Great Western Loop: Day 203 - 205: Big Bear to Chiriaco Summit
Day 203: Wild Wild West (35miles)
The storm had passed and i left Big Bear on a sunny morning. I hiked for quite a while through some laid back neighborhoods, before getting to the outskirts of town.
My plan was to cross the PCT and take a dirt road into Pioneertown, some 35miles away.
Just a mile before crossing the PCT i hit a fence and several "no trespassing" signs. A minute before a car had passed me and now turned around. In it, the caretaker of that property. He didn't allow me to pass through, but showed me an alternate route back to the trail.
I hit the PCT for a few minutes and than hiked cross-country to the dirt road.
The desert and its Joshua Tree's were stunningly beautiful, but dry. I knew that i wouldn't find any water before getting into Pioneertown. Suprisingly enough, there were actually quite a few houses and campervans out here.
I had no idea what to expect from Pioneertown. The only thing i knew, was that there's a small General Store. That's all i needed. Upon entering the "town" i felt like being in a time capsula.
Old Saloon's, Windmills and wooden barrels reminded me of Wild Wild West Hollywood movies.
I talked to the owner of the General Store for a while and learned that the town indeed works as a tourist attraction and movie set, even though some people do live here.
After a short break i followed the road down into Yucca Valley and stayed close to town.
Day 204: Joshua Tree National Park (34miles)
I left Yucca Valley early in the morning and hiked about 12miles to the west entrance of the national park, my last water source for the next 50-60miles.
I passed a long line of cars waiting in line and got lucky, as one of the rangers opened another window just for me.
Both rangers at the entrance station gave me a rather weird and concerned look, when i explained my plans. "You do realize how big this park is and that there is no water in the park, right?!", one of the rangers said. I did...and so i filled up 7liters of water to make it all the way from the West Entrance Station to the Cottonwood Visitor Center in one day and one night.
It was a brutal afternoon. My pack was heavy and slowed me down significantly, shade was nowhere to be found and the temperatures exceeded 90°F (32°C).
I hiked all day to the White Tank Campground.
Unfortunately, this - as well as all previous campsites, was full. Dispersed camping was not permitted, but hiking on was no option for me, as the next campsite was another 27miles away. So, i waited for nightfall and found a secret and hidden place behind some rocks, where i spent the night.
Day 205: Cactus plains (40,5miles)
To avoid some of the day's heat and being caught by a ranger, i started way before sunrise.
A bright moon and amazingly clear skies, full of stars made hiking along the road easy and i made good progress.
Just after sunrise i stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden, a beautiful place for a short breakfast break.
Several cars had already stopped here and a friendly couple from California gave me a handful of strawberries.
That break, the strawberries, an amazing sunrise and music filled me with so much energy that i kept singing and dancing along the road towards the Cottonwood Visitor Center.
Later that morning, I crossed the Pinto Basin and endured the extreme heat of the day. Every now and than a car stopped to ask me, if i was alright, as i was the only true hiker in the park.
By 2pm i made it to the Visitor Center and finally had access to water again. I had run out, just a mile earlier and now cameled up for the next stretch down to Chiriaco Summit.
(Trying to protect myself from the sun...actually worked really well wearing the hoodie like that...)
I arrived at Chiriaco Summit at 5pm and ordered a burger at a small restaurant. A few minutes later Tom sat down next to me and started talking to me. He was so impressed by my story, that he told everyone else in the restaurant about it and paid for my apple pie and a small resupply. Thanks Tom!
From here on, i hiked another 2miles to get away from the busy town, which wasn't much more than a gas station, a restaurant and a General Patton museum.