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City: Elk Grove
Country: United States
Begins: Apr 5, 2009
Date: Sat, Apr 11th, 2009
Start: Scissors Crossing (mi 78)
End: 11S 0541262 3671204
Daily Distance: 14.75
Trip Distance: 69.4
Entry Visits: 814
Journal Visits: 33,586
Guestbook Views: 1,067
Guestbook Entrys: 20
Out of the Frying Pan
Leaving the Laguna Mountains to drop to the margin of the Anza-Borrego Desert was a minor milestone (tres petit). But it signified progress. Something had to because today’s journey seemed like the antithesis of it. The climb was businesslike and steady from the moment I passed over highway 78.
The San Felipe Hills run parallel (coincidently enough) to the San Felipe Valley which separates them from the Volcan Mountain- all of which run roughly SE to NW. The San Felipe Hills reveal the true nature of the high desert- the sagebrush/ chaparral bio zone- where everything is on the attack- everything. (More about that later.)
Climbing northward and upward at a tolerable pace the trail heads into and out of steep ravines. It feels as if it has taken me a quarter mile to advance 500 feet. Not that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to really get to know each crevice and rock on the trail, but…
The photos are on their way but there will always be a lag between when the photo chip is sent and the journal entries. I’ll try to send some shots taken with my Blackberry. Reception along the trail has been better than I expected. It’s actually easier to get reception than battery power, so it’s a balancing act of off & on, type & transmit later…
I just wish that you could all see what I get to see every day. The desert is a fascinating place where I can see 5 types of cactus within 10 feet of me. The most spectacular (to me) are the bulky Barrel Cactus with their huge spikes protecting their flesh from animals. They are almost dainty when they are young, its scarlet thorns curled towards its head as it emerges from sandy crevices between the rocks. There are spiky Prickly Pear Cactus and the unprotected, delicious Beavertail Cactus which mi tia would cook up as napoles. And for dessert, there are the strange, wiry Ocatillo plant which reminds me of a churro. And then there is the beguiling but dangerous Teddy Bear Cholla- the jumping cholla that is to be avoided at all cost. They will stick and penetrate and re-attach, and before you know it, you’re on the ground in a quarter nelson and a figure 4, pleading for help. I carry a comb in my 1st Aid Kit (no, it’s not in case the Rogaine kicks in) just for cholla extraction. And then there are the harpoon-like yucca plants which shoot their flower spike up about 6 feet into the air (just to distract you while being harpooned).
There is so much to see, including the reptiles that scurry everywhere, all the time. The most common lizard is what looks like the Western Whiptail which is often just called a fence lizard. They vary from grey to charcoal and are about 4”-7”. They’re always darting away from my approach, with a backward glance now and then just to check my progress. The Great Horned Lizard (Horny Toads) is not at all as fast and while it moves somewhat purposefully and quickly toward its specific rock, it can be caught by old men. But then it just looks at one as if to say, “Well, great. Now what? Please put me down with some shred of dignity.” (It’s those eyes.) I found one common garter snake and one five-lined garter so far. They were shy and not nearly as interesting as the mammoth-lizard, the Chuckwalla. It has a large, rather droopy body, lots of extra skin which makes it look like a wide-oval tire with feet that is losing air. And, they don’t stick around when being insulted either.
There are red-skinned, green-leaf Manzanita all over the hills, interspersed with other chaparral plants- Chamise (explosive in fires) and sagebrush, ceanothus, the shredding red-sash bush, fragrant mountain mahogany, and dozens of other shrubs that can endure drought and then, when moisture arrives (like this past 10 days) they blossom, germinate and return to dormancy in a very short time span (nano time span) ß(quickly, anyway). The bonus is that the desert, though hot & dry, cold & wet, is extremely fragrant (and that does take one’s mind off of the throbbing and bleeding from one’s calf after passing the last yucca too closely).
I was watching as the winds (did I mention high winds?) blew wave after wave of clouds toward me, but they came to rest as a black, foreboding mass right over the Volcan Mountains. After about 15 miles and one well-placed water cache (at the 3rd gate) I called it a day on a flat spot, sheltered by some Manzanita.
You may notice that I changed the location format to UTM coordinates. They are easier for me to use with the maps I’m carrying which are in NAD27 Datum. I will make another comment if the map datum changes but I will continue to use UTM.
I am very grateful to my daughter Ashley, who is transcribing these hastily-written entries. As a mother of three children (the best grand kids ever I might add) I know she has precious little time to spare. Regardless, Ashley checks my spelling, edits the pointless facts, and keeps track of my start/stop locations. I am very appreciative of all those steps.
My throat, tongue and lips are grateful for the generous caches of water- precious little of which is out there. Thanks to the crew who supply the 3rd gate cache.
Hasta la pasta
Pacific Crest Trail - 2009
Help others see what I could see at www.longwalk.org.uk
Hasta la pasta.
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