By Julie Pendray
IDYLLWILD, Calif. — Readers, you knew this was going to happen, didn’t you? Deep down, we all knew that one day I would take off from Idyllwild to experience the Pacific Crest Trail … at least part of it. I’ve been “bitten by the bug” after writing about the hikers for three seasons in this town.
I didn’t think it would happen like this, though. I thought I’d hike a section sometime, maybe with friends.
Who knew that, instead, I’d set off in my car — packed to the hilt — accompanied by my cat and my AAA road maps to follow the route of re-supply towns?
This year, there are more people on the trail — and more women in particular — from a more diverse group of countries than ever before. They have come to pit themselves against a journey that will take them through ecosystems more diverse than anywhere else in the world. Some are wanting to find themselves. Some are wanting to find America. Some are hoping for new directions. Some want to heal old pains.
I’m drawn to this story like a moth to the flame. Having lived in Idyllwild for three years, moonlighting at the state park campground, plus local lodging and restaurants, I’ve seen the hikers’ various needs. I even hosted some of them recently. I’ve enjoyed my interview subjects so much that I don’t want my connection to end there. One young man on the trail suggested I become a trail angel and he gave me the name “Scribe.” It fits.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered what happens to these people after they leave Idyllwild. I’ve decided to tell the stories of some of the hikers and towns further along the route. My first piece will be on Big Bear City and the lake.
The urge to do this began when, sitting up in bed late one night, working on my laptop as usual, I took a detailed look at the PCT route. For many people, when the hikers leave Idyllwild, they are out of sight and out of mind. We have a general idea that they wander through mountain ranges in three states and end up at the Canadian border. But I was curious to know more. As I came across Halfmile’s Pacific Crest Trail Maps mentioned on the Pacific Crest Trail Association web site, I realized I’d already visited many of the re-supply towns, either as part of a motor home trip around the United States (which I’m writing as a series in this magazine) or on a snow skiing trip or a work assignment. I began to relate and visualize the journey. As I researched, I found some really amusing, funky, historical places along the way and some interesting “trail angel” characters. I smelled a good story in the making. I know many writers have written about the PCT and its towns and the people who leave water for the hikers and offer overnight housing. Yet, the expanse of the adventure is so great and some of the pit stops along the way so remote and tiny that the vast majority of us, even in re-supply towns, don’t know much or anything about the whole route or how to put these places into perspective. I grew excited. What if I traveled through the towns and wrote about them in a way that would join them together like a string of pearls for the average reader anywhere in the world? There are families all over the globe who are eager to hear about their loved ones on the trail, eager to know about the towns they’re visiting. Others are wanting to learn more so they can plan to do the trail themselves. I’m curious to know how the hikers change the towns and how the towns change them. I want to interview people when they’re further along this 2,650-mile route. Have they found what they’re seeking?
As I’ve posted my Idyllwild stories about PCT hikers on Facebook pages for other re-supply towns, I’ve seen that people elsewhere enjoy hearing about our Idyllwild experiences with the travelers. I think it’s important that the re-supply towns be in touch, with the increasing number of hikers coming through. This magazine can be a link. From my own perspective, my fresh stories from these areas and the increased readership this has already engendered on this magazine will benefit all the towns and my advertisers too. This is a win-win-win.
I won’t be visiting every re-supply stop along the way. Considerations such as desert heat, safety and mileage to places deep in the forest outweigh my curiosity. I’m not going to exhaust myself over this or totally alienate my travel companion (Michelle the Cat) who, understandably, would like to have time outside her pet carrier on occasion, to see the world without bars in front of her face. We are on a driving schedule but we also need to take breaks here and there, where I can get out and do interviews and she can stretch and sleep in comfort.
These stories will be impressionistic and anecdotal. They won’t necessarily present each town’s demographics and other statistics or detailed accounts of hiking gear, smart phone apps, map information and solutions about pitfalls or weather along the way. People writing from the trail and the Pacific Crest Trail Association are way more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. I’m simply going to write from the heart about what I see along the way and what locals tell me in cafes and post offices in these towns. This will be a homespun, feel-good dive into the heart of the towns, plus nostalgia about my previous visits in some places. I’m sure my stories will leave out a lot due to the fleeting visits. I’m hoping readers will add their own impressions, memories and local knowledge by contributing to the comments section below each story.
How will I fund this journey? Living in Idyllwild has taught me the fine art of trading, since we have such a tiny economy. I will trade along the way for advertising on this magazine. How long will I be gone? Not sure. But I will be back.
I can’t leave to do this trip, of course, without local help to keep my magazine running smoothly. Special thanks goes to Mimi Lamp, co-owner of Higher Grounds Coffee Shop in Idyllwild, for helping with my business affairs while I’m gone. Thanks also to Laurie Hidy at Mrs. Pickles Pantry for the stash of gluten-free muffins she provided for my trip. Thanks to writers Rick Barker and Eduardo Santiago for helping me generate Idyllwild content and to Bruce Watts and Frazier-Drake for providing photos. The benefit of the Internet is that I can continue researching, interviewing, writing and posting Idyllwild stories from wherever I am. I have a stash due to post while I’m away.
Last of all, special thanks to a tiny creature who is my sweet companion on this trip. Though travel is not her favorite pastime, as long as there are regular treats in her bowl, comfortable napping spots along the way, and cat lovers to stroke her and make a fuss here and there, she sails along valiantly and wins hearts. You can follow her viewpoint of the adventure on her own Facebook page.
Now, stay tuned to learn of our adventure at Big Bear. To follow this series, click on Travel in the top menu on the home page.
Copyright to Julie Pendray & SpecialsNotOnTheMenu.com