Tahquitz Peak Trail / PCT

Papa Rob was in town and we thought that would be a great excuse for a bit of a hike. We were going to try some desert hiking but the thought of being out in the heat all day long wasn’t very appealing and the San Jacinto Wilderness was calling us. So, we decided to head off to Idyllwild to climb Tahquitz Peak by way of the Devil’s Slide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

We gathered at 7:30am and Jess whipped up a huge breakfast of oatmeal and eggs. We packed our bags and off we went! Driving up we had amazing views of the hills as we climbed, but it was when we reached town that we really got a taste of what was to come. Idyllwild is such a beautiful little place. We visited the ranger station and picked up our permits for the stay. They said that we had perfect weather – 65 degrees during the day with overnight lows of 45 deg. We were excited!

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The trail to the peak starts at Humber Park, and since it was a Saturday and such fine weather it was really crowded. We ended up parking the car about half a mile down the road – and what seemed like 500 feet below the trail-head! We had to slowly make our way up the steep road to the trailhead.

Climbing up the road towards Tahquitz Peak
Climbing up the road towards Tahquitz Peak

But that was nothing! The Devil’s Slide Trail is quite a tough climb, gaining 1620 feet of altitude in 2.4 miles. Coupled with the altitude and our heavy packs, we really moved slowly and took a long time to get to the top! It was a beautiful, scenic climb though and the views of nearby Suicide Rock as it gradually went from looming above us to sitting below were worth all the effort.

Discussing navigation while breastfeeding
Discussing navigation while breastfeeding
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Tahquitz peak
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Suicide Rock

This time of year the PCT is busy with thru-hikers. We met many thru-hikers on their way from Mexico to Canada, including Crazy Knees, Captain Kristy, Rainmaker, Shark Rider and Two Hat. Every one of them stopped for a minute to tell us about their trip so far and have a quick chat. These guys are really inspiring!

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Shark-Rider posing with me and Gabriel. He was carrying a guitar on his thru-hike.
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Captain Kristy and Rainmaker on their way into town.

We passed Saddle Junction, crossed the PCT and headed into Tahquitz Valley where we found a beautiful open meadow with a tiny stream running through it. There were patches of snow and a small group of deer went quietly by. We set up our camp a few hundred feet from the trail in a little rocky area underneath some huge pine trees. In a stroke of energy, Jess had sewed some fleece to some left over sleeping quilt fabric (breathable syl-nylon) and made us each camp pillows (pink for her, blue for me).  The air was still and cool and Gabriel serenaded us with harmonica, prompting an impromptu concert with Papa Rob joining in on the claps, and me on the ones and twos.

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Setting up camp – note the pillows!
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Sunset over the meadow
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Mountain men

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Jess heated up and rehydrated a veggie curry she’d made last year and we ate it all up – delicious! We took a little walk to the meadow and back to watch the sun set over the trees, and head back to bed. Overnight the temperature did indeed get to 45 degrees. I was warm and very comfortable, feeling very happy with myself. Gabriel slept like a log after his hard day of hiking. Jess, on the other hand, was very cold and didn’t sleep too well. She said she couldn’t stop the cold air getting in her back under the quilt. It seems that I was hogging the quilt and she wasn’t able to get the draft stoppers under her! Oops, sorry Jess!

Since there were no mosquitos to speak of we didn’t bother to put up the net-tent and just slept under the tarp. We had tons of space and it was great watching the light change all around us by looking under the edges at the tree-bases.

We woke up, had a cup of green tea and some oatmeal and headed out for our day. Since we’d only made about 2 miles per hour the previous day we were pleasantly surprised to be traveling at near 3.5 miles per hour today. This was probably a combination of our packs containing less water, the less steep terrain and maybe us being a bit acclimated to the 8,000 foot altitude.

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Good morning!

Turning on to the PCT we felt a surge of energy – this magical trail! After reaching a saddle we turned off to the Tahquitz Peak Lookout trail and climbed up, having to dodge a big pile of snow on the edge of the mountain. To say the view from the lookout was epic or awesome really would not be doing it justice. Words can’t describe it.

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PCT signpost on the top of a huge mountain!
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Stoked to be on the PCT!

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The view from near the top

We headed back and made fantastic time down the hill, past rocky cliffs, through forests and next to tiny mountain springs. Gabriel had a little nap on board his daddy’s back and so we continued while he was content, arriving back at Humber Park about 11am.

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Happy Mothers’ Day!

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Returning to the trailhead we saw a familiar face, a thru-hiker we’d met the day before in exactly the same place! She had gone into town to run some errands. She had flown in from South Africa specifically in order to thru-hike the PCT and was having an absolute blast. We had a good chat and eventually the subject turned to food. We gave her some dehydrated tuna casserole – my mum’s recipe and an all-time favorite – and off she went, next stop Big Bear! Good luck!

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Sharing some home-cooked tuna casserole with a PCT thru-hiker from South Africa