Fire Closure and a Moral Dilemma

Day 10 & 11:

Word of a fire closing around Idyllwild spread slowly from the beginning of the trip. Even today I met hikers who were unaware of the detour.

A 15 mile strecth of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains apparently has been closed for some time, prior to this hiking season. A forrest fire a couple years ago was followed by a torrential downpour that washed out the entire area.

The location of the closure puts hikers in a tough spot. And they'll choose one of three options. I'll elaborate. And then you can pick the Option you would choose as a thru-hiker. Refer to the map below as you read.


The Paradise Cafe, situated on CA-74 is the first north bound business of any kind since Warner Springs, 40 trail miles. Most hikers will stop at this cafe for food, regardless of how they handle the fire closure.

From Paradise Cafe, there's about 11 miles of good trail left before the fire closure, then an alternate trail which will take you back down to CA-74, about 6 miles west of Paradise Cafe. From there CA-74 heads to Idyllwild where you can pick up the PCT at the end of the fire closure alternate route.


Option 1: 

Hike the remaining 11 good miles of the PCT after the Paradise Cafe, then hike 5.9 miles back to CA-74. Road walk to Idyllwild along the fire closure alternate route.

Option 2: 

Skip the 11 good miles of trail and walk 6 miles along CA-74 straight from Paradise Cafe to rejoin the fire closure alternate route.

Miles saved: ~11

Option 3: 

Hitch a ride to Idyllwild straight from the Paradise Cafe.

Miles saved:  ~27 (or ~11)


So what would you do?

The choice isn't easy. And some seem astutely aware of the implications of skipping PCT miles, and even northbound walking miles all together.

I picked Option 2. So did Josh. I know of one UK couple that also took Option 2. 

The vast majority of hiker's I encountered today took Option 3. One guy I've been hiking with off and on again for days was on the fence til the last second, then hopped in a car.

And one righteous couple from Singapore by way of the UK and South Africa took Option 1. (props to them)

For me, I'm walking from the border of Mexico to border of Canada. The PCT is the most scenic way to get there, but I'm still walking from Mexico to Canada. I'll take a hitch for supplies and get back to my spot with no shame. But something just felt dirty about hitching past double digit northbound walking miles on a warm sunny day.

As with most choices in life, there's no right or wrong answer. We're just left with a decision that reveals a little bit about ourselves.

Here's what those that hitched drove by quickly: