PCT Section 5 – Big Bear Lake to El Cajon

We enjoyed Big Bear Lake loads: having a beer at the micro brewery, life in the hot tub and catching up with family. We then had Taco Bell for breakfast/ lunch.

To get back to the trail head we took three lovely hitches. The first guy was buying his wife a boat so room was cramped; the second were a mother and daughter who had an adorable puppy and who were super excited about our trip, and the third was a hotel owner who was heading to the trail to see if anyone wanted a room. It feels like we are in a great rhythm now and the miles have started to breeze past. After a few hours we met some older people who were driving around and taking in the scenery. They had some amazing stories, like an 80 year old who had travelled through 26 countries by motorcycle at the age of 18, and a lovely couple in their 70s who were originally Dutch. Joal spoke to them for a while and was pleased that for once he could speak the better Dutch!

We ended up camping with the British couple we had met at the campsite in Idyllwild, which was nice as we were able to bond a little more than just pleasantries. It’s great that you keep meeting the same folks, especially if you haven’t seen them in a couple days. This night was the first night it went below freezing which tested our gear. Due to the cold weather we have to sleep with our battery packs and our water filter in our sleeping bag. This is because if these go below freezing the batteries will drain and the water filter will no longer work. Thankfully everything held up well and our sleeping bag was warm enough, although we realised both of us need a hat for the colder nights.

We ended up doing ten miles that afternoon before camping on a ridge with the British couple we met in Idyllwild. After a cold night we headed down the valley. This meant we were in for warmer weather. The day started off with us walking through an old burn area, which wasn’t the prettiest but was still a great sight. On the plus side, Jenny did find a pine cone that was bigger than her head! If that fell on you it could cause some serious damage!

The day was fairly easy as the water carries were about 5 miles and the temperature was in the 20s. We ended up doing 23 miles which was the furthest we’ve gone so far.

That day we spent time walking with the other British couple we had camped with, bonding over James Blunt songs. The upshot of this is that Pete’s trail name is now Blunty, although Americans don’t really understand who James Blunt is.

We crossed several streams where we filtered our water and then camped after 22 miles at a nice river. We went to sleep with frogs croaking and the sound of trickling water.

The next day we followed the river down, crossing bridges several times. At one point we met a snake that would not move off the path. This was a little concerning but after about 10 minutes and a pop tart break it dug a hole and moved out of the way.

We visited some hot springs at noon which were awesome. These are natural hot springs that are enjoyed by PCT hikers and liberal locals. In the afternoon we hiked with Paige and Charlotte which made the final 5 miles fly. It’s great when you have others to take your mind off of things.

We ended up camping with a group of 20. It is very evident now that there are groups forming that are going at the same pace. That said he trail still feels super quiet compared to the UK, as there are not as many day hikers on the trail.

Breakfast was provided by a great trail angel called Coppertone. He did the PCT back in 2006 and now travels the trail helping our hikers and living out of a van. His setup was great with breakfast bagels and donuts and fresh fruit. We spoke about van-life and life on the road.

After an easy downhill we hit a wall of rocks, not knowing why this existed. After a couple more miles this became apparent why. On the other side of a ridge we hit a massive man made lake which turned into a great lunch spot. We even went in!

After an encounter with a golden rattlesnake we made it to a camp spot from which you could order pizza! We also received some trail magic from two lovely ladies and Snackpack’s brother, who had driven 20+ hours to see her. That night was the busiest campsite with over 25 tents.

The next morning we woke to do 15 miles to a legendary spot on the PCT, the McDonald’s. The walk was amazing with beautiful views of a mountain we’ll be climbing on the way to our next resupply spot. Joal will be doing the McDonald’s challenge to there, which is trying to get by on only McDonald’s food for the 30 miles of uphill to the next town. This climb will be our hardest yet as there is no water, so there is an extra 6kg of water we will both need to carry. As a result we stayed in a hotel room with 6 other hikers to rest up before the big climb. This hotel came with a pool and a hot tub!

This last week on the PCT has been brilliant. We seem to have found a rhythm and our legs are slowly getting used to the bludgeoning we are putting them through. The kindness from random strangers we’ve received has made the trail an amazing experience so far. We’ve gone 340 miles to date and are really glad we chose this as our challenge.

4 thoughts on “PCT Section 5 – Big Bear Lake to El Cajon

Add yours

  1. So pleased you’ve settled into it now and are loving it so much. Has Jenny got a trail name yet? Amazing pictures. xxx


  2. Micro brewery, McDonald’s, hot tubs, it’s tough going!! You are continuing to meet such lovely friendly people and the trail angels must be a real bonus. Super pictures and what a challenging environment.


  3. The trail angels, what lovely people to give their time to others to spur them on, excellent. You all deserved the hot tub and rest, well done you two JJs.
    Love gran xx


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