Tuesday, May 8, 2012

8 May - Day 18 -- Down & down & down

Strawberry Trail Camp (Mile 183.3) to desert camp (approx 202)

Total PCT Miles hiked today: 19. And we descended more than 6000 ft in elevation!

Charles here. 

Sean's shin splints did not slow him up today -- and the only reason we stopped short of our 20-mile goal was that we found the one camping place we'd seen all day at Mile 202-- and thought it best not to pass it up.

But back to today. We got a bit of a late start. Cold mountain windy night under the roaring sugar pines and white firs was so boisterous sleep was tough. And cold.

In the morning, we fixed our first stoveless breakfast. We decided to try going stoveless to cut down on weight and to streamline our food preparations. Lots of thru hikers find the stove a real comfort, and we get that. But some thru hikers manage going stoveless -- and enjoy it well enough. So we resupplied ourselves accordingly in Idyllwild while there (and we shipped the stove on to Big Bear Lake to wait for us in case we later change our mind).

After a late start, we hiked up toward Fuller Ridge. It's a long descent with no drinking water, for all the snowfields we'll be crossing (no creeks), so we stopped at the last reliable creek and "cameled up" (drank about a liter), then filled our three water bottles to take us through the day. The math ended up 3 liters = 6.6 lbs + heavy packs from resupply of food = plodding march).
Chris is psyched.

Sean managed his leg great, and we three chatted & chuckled punctuated by oohs and aahs as we passed through the huge trees down across the steep slopes. Really, these trees in Southern California's mountains can get so large compared to ours in Colorado. Seano and I have seen them before, of course, but we still get caught by surprise. "Look at how TALL that three is!" or "That's massive!" For Christo, however, they are a revelation.

The hard pan of the desert awaits us far below.

Seano with Mt. San Jacinto behind him. He was so glad it was behind him.
 Soon we move from pines into live oak (with the occasional lunatic incense cedars roaring away in the wind) and chaparral, and then into more and more sparse chaparral, and then down into sage scrub. Arid, with lots of lizards and snakes. 

We pass the 200-mile mark!

All the way down has been really inhospitable for camping -- so when we find an unexpected camping spot (flat bit of sand off the trail that others have used previously), we nab it. 

Cowboy campsite. What a lot of junk we have with us. Geez.

We're still miles from water, and we're just about out. So we share it out carefully, and sleep under the stars again cowboy camping style. Bats emerge to work at the few mosquitoes and much greater number of flies that are out. They are welcome to us, big time.

Another boisterous night -- and uncomfortable -- but the ground is much warmer than up on the mountain. Our pads insulate us from that chill, but when your legs slip off the pack and get onto the ground, it is telling. The stars wheel above us all night -- old friends for all of us: Leo with Mars these days, Virgo, Draco twisting between the two Bears, etc. Venus is incandescent, predictably -- and is the evening star these days. But she is descending closer to the horizon each night, and we're glad to see the goddess of bad counsel and worse judgment go.

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