Tag: Hiking

Day 5 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Day 5 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

We started our longest hike today, close to 24 miles. It’s a fair distance, but Mike and I feel dialed in after doing 77 miles in the previous four days. The weather was cold and windy as we emerged. We set out from our hotel and placed our vehicles. Along the way, we picked up a thru-hiker from near Austin, Texas. He had spent a miserable night; his tent had nearly blown down. We got him into Julian and headed back to Scissors Crossing.

We launched out geared up for cold and windy conditions. The sky was gray as we climbed up the San Felipe Hills. The first mile is a bit steep but not too demanding. A rainbow makes the hiking pleasant; it persisted for the next 45 minutes. Our hiking is through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for the next ten miles.

We head onward and upward through a desert garden. There are many cacti and other plants in bloom. It’s some beautiful botanizing, but we keep moving. It does take relentless forward progress to rack up 24 miles.

I notice a red, fuzzy insect, like a crawling bumblebee, as I’m sitting. It’s called a velvet ant, actually a parasitic wasp Genus Dasymutilla. I have observed a velvet ant only once before. Their bright color lets other animals know to avoid them; they have an excruciating sting. The sting of a velvet ant is classed as a 3 on the Schmidt sting pain index. Let me say that I decided it was a good time to stand up and shake out my pants and pack!

The rest of this hike was a bit of a blur. We went up for a while more. Next, we headed down for six or seven miles of afternoon hiking down a forested canyon. I was in the groove; I just put one foot in front of the other. Finished up at Barrel Springs, got our cars, and headed back to Julian for yet another delicious pizza and a good night’s rest. Tomorrow will be an easy day of about 8 miles into Warner Springs.

Day 4 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Day 4 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

We set off from our base near Julian on a cold, clear morning. The temperature when we left was a brisk 27 degrees. We did our usual car shuttle machinations and launched from Sunrise Trailhead; bound for Scissors Crossing. As you can see, we are wearing warm clothes as we launched north.

We are hiking 18 miles today. The start and the end of the hike are within the boundaries of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In the middle section, we will be walking in an area controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. A quick tip to other hikers, to leave a car at Sunrise trailhead in the state park requires a day use fee. Fortunately, there was an app that let you pay online. Unfortunately, I had no cellphone service. Fortunately, Mike did have service and was able to get this taken care off.

We saw some interesting plants as we made our way up the trail. The photos below show a plant that we became familiar with: Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei). It throws up a tall flower stalk (the botanical term is a scape) and is covered with flowers. I added an observation of Chaparral Yucca on iNaturalist ; another naturalist confirmed my identification. I have oodles of nature photos to work through. My methodology is to first put them on iNaturalist and then (hopefully) write about the flora and fauna of this section of the PCT

Well, back to hiking. The trail was more down than up today. As we pressed on, we crossed a few roads and encountered just a few other hikers; mainly thru hikers. We started to see signs of civilization; the middle photo below shows a homestead. The mountains beyond are the San Felipe Hills, we were to know them much better tomorrow, We were heading into the valley, our car was near the base of the hills.

I’m still learning about the ecology of the area but my guess is that we transitioned from chaparral to desert at some point. One delight was seeing the cactus start to bloom. My favorite cactus of the day was flowering Engelmann’s Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) The photo’s show one example, look closely at the flower and you’ll see a bee working the bloom over. There’s pollen scattered around the flower; it was good to see a pollinator at work.

I had an internal transition; from feeling decent to quite nauseous. I’m sure that my churning guts didn’t improve my personality. I let Mike know and he paced me out. (Mike – thanks for putting up with me) When we got to Julian, I bought a six pack of diet ginger ale. I had one and felt better. A bit later I drank another. The next morning I still wasn’t 100%. Mike had great advice, bring ginger ale along in my pack. That was sage advice, it helped get my guts settled. On the way out, at Scissors Crossing, we investigated the water cache, It was large and well-organized. (We had seen an unmaintained water cache the previous day; the insects and other small critters would have made for an interesting nature study).

After getting to town and obtaining ginger ale, I spotted the Julian library. Those who know me can guess that I had to pay a visit; I am active with two Friends of the Library groups in Lake Forest Park, WA and Shoreline, WA. The Friends of the Julian Library had an entire room of books for sale. Yes, a few books went home with me. I had a great time chatting with Caroline about books and hiking.

After that, pizza and salad, shower, gear check for tomorrow’s long day and sleep.

Day 3 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Day 3 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Our third day on the PCT. Today is going to be an easy 17 miles. We have the morning rituals figured out; we’re up at Mount Laguna recreation area. Today, we will cross into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park; a natural area that I’ve wanted to explore for years.

Mike leading the way out of Mount Laguna

You might be curious why Mike’s often in the lead. The answer is pretty simple; I take a lot of nature photos, So, it’s a lot easier for me to get some images and catch up rather than slow both of us down. Plus, Mike sets a good pace; we average about a 2.5 mile per hour (4 km per hour) pace. Not too bad for a couple of senior citizens – we are both young at heart. We are up high, about 5700 feet (1740 m.), walking through a low oak forest.

After a couple of miles, we break into open terrain and pass the PCT 50 mile mark. We are walking on some gentle ridges, very pleasant terrain. I feel like I could walk all day – in fact, I did walk all day.

We walked up to the Pioneer Mail Picnic site (mile 53) and then proceeded on a closed section of the old Sunset highway and then back onto trail. There were some elaborate memorials up here. The views down to the desert floor several thousand feet below us are stunning. We were passing through here around noon, we tended to eat and hike rather than tale long breaks.

We hiked on north along the edge of a ridge, it was some great walking. The geology was also interesting. In the area of the memorial (see photos above) the rock looked metamorphic, perhaps schist? (PS – stop now if you don’t give a schist…) A bit further north we were walking through weathered granitic rock. Gosh, wish I knew a bit more geology. So much science, so little time. I did find a nice website about the flora of the PCT in this area: The Flora of the PCT A7 Pioneer Mail Picnic Area to Sunrise parking area My next endeavor once I finish writng about the hiking is to record my observations on iNaturalist. After that, I hope to write up what I saw each day in some detail – stand by for more….

As we made our way north, we entered Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I would describe the terrain we hiked through as chaparral rather than desert. You can get a look at this via my rather poor attempt at a selfie. Another comment, I am well protected from the sun. I tried out a Black Diamond Sun Hoodie on this trip, it seemed to live up to its advertised UPF 50 protection. I’m of Irish ancestry I can (and have) got sunburn in the shade. I have SPF50 sunscreen along with SPF 30 lip balm and my trusty RayBan shades. I also wear OR sun gloves. All this worked well for me during the six days of hiking.

After a few more miles of fairly flat tramping, we made it to the car we left at Sunrise Trailhead. We backtracked to Mount Laguna to get the other car and then headed over some twisty roads to the town of Julian, which was our new base for the next 3 days of adventure. We stayed a few miles out of town at the Apple Tree Inn. The room was quite nice. A great feature to me was proximity to good food, here’s a review of Wynola Pizza that I wrote:

“For 3 days, I was hiking the PCT 8 to 10 hours a day and got to my hotel hungry. I’d stroll over to Wynola Pizza and eat an entire vegan pizza every evening. It was delicious. Usually had a slice of apple pie as well. Great service and there was live music one night. Highly recommended.”

Mike also enjoyed this place but not quite as much as I did. I think it might be an engineering trait; once you find optimal food then there’s no need to change! After eating, we headed into Julian for a quick resupply. It’s a good hiker town, the staff at the store were very nice and the prices were reasonable. We also did a quick recon of Scissors Crossing, which was our starting point for tomorrow, Day 4 of Section A

Day 2 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Day 2 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

We woke up at 5 AM today, made coffee, had a light breakfast and we were out the door by 6 AM. That was to be our routine for the rest of the hike. Today’s leg is from Lake Morena to Desert View (Mount Laguna), about 22 miles. We set out for Mount Laguna in both cars; parking one vehicle at Desert View picnic area and then driving back to the PCT trailhead near Lake Morena State Park. We start out briskly, savoring the cool temperatures.

Yet another sign, next to someone’s house

We are hiking through a relatively flat section that’s next to private land. The next few miles we are going over a small hill. Later in the day, we’ll be gaining some more serious elevation. On the other hand, none of the PCT is very steep – it’s designed for horses and humans. Another thing that strikes me is how green the hills are along the trail.

Looking down on the PCT – we have a mountain to climb ahead

Crossing Under Old Highway 80

We hit Boulder Oaks campground after about six miles; a nice place for a snack and there’s water available. We talk to some fellow hikers: a wife and husband originally from Bellingham, Washington. They have decided to thru-hike the trail and then they will see where life leads them. I hope to see them in the North Cascades this fall.

Leaving the interstate behind and heading upward

We cross under Interstate 8 – the main highway into San Diego from the east. After that, we start a gentle climb upwards. The next 16 miles were to be in wilderness, much nicer hiking. We take a few breaks in the shade, there’s some large manzanita along the trail.

Mike and manzanita – the bark of this tree is like mahogany

We head upward and cross a minor road. On the side, I saw my first and only rattlesnake of the trip. It was a flattened juvenile.

Juvenile rattlesnake – dead on road

Onward and upward we go. We are in a different terrain and I spot some flowers that are a favorite of mine. They are a species of paintbrush (genus Castilleja). As many of my hiking friend know, I stop early and often for nature photos. I will have a separate post on my natural observations along this Section of the trail.

Orange paintbrush (genus Castilleja)

We see some hikers below us; they are swimming in Kitchen Creek. Seems like a nice idea but it would involve a hike down and a climb up again. We decide that we’ll leave that creek to the youngsters down below. Onward and upward. We reach the Fred Canyon trailhead, which is the turnoff to the Cibbets Flat campground. We had contemplated this as a lunch spot. Lo and behold, there’s some trail magic here! A couple of families set up here with a nice sunshade. They gave us lunch and cold drinks. It was mighty nice. We talked with them and some of the other hikers. We had some wind, at one point the sunshade almost went airborne.

Trail Magic 🙂

Well, off we go towards Mount Laguna. We have some fine walking, it was mainly a gentle upward grade. Eventually, we were in a pine forest. They looked like Ponderosa Pines to me but later Mike figured out they were Jeffery Pines. These trees provided some nice shade. The last few miles were through the forest and we came out at the car.

I was a hungry hiker! We visited the Mount Laguna store where I bought a few snacks. The prices were fairly steep here so I just bought a snack. Next, we drove over to the Pine House CafĂ©. The people running it were French – food was delicious. I also had room for a substantial slab of apple pie. After that, back to get the second car and over to the hotel.

For the day, we had hiked more than 22 miles with roughly 4000 feet of elevation gain. A pretty good day of hiking with more to come. Tomorrow would be a little easier day: about 17 miles from Desert View (Mount Laguna) to Sunrise Trailhead.