Saturday, June 4, 2022

PCT Day 19: Onyx Summit to State Hwy-18 (Mile 252-266)

June 4, 2022
Onyx Summit to State Hwy-18
Mile 252-266
5:09 (moving) / 6:10 (elapsed)
Max 8,4704 feet (+1,132 / -2,836)

See Day 19 Section on YouTube

Pacific Crest Trail – Day 19 

We had high hopes for our next PCT hike as two months have passed since our last time on the trail.  We are finding it's always hard to get all three of our schedules to mesh.  Our last hike was a 3 day, 2 night backpack so hard to follow up.   We are now in the Big Bear Lake area and honestly, I haven't not done a lot of hiking in this area.  It's just far enough away from home, 84 miles to be exact, but that is just far enough away that with drive time a hike is going to be an all day experience, so we did our best to try to plan for a 2 day hike with one night of camping in between.  As (bad) luck would have it Oobrianoo had a family commitment on Sunday so we altered our plan for just a single day. 

Both ends of this section have easy start/stop parking areas adjacent to the trail just off two different state highways.   Meeting location was McDonalds in Big Bear.   Mai and I now have the easier drive only about 1.5 hours from home.   We would leave home at 6:30 and arrive for breakfast by 8:00 a.m.   There could not be a more perfect spring/early summer day.   There are essentially two ways into Big Bear, our last hike we left off at Onyx Summit off of Hwy 38, but this time we headed into Big Bear the other route up State Highway 330 which merges with State Highway 18.   

The sun was shining as we made our up the mountain.  Part of hiking is also traveling and seeing new places.   The spring flowers were still in full bloom on both side of the road which made the ride up to Big Bear all that more special.   The clouds were low in the valley below so it's always spectacular looking down and gazing at cloud cover from above.   There are a couple good spots for viewing the valley below, so we actually pulled the car over to enjoy the view and snap a couple photos.   

Even though we came from two different starting points, we planned well and arrived about the same time in Big Bear.  After enjoying breakfast on the outdoor patio and catching up for a few minutes we plugged our endpoint of our hike into the gps and heading out east of Big Bear.     Our drop off  location for the first car was only about 20 minutes away from breakfast and it was a beautiful drive around the lake.  Big Bear Lake was very low and  Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve was completely dried up.    

We arrived to absolute mayhem at the parking area.  We've never seen a PCT parking area so full before, most of the time there are just a couple others, but there wasn't a single parking spot available.  There were multiple passenger vans parked and music and an aid station for runners/hikers.  I walked around and talked to a couple people.  It ends up there was a charity event for Make a Wish Foundation.  It seemed as if they were doing the two sections of the PCT we had planned over 2 days in a single day.  They started the trail at 4:30 a.m. and by the time we arrived after 9:00 a.m. they had already covered the 14 miles we had planned to do.   We arrived about the time the runners/hikers were crossing this checkpoint.  From the edge of the parking area there was an opening and a great view looking out into the Mojave Desert.   

A car left and opened up a spot for us to leave Oobrianoo's car and we loaded up our gear into my car to head back over to Onyx Summit.   We found a shortcut called Baldwin Lake Road that also went around the (non existent) Baldwin Lake and took us back to State Hwy 38.   Our hike would be 14 miles and it was also nearly 14 miles to our trailhead at Onyx Summit and took us about 20 minutes.  Onyx Summit is 8,443 so even getting out of the car and taking our first few steps we already were breathing heavy.  Oobrianoo packed 2 gallons of water that we carried up a few hundred feet up to the actual PCT and left for any thru hikers passing through.  Others had done the same there were a half of dozen other empty or partially empty water bottles also there.   

The good news about our day is that while we were getting a pretty late start for a 14 mile hike, but most of the day would be downhill.   I finally read our guide the night before our hike and learned that there are multiple truck trail crossings, limited or no water on the hike, and epic views of the Mojave Desert off to the east.   Our day was nothing less than spectacular from start to finish.   Most of the elevation drop was before lunch where we stopped exactly half way at 7 miles.    Just like any other PCT hike our environment constantly changed.  We started out in a wooded area at the higher elevation and as we descended our environment became a little more desert like.   

We had views of the Baldwin Lake basin off and on all day.   The second half of the hike we had the best views of the Mojave Desert.   While we saw a mess of people when we parked our car at our endpoint, we didn't see a single other hiker for the 14 miles.   We did find a little bit of litter apparently left behind from the crowd of hikers doing the charity hike which I picked up and cleared the trail of anything that was left behind by humans.   

There were a couple spots along the first part of the hike were there was some water trickling, but we had packed enough for the day we didn't need to stop.  The second half of the day there was no water.   We did have one forest road crossing where someone had filled an Igloo cooler with some water as well as an Apple and KitKat bar were left inside and it's pretty hard for me to pass up chocolate and since my Hershey bar that I brought along had melted I had to devour the KitKat.

Oobrianoo surprised us at lunch by breaking out his Christmas gift of a DJI drone.  He flew it around and even let me give it a try!   Amazing & even simple to fly.    He also packed some sausage and I had packed cheese and crackers so combining the three made for a spectacular snack.        

Most parts of the PCT so far have been pretty far away from homes and properties, but the end of our day near (non existent) Baldwin Lake we hiked pretty close to a small community of homes including a mega mansion that was spectacular.    

Our car was just over a hill so we didn't see the parking lot until the very last few minutes of our hike.  A family had stopped at the trailhead parking lot and decided to hike up the trail a few hundred feet and they were the only people we saw on the actual trail all day long.   There was a register at the end of the hike as well as a make shift shrine it looks like a neighbor who lives in the area was a thru hiker a few years back and also had a guest register along the trail not far from the parking lot.   A few signs were posted at the parking lot with phone numbers of people you could call for rides from the trail into Big Bear.  Maybe those numbers will come in handy for the next couple of segments around Big Bear where we may have to travel some back country truck trails. 

We all finished in good spirts.  It was the perfect day and we weren't all completely exhausted like most days on the PCT.   The good news is our car at the beginning of the hike was only 20 minutes away and also parked right on the way home.   Our driving for the day we were able to make a nice loop up 330, over 18, and back down 38 so we saw new scenery the entire drive morning and afternoon.  

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