Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 12: Balcony Near Lion Peak to Gap on San Jacinto Crest

"Today we sat on the top of a ridge looking down on fluffy, snowy white clouds. The clouds reminded me of fresh powder, and I wished that I could go backcountry skiing on them." Sierra

Perched on the east face of the Desert Divide, there were no other mountains to block the sun. The first fingers of sunlight reached across the desert floor, through the gnarled oaks, and into our tent before six this morning, inviting me to linger in camp long enough to watch the sunrise.

We started out at a good pace today, but we could not resist the lure of the ridge, stopping in a grassy meadow to admire the views of coastal fog hovering over the hills to the west and the heat shimmering off of the desert valley to the east.

Continuing down the trail at last, our route stair-stepped steeply up a series of ridges, with beautiful views and a cool gentle breeze to compensate for the slow, steep climbs. But by late afternoon, the gentle breeze had transformed into a strong, icy wind, with powerful gusts that yanked my backpack away from my body, throwing me off balance. Occasional downed trees further slowed our progress.

We had planned our day and our water supplies around camping at Tahquitz Creek, the next on trail water source, hoping to avoid one of several steep mile long side trails to nearby springs. But it was becoming increasingly clear that we would not make it to the creek today.

Already low on water, our only choice was a steep half mile long side trail to the murky waters of Apache Spring, not recommended by the guidebook or by other hikers due to the steep descent and poor water quality. I was just pulling out my filter when another hiker, Funk, arrived and offered to share a spare liter, saving us the trip to the questionable spring and the certainty of clogging our filter. Thank you!

We are now camped in a gap on the San Jacinto Crest (7,200 ft), sheltered from the relentless wind by a grove of oak trees.

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