hiking. The Ernie Maxwell trail took us up in elevation and in a few miles ended at the Devil’s slide trail. The views looking out were amazing and the trail was well covered by trees so it was very pleasant walking. The loamy earth beneath my feet compressed with every step, giving me an extra spring and renewed energy.
The going got tougher though, as we continued to climb and it got cooler and darker. Just before sunset we reached Saddle junction and the PCT again.
We were at 8,100′ in elevation and had climbed 2,600′ since leaving Idyllwild. It was getting dark so we quickly found a campsite and got into our sleeping bags to stay warm. It was the highest elevation I had slept at yet on the trail and I put all of my layers on, preparing for it to be the coldest night so far.
The temperature did not drop below freezing so I enjoyed a comfortable night snuggled beneath the pines.
As always, we were up with the sun and hiking by 6:30 am. We had all decided to take an alternate route of the PCT and summit Mt. San Jacinto and we had a lot of walking to do.
Several miles into the climb we encountered the first snow of the trip. It was only patchy sections in the shade for the most part, but a few areas were quite covered.
From where we slept, it was still 2,700 vertical feet to the summit and some sections of the trail were pretty steep. That combined with my pack weight made the going slow, although the fresh mountain air, bird songs, and soft footing made the weight seem lighter.
By mid morning, Horizon and I had reached the summit where we found one of the best mountain huts ever.
We signed the trail register with the following couplet:
“Mt. San Jac–snowy and granite peak
We’ll be back, but first Canada we seek”
From the summit we could see Palm Springs and several other large cities in the distance. I didn’t even know there were mountains that high in southern California and San Jacinto is not even the highest peak.
Horizon was feeling the altitude with our quick ascent so we didn’t hang out at the top for too long.
As we descended, we passed through a pine forest with huge boulders. Everything smelled fresh and clean.
Eventually we left the trees behind and came out into a scrubby landscape that has hot and exposed. We slowly made our way down the trail which was a series of long switchbacks. As the sun set we found a small flattish area only partially covered in bushes where we set up camp for the warmest night’s sleep yet. The next day we were headed to Snow Creek.