Thursday, May 23, 2019 – 4 miles
The hotel wouldn’t hold my backpack after I checked out in the morning, so I carried it around as I completed my remaining chores: mailing the remnants of my bounce box to the Acton KOA, leaving extra food in the hiker box and picking up a forgotten item at the grocery store. The clerk at the checkout pointed out a rack of free items available for hikers, most of which were travel-sized toiletries. It’s like a subtle ‘don’t disgust the other tourists, k?’.
Outside I met Medicine Man, who had previously lived in Wrightwood and was able to provide some info on the South Fork Trail/High Desert National Recreation Trail alternate for the PCT Endangered Species Closure north of Eagles Roost. The closure has been in place for many years with no end in sight (the original PCT signage has been removed, so hold no hope in your heart). The SFT/HDNRT alternate is the ‘official’ detour, but much longer than the alternate that most people take, which is walking on Highway 2 from Eagles Roost to Buckhorn Campground and then on to Burkhart Junction. And when I say ‘most’, every hiker who I asked this year had either done or was planning to do the highway walk. I wouldn’t highway walk to save miles, but the PCTA also calls the SFT/HDNRT alternate ‘exposed and treacherous’ and I definitely would highway walk for safety purposes. More specifically, the PCTA says ‘This scenic detour is not up to normal PCT standards, especially the first 5.3 miles from Islip Saddle to the South Fork Campground. Parts of the first 5.3 miles have moderate exposure and a trail that sometimes crosses steep eroding hillsides with difficult footing.’ Medicine Man hiked the South Fork Trail six years ago and said that it was in bad shape even then, so while still planning to take the SFT/HDNRT alternate, I’ll be mentally prepared for turning around.
Standing across from the gas station, I quickly got a ride back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the partially sunny weather in Wrightwood did not reflect the wet cloudiness up at Inspiration Point, which was less than inspiring with its views hidden. The PCT was sopping wet and lined with soft snow.
Walking farther than planned because camping was unappealing in the wet, I made camp a short distance before Vincent Gap and the beginning of the slog up Mt. Baden-Powell. The location is a mixed bag for sure. There’s no wind, but the trees are gathering moisture from low-hanging clouds and releasing an endless rain.