PCT 2019: Day 22, Coon Creek Cabin to Big Bear Lake

We see this empty cage now corrode

Former site of Randy Miller’s Predators in Action

All of my tramily friends slept last night in the rundown cabin. I was the only one who thought the cabin would be chilly and drafty, so I slept in my tent.

This morning they said they were cold and didn’t sleep well. I stayed warm and comfortable all night long.

I was sorry they had a bad night, but I liked being right.

DateSunday, April 14, 2019
WeatherLight overcast sky, with light breeze and high temperature in upper 50s
Trail ConditionsShort sections of snow and a few spots where trail was flooded; some poor trail direction marking
Today's Miles19.7
Trip Miles266.1

The morning was sunny but chilly. A light breeze that started blowing last night continued this morning.

Camp chores seemed to take me a little longer this morning, but no one was ready to go before me.

We took our time because we thought this would be another short hiking day. If we were willing to hike nearly 20 miles today we could get to the town of Big Bear Lake, but there wasn’t much mood for that.

Leaving Coon Creek Cabin

We left the cabin together and began hiking at 7:45 a.m.

I started out feeling strong, but that didn’t last long.

View on climb up Onyx Peak

The trail made a climb up the side of Onyx Peak. It wouldn’t take us to the top, but that was just as well. Several communications towers stood there, so it probably wasn’t a scenic spot.

The climb wasn’t especially steep, ascending just under 500 feet in 1.8 miles. Still, as I continued up the trail I quickly lost energy.

Dusty trail

By the second climb, which only went up 170 feet in .8 miles, my legs lost the will to walk.

I stopped to eat a snack bar, but it didn’t help. Annoyed by my unexplainable lack of energy I stopped again 20 minutes later to eat another snack.

Finally then, I began to feel better.

Snowy descent

It helped that the trail began by then to make a long, continuous descent. On the other side of the mountain the descent started across a large patch of slushy snow.

Footsteps had worn through the snow like a trench.

Dirt road

Farther down, the trail joined a dirt road for a short distance.

I was feeling stronger by this point, but I had fallen well behind the rest of the tramily.

Site of Randy Miller’s Predators in Action

After two hours, I passed the former property of Randy Miller’s Predators in Action. Miller trained wild animals for Hollywood movies. Now the cages there were empty and for sale signs were posted.

Miller’s credits included working as a stunt double for a scene in “Gladiator” when Russell Crowe’s character fights a tiger. He also helped Chris Pratt prepare for the role of a dinosaur trainer in "Jurassic World.”

Sadly, Miller’s cousin was killed here in 2008 by a grizzly bear that once appeared with Will Farrell in “Semi Pro.” Multiple investigations concluded the death was an accident.

Trail marker

The trail continued on a mostly downhill path.

I didn’t feel a need to rush and catch up with the tramily because I thought we weren’t going to make a push to Big Bear Lake.

View of San Gorgonio Mountain

I enjoyed some views of San Gorgonio Mountain, now seen from the other side of the mountain from where I last saw it.

Gravity sitting on an old couch

I also took a short break on a couch, which was sitting on the trail near an information sign promoting Big Bear Hostel. I expected to find some trail magic here too, but there was none.

While the couch was an interesting gesture by the hostel, it wasn’t consistent with Leave No Trace principles. A few weeks later, I have since learned, the Forest Service ordered the hostel to remove it.

Flooded trail

The trail was sometimes smooth and sometimes rocky for a couple miles. Then I came upon a new trail condition, which was surprising considering this was the desert. It was flooded.

Not far beyond the flooded section was Arrastre Trail Camp. When I arrived there at 1 p.m., most of the tramily had already left. Captain and Tengo Hambre were there, though, and they told me the consensus was now to push on into town, which was still 10 miles away.

I needed to filter some water and eat lunch, then Tengo and I continued hiking together.

Rocky road

Within a short distance from the campsite, the trail became confusing. It followed an old road for a time, then the road split in two directions. The direction to take for the trail was unclear, but I should have known from past experience the direction Tengo chose might be the wrong way.

About two tenths of a mile farther we realized it was the wrong way.

View of Big  Bear Lake

After correcting our direction to get back on the trail, we cruised along well. The trail was easy and we made good time as we headed to California Highway 18, the main road leading to town.

Along the way we began to get views of the man-made lake.

The lake isn’t like most man-made lakes, where water is impounded from a creek or river. Instead, the water in Big Bear Lake comes only from melting snow.

There is a dam, but it is only used to maintain the lake’s level.

Roadside trail magic

Nearing the road, I received a text message from Spamalot. She and the others had arrived at the hostel. They were able to check in, she said, but they learned there was no room available for Tengo and me.

We reached the road at 6:30 p.m. Scattered along the last 100 yards to the road were caches of trail magic. Some were placed there by well-meaning trail angels, but others were used to promote businesses in town. A local marijuana dispensary was one of them.

While I was glad to take one of the drinks, there was also a lot of trash here and I found that annoying.

At this point, Tengo and I were uncertain what to do about getting into town or where we would stay. Then amid the trail magic competition I saw a sign posted by a local motel, Fireside Lodge. It provided a phone number to call about rooms and a ride to the motel.

I called and was told a room was available for us and we would be picked up in 20 minutes.

My teeth were chattering as we waited for our ride. The temperature was only around 50 degrees, but after hiking all day and then stopping at a breezy crest of the highway, it felt as if the temperature had dropped to freezing.

Crazy Boy

Just before Tengo and I were picked up, Nan Kim arrived at the road. He was the South Korean hiker Hootenanny named Crazy Boy. We had not seen him in a couple weeks.

The motel owner picked us up and took us into town. After checking in we found the room was comfortable, but my bed was too soft.

By this time, we were much too tired to go out again, so we ordered a pizza to be delivered to our room.

Our new plan for tomorrow is to take a zero. Tengo and I are hoping the hostel will have space for us because we want to be with our tramily.

When we head back to the trail the day after tomorrow, Tengo won’t continue hiking with us. Sadly, his time with us is over. He only intended to hike part of the desert with me and now he will return home.

The peddlar now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him
Saying "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him"
But like Louise always says "Ya can't look at much can ya man?"
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler now steps to the road
He writes everything's been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.