Steve dropped us off at the trailhead around 7:30, having picked up Diogenes in town. He had tried to hitch to where he left the trail but found the road was closed because of the snow and rode back into town. I think it was just too early when he hitched out, as it was open when we got there. We also said goodbye to Frankenstein, who is suffering with a knee injury so is going to rest up for a bit. It was a really sad moment for all of us as we’ve enjoyed hiking together. He’s a great guy with some great stories and a unique perspective on things. He’s going to rest up at the Wrightwood Mission camp where beds are $10 a night until his knee feels better. Hopefully not too long.
We realised Chug had left his hat in the truck, so we waited a while to see if Steve would drive back past the trailhead after dropping Diogenes off further down the road. After 45 minutes waiting with our feet in the snow, we gave up and set off towards mount Baden Powell with Starfish, Honey Stick, Wendybird and Junior.
By the time we hit the first trail junction, we realised that hiking through melting snow was hard enough and that hiking through deep, frozen snow in a cloud would probably be no fun. We decided to hike the High Desert alternate route: approximately the same length and the same elevation change although instead of up then down we went down then up.
The Manzanita trail was poorly named, with only a couple of obvious Manzanitas along it in comparison to parts of the PCT. It was also not in great condition, pretty rocky and unstable in parts. But it took us only a short time to reach South Fork campground where we stopped for lunch. I cut down the new foam pad and folded it into four to fit in the slot in my pack. We had a strange exchange with some car campers when we were looking for water. We asked if there was water, and they asked if we meant drinking water. They hadn’t seen a tap, but there was a stream close by. They didn’t seem to understand how we could drink out of the stream. By our standards though, a stream is a quality water source: flowing and clear. We can drink anything with our filters and water treatment chemicals. Puddles filled with floaties will do (and have done) as long as there is water in there.
It was a pretty steep climb out of the canyon, and by now we were on part of the Endangered Species closure re-route. The trail is closed to protect the yellow-legged frog, and there is an official alternate in place although most people choose to road walk as it is much shorter in terms of miles. Our Manzanita trail plus half of the official alternate was as long as the Baden Powell part of the PCT so we picked up the trail at mile 386 along with everyone else. By the time we got to the trailhead though, the clouds had rolled in and it was getting cold. We had the option of hiking up and over the hill for several miles, road walking for fewer miles, or hitchhiking to the end of the trail closure. In the end we went with the latter: none of us enjoy road walking and the clouds, temperature and late hour made the trail option unattractive.
We got a ride with Brett, a Wrightwood trail angel, and Gazelle. Gazelle is a thru hiker who was taking a zero day to deal with a shoulder injury as well as contact friends out in Nepal where they just had the earthquake. They took us to the Buckhorn campground where we camped with Front Page and Animal’s brother Dustin. We had to scrape the snow off the ground so we could pitch our tents, and settled in for a cold night. It has been a mixed up sort of day, with not much hiking, and even less in the way of actual PCT miles. Weird.
Miles: 15.5m trail + 8.6m hitch round trail closure
Camping: mile 394 Buckhorn Campground