The proposed hiking plan that led us to Idyllwild, CA was a very ambitious 11 mile, 4,400 foot elevation change round-trip to the peak of Mount San Jacinto. While we love challenging hikes, the trailhead for this hike was 6 miles down the highway and we also love not driving the van in the middle of campground stays. Anyway, the peak was snow-capped so we were not even sure the trail would be passible all the way to the top. Ultimately, we decided on another, less ambitious hiking route.
From Idyllwild campground we walked along the main road (243), to the Deer Springs trailhead. We took in the panoramic views at Suicide Rock (an unfortunate name for a beautiful view point) then continued on Deer Springs past a campground called Strawberry Junction (sadly, too early in the year for mountain strawberries) and walked along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for just a little while. Altogether, we hiked around 12 miles with 3600 feet of elevation gain. We definitely could have made the peak, conditions permitting.
Very few other hikers shared the trail with us, but we did talk to one man. As we stood at the junction of Deer Springs Trail and the PCT, deciding which way to turn, the man came up to us as asked if we planned on staying overnight. Since our storage space in the van is constrained, we only have our large overnight packs with us, and use them for even day hikes. Carrying the large packs, it does look like we are camping. The hiker was concerned for us, and came to warn us that a snow storm was coming through that night. I was aware of the snow storm, because when I renewed our campsite that morning the park ranger said “are you SURE you want to stay two more nights?” and explained that the park entrance would be as icy as a luge the next morning. We assured our concerned hiker that, despite our huge packs, we were only out for a day hike. As promised, the snow storm came through overnight dropping six inches of snow on us, but it melted quickly and the roads were clear by the end of the day.
Most of the hike was through pine forests, with the largest pine cones I have ever seen scattered at our feet. From what I have seen at various park museums, I believe these to be Sugar Pine trees. On the small section of the PCT we hiked the trail came out of the forest into a steep mountain garden. Low colorful plants formed a dense ground cover, decorating the mountainside. The trail offered sweeping views of the mountain ridges to the south. We savored the view and change of scenery before heading back down. Standing on this small section of the PCT I decided that I want to section hike this trail. As I discussed previously, I don’t think thru-hiking is for me, but this trail traverses through such amazing wild landscapes, and I want to see them all!
March 31, 2014