Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Day 11 : Mt San Jacinto and Down

21 miles today
2469 miles to go

My clock shows five oh five am. This is such a comfortable bed. Maybe I'll just lay here for the next five months. Hiking today! Yay! I'm up. I take a shower, because I can. Wash my hair with real shampoo. Wow, maybe I'll just stay in this shower for the next five months. Hiking today! I'm out and packing. Everything has a place to go. I am getting better at remembering. I text Braveheart ‘Idyllwild monument six fifteen am.’ I get no response. Perhaps her phone is in airplane mode. Out the door at five fifty five. Two minute walk next door to Higher Grounds coffee shop. I get there early. As does another thru-hiker who was hoping to use the restroom. I take off my pack and get my money. The Thru-hiker dances around. Three minutes later the doors open the Thru-hiker disappears into the restroom. I say, ‘I'll have my usual,’ the barista looks at me with a blank stare. ‘I'll have a mocha and a blueberry muffin.’ ‘You want whip?’ ‘Yes!’ I pay and wait. A much more relaxed and comfortable looking thru-hiker emerges from the restroom and leaves. Warm homemade blueberry muffin and a mocha. So good, I have had them two days in a row. I finish my muffin and I'm out by the monument at six ten. No Braveheart. It time to go.

I don't know who Ernie Maxwell is but the scenic trail named after him is a great way to hike out of Idyllwild. I first hike up some roads looking for the beginning of the trail. I walk about a mile. The cabins and home here are so…. Homey and comfortable looking. This reminds me a lot of my early teen years at my parents cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. Instead of coastal redwoods the trees are red cedar. The bark looks almost the same.  The trail climbs higher and higher. The early morning light filters through the trees. The sound of wind in the trees sounds like a stadium of cheering people. I hear the sound above me but there is no breeze down below where I am. A occasional scolding squirrel and the sharp raspy cheep of a blue jay are the only other sounds. I can see why this place is called Idyllwild. On and on I climb, higher and higher. The town is now behind and below me. I am surrounded by steep walls. The trail meanders along the steep hillside. I am in the shade even though I can see the sunlight hitting the ridge on the other side of the valley. The trail ends right below where the Devils Slide trail begins.

I meet two climbers in the parking lot. It's a large lot that weaves through the trees. It's empty except for the climbers and their car. They work at REI. They are able to take some time mid week to come up here and climb! That's awesome for them. 

Devils Slide is a trail that climbs steeply up and up and up. As I climb more and more of the valley expands below me. I stop and take a picture of the amazing view. Then I climb a little further and the view becomes even more amazing. So I stop and take another picture. I keep this up all the way to the top. Where a spectacular view spreads out below. I can see out past the valley all the way to…. places further out. I have no idea where, but in the distance the fog sits comfortably out by the coast. Ridge upon hazy ridge with smog choked valleys between. There is a distinct difference between that air so thick it looks like you can cut it with a fork and the strikingly clear air I am standing in at about nine thousand feet. 

I am finally back on the PCT! I have been off trail since we left the trail to descend the Cedar Springs trail a few days back. I feel somehow back where I belong. Weird, but when you're a PCT thru-hiker and you're not on the PCT somethings not right. The day is warm and sunny without a single cloud visible in the sky. The birds flit from tree to tree, chirping and cheeping. Squirrels run for cover as I ascend the trail north. I am a lone in the wilderness. It's a great feeling on a day like today. 

I think about the trail and how it is supposed to be a continuous trail from Mexico to Canada. Yet the forest service has closed sections here from fires that happened in the past. It's not clear to me the exact reason. Sometimes I hear it's for ecological reasons, other times its public safety. I am troubled by the fact that the trail stays closed year after year. This is wilderness. Fire is a natural part of the process. We are sojourners passing through and ought to be able to experience all aspects of the trail. While devastating and destructive it's not a ‘disaster’, it's normal, it's change. We people like things to stay the same, thinking that ‘same’ is normal. It's the same with ‘global-warming’ the fact that temperatures are different doesn't necessarily mean ‘catastrophe’ it means different. One thing I have come to know about life is that things change and we often worry and stress over changes when when don't need to. Anyway that's how I feel about the trail. I don't like the fact that ‘experts’ or ‘managers’ or whoever it is that decides to close the trail do so until some arbitrarily determined point in the future when it is decided that the forest is now ‘normal’ again and ready to accept visitors. This is WILDERNESS it is what it is. It's burned before, it's been subjected to all kinds of natural forces long before any of us were here. Those forces have shaped it and formed it and made it what it is. Trails existed long before people made them. Deer, bear, mountain lions and other critters tramp through the forest along the path of least resistance. There is another closure coming up. This one is more difficult as their is no way around it, worse yet, there is about twenty miles of the trail that is open that can be hiker before you get to the closure. My goal is to hike a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada. I don't necessarily need to hike on the PCT to meet my goal, but if I have to shuttle, or skip, I may as well go home now, skipping is not an option. So I have some difficult decisions to make in the near future. Fortunately I don't have to make them today.

I had considered climbing to the top of Mt San Jacinto. I changed my mind. As I considered what my goal is I realized that climbing to the top is not part of my goal and it could delay me a day. So I decided to stick with the PCT and traverse around the peak. I stop for lunch at a beautiful snowmelt waterfall crossing the trail. The cascading water is music to my ears and it's so rare to hear that sound down on this part of the trail. I make myself a tuna wrap with Fritos. I think this has to has close to five hundred calories. I load up with seven liters of water. There is absolutely no water between here and the faucet at the bottom of the switchbacks at mile two oh five. I am about to begin my descent from nine thousand feet down to one thousand feet. My plan is to do this over two days. I only have another ten miles or so before camp.

Fuller Ridge begins that while decent. I am walking on the edge of the the world. The trail sort of bounces from one side of the ridge to the other. In either case the views down are just stunning thousands and thousand of feet below the world exists and stuff is happening. I am an observer far above looking down on life going by. There far below is a freight train heading east along side interstate ten. It must be over a hundred cars long as it slowly snakes it's way across the desert floor. Trucks on the freeway look like little ants slowly crawling along. Cars as so small that they are almost invisible, dust mites. In each of these there are people going about their lives, completely oblivious to the eyes watching them from the mountain. 

I stop for a break at the Fuller Ridge trailhead with a couple of other Thru-hikers including Big Spoon and Balu. I take off my shoes and sit in the shade. My feet have healed a lot. No more blisters, my toes feel good, although they are a bit dusty. Dusty doesn't hurt. I rest for thirty minutes or so and then replace my shoes and start down the trail. I turn the corner and there below is Redlands and San Bernardino. I stop and see if I have service, yes! I upload a number of pictures from today. As I am doing that Braveheart shows up. She had gotten up early to catch the part of the trail that I hike last year. Together again our team heads down and finds a great camp spot in the shade around mile one ninety four. We are about five thousand feet up which means the air temperature is ideal. It's not as cold as higher up on the mountain and it's not as hot as it would be down in the desert. Into my tent right after dinner. I fall asleep while the sky is still blue.

1 comment:

  1. In your description of being an observer, quote "I am an observer far above looking down on life going by ... Cars as so small that they are almost invisible, dust mites. In each of these there are people going about their lives, completely oblivious to the eyes watching them from the mountain." I can only imagine that there must be something larger, or higher up, maybe as in a higher power, looking down upon us, and we are so busy that we ARE oblivious most of the time, to their watchful,eyes also! Just a thought that you sparked.