Day 14 Idyllwild, CA Mile 179
The Southern California desert is not all flat. Nor is it all hot and prickly. Bad weather can roll in at 5000 ft, and at 8000 ft when it clears, the views are far and wide. Took me four days to cover the 70 miles between Warner Springs and this little mountain town nestled beneath soaring granite walls, and it was worth it. I was preparing for more 100 degree days and afternoons searching for shade beneath manzanita bush, but clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and Jeffrey pines sprouted on the mountain side. While still well below tree line, the vegetation changes finally made the name of this blog seem more appropriate, or at least close. I was lucky to avoid the nastiest weather, and even luckier that when it broke I was traversing mile after mile of San Jacinto ridge-line on perfect blue bell weather days. This was the first section that really put the “Crest” in PCT. To the East the Cochella Valley was laid bare, both the desolate shades of brown and the winding subdivisions and emerald green golf courses of Palm Springs thousands of feet below. Beyond, my favorite view, lies the Salton Sea, an oddity of geology and human intentions. The trail finally crossed some of the snow people had been gossiping about for days, but it was soft and no trouble. However, no jinxes, there is plenty ahead. My favorite bit from this stretch was a short spur off the pct to the summit of Tahquitz peak, where an old fire lookout tower stands guard atop walls of granite. It’s the same patented design as the one on Goat peak in Washington, and took my mind zooming thousands of miles ahead. Whew.
I hiked much of the stretch by myself, having gotten between the two groups I had been walking with. As soon as I reached town, however, I saw hikers I hadn’t seen in days, and more would arrive. Connecting with other hikers is one big game of leap frog on the trail, a phenomenon that will only grow along with the miles. Every day it already feels like I’m connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Next stop to share a pizza: Big Bear City.