Archive for May, 2011
We rolled into town this afternoon. Well, ‘rolled’ is an exaggeration. I hobbled. Li An strode. Her feet are doing fantastic, but mine on the other foot, are not in great shape. Turns out they have swelled. A lot. I don’t know if I will ever fit those shoes again, but certainly not anytime soon. We will try to get into REI in order to buy some new shoes. Yesterday I had to take a knife to the outer seam of one of them just to relieve the pressure on my little toe.
The week was hotter than we have been getting used to, but not without a lot of water. We zeroed at Deep Creek hot springs, and spent many hours soaking our feet and legs. Dips in the cool river felt medicinal as well.
We saw quite a few snakes this week, including many gopher snakes and another big black rattlesnake. The miles were through mostly recent burned chapparal and scrub oak woodland, as well as higher up in the cooler jeffrey pines and white fir. We also saw our first big cone doug fir since leaving the Mexican border.
We were also blessed with some true trail magic as a guy we met at the hot springs, made an effort to bring us out some pizzas at the next road crossing 6 miles further the next day. 6 of us enjoyed the treats while meeting Albert’s family. We have also been graciously invited into this home here in Wrightwood, and have enjoyed getting to know Matt, Becky, Erik, and Kelley as well as some of the other extremely friendly locals here. Wrightwood is a real breath of fresh air upstream from the Inland Empire.
Now it is time to pack up once again and plan to head up the switchbacked trail to the peak of Mt Baden Powell tomorrow morning. As the Station Fire Detour has been lifted we will be able to hike nearly the entirety of section D to Agua Dulce, with a couple small detours including one area closed off to protect an endangered frog.
Well so much for those early March hikes in the low elevations in order to get them done before the weather got stifling hot. I think it must be cooler now than it was then. The past week has been as though a giant A/C unit has been blowing full blast in our faces. I am not at all complaining though. I will take frost on the tent in the morning, and wind blasted desert crossings over 104 degree temperatures just about any day. We have been unbelievably lucky with the weather so far. This section from Idyllwild to Big Bear City passes ridges over 9000 feet high, and then winds for 15 miles down hill to lower than 1500 feet elevation in the desert through which I-10 passes. We were told from some trail angels in Snow Creek that the drop off San Jacinto peak is the steepest escarpment in the US. I don’t know, but that kind of change in elevation typically would warrant an extreme change in temperature. For us this past week, it simply meant a steady increase in gale force winds. We were fortunate to take shelter behind the toe slope of the giant mountain, while others ended up pitching their tents beneath I -10, with the steady roar of freight trains all night adding another dimension of wind blasts ricocheting off the walls of the overpass.
Heading north from I 10 the trail passes the Mesa Wind Farm and enters the San Gorgonio wilderness by which it follows the wild Mission Creek to its origin back up in the sugar pine/Jeffrey pine mountain tops of the San Bernardino National Forest. This altitudinal cross section is rife with botanical diversity as well as many lizards, snakes, ground squirrels, deer, and birds. Rising back up to over 8000 feet we hit our coldest nights of the trip thus far and spent the better part of Wednesday hiking through something between snow and freezing fog. The scene was sublime though, as we passed from ridge to saddle to ridge again, and wove our way slowly through forests of ancient Juniper trees (Juniperus grandis), some as large as 4 feet diameter or more. The cold weather was inspirational to make some miles, and the relative lack of biodiversity at these high and dry altitudes made for less frequent distraction. We pulled into Big Bear this morning and have been easing off the feet as much as possible (while still needing to run around to the post office, laundromat, downloading GPS points, uploading new maps, doing interviews and erhumm donut shop). In the forecast: highs of upper 60’s, lows of mid 40’s. Yes! The record breaking winter rains and continued cooler weather means spring keeps coming slowly, and the flowers keep blooming!
The past stretch of the PCT was gorgeous and super diverse with magnificent views. We went from desert to sub-alpine mountains. We saw hundred year old barrel cacti, many magenta colored flowers (e.g. the Opuntia basalaris var basilaris, see pic to the right).
In the last 1.5 day we met with 6 different species of pines to give you an impression of the sheer diversity of the place. The landscapes at times reminded us of Scotland at other times Justin said it was just like Yosemite. I felt the diversity of the Caucasus present as well. So in all; stunning. It was crazy busy in town: catching up with fellow hikers,downloading GPS points, writing the field notes, interviews for work and research, food, shower, laundry. Now, we will need to part from our netbooks as the post office is about to close, so will be running now. Till next week when we arrive in Big Bear City. For now we will be going above 9000′, the highest we will reach until we hit the Sierra’s.
A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE BACKED THE BOOK PROJECT! It looks like it is funded, and still slowly climbing. There are 6 days left so feel free to continue to pass the word along to others who might be interested. Obviously the more money raised, the better the ultimate result will be. The link is: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/866011503/writing-a-field-guide-to-the-pacific-crest-trail
Notes from the field: We are taking a ‘zero day’ at Warner Springs, CA, having completed 110 miles from the Mexican border, to go with the 120 done already back in early March. We are caught between the interesting southern cali phenomenon of wanting to get through the lower elevations before the real heat kicks in (and it is already) and not wanting to hit the higher peaks too quickly as the snow pack this year is record breaking (biggest in 65 years in the Sierra). So for now, we rest our feet, drink some Sol, and enjoy catching up with some people. I have also been busy transcribing my audio recordings from the past 55 miles and preparing plant samples pressed along the way for shipment to UC Riverside herbarium where Andy Sanders, curator and friend, has been very generous in helping me identify unknown plant species lacking sufficient flowering material in order for me to field id them.
On that note, the kindle is working out really well. Having the Jepson flora, all 10 lbs of that book including all of the line drawings (thanks to mom for that endurance scanning effort), in a digital searchable format has proven invaluable. So that is the routine taking shape. 12 hour days of hiking, along with many stops en route to note through audio recording what we are seeing and experiencing, as well as to take photos, In town days later that all gets downloaded onto the netbook that has been sent ahead of us in our ‘bounce box’. All of this means that we are moving slower than the average thru hiker, and certainly slower than I did on the AT when 19 years old back in 1999, but there is no rush, and the experience of really paying attention to the land already feels valuable and rewarding.
So, thanks again, and lets see what the next 6 days bring…