PCT DAY 9: Mile 155 – Idyllwild (off the PCT)
Friday April 22, 2016: 22 miles (35km)
It has been hard to decide which route to take to get to Idyllwild since a section of the trail that passes near it, is closed due to a fire in 2013. The area is still recovering and revegetating. Hikers were advised not go beyond mile 152 at Highway 74 before checking with the latest PCT updates. An unoffical alernative has been published. But there were several alternatives. The one I know we would not be choosing was to hitch into town, a distance of 17 miles from Paradise Valley Cafe. We chose our own version. We walked out to mile 155 on the PCT and camped last night then walked back south to Highway 74. From here we walked along the highway until we overlapped with the unofficial deviation route at Forbes Rd, which we then followed all the way to Idyllwild. It ended up being a lot longer walking on the road then we figured. Several cars pulled up and offered us a ride to Idyllwild but we declined. At no stage were we even tempted. We figured we signed up for a walk and that is what we will be doing. All up ended up walking 22 miles which took us 9 hours. While it was another hot day, we had a cooling breeze all day which made for very comfortable hiking conditions.
The walk back to Highway 74 from mile 155 was fantastic. The warm glow of the sunrise was reflecting off the sandstone turning the landscape into a pink hew. We passed a couple of trail runners heading out for their morning run. How fortunate they are to have this on their doorstep.
Reaching Highway 74 it was still early morning, we passed a Canadian couple we met at Mikes place 2 days ago. They said they camped with nearly 40 other hikers at mile 149. Ahhh….within striking distance of breakfast at the Paradise Valley Cafe. So pleased we were just ahead of this hiker bubble.
The walking along the Highway was OK early on. The air was still cool and the smell of the pines was lovely. Just like at Mt Laguna, a sweet, warm berry smell. Hard to believe we are surounded by desert. We passed mainly horse ranches. At one mail drop location there was a news-stand and I saw the headline about Prince passing away. Such a sad loss of a unique talent. Seems way to young
Getting off the Highway could not come soon enough. Once we were back on a trail we started to ascend gradually. We passed another burnt. The trail was a narrow corridor through the burnt area. Above the burnt section, the forest was springing into life. After seeing so much burnt vegetation it was beautiful to see the contrast of budding leaves on trees just starting to open up.
On reaching the paved roads on the outskirts of Idyllwild we felt a certain sense of achievement. A milestone we were so looking forward to. Unfortunately for us almost everything in town was booked out for this weekend. We found out that there is a music festival this weekend being held in nearby Palm Desert. Coachella is the largest music festival in the US. So rather then the luxury of our own hotel room and an endless shower, we are camping at a bargain price of $3 each and $1 for a 4 minute shower at a local State Park. Even so, our first shower in 10 days was damn nice. Even nicer was the 16″ pizza we devoured later in the evening. A full rest day tomorrow, yipee.