Idyllwild is a small, charming town -- a real town, as opposed to the smallness and charmingness of three-trailers-and-a-ranch Warner Springs. It's even got an outdoor store and everything. The owner of the outdoor store has a column in the local paper, where he mentions the wave of PCT hikers passing through.
The paper's lead story this week was on the PCT thru-hiker who went missing last year whose backpack was finally found just days ago by two other, unrelated lost hikers. It was right in this area that he vanished on May 2, 2005 in a late-season snowstorm after wandering from the trail. (I've been doing a little hiking through snow, but the sky has been absolutely clear, and if it does start threatening precipitation I'm going to set up a tent and sit in it until things clear up. The outdoor-store guy said that late-season storms rarely last more than 12 hours.) The paper says the pack was found in Tahquitz Canyon, which is about a mile north (and several thousand feet downhill) of the trail in a section I've already hiked through, but the outdoor-store guy says that's inaccurate -- he was even farther from the trail than that.
Media coverage has been, as far as I can tell, pretty intense about the missing-hiker story; there was a TV crew at the Paradise Cafe (mentioned in my voice post of two days ago) interviewing this year's thru-hikers about the incident. I arrived at the cafe about half an hour late to get my face possibly on TV. One of my fellow thru-hikers apparently hitched a ride with the news van in to Idyllwild, which just goes to show ... something, I guess. How desperate, persuasive, and/or shameless us thru-hikers can be about getting rides to ease those doesn't-count-toward-PCT-mileage distances into and out of town.
The Tahquitz Inn in town is a big hiker haven; like Warner Springs, special rates and the ability to cram our rooms full keeps it affordable. The owners also offer free shuttle service back out to the (several) trailhead(s) that hikers use to get into town, and apparently can even come pick you up if you want a ride in and know their phone number. I stayed there last night, and might again tonight if someone lets me crash in a packed room to save cash -- otherwise, there's a state park campground just across the street from it.
The trail is starting to get to people. After the last day's indescribably grueling mileage (18 on-trail miles, 25 total miles including water side trips and into town; about 5,000 feet of vertical climb and nearly that many downhill), I can see why. There's talk, for example, of Canuck having dropped off the trail, and Steel Magnolia will only be continuing to Agua Dulce due to needing to get back to her job. I guess I'm a little proud that I've survived the first big hurdles and still am raring to go, but everyone that leaves makes me worry a bit -- if they've called it quits, I certainly could do so too, and not have to put up with the endless aching and soreness and ... well, miss out on the big adventure, too. That's what keeps me out here.
Running out of Internet time. Hope you're all doing well.