Day: Sunday, May 29th 2016
Miles: 377.9 – 399.6
Mt.Baden Powell Summit – Remote Camp 399.6
There is certainly a romance to the concept of watching dawn and dusk progress through their respective phases on the same day. Maybe it’s an implicit expectation (earnest hope) that the time between, has been filled with some very important work, some good deeds, or maybe simply its that the movement of the sun, bounded by dawn and dusk, embodies the passage of time in a tangible way for us, wedged into the background noise of our mundane daily tasks. I’ve been blessed with the past few weeks, as I’ve aligned my activities into the movements of the sun. When it rises, I walk. When it sets, I sleep. The simplicity of this routine belies all that happens in between, but it’s a constant that I appreciate nonetheless. Sadly the opportunities to witness both sunrise and sunset are usually obscured by a ridge, a late start, or a cloudy sky. Today everything aligned perfectly.
I awoke from my perch atop Mt.Baden Powell at a lofty height of 9406ft this morning. Normally (that is to say in the real world), to awake leads to a muffled silencing of my alarm clock. Further sleep. A distorted conflicted movement to leave my sleepy cocoon followed by slow motions towards assuming “awake” status. Today manifested the Pacific Crest Trails change to my simplest behavior. At 5:15AM I awoke to a gentle light in the eastern sky. My cowboy camp was fortuitously (if entirely accidentally) placed with a line-of-sight directly to the sunrise. I didn’t even need to leave the confines of my sleeping bag to heat my oatmeal and eat my morning raisins and multi-vitamins. Eventually the sun began to creep above the horizon, more akin to a semi-liquid viscous orange purée melting in reverse to the sky.
The entire scene, in every direction was entirely still. Birds chirped a dawn chorus down the valley, whilst some early-shift chipmunks rummaged around in the trees close by. It seemed like this entire sunrise was all mine. A private showing, just for me. I took my time decamping so that I could enjoy the stillness. One of the largest cities in the entire world is 20miles south of me, and not a person, aircraft, distant murmur or echo broke the scene. It was blissfully quiet and tranquil. Around 6:30, Aussie-Chris and Tie-Die arrived to the top. Both taking their moment at the summit to gaze at the view and savor a singular moment in time, likely to break at any moment. Feeling very contented I started the hike westwards, aiming for Little Jimmy Spring a distance away.
The terrain this morning included a lot of elevation falls, something that was causing some light pain for my IT Band since Mt San Jacinto. I stopped to stretch out and was passed by the first scout troop of the day (for was to be many scout troops). Mt.Baden Powell it seems was the founder of the US scouting movement, and as it was Memorial Weekend, it was prime early-summer hiking season for scout troops.
I arrived at the pretty and generously flowing Little Jimmy Spring after a few bots hiking. There was a group of day and through-hikers about with all of us westward-bound hikers filling up for a moderate haul ahead including a single large elevation gain and a substantial road-walk alternate. I was reacquainted with Boston-Nate whom I met on the ride on Day 1 from San Diego to Campo. He was hiking with Killer from Guelph, Ontario (thankfully she was the opposite of her trail name). I didn’t realize it at the time but I would spend a good deal of time hiking with them over the next few days, a fun and interesting thru-hiking combination, whom it was a pleasure to spend time with.
The threatened storm for Wrightwood seemed to be long behind us. It was the main topic of discussion for the day yesterday however the early start and good progress allowed myself and my fellow morning troopers to get well ahead of any forming fronts. The clouds did provide for some interesting pictures throughout the day however. We quipped that this was a CNN storm. Some light rain presented as a storm that would wipe California off the map!
Around the 3/4 mark of the day (although realistically, I’m not sure what it was 3/4 of, it simply felt like it was 3/4 of an unbounded something, maybe time, maybe distance maybe a little bit of everything), we came to the next road detour. Thankfully this detour was for something different to a fire closure, it was mandated by a need to protect some of the last remaining habitat for the little yellow-legged mountain frog. The road-walk went by really quickly, greatly assisted with some good conversation from Nate and Killer and a few good jokes and trail banter. These are the mundane moments on the trail that can become fun and memorable, for even the most mundane forgettable reasons.
After smashing the road-walk, and with an earnest hope that those frogs are enjoying their private and privileged spot in the mountains, we entered a full camping area, entirely populated with Memorial Day car campers. We used a spigot at the campground and joked with some of the forest rangers for a while. I have repeatedly found it very funny how the forest rangers relate to you as a thru hiker – we joked about the “normal” visitors to the campground and generally enjoyed playing our card as somewhat privileged mountain recreational users – somewhere above normal people but undoubtedly well below anyone else in the forest service.
We were approached by two ladies by the spigot who seemed genuinely appalled that Killer (a girl) was hiking the PCT, and immediately offered her wet wipes in an apologetic tone as well as “anything they could do for her”. Myself and Nate found the entire place to be a parody of every camping stereotype you’ve ever seen on TV. I’m just not sure where we sat in the “laughed-at” or “laughed-with” contingent! Not before time, we escaped back on the trail to continue beyond the endangered species detour and rejoin the trail (after about 6miles of a detour). The next few miles were uneventful and full of day hikers, no doubt appalled by our general levels of grime and interesting odours. Something that I feel the men of the PCT are quite proud of by this point!
The trail found its feet once again and clambered out of a pretty valley where I washed my socks, and later smelled some delicious barbecue from a remote campsite (but withheld my desire to Yogi Bear it and snatch my dinner). There was some beautiful cloudy views back across the ridges to the storm, and it seemed to be settling into a nice sunset in a few hours.
By now I had pondered the romanticism of hiking from dawn to dusk and decided to keep walking until the sun dropped into the horizon. The pleasant ridge area was really quite beautiful in the evening light and the flowers were bright and vivid throughout the trail. I’m still amazed at how verdant the trail is in this sandy ash laden soil. Virtually all areas show some recent burn evidence, although timing the age of the evidence for me is something that’s difficult to ascertain. The trail swings across CA Route 2 multiple times over the course of this section of trail, and finally just short of the 400 mile marker I decided that the evening was coming to a close. Nate and Killer stopped about a mile short of the 400 mark on a beautiful bluff whilst I continued down the ridge to find a space with a sunset view.
Just short (0.3) of the 400 mark I decided my day was done. I popped up my tent on a space scattered with giant pine cones, and sat back with the sneaky can of IPA I brought along from Wrightwood. Originally intended for the summit of Mt.Baden Powell, it now seemed like a much more respectful time to appreciate a hoppy west coast IPA as the sun dropped into the trees. The taste only sweeter for carrying it up (and west) as far as I did!
I laugh to myself as I look back at this picture of the can, as little did I notice, but the can I picked up was an 8% IPA. After more than a few days on the hoof, after losing a few pounds and burning a lot of calories this might have been a case of jumping into the deep-end with an anvil-weight when only my armband-floats were attached. Accordingly after a beautiful sunset and a nice refreshing IPA, and with my dinner ready to cook, I decided to rest my eyes for a moment, only to wake up 7hrs later still holding the can and with a rumbling stomach! Memo to self: dinner first! It was a beautiful day from dawn to dusk, and a memorable step as I came within touching point of the 400 mile mark.