Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day 11: Knoll on Table Mountain to Balcony Near Lion Peak

We woke to strong winds battering the tent. A heavy, misty fog had settled over our camp in the night, shrouding both the mountains above and the valley below. Cramming breakfast into our pockets, we began hiking in warm clothes and rain jackets.

It was late morning before we reached the Pines to Palms Highway, where my father gave us our next resupply and a ride down to the Paradise Cafe. The cafe is popular with hikers, and by the time we arrived, the fence in front of the cafe was already lined with the packs of other hungry PCT hikers, including many familiar faces.

Returning to the trail, we entered the San Jacinto Mountains. Many familiar plants grow here: century plants, other varieties of yucca, prickly pear cactus, manzanita, chemise, scrub oak, and various low shrubs. But we also are beginning to see more trees, including larger oak trees and pines.

Water remains scarce. We took a short break by the water of Penrod Canyon Creek. The "creek" is really a seasonal stream, frequently dry, but this year still trickling over smooth, polished granite into small pools. We will not see water on the trail again for many miles.

Although we passed many beautiful camps this afternoon, by the time we were ready to stop for the day, we once again found ourselves on the side of a steep hill with no camping in sight. Finally, I spotted a tiny balcony surrounded by oak trees just down from the trail. Just barely large enough for our tent and dropping off steeply on three sides, it is a snug fit. But for tonight, it is home.

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