Great Western Loop: Day 194 - 202: Tehachapi to Big Bear Lake
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Day 194: The canyon (25miles)
I took the 9:30am bus back to Highway 58 and started the day, where i had stopped the day before.
For the first 6-8miles i hiked through yet another windpark and refilled my water at the Willow Springs Road cache as absolutely no natural water sources were available.
After crossing the road i followed another gentle 2,100ft (640m) climb to the "cafe". The "cafe" is another cache that often has some fruit and other goodies for hikers, as well as some chairs to rest.
The views from the top were again awesome. The next 32miles are dreaded by every Nobo-Hiker and often done at night. The trail goes straight into the Mojave desert and provides almost no shade or water for a day. For me going Sobo it was a little bit easier, as the first 16miles were an easy downhill hike.
As in 2018 i ended up camping in the Tylerhorse Canyon, a somewhat sheltered place in the otherwise open desert.
Out of 5 available spots i chose exactly the same one, i had used in 2018 and prepared my tent for a wet and windy night, as predicted by the weather forecast.
(The Mojave desert)
Day 195: Hikertown (33miles)
The night had been rough. Once again the wind had hit my tent really hard and the canyon provided little shelter. It felt more like a wind channel and the wind lasted until the morning of day 195. A little bit of rain had come down, but not enough to cause any problems.
I quickly packed my stuff and hiked out into the freezing cold and wet desert. The visibility was limited and those windmills looked like silent guardians of the desert.
For most of the day i now followed some roads through the windpark and later on the Los Angeles Aquaeduct road.
(...and sunshine later on)
(That's where i was in the early morning...impressive cloud formation)
Around noon i passed another group of hikers: Andie, Mousetrap and Juice. They had camped just a few miles south of my position, but have had no rain at all.
At 2pm i got to Hikertown, called Neenach's Cafe for a ride and did a quick resupply. I ate a hamburger and a burrito and got back to Hikertown, when Mousetrap and Co. arrived. I contemplated staying in this weird place, but than decided to hike another 9miles.
(Hikertown is a makeshift place with some very simple themed cabins for hikers)
(That's the desert i crossed that day. In the far distance you can see the windpark i walked through)
Day 196: Business as usual (35miles)
A rather uneventful day, dominated by views of the desert and a major burn area.
In the early afternoon i passed PCT mile marker 500 for those hikes going northbound. Unfortunately this area had burned to the ground earlier this year.
I didn't meet any other hikers that day and only stopped for a total of 30mins. The terrain was easy and so i didn't need a lot of breaks. For the first time in days i also found a spring with flowing water, to refill my bottles.
Day 197: Agua Dulce and Acton (30miles)
I had camped 20miles from the small town of Agua Dulce, where i arrived in the early afternoon. The morning had been rather hot with temperatures around 80°F (26°C) and no shade. Water remained scarce, but made the stop at the "Homemade Restaurant" even more pleasant. I remembered that place from 2018 and enjoyed a great Denver Omelette and a Strawberry - Crepes desert, while also taking a Breakfast Burrito out on trail. I did a small dirt bag resupply at the local liquor store and than moved on towards Acton, passing through the Vasquez Rock formation.
(View of the mountains i would climb tomorrow)
I stopped just before 6pm at the Acton KOA (Kampground of America...yes, they spell it with "K"...). Unfortunately, there was no power and no chance for me to do my laundry, but it didn't make sense to further that day.
Day 198: The long climb (34miles)
Day 198 looked rough on my map. A climb of more than 8,000ft (2,450m) waited for me. Fortunately, it was a gentle climb and i made great progress after an early start.
(Way in the back is Agua Dulce, had to climb all the way up...)
At Mill Creek Fire Station - an important stop to get water - i met two bikers who questioned me about my trip. It was a nice break from a rough day, but i wanted to push on. Unfortunately, the trail became very annoying. Most of the trail was overgrown with thick thorn bushes that cut into my legs and clothing. Nevertheless i managed to hike 34miles and got close to the Bobcat fire closure, which would force me to hike a lot of road tomorrow.
Day 199: The road (33miles)
I felt yesterdays rough climb, when i woke up on day 199.
It didn't take long to reach Highway 2 and the fire closure at the Three Points Trailhead.
The closure was actually rather nice for me. Instead of hiking an awful lot of up's and down's the highway climbed gently into the mountains and never reached the height of Mt. Baden-Powell. It also cut about 8miles of total distance.
It was sad not being able to climb Mt. Baden-Powell, but news about an incoming storm quickly changed my focus again.
I finished the roadwalk close to Vincent's Gap and got back on trail. Just a few miles later, i met Mr. Roboto again, as he was watching a bobcat on a dirt road. We had met at Crater Lake, when i got to camp in the darkness, but he still remembered me.
The days roadwalk had saved some time and i figured that i would be able to push to Cajon Pass with the food remaining in my pack. So i skipped the lovely town of Wrightwood and headed for Guffy Campground, where i met a few other hikers.
(Amazing sunset at Guffy Campground, just before another windy night)
Day 200: Downhill!! (38miles)
Day 200 presented one of the biggest downhill sections on trail. More than 6,500ft (2,000m) over 22miles.
The views in the early morning were amazing. I was high above the clouds and could see the Lancaster city lights in the sunrise.
After 2 or 3 hours of hiking i descended through the clouds and into a cold and wet environment. I continued towards Cajon Pass, which is just a main highway intersection that leads into nearby Los Angeles. I briefly stopped at the McDonalds for some food and bought a few snacks at the gas station next door.
(It took almost 5minutes for the train to pass this section. Must have been several miles long)
My next goal was reaching Silverwood Lake. My initial idea was to stay at the state park's campground for 5 USD, but when i got there at 6pm, i still felt great and wanted to move on. I still had the incoming storm in mind and every aditional mile hiked, would increase my chance of reaching Big Bear Lake, before the storm would hit me.
I knew that camping close to the lake was difficult, due to a very narrow trail, but i managed to find a dry riverbed in the darkness, where i slept pretty well.
Day 201: Hot Springs (31miles)
I left the riverbed just before sunrise and followed an easy trail with minor up's and down's. Several trail runner's passed me on this sunday morning.
The weather was perfect for hiking and the scenery pretty nice.
In the late morning i got closer to a dam, where some locals were hunting / shooting right next to the trail. I didn't feel comfortable at all and moved on quickly.
(No water at the dam)
The trail than followed the Deep Creek River, one of the very few flowing water sources in this area. The creek is famous for some hot springs, which i reached 2hours later. Unfortunately, these hot springs were occupied by a lot of weekend travellers, who came via a nearby road.
I only stopped for lunch at the springs and than moved on.
(Jeeeeez, what a muscle...)
I camped at Holcomb Creek, just 20miles away from Big Bear and took extra care in pitching my tent, for the potential rain that was scheduled for the next day.
Day 201: The storm (21miles)
When i started hiking i could already see some very dark clouds in the distance, but it was still dry and nice at my campsite.
A small mountain range between me and Big Bear Lake shielded me from the bad weather, but i knew i had to cross it later on.
When i got to Little Bear Campsite i was just a few miles away from the storm and the wind picked up. The sound was incredible and quite scary, making me look for potentially falling trees and branches all the time.
(Composting toilet with a view at Little Bear Campsite)
Upon reaching the top of the mountain range, the storm hit me hard. I was only 5miles from downtown and pushed on hard, to get out of the cold and miserable rain.
(Usually you'd have a great view on Big Bear Lake from here)
I got to the Von's supermarket around noon and while i was waiting in line at the register, the power in the entire town went out. The storm had taken a few powerlines down and it took a while to get everything back on. This was really annoying, as i couldn't check in to my motel room or do any kind of errands. After a week without shower and two weeks without doing my laundry, i just wanted to feel like a human being again.
When the power was finally back on, i checked in and ran immediately back to town, to get my laundry done. Wearing only my raingear i was freezing in the rain and waited for my laundry in a nearby restaurant.
Back in the motel i received a flash flooding warning for the entire area on my cell phone and learned that San Francisco had just experienced the 4th rainiest day in the cities history.
Day 202: Final prepararions (0miles)
I stayed in town the next day, waiting for my new shoes to arrive. My Altra Lone Peak 5.0 had "lasted" an amazing 900miles, but now badly needed to be replaced.
I also used that day, to once again check my plans for the upcoming final section of my hike.
Here in Big Bear Lake, i will leave the PCT and finally head east back to Flagstaff, Az. A major milestone for me.
With only ~600miles left, i could be done in about 3 weeks - if my plan and route works out.
There's a lot of uncertainty involved. No trail exists for these 600miles and i will face some serious water carries through the Sonoran desert and snow just before Flagstaff.