The fire closure North of I-10. Made for an interesting day today. I camped 17 miles from the interstate to have a shot to make all the bus stops. I awoke at 3:45 and was off at 4:20. I ran across Robin at about 5 am just after he left his camp about two miles further. We leapfrogged each other most of the morning. We both had the same plan, so it’s not odd that we ended up at the same place at the same time.
Even though the trail was almost all downhill, it was harder than we expected with rocks and eroding slopes and it took a long time to get to the valley floor. And it was hot… Blistering hot. But very breezy. I was not able to use my umbrella most of the day because it was too windy. The entire valley is a giant wind farm.
Just as the trail leaves the mountains and enters the desert floor, there is a water spigot provided by the city of Palm Desert water supply. There’s not much shade, but a quick reapplication of sunscreen and a quick fill of the water bottles and it’s time to head across the desert floor. We have about three or four miles to I-10, then a 5 mile road walk along a service road to the casino to catch a bus. There is a famous trail angel hostel, Ziggy and the Bear, that we will miss. But that doesn’t matter, as we have heard that Ziggy and the Bear closed just a few days ago. Sigh.
We hit the road walk at about 12:30 and walked over 7 miles into a stiff 40 mph wind until 3:15 when we finally made it to the Indian casino. We were able to catch the #2 bus to the Walmart at 3:45, but when we got there, our connecting bus was leaving. We missed it, and it was the last bus of the day heading to the bus terminal. We were able to grab a quick lunch and get an Uber ride to the connecting terminal and get there 10 minutes before the last bus to Big Bear pulled out. The ride out reminded me of the bus ride to Campo with its twisty road so I started having flashbacks of the bus breaking down on us. But we arrived safely and got dropped off one block from the hostel and got checked in quickly.
The hostel owner informed us that the fire closure we just walked and bused around was not closed and has never been closed. I find that hard to believe, but who knows.
There are three independent sources on the internet, including the forest service saying that it is closed, so better safe than sorry. [Post hike: I never found a trustworthy answer until my very last day approaching Canada, where one of the hikers I was with told me first hand that he had walked straight through the trail to Big Bear about two weeks before I got there and there was no closure.]
We did not have time for anything other than resupply, as it was nearly 8 PM already and one of the guests had a car and was driving to the grocery so we quickly did that first after a quick stop at the sporting goods store for fuel. By the time we got back from the grocery it was just past 9 and we had a very hard time finding a restaurant still open, but we finally found one. It was now after 10 and after showers, we did not get to sleep until 11.
[Post hike: You will notice the huge 70 mile difference in the trail mileage markers. The bus from I-10 to Big Bear cut out probably 50 miles of the trail. This section, the short 3-4 miles outside of Idyllwild, and about a half mile near Hiker Town a few hundred miles further are the only sections to break my continuous hike. It doesn’t feel good to miss a section. I don’t mind alternates, as most of the time they were more fun than the official trail. But I was hoping for a completely unbroken hike to Canada. It’s frustrating when these fires were five years ago and the trail is still closed and we were not even sure if the trail was truly closed or not. Fire is a massively destructive force on this part of the country. The other two sections did not sting because they were so small, but this was a large chunk of trail that I missed and it still leaves a small hole in my heart over a year later.]
We are sleeping in late so we can arrange for a ride to the trailhead around 8 or 9. It’s 8 miles to the trail from where we are, so I’d rather not start the day with another long road walk.