Across California: Pacific Crest Trail
About 5 PM on Friday, we arrived at Highway 58 on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), covering 14 spectacular miles. I have so much to relate I don't know quite where to begin, but that won't stop me.
Sorry about the big gap in messages, but I could not hit a cell tower that worked.
Some note about the past six days:
Ascending to the PCT from the Western Midge took several days that included an encounter with a fearsome looking rancher who turned out to be friendly and permitted us to cross about a half mile of his pasture land among the cows.
The dramatic change in vegetation reminded me of the purpose of the trek. We went from desert shrubs to Joshua trees then on to western junipers, gray pines (Pinus lambertiana), Cyanothus, Yucca whippelii, and mountain mahogany to ponderous pines in a few hours of hiking. Suddenly we were in the Sierra, except that everything was scrunched together with desert plants continuing almost to 6,000 feet, where we met the PCT.
The following day slammed us into the misery mode. Freezing clouds enveloped us, and the winds kicked up to 30 mph. Ice formed on all the trees and shrubs. The ice on pine needles kept blowing off in thin tubular versions of the hollow ice cubes served in restaurants.
Soon everyone had on three or four layers of clothing, including windpants and longjohns -- everyone except me, whose thin trousers were getting soaked and icing up on the cuffs. Needless to say we made camp early -- 2:30 as I recall.
April 14 was gorgeous -- sunny, mildly breezy. We encountered many tracks of Felix concolor (puma, cougar, etc.) and black bears on the muddy trail. Unfortunately, we also were stumbling over ditches and gouges made by motorcycles -- dirt bikes -- which have illegally invaded the PCT as well as public and private land making gullies, transporting invasive weeds. One landowner back down Jawbone Road has a sign reading, "Trespassers will be shot at and then prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
We descended 2,800 feet as I recall to Highway 58 in Tehachapi Pass to our "sagwagon", beer, and a hot supper, all so welcome after eight days from Highway 395. Joan T from Palm Springs, who joined us at Jawbone, was retrieved by her husband. And David Reneau, my son-in-law will join us for the rest of the Trek to the Sea.
The four of us, Madeleine, Tom, Dave, and I will continue south on the PCT and rendezvous with Tejon Ranch folks. Once again I may be out of cell contact, but we'll see.
Hikers are allowed. Unfortunately, we saw not a single living desert tortoise in crossing almost 200 miles of the Mojave. Maybe it was not warm enough. They are dying of respiratory disease, predation by ravens, and now from attempts to relocate them to make way for solar projects.
Here's a forest of wind turbines in the Southern Sierra.
-- Cal French
Cal, 74, a member of the Sierra Club for 42 years, is trekking 530 miles from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean to highlight the threatened natural corridors of Southern California. Cal sits on the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter Board. He is blogging from a BlackBerry.