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Begins: Apr 1, 2008
Date: Mon, Jul 4th, 2005
Start: Cajon Pass
End: Guffy Camp
Daily Distance: 22.5
Trip Distance: 1,081.4
Entry Visits: 450
Journal Visits: 69,244
Guestbook Views: 3,645
Guestbook Entrys: 9
20 Cajon Pass to Guffy Camp
The alarm went off in our motel room at 4:30 a.m. but I was already awake and ready to go. Cody, who had basically slept since we arrived yesterday afternoon, got up and looked like he was raring to go. We quickly showered and packed and were out the door. The motel didn’t charge us extra for Cody, which was very nice. We crossed back to the other side of the freeway and walked west toward MacDonald’s. There, Kerry had an Egg McMuffin with chocolate milk, I had a sausage biscuit with regular milk and we shared a hash brown. Cody had eaten before we left the motel.
We continued west on the south side of the freeway, back to where we left the trail the day before. It was 5:40 a.m. and we started on the most grueling day of the 700 miles we would hike in the summer of 2005: twenty three miles (22.1 on the trail) and a climb of 5,000 feet in 90 plus-degree heat.
The first part of the hike in the early morning was pleasant enough, temperature-wise. We crossed some railroad tracks and headed east along the North side of a ridge of hills. This protected us at least until 8:30 or 9 a.m. from the direct heat of the sun. It was a long and windy low hill walk and our eyes naturally gravitated to the higher ridge of the mountains to our left/North. We kept trying to pick the trail out against the ridge of mountains. Eventually, we crossed the intervening valley and doubled back aways before heading northward into and up a rapidly climbing canyon. Now, we knew the climb to Guffy Campground had begun.
The first few hours we gained elevation fairly rapidly, but it made for an enjoyable hike. We saw many butterflies; California Sisters, Buckeyes and Swallowtails to name a few. We saw hawks and a myriad of wildflowers: a lilac-colored lily with a center, paintbrush, firecrackers, and many more varieties. As the day wore on, the trail became more exposed and we continued in the unrelenting sun on the south side of the ridge. At first, as we moved higher the temperature didn’t increase rapidly, one would expect it to be cooler higher up and it was. By noontime it was clear we had a long haul ahead. We rested in the shade of what little cover we could find in the hillside brush. There were no trees. Cody would scramble up under the brush and lay panting. In the end, we removed his pack and carried it; he was just too hot.
It’s interesting how knowledge sometimes creeps into you—basic survival knowledge. Some of our most crucial lessons about heat, I date to this day. For example: understanding that we could get up in the dark and leave before dawn to avoid the heat and understanding that the hottest point of the day comes around three. You can read about these things but it’s not until you use the understanding with purpose that you really know it. In later hikes, we would stop for that hour of intense heat mid afternoon and even though it was still unbearably hot at 4 p.m. our bodies knew and felt the slight trend downward in temperature and derived some strength from it. This particular day however, there was no relief. High on that south-facing ridge with no shade or water, there was nowhere to stop and rest.
Toward evening, we turned in toward the mountain and we started to see more trees until we were in forest. It was still hot, but higher now and we had a slight breeze which brought us some relief from the heat. We were very tired and around every curve in the trail we looked for landmarks that would tell us we were nearing Guffy Campground. We still had several miles to go. At one point, Kerry and Cody walked up toward an Eastern ridge through the trees and the sun setting behind me cast a golden glow on the trees and Kerry and Cody silhouetted against the sky took on a magical quality as though we were in another space and time, in a dream.
Eventually, we did arrive at Guffy Camp. There we noticed fires burning in two of the pits and a tent stenciled “PCTA” balled up in one of the campsites. We thought perhaps the owners of the fires were around. We took a campsite high on the hill where by walking a few paces, we could easily see down to Wrightwood in the valley below. Then we took our 16 liters of empty platypuses (water bladders) and went off in search of the spring. The guidebook stated that it was about a quarter of a mile away, downhill, naturally, and fairly steep at that, especially for anyone carrying thirty-odd pounds of water.
The spring was flowing strong in a luscious valley of grass and wildflowers. It was clear and just being near it seemed to sap the hot and dusty day away. It was wonderful. When we lugged the water back up the hill and started to make dinner, a man drove up in a pick-up truck. He seemed to want to talk. He told us that the fires had been left; we had sort of surmised this and had already stirred them to put them out. Apparently, this was a place that he had come to as a Boy Scout. Back then it had been quite remote, although the forest service roads had still been there, perhaps even more of them. His wife had left him recently and I think he was lonely. He had a friend who wanted him to climb Mt. Whitney later in the summer and he was trying to get in shape.
After he left and I returned to my dinner preparations. I spotted a large black bear at the edge of the campground. It was brown with a light brown ruff. Kerry actually tried to get close enough to take a photo but thought the better of it when the bear turned to face him in what might be considered an attentive manner. Cody puffed out a few barks, but he was already fed, paws waxed and down for the night; it was going to take a lot more than a lumbering bear to get him moving. I think even his feeble “woof” helped, alerting the bear to his presence may have encouraged the former to move on. He never came back. We weren’t taking any risks, so we hung our food high in the trees. Unfortunately, the clangers were useless for alarm purposes because the gusty night winds rattled them all night long, off and on.Later, after we had eaten, we stood on that ridge looking over the valley toward the southeast and watched fireworks displays in Wrightwood and other nearby places. It was quite a show. Here we were on the 4th of July, high on a mountaintop surrounded by millions of people living in the LA metropolitan area and yet quite alone in our own corner of paradise.
Confessions Of A Serial Hiker
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org
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