I'm no John Muir. Today I ache and am happy I can stay home and write e-mails and work on photographs.
The first picture is of Greg, warming his hands. He's a friend who offered to drive Katherine and I up to Mt. Laguna to start our hike. He picked us up at 7am and we got to the trail head a little after 8. It was cold, wet, misty, heavily fogged in and discouraging. Greg suggested we go to the Pine House Cafe a few miles back to have breakfast and see what the weather looks like in an hour or so. The trio behind him having their order taken were hiking the trail also. As were a large group behind the waitress. I think Greg was the only one in the cafe not hiking that morning. It's PCT season in Mt. Laguna.
We all had the Pine House French Toast.
Reinforcing an identity. Julian is a quaint historic mining town some 20 miles away and often the whole area gets called Julian by unknowing but well meaning visitors.
By 10am it was clear, still cold but much better without the low clouds and dampness. We drove out to Pioneer Mail Trailhead. It's mile 52 of the PCT but our mile 1. I hate posing for pictures. The first thing we did after this picture was hit the trail, in the wrong direction. After 10-15 yards of going south I recognized our mistake and we made an important correction.
The iconic pose. For the first day we'd be staying around 4,000 feet, and descend into Anza Borrego the next day. You can see it cleared up nicely yet still pretty chilly.
This plant is all over out here. It's called "The Lord's Candle"
Stopped for lunch around 1pm. Send in the clouds. Once we got 4-5 miles into the hike we started seeing runners with numbered bibs. Apparently the Oriflamme 50K was going on and for the next 6 miles or so we had to share the trail with the runners. We thought it funny that these runners would cover more ground (31 miles) in one day than we'd cover over 3. Every few minutes we'd step aside as one or a small group would go by in the opposite direction.
Setting up camp. The previous day I had walked out from Sunrise Highway (around 1.5 miles) to stage water for this night. We didn't camp where I though we would as it turned out that small area was being used as a rest station for the race. Who knew? By the time we got there (around 3pm) they were breaking down and going home but Katherine actually found a better spot, tucked away in some low lying brush and out of the wind. It would get cold tonight.
Camp. Tonights dinner would be freeze dried enchiladas and tea. We had freeze dried dessert too but we both found we weren't that hungry. Today's mileage - 11 miles, 5 hrs.
It was pretty cold that night. Even with thermals and my sleeping bag I felt slightly chilled and didn't get a good sleep. We heard a pack of coyotes off in the distance and an owl nearby. All "smell good" stuff came in the tent so the coyotes and mountain lions would have to tear into the tent to get them. Well, yes, we are in the tent too, why do you ask?
Down there, that's were we wanna go (bad Treasure of the Sierra Madre reference - extra points for noticing).
When I worked out the 3 day trip I really didn't look at the topology of the route, just the mileage and the best places to start, camp and end the trip. So, I was getting really frustrated when, after 5-6 miles into day 2 we weren't going down. We'd go down and then back up, then down, then back up. We seemed to be hugging the mountain side instead of descending to the desert floor. I was sure we'd be camping on the desert floor the second night but the trail just kept going up and down. We spent more time going up on our way down then the other 2 days put together.
You only THINK you're going down. We're finally into a desert landscape but not where I thought we'd be. Damn maps.
The desert in bloom is beautiful. Katherine took most of the pictures, especially the flowers. I was too damn frustrated that we weren't going down.
FINALLY! We can see the floor but can we reach it? NOOOOOOOOO, you must stay up here. Still more uphill to go. I think I started crying shortly after this picture. It was hot, I thought we'd be down there (and where it's even hotter, haha) and my sense of direction was really off. I knew the trail would take us where we wanted to go but I was pretty much lost as to why we were still on the mountain (learned later it's called Granite Mountain). Lesson # 93: Must pay attention to topology on a map. If I did I'd have known we'd be between 2800 and 3600 feet all day.
On Trekking poles:
Yes, the poles helped a lot. My left knee gives me trouble and trekking poles help take some weight off it, even when just walking on level ground. I rarely used them before but I'm pretty much sold on them now. They also help with balance. I had a 38 lb pack on my back so any misstep was harder to correct and the poles gave me two more legs to stabilize myself.
We didn't see many hikers along the trail, at least not up close. We'd spot some on ridges or across canyons but these were the only two that we were able to speak with. As we were tucked under a bush for shade and lunch they passed us by (there's a guy on foot behind the horsewoman). Later, at a watering spot we bumped into them again and spoke with the guy. He was wearing a tracking device strapped to his ankle. Katherine says, "Oh are you wearing a pedometer?" "No, no, not a pedometer..." and suddenly the light went on for Katherine and we left it alone. We figured the horsewoman was a parole officer or something like that. He was doing 20 miles a day, going all the way to Canada, and he managed to keep up with the horse for as long as we could see them. They eventually got so far ahead of us we never saw them again, just the hoof prints.
Making my own hoof prints, still well above the desert floor. Getting hot.