Trip Report
A Winter Traverse of the California section of the PCT Part 2
Wednesday April 19, 2017 9:35am
November 24 2015
I get dropped off north of interstate 10 where I stopped roughly 3 weeks before by my aunt and cousin.

It is nice to be back on the trail. It is a small climb up through wind turbines and a pleasant drop to the Whitewater River. The river reminds me of a glacier stream in Chile with tons of sediment in it. My bottles are full of sediment.
Credit: Jay S
The temperatures are cooler now that it is late November and it is easier to make the big climbs without drenching myself in sweat.
Darkness arrives before I reach Mission Creek and I pass a few flat spots but continue on hoping to find water at Mission Creek at mile 226. There is just a trickle of water flowing but it is better than the sediment filled water in my bottle. I bivy on a flat spot above the stream.

Morning dawns and I get an early start. It is nice to be finally following a stream. The water is somewhat intermittent at times as it disappears unexpectedly.
Credit: Jay S

Credit: Jay S
I make the climb up to the recent burn. It is getting dark again (the days are short) so I camp in the burn under some dead firs. There is a trickle of water flowing that has a strong sulfur taste. I wonder if it is from fire retardant or natural sulfur deposits?

I wake at 5am to a cold 21 degrees. Fortunately it was a calm night and I did not have to worry about trees blowing down. I am walking by 6:30 and make good time to the top. I run into lots of snow above 8,000 feet in the shade. It is a cold day with a high around 40 degrees. Afternoon clouds roll up the valleys and the aspect makes all the difference in temperature. Sun is hot, shade is cold.
Credit: Jay S
At mile 250 I pass some animal cages with a Grizzly Bear (used for Hollywood) that is pacing in circles. I feel bad for the bear as I press on in my unbridled freedom.
Credit: Jay S
I camp on a ridge by Onyx Summit and there is just enough snow for me to scrape up to make water. It is another cold night.
I descend into Arrastre Creek with few big firs and climb up again through mixed terrain and after a 13 mile hike I reach Highway 18.
Credit: Jay S
I manage to hitch a ride into Big Bear City to retrieve my next food drop at the post office. I try to get a room but it is Thanksgiving weekend and everything is full. I get a burger and beer and hitch a ride back to the trail. I climb up Nelson Ridge and get my first view of the southern sierra!
I make a camp on the ridge in a flat spot. It storms in the early evening and clears in the morning. It is 16 degrees in the ice covered tent in the morning. I am out early wearing all of my clothes including mittens. It is a nice walk through a lovely forest around Gold Mountain. There is more snow than I have seen so far. I get my first views of Mount Baldy and the San Gabriels. I drop into Van Dusen Canyon and run into a jogger who tells me it was 12 degrees in town. This is the first person I have seen hiking this section so far. The creek has water after I bust off a thick cover of ice. This is the best tasting water of the trip. Way better than Big Bear Cityís treated water. I take a break in a snow free sunny spot and eat fresh cheese and jerky. I cross the road later and about 50 feet from the road hear a car. It is a forest ranger. How funny that I just missed them?
A little further I bump into Matt (Half Jesus) coming from Canada. We have a good talk and move on.
Below Bertha Peak I see super fresh bear tracks in the snow. I soon crest the ridge and have good cell service and start to call home. I am all of a sudden surrounded by people who are day hiking Bertha Peak. It is hard to have a tearful conversation with my mother with a herd of people around. I walk down to the Cougar Crest trail junction and make a couple of more calls. Heading back right on the PCT the herd thins and soon it is just Half Jesusí tracks and mine. It is super pleasant walking in a few inches of snow with old snow underneath that cushions my sore feet.
Credit: Jay S
The trail starts dropping into Holcomb Creek that has burned years ago. It is wild how fire can so alter a landscape. It takes years for trees to grow back.
Credit: Jay S
There are more views of the San Gabrielís. What a nice day of hiking despite the hordes and a barrage of gunfire that lasts half an hour. All of the roads in this area make this section accessible to the masses of people living nearby.
Little Bear Spring is dry as well as Holcomb creek. I find a nice site across the creek that is snow free as the sun is setting. I scrape snow out of the creek bed for water and have Lasagna with fresh cheese. The cheese is good for the cold. It never got above 40 degrees again today.
Credit: Jay S

It a sunny morning and I move slowly letting the sunís rays arrive in the valley floor before departing. Further along a look down at Holcomb Creek and see what looks to me like a beaver pond. I am surprised to see a beaver pond in southern California. I should have known there are beaver in southern California.
Credit: Jay S
The trail climbs up above Holcomb Creek than drops to Deep Creek. Deep Creek has a good flow even with the drought. I spend the night at the Splinters Cabin sight with plenty of fresh water.
Credit: Jay S
The next morning the trail follows Deep Creek downstream. The trail is never very close to the river but there are good views of pools and beaver ponds.
Credit: Jay S
Across the way there is some significant erosion problems from dirt bikes. I reach Deep Creek Hot Springs and am appalled at the amount of garbage and people here. I take a soak while still wondering about Southern CA beavers.

After a good soak I continue on. The trail follows deep creek downstream along a defunct old water diversion project that used to provide water for Hesperiaís fruit growers. I pass an area of graffitied rocks and reach the spillway of the Mojave Forks reservoir which is an emergency system for wet years that I hope this one will become.
Credit: Jay S
A mountain biker passes me and we chat about my plans and the amount of garbage at the hot spring. He says the next big wet year will scour the canyon clean. I bivy in darkness in the oaks along the creek.

The morning is cold and I have to wade the creek first thing. I wade in just socks and pebbles freeze to my socks when I reach the other side. The sun is soon up and I make the long traverse over to Lake Silverwood.
Credit: Jay S
Silverwoodís water level is very low and there are bags of garbage that litter the shore. Thinking about it more I understand that we bury all of our garbage anyway. So what is the big deal with it being buried in lakes that will eventually silt in? I reach the Cleghorn Picnic Area to discover that the water has been shut off for the season. I bump into State Park Ranger and he tells me I can camp at the State Park and have water and a shower. The power is out so they let me stay for $5. I have a nice sight under a tree. One other party is in the campground plus the Host. The Host is a riot who is a retired Harley Rider. She lives in her RV and moves around. Campground Hosting costs nothing. She dumpster dives in the campground making $400 a month from plastic and aluminum . Beats throwing it in the lake.

In the morning it is a balmy 29 degrees and I am off before 7am. It is another climb up to a traversing ridge. Cell service is the best it has been in a while. There is a lot of green grass in the shaded areas of the trail. I make a call home and my mother assures me it is OK. Itís not though. It is crazy how she can be OK one second and so out there the next. I donít know what to do. I talk to Ben (the guy staying at my place) and get my next shipment sent to Wrightwood. I will have to print maps at the Hotel at I 15 and convenience store shop for the next little bit.
I see an owl in a tree right above the trail and a little later I find a full roll of duct tape on the trail that will be of great us later in the trip.
Credit: Jay S
Dirt bikes have violated this section of trail. It makes me angry even though it is not that big of a deal. The actions of one person doesnít matter, itís when it becomes commonplace that it matters?
It is a fantastic drop down with great views. The trail winds into Chowder Canyon there are three powerlines bringing in power for the unquenchable thirst of LA. All of a sudden you come around a corner and there is Interstate 15. I see my first ever trail sign for McDonalds .4 miles. I hope there is somewhere better to eat.
Credit: Jay S
It is about a mile walk to the Best Western below Cajon Pass. I walk in and get a strange look from the 2 women inside. It turns out there has just been a mass shooting of 14 people in nearby San Bernardino. I assure them it wasnít me.
When approaching civilization the first sounds you hear are the trains. Next is the trucks and finally the hum of the interstate. The hum turns into vibrations that rattle the windows in the Best Western. The smell of brakes is all I can smell outside. Have any environmental studies been done I wonder?
My room is not ready yet so I leave my pack to go eat at the nearby Subway. On the walk up I had casually said to myself thank God there is a Subway. This is where it gets weird. I am eating my sandwich and make eye contact with a well dresses Hispanic. He comes over to me and tells me I am a good man. Then goes on to tell me that the Holy Spirit told him to talk to me. He continues that I am a great man who will do wonderful things. I go along with it because what will it hurt. I finish my sandwich a go to buy some beer like any great man. The man sees me again and tells me to only have two. He then ends up saying a prayer in the middle of the convenience store for me. Again I go along with it but it is strange.
To sum it up this has been my favorite section so far. Lots of water, some snow. Nice forests and minimal people and even a hot spring. Ending with a Christian Venezuelan who assures me God loves me and that I am special.
Credit: Jay S
Dec 3rd 2015
I am not in a hurry to leave the motel. I shop all three gas stations for food for the next few days. Each one has something different to offer. I walk the mile back to the trail and the tunnel underneath Interstate 15. The trail parallels the train track for a while and eventually climbs above.
I climb out on a rock with a good view and drink a tallboy I carried up. It is my birthday!

  Trip Report Views: 2,155
Jay S
About the Author
Jay S is a mountain climber from Silver Gate, Mt.


Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Apr 19, 2017 - 10:41am PT
Nice trip report, Jay.

My girls and I traveled through there years ago and your photos bring back great memories (although I liked the area better before it was burned).
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Apr 19, 2017 - 02:14pm PT
Awesome! That is my

  Apr 19, 2017 - 07:09pm PT
Lovely trip report, I really enjoyed it! The mountain bikers don't seem to understand the damage they are causing to the trail or don't really care (which is probably more accurate).

I hiked Sections A & B in March 2016 and then Section F a few weeks ago as I wanted to hike it while there was water flowing as it is notoriously dry. It was incredibly beautiful. I hope to hike Section C & D next spring. Thanks for sharing!


Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Apr 19, 2017 - 07:53pm PT
Thank you for sharing this!

Trad climber
  Apr 20, 2017 - 06:19am PT
Little bit of snow this year, I was wondering if you would check it out.

Mountain climber
golden, rollin hills of California
  Apr 20, 2017 - 12:44pm PT
Excellent! Thanks.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 20, 2017 - 01:50pm PT
Part 3?
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 21, 2017 - 03:32am PT
Happy belated birthday Jay,
Glad you got to see some southern cal beavers,
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Apr 24, 2017 - 06:39am PT
Based on this wonderful trip report, I would agree that you Are special. Thanks for taking us along for the ride with your wonderful TR. Can't wait for part III.

right here, right now
  Jan 12, 2018 - 06:09am PT
The Host is a riot who is a retired Harley Rider. She lives in her RV and moves around. Campground Hosting costs nothing. She dumpster dives in the campground making $400 a month from plastic and aluminum.

On to part 3: