April 20 (~07:30 – ~19:00)
Little Jimmy Campground – after Three Points junction (20.3 mi / Total: 404.2 mi)
Weather: Good hiking weather. It’s warm, although on the mountain is a cold wind. At lower elevation it’s warm and at times a little overcast. In the evening I walk into the clouds.
I wake up with my shoes right next to me. It’s cold and we’re camping amongst the snow, and I was afraid to freeze them again, as they were wet with snow from yesterday. I definitely don’t want to have another horrible morning squeezing my feet into a pair of icy cold popsicles, so I kept a plastic bag from the supermarket and put them in there, huddling them close to my quilt during the night. It seems to have worked. They are still wet but not cold, certainly not frozen, so putting them back on is not too bad.
While the others wait for me I finish the last morning tasks. I lost the sack for my Kahtoola microspikes, and wonder if I’d left it at the spring a little further back next to the trail yesterday. I have a little browse and luckily find it in the snow nearby – averting a minor disaster. I’m glad I don’t have to spend time chasing this. Then it’s time to make my daily protein drink. I was drinking a light chocolate flavoured Raw Protein & Greens from Garden of Life, which is amazing, but I’ve just run out and replaced it with another organic brand, as I couldn’t find my old one. I tried it for the first time yesterday, and it was the most disgusting drink I’d ever tasted in my entire life. Today I try again, and prepare a bottle, half protein drink and half chocolate milk powder, to try and dilute the eggy taste. I throw it all together and shake it vigorously. I taste it. It’s still disgusting.
When I’m finally ready we follow what’s supposed to be a dirt road out of the campsite. I think this is what it is, at least, because we can’t see – it’s covered in thick, icy snow. We try and get through without putting on our microspikes until we have to give in, this snow isn’t going anywhere. We put our spikes on and suddenly we progress down the hill a lot faster.
We reach Islip Saddle / Highway 2 after another small hiking trail, and we walk up to the snow-free parking lot where the trails up Mount Williamson begin. We meet a few other hikers – they bypassed Mt Baden-Powell and hiked around it instead to avoid the snow. I never thought people would consider not doing Baden-Powell, but quite a few people must be skipping the mountains right now. Not everyone is comfortable enough in the snow to tackle these trails. Even the smaller mountain we’re about to head up this morning is a cause of concern for hikers, and some people roadwalk around it, fearing it’ll be just like Baden-Powell.
I never assumed this climb would be as bad as yesterday, but it doesn’t take long for the switchbacks up to be layered with patches of snow. We still manage to follow the trail up, and it’s nowhere near as bad as yesterday, when the mountain had simply been obliterated by snow. As I ascend I realise I’m tired from yesterday, which isn’t surprising. My body feels lethargic and I quickly fall behind until the others slow down a little.
As we get closer to the high point, the snow disappears again and we marvel over the gorgeous green views of the mountains around us. There’s a thick fog stuck in the valley further away, and it’s an enchanting sight. We all take our time to take pictures, have a quick break and continue separately to the other side of the mountain, where the switchbacks take us down again.
There doesn’t seem to be much snow on this side, and I’m happy to walk alone and be in my own space for some time, and not have think about the others. I continue to take pictures when suddenly the snow is back and I find poor Speedy waiting for me, to check if I want to go down together. I tell her to head down alone – they’re just snow chutes across the trail, and nothing actually too dreadful. In fact, I’m so annoyed about the snow, I decide to be stubborn and force my way down without putting my microspikes on – quite a feat as there’s a bit of a way to go. But it’s okay, the views are grand, the footsteps are deep and I take it slow, step by step.
Once I’m down I cross another highway and follow a short section through a pretty up and downhill, all very rocky with scenic views onto the twirling highway.
Then I’m spat out onto the road once more. There’s a trail closure, to protect the habitat of the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog. Instead of hiking a 3.8 section of the trail, I have a 5 mile detour, of which the first 3 miles follow the road. It’s scenic and I actually quite like the change, and luckily there seems to be a road closure for cars as well, and I only see some cars headed in the opposite direction. It’s great timing, especially as I’m running low on water and find a surprise stream close to the road. I leave my pack and take my bottles to the stream to filter some water. It must be recent snow melt – it tastes amazing. It feels so good to drink water.
After the road walk the alternate follows the Buckhart trail to connect back to the PCT. This is where I find Speedy and Prince again, sitting on top of a table at the trailhead and comparing their feet. I go ahead and feel great. I hike the two mile trail back to the PCT quickly, until it turns into an awkward wide dirt road. Once there, the short but steep ascends are exhausting, and my legs feel heavy. But then it changes again – the PCT is like a scenic rollercoaster today, and now the trail moves through a beautiful forest, my favourite. I love it. I get my energy back with this easy trail, this is turning into a great walk.
Later I see some of the hikers we camped with last night. Apparently they roadwalked around Mt Williamson because they were afraid it was going to be too snowy. I’m happy we didn’t let Baden-Powell scare us off. I wouldn’t want to roadwalk around sections and realise it wasn’t necessary at all.
After a break the trail moves up one last time, and then it’s mostly down for the rest of the day. The trail intersects the highway constantly but it’s quite an easy walk and I enjoy the simplicity of it. Towards the end of the day I move into a whole new area once again. I walk into a burnt forest and walk right into the cloud we saw this morning from Mt Williamson. Now it’s just a few more kilometres in the chill of the evening and I find Speedy and Prince just back at the edge of the cloud, in the sun. I immediately set up my tent.
This morning feels so far away.